BLACK MIRROR | S01 | E01 | 2011
When you are coerced into taking a career suicide or a nation-wide self-humiliation, which is the lesser of the two evil?
Political threats are a occupational hazard for politician, including the prime minister of the United Kingdom, Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear). Woken up at an ungodly hour in the morning, he received a threat from the kidnapper of Princess Sussanah, Duchess of Beaumont (Lydia Wilson), who were grabbed at 3 am in the same morning. The ransom demand was not monetary driven or a power play from opposition party or begrudged country. The ransom was directed towards the prime minister and must be met at 4 pm that day, the demand was simple: performing unsimulated sex act with a female pig, live, broadcasted on all national television network.
The premise is disturbing alright, but what’s happening around the events leading up to the moment of the ransom demand is actually more unsettling. Within the time span of 9 minutes, when the video was uploaded to YouTube before it was taken down by British Government, it already garnered 50k hits and duplicated. The government tried to put constraints to local media, but it had gathered attention from international media that was beyond their reach. When they gave up and give the okay sign to the local tv channel, most of the public mass already knew what was going on anyway. And this is hardly an exaggeration, especially in nowadays society.
(As a comparison, just last night within 2 minute of the trailer release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, one of the source already garnered 2000+ like, several hundred comments, and the video must’ve been duplicated on different channel, which brought the total number to be, well much bigger than that. Written on June 12th, 2013)
During the course of 40+ minutes we saw the dynamics of modern society of the twitter era. In the morning, on the survey conducted by one of the tv channel, majority does not encourage the minister to go with the demand. But as new development was made, new video resurface, in the afternoon several hour before the designated time, the public opinion change, thus increasing the pressure to the minister. It’s a choice between choosing his personal integrity and morale, or giving up to the political pressure and approval rating (not including a request from the Queen, her self).
When you think the intensity of the classic cornelian dilemma is suffocating enough (because i did), the story had another a subtle mind-fucking twist at the end. The chilling conclusion feels like a harsh wake up call. I think it’s an astounding thing for the episode simple premise to have such a profound effects. The National Anthem is a great opening episode for this mini series. A compelling drama, yet setting the overall dark, disturbing tone, putting a high expectation for what to come. It’s a wake up call; a dark, critical allegory for the society of the age of social media.
THE NATIONAL ANTHEM (2011)
BLACK MIRRROR | SEASON 01 | EPISODE 01
GENRE Drama, Thriller, Science Fiction
DIRECTOR Otto Bathurst | CREATOR Charlie Brooker | WRITER Charlie Brooker | CINEMATOGRAPHER Jake Polonsky | PRODUCTION DESIGN Joel Collins | EDITOR Christopher Barwell | CHANNEL Channel 4 | COUNTRY United Kingdom | BROADCAST DATE December 4th, 2011
STARRING Rory Kinnear, Lindsay Duncan, Donald Sumpter, Tom Goodman-Hill, Anna Wilson-Jones, Lydia Wilson
Pictures are taken from various sources | The National Anthem on IMDb