Sunday night saw the first of the new Charlie Brooker trilogy Black Mirror: The National Anthem. I was intrigued simply due to the synopsis given on SKY’s EPG: “A twisted parable for the Twitter age, Black Mirror taps into the collective unease about our modern world.” A political thriller, including social media, written and produced by Brooker. This was something I had to watch!
What I was not expecting was the butt-clenchingly twisted, tragic and weirdly familiar mentality Brooker created in the first hour out of three black satires reflecting his opinion of our current social state. He constructed a fictional situation, whereby the sweetheart of the nation, Princess Susannah, is kidnapped and her ransom is broadcast on YouTube.
The terms: the PM has to have sex with a pig.
On national television.
Until the very end.
If he didn’t, the Princess would die. Not only would the Princess be dead but he as a person would be politically ruined and the Government could not guarantee his safety or that of his family.
If he did it. He would have shagged a pig; live on TV.
What followed was ballsy, uncomfortable, shocking and nauseating. The sociological study of modern media manipulation that twists from one extreme to the other; one minute the public were behind (no pun intended) and sympathetic of the PM and in a matter of hours, due to Twitter and social networking, the public all wanted him to suffer the extreme humiliation; it was fascinating. Whether it was to save Princess Susannah or whether it was partly because of our society loves to laugh and poke fun at others who are humiliated publically, I was sickeningly hooked.
It was the modern excessive version of throwing rotten tomatoes at another in the public stocks.
When it came to it…I couldn’t watch it. I think if this were to happen in real life, I wouldn’t be able to watch it either.
Would you? Would you be able to watch a public figure having sex with a pig? Even if it were to save the sweetheart of the nation? Even if it was the biggest, most watched piece of live broadcast watched by the world? Bigger than any concert, international event, anything experienced by billions of people across the globe, at the same time, in history? I guess it also depends on who’s involved. But I know I couldn’t.
What makes it all the more twisted for me, is that it wasn’t a terrorist act, it wasn’t done for any money, but some artist created the situation as ‘Live Art’.
The broadsheet media used to be hard-nosed. Credible news. Idealistic aspiring journalists being churned out of higher education looked to Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward for inspiration. Always in search of the truth.
But Brooker’s Black Mirror: The National Anthem, certainly reflected, to me, a very literal mirror at the state of the media that we are now exposed to and a media that we (whether you agree or not) are actually directly responsible for.
Ultimately, it was a very satirical piece of entertainment on a Sunday night, however, it really struck a nerve at the back of my conscience. This show highlighted a very large, dark part, of the society and media that we have created. As a failed idealistic journalist who did look up to the legends of Bernstein and Woodward, it does make me wonder when will we finally turn against this mob culture served on the silver platter of social networking mediums? Or will it never cease because we love to revel in others’ public humiliation too much? The classic gossiping nosy neighbour.
Next Sunday’s part 2 Black Mirror: 15 Million Merits, satires the world of shows such as the X-Factor and is brilliantly being broadcast immediately after the X-Factor final on Channel 4. I for one will have that recording on my SKY+ box whilst I am at our OneTaste 7th Birthday celebrations with the Noisettes, ESKA, Gideon Conn, Daniel Marcus Clark, Stac & the OneTaste Choir!
How about you?