Black Mirror: A Modern Modest Proposal

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I never really enjoyed reading for school. Classics like “Beowulf” and Romeo and Juliet are some of the best sleeping aids I’ve ever utilized. I appreciate them now for what they once were but my young mind found just about everything assigned throughout my various English classes incredibly boring. Then “A Modest Proposal” came along.

For those who don’t know, “A Modest Proposal” is an essay written in 1729 by Johnathan Swift. Ireland was going through some economic hardships at the time. The country had a surplus of poor, unemployed people and the solutions for curing their society of beggars were becoming increasingly ridiculous. So Swift proposed the consumption and materialistic use of human children.

There were too many mouths to feed, so why not use those mouths to feed and clothe others? Procreation is something even beggars are qualified for, thus employing the unemployable in the process. Throughout the essay Swift goes into incredibly dark detail about how the Irish could start using human children for food and clothing. The actions Swift proposes, while written in what I like to call “Ye Olde English”, are considered incredibly grotesque even by today’s standards.

“A Modest Proposal” remains one of my all-time favorite pieces of literature and I’ve been a fan of satire ever since. Many people have proclaimed satire dead over the years, but I think like most things it’s just evolved.

Black Mirror serves as a perfect example of its evolution. It is, or rather was, a British television series that aired on Channel 4 in 2011 and 2012. The series ran for two three-episode seasons and got a Christmas Special last December, bringing its current total episode count to seven.

“Why should I care about a show that only got picked up for seven episodes?!”

Black Mirror is very different from the television series you’re used to watching. Each episode is a self-contained story with different actors, different settings, even different worlds and realities. You can watch the episodes in any order and probably wouldn’t even realize they were all part of the same series if you didn’t see the series’ title before each episode.

Black Mirror focuses on dark (viewer discretion is highly advised), satirical themes based around modern society. Everything from fat shaming to the increased prevalence of unskippable internet ads is touched on in a unique narratively driven experience that you’ll have a hard time looking away from.

The series, created and almost entirely written by Charlie Brooker, performs a master class of visual storytelling. Dialogue is often kept to a minimum, but you’ll find yourself stuck on the edge of your seat nonetheless.

To put it simply, there’s nothing else like Black Mirror on television.

The series was revitalized and became popular after it appeared on Netflix earlier this year. After various reports concerning a US adaptation, Netflix announced last month it will be providing a third season of Black Mirror as a Netflix exclusive series.

The third season, which is being helmed by the original creators, will feature twelve episodes instead of the usual three and is set to be released sometime next year. All episodes are currently available on demand at Channel 4’s website – although I couldn’t get their player to work. You can also find all the episodes on Netflix and through various accounts on YouTube.

If you’re looking for something different with dark overtones that serves to both entertain and spark public discussion about the state of our society then I highly suggest watching Black Mirror.
 

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