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.