Black Mirror Sucks. Here’s Why.

First: I love science fiction. I love it much more deeply than most people you’ve met. I love it enough to have systematically read every single book published that has ever won a major sci-fi award (my favorite awards being the Hugos). I’m currently making my way through award nominees.

So, when people started talking about Black Mirror, a sci-fi show that made it to the mainstream, I was sort of excited. Fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones) is a much easier mainstream sell, and I was eager to see this new sci-fi show that all my friends — even the ones who HATE sci-fi — were talking about.

That should have been a big enough hint for me to know that I would HATE Black Mirror.

As a life-long reader of science fiction, I love science fiction because it helps me formulate my thoughts around why. Why are we here? Where are we going? Is there anything else out there? 

Reading a good sci-fi book is like having a wonderfully intense discussion of philosophy, one where you wrestle with ethics, exploration, and survival. Good science fiction is never contrived. It lets you think, often not give you the answer. If anything, science fiction lets you understand the future. Not the dystopian future. All possible futures. It’s never about the shock value (that would be horror). 

And this is why I think Black Mirror sucks. 

At its heart, it’s a contrived “shock” show, without science fiction’s elegant thoughtfulness. It attempts to be philosophical, but in reality, it’s simply shallow and predictable, often depending on a sick twist to amuse the trigger-happy masses. It offers no revealing insights into our humanity, our future, or why we’re all here.
The worst thing about Black Mirror, though? Like many a recent political campaign, Black Mirror uses fear, invoking it in concrete and abstract ways, summoning it out of the general state of fear overlaying the world today. Cheap fear mongering, at a time when the world needs it least.

As a life-time lover of sci-fi, this makes me sad. If anything, science fiction is never about cheap fear. It’s never about making people hold on more tightly to what they have and regard the unfamiliar more warily. Quite the contrary, science fiction is often a warning message against how fear can turn humans into… well, what we’ve already turned into this year, I guess. 

And this is why Black Mirror sucks.

16 thoughts on “Black Mirror Sucks. Here’s Why.”

  1. Eye candy design is what many are using to get people attracted, some stories have a good start like OA then awfully runs down.

    I believe you’ve watched Inception and Interstellar ? Those are pretty good.

    I’ve recently watched Mr.Robot & Citizenfour/Snowden, while these aren’t Sci-fi, they’re pretty good, Mr.Robot it’s the first show that I couldn’t find bullshit through, try them, curious to know your judgement.

    Thanks for the tip on black mirrors, off the list now..

  2. After reading this, I realized that your point is 100% valid. I am not saying that I hate the show though, I really like it and I enjoy watching it, but yes it is almost always about how bad human beings can be while using the technologies presented in the show.

    Even though both are categorized as Sci-fi, but there a huge difference between watching a Star Trek episode or a Black Mirror episode, the first makes you excited about the future, but Black Mirror makes you fear the future.

    I guess Black Mirror is intended to be more of a moral dimension checker in a futuristic settings than a Sci-fi show, they always present an ethical problem with no solution, just a dark idea to keep wondering about.

    Again I like the show but I agree that it shouldn’t be marketed as Sci-fi, the future shouldn’t be scary, it must be hopeful.

  3. @Mesh, I’m afraid I still don’t really watch TV :D I make a few exceptions for sci-fi every now and then because I’m out of books to read :P

  4. @Rami, but they market it as sci-fi and people think it’s sci-fi, when in reality, they are missing out on the true beauty of sci-fi :( You said it perfectly here: “I guess Black Mirror is intended to be more of a moral dimension checker in a futuristic settings than a Sci-fi show, they always present an ethical problem with no solution, just a dark idea to keep wondering about. ” I think it needs to be relabeled as “Horror”

  5. I don’t hate Black Mirror (I quite enjoyed “Be Right Back”), but I agree–it just doesn’t inspire any awe in me. As opposed to many awe-inspiring & unsettling sci-fi/horror works I appreciate, it just settles down oh so cleanly. Must be because it feels formulaic, especially the shock factor it carefully weaves & aims for in its narrative.

    I’d like to believe that good sci-fi shouldn’t be as pointed & bland.

  6. Every Black Mirror episode: IPHONE BAD! PEOPLE BAD! all delivered with a snarky, misanthropic edge, and with cliched visuals lathered in cliched “shocking twists”.

  7. I like the episode where phones makes people evil,

    … and the twist was that people didn’t realize phones made them evil.

    Made me feel smarter after watching it.

  8. ya this show is pretty much just shit posting iPhone’s (that’s ok cause fuck touch interface’s, ya I’m looking at you windows 8/server 2012) but it bothers me how impressing shallow people find it, /sigh. this is why we can’t have nice things. shows like this get all the cred while shows that have something tho say about the human condition beyond “people are terrible let’s through shit at them” get canciled after a season where is more difing gravity or more

  9. I hate this show as well. Something about it gets under my skin and turns me off. Maybe it’s because it’s disturbing for the sake of being disturbing , nothing more. People kept telling me to keep watching it. I watched three episodes and I am giving up.

  10. I’ve only seen two episodes. That’s enough for me. The first with the PM doing a pig (which was about as deep as a slurred, drunken frat boy chat, no offense to Plato) and the Star Fleet episode. You described the first I saw perfectly with ‘contrived’. It is that!

    The second and last I saw was the most mean-spirited rip off of the Twilight Zone ever. Aside from being unoriginal, the way it tears down geeky, socially awkward people as secret sociopaths (yes, the actor is too naturally likable not to be representative) was just depressing and hurtful, and I have a thick skin! Boo, no thank you!

  11. its funny, i too thought i would be like the primary target audience for this. big scifi fan. big fan of any kind of alternative storytelling.

    i *hated* it. i kept watching because so many people around me told me how good it was. it made me hate it only more, let down by one episode after another, until i finally stopped.

    in addition to what you wrote, i think i found 2 more reasons why i hated it so much:

    1. its soooo in love with itself. rarely have i seen a show that keeps yelling “ooh look how edgy i am!” at the viewer.
    2. its a show that loves the “and here is the twist that nobody expected” trope, yet…when you really look at it, there are NO twists. ever! in almost every single episode, you can tell after about 3 minutes, where this is going. spoiler alert: technology bad! not gonna end well! OMG!

    i mean, really…even the lamest dumbass popcorn show is less predictable than this. right before this, i watched “travelers”, which i would label a mildly entertaining, agreeable enough mainstream popcorn series with a little scifi gimmick.

    but at least i couldnt tell where the story was going fing 95% of the time as was the case with black mirror. and compare that with the latters oh-im-such-a-cool-edgy-series narcism and it all is just incredibly annoying, to the point where i even find moments of skillfull photography annoying in a “oh, arent we in love with ourselves again” way.

    very weird. but then again, it always comes down to the old rule: if you dont manage to make the audience care for your characters, and if you only write plots where the audience can foresee the end 3 minutes in, your writing sucks.

    and thus, so does black mirror.

  12. Nitpick: Horror stories are morality tales; Either the wicked are punished for their sins (Friday the 13th), or an embodiment of immoral behavior is empowered to threaten the virtuous (Nightmare on Elm Street). Shock is part of it in that it’s supposed evoke a visceral fear response, but it’s not as if horror writers are aspiring to be John Waters.

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