‘Black Mirror’ Intends To ‘Actively Unsettle’ Audiences, But It’s Not Technology That You Should Fear


Contrary to what you may have heard — or thought for yourself, after waking up from that re-occurring nightmare where your life is destroyed by a smartphone app — “Black Mirror” is not anti-technology. It has been likened to the “The Twilight Zone,” often by creator and writer Charlie Brooker himself, and in that comparison the use of gadgetry on Britain’s Channel 4 anthology is most clear. Where Rod Serling worked with supernatural objects and plot devices, Brooker uses current technology “cranked up 5 percent” as his magic.

That sweaty fear you feel while watching, say, the post-credits scene for the episode entitled “White Bear,” is exactly what Brooker intended. “I want to actively unsettle people,” he told HuffPost in a recent interview, while walking the streets of London and trying to hail a cab.

“Just generally, that’s not my life mission statement, do you know what I mean? I’ve done other shows, comedy shows, that sort of thing, where the goal primarily is laughter. So, unsettling people isn’t my raison d’être.” And, as would happen repeatedly throughout the conversation, Brooker said that last bit with a mix of drama and concealed giggling, clearly just as amused by his own sardonic playfulness as you might be on the other end of the line.

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Brooker at the BAFTA Television awards in 2012.

He gathered himself, and grew serious again, his tone almost a warning he’d put all kidding aside. “It’s more that I felt a lot of drama exists to kind of reassure people,” he said. Certainly, reassurance is not the point of “Black Mirror.” Like “The Twilight Zone” before it, Brooker’s show hacks into anxieties and exacerbates them where other series seek to assuage.

“Even with crime drama, usually the bad guy is caught,” he said. “There are a lot of series where shocking events happen, but they’re not usually tethered to the real world. They’re irrelevant to the real world.”

Enter the macrocosm of “Black Mirror”: “Of course, everything happens in the same universe, because we’re in one!” Brooker sneered, when asked. None of the episodes depict the same world, though.

As fan theories would have it, all of the installments can be connected. That idea does not confuse Brooker. In fact, he planted it in the fabric of the show.

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Jon Hamm in the “Black Mirror” Christmas special, “White Christmas.”

You might have noticed the ties to every previous episode in the Christmas Special (“White Christmas,” starring Jon Hamm), like the ticker tape harkening back to the prime minister of “The National Anthem,” or Irma Thomas’ song, utilized in “15 Million Merits.” Those Easter eggs were deliberate on Brooker’s part, but it doesn’t mean any conclusions can be drawn regarding worlds, or universes, or what have you.

Asked if he was teasing us, the desperate audience, panting over his every reference, Brooker is thrilled:…

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