Beware! Spoilers for Black Mirror: Season 3 contained within. To be fair though, the predictive nature of the show means that you just as easily ruin an episode by reading a newspaper these days.
In a recent interview with Time Out, #BlackMirror creator Charlie Brooker was asked to describe which social issues he would like to hold a mirror to (ahem) in the next season:
"I was trying to think about a “Black Mirror” for [Brexit] the other day, actually. If you could get everyone to pop on a helmet that makes us all the same colour and makes us speak the same language… is that what it would take? Would that solve petty racism? Or would people just start going, “I don’t like the way you’re walking! Boo!”
While we couldn't be more fascinated by the idea of Brooker tackling such a current and controversial issue, one could argue that Black Mirror has already cut to the heart of the matter in the fifth episode of Season 3, titled "Men Against Fire".
"You Are Protecting The Bloodline. That My Friend, Is An Honor."
At first, the parallels between this military-themed episode and real life aren't immediately apparent. Men Against Fire depicts a futuristic Britain ripped asunder by conflict with bizarre, vampire-like creatures called 'Roaches'. In order to combat this threat, the army deploy a number of troops to defend the nation, storming the enemies strongholds to hold back their alien threat.
During one of these rounds of combat, Stripe (Malachi Kirby) and his squadron are suddenly ambushed in a sneak attack, where the jittery soldier is forced to knife one of the 'roaches' at close range before making his escape. Following this fight and a brief encounter with some of the Roach's unusual tech, Stripe's military implants start to glitch, causing him to see the world in a whole new light...
Check out the Season 3 trailer for Black Mirror below:
"It's A Lot Easier To Pull The Trigger When You're Aiming At The Boogeyman"
Confusion, headaches and strange visions of a beautiful woman begin to plague Stripe as he attempts to readjust, but both a medical and psychiatric evaluation don't reveal anything untoward. Soon then, the afflicted soldier is thrown back into conflict, where he encounters one of the Roaches who escaped earlier. However, this time round, the monstrous Roaches suddenly seem remarkably human.
After some truly harrowing scenes unfold where the 'Roaches' fight for their lives, one reveals to Stripe that the Government has been controlling what their soldiers see all along. The military tech that enhances combat on the battlefield has also warped each squadron's perception, so that they perceive the enemy as literal monsters in order to spur their soldiers on with genuine purpose.
"Everyone calls us creatures, filthy creatures. Every voice, the TV, the computer, they all say we have sickness in us... it's in our blood they say, that our blood cannot go on, that we cannot go on. My name was Katalina. He was Alec. Now we’re just 'Roach', but now, now you see me. Now you see me."
In just one scene, writer Charlie Brooker speaks for an entire section of society, providing a voice for everyone who's ever been pushed aside and denigrated for being different. Unfortunately, this heart-wrenching sentiment is always relevant — but given the current political zeitgeist, "Men Against Fire" feels particularly relevant. Brooker has provided us with a glimpse into the darker ramifications of political issues such as Brexit and Trump — even though the episode was developed before either of these came to the fore.
"Just Say The Word And It All Goes Away..."
At the end of Men Against Fire, it's revealed that the Government actively control who the military perceive to be the enemy, brainwashing soldiers to believe that they're doing the right thing, regardless of whose blood is ultimately shed. An agenda of fear and mistrust is propagated against anyone who doesn't agree with the party's issues, and this occurs regardless of whether these 'Roaches' are causing harm or not.
"Do you have any idea the amount of shit that's in their DNA? - Higher rates of cancer... sub-standard IQ... sexual deviances. It's all there. The screenings show it. Is that what you want for the next generation?"
Absurd science-fiction or a current political debate in the UK and US? Between the underlying xenophobia of Brexit and some American voters' desires to promote nationalism at the expense of those who are 'different', it's hard not to imagine quotes like this being used in the real world today by those who we entrust with power.
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Brooker may have developed Season 3 of Black Mirror before the likes of Brexit and Trump became legitimate political concerns, but the issues of nationalism and tolerance that they represent have been kicking around ever since man first decided to throw on some wigs and form a Government.
This isn't the first time that Black Mirror has reflected real life issues — Season 2's episode "Waldo Moment" predicted the current state of American politics years before we arrived at this point — but "Men Against Fire" ties in a number of political horrors that make us wish that we too could have our memories erased, just like Stripe by the episode's end.
Check out a trailer for the Black Mirror episode, Entire History Of You, where the Grain tech is particularly prominent:
However, perhaps it's better that the 'Grain' tech that we've seen in numerous Black Mirror episodes doesn't become a reality. After all, it's only through awareness of societal issues that we can ever create change. Stripe made the wrong choice and had to live with that, forced into his own prison of compliance and suffering, but we can choose to fight back. It's time then to stop looking at these 'mirrors' of our society, and instead do something about them before every episode of Black Mirror becomes something all too real.
Which Season 3 episode is your favorite?
Source — Time Out