AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

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.

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9 Comments

  1. Haitham Jafar

    In Roba’s taste we trust.
    I am not going to watch it!

  2. 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..

  3. Rami Haikal

    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.

  4. Roba

    @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

  5. @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”

  6. @Haitham, haha, I am honored my friend :)

  7. Haitham

    Have you watched Westworld?

  8. @Haitham, I have. I definitely enjoyed it- but not as much as I enjoy Star Trek, for example :)

  9. Frances

    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.

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