Behind the Black Mirror

Fifteen million merits—A Reflection

Imagine trying to watch a youtube video on your phone, when a lengthy ad appears with no ‘skip ad’ button. Frustrating, right? This is just another day in the life of Bingham ‘Bing’ Kaluuya and pretty much every common man in the dystopian society depicted by Charles Brookers in the second episode ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ of the enthralling series ‘Black Mirror’, except the screens are not merely on phones but they are the walls of his house and the ads do not interrupt a youtube video but his life…

Black Mirror is an anthological science fiction series that depicts a society with far-fetched technological advancements and yet presents analogy with the current society in a fascinating manner forcing the viewers to question their reliance on technology and the direction the society is constantly moving in, under the delusion of progress, leading us closer to this dystopian world with every step. 

‘Fifteen Million Merits’ captures the attention of the viewer from the opening scene, where Bing wakes up in a room surrounded by screens and almost everything in his life is virtual and gamified, with barely any human interaction. 

The general public of the society spends their lives pedalling a mechanical bike all day to generate power and get rewarded with ‘merits’ which is required for precisely everything, from getting toothpaste to buying accessories for your ‘Dopple’ avatar to being able to skip ads playing on all the screens enclosing you. 

There is no proximity to the real world, and the only plausible way to get rid of the bike is a reality TV show ‘Hot Shots’. 

Bing falls for a girl named Abi who has a lovely singing voice and he spends the massive amount of merits required to get her on Hot Shots, convinced that everything else he’d be spending on otherwise would not even be real. Abi’s singing voice is regarded as ordinary by the judges and she is instead chosen to be a star in the porn universe. 

This horrifies Bing. He is filled with rage and disgust for the show for taking away the only real thing he had in his life. He plans a revenge mission and goes back on the show. He releases his frustration on the stage in an outburst, mocking the judges, the show, and the society where everything is plastic. He lays down pronouncements of pettiness, shallowness, mendacity and materialism. 

On an ironic note, the judges are quite impressed by his speech and offer him a show of his own to express this passion twice a week. To get rid of the bike, Bing agrees to do so. He becomes ingrained in the very system he loathed. Brooker explains the meaning of the name Black Mirror:

“What I took it to mean was when a screen is off – when a screen is off it looks like a black mirror. Because any TV, any LCD, any iPhone, any iPad – something like that – if you just stare at it, it looks like a black mirror, and there’s something cold and horrifying about that, and it was such a fitting title for the show.”

In the last shot of the episode, Bing looks out over a peaceful forest but it is obscure if it is indeed a window or just another screen, the latter being far more likely. 

Unsettling endings are the trademark of the series. 

Black Mirror forces the audience to reassess their relations with the technology and makes us question as we continue to explore and exploit the unlimited potential of technology, is it leading to the betterment or destruction of mankind?

As the characters in the show thirst for literally anything real, be it a fruit grown on a petri dish or just the sight of a forest amidst a plethora of screens, it makes us question, are we leaving behind what actually matters in the race of chasing virtual happiness and facilities? 

If so, where exactly do we place the full stop? 

Watching an episode of Black Mirror is like reaching into a mystery bag of sci-fi stories, the best part being the obscurities and the endings which are left in the dark. 

Feeds put together a list of other shows which shall leave you with unsettled endings and unanswered questions to ponder upon. 

Feeds Top Watch Recommendations:

The Twilight Zone
House of Cards
The 100
The Society

This article was written by Disha

Feeds NITT

The official college magazine and media house of NIT Trichy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *