BLACK MIRROR | S01 | E02 | 2011
Everybody has a dream, but more often than not, the dream changes…
The second installment of Black Mirror season one, took a futuristic dystopian edge. Where Bingham ‘Bing’ Madsen (Daniel Kaluuya), along with others, live in a 2 by 2 meter cube of a room surrounded by flat screen. they worked by putting their grease on a static bike to produce power, while earning merits (the currency) to buy food and toothpaste, as well as tinsel and bells for their doppel (their virtual avatar). Bing is comfy, he did not need to work too hard since he got a fat sum of 15 million credits that partially inherited from his late brother and doesn’t spend that much anyway. He met Girl, who sang beautifully and captivates him instantly. He exchange his 15 million with a golden ticket to give the girl a chance to compete for a better live that she’s dreaming of. But when reality collides, dreams sometimes do change.
I feel disturbed and almost instantly suffocated the moment I saw Bing’s so-called room. At the first sight it might look slightly better than Japanese Capsule Hotels (which up until now i think is just one step away from an actual coffin). Combine the compact space with walls of screens ready to assault you with flickering images and sounds you can not control: a highly discomforting confinement. The screen actually come alive from the moment you have to wake up, until the moment you sleep. You can choose programs to watch or to play with, from shooting games to hardcore porn. You have pop-up advertisement, that you can skip or mute in exchange for a fee. A hyperbolic take on today’s current state, harassing spam and pop-up images came from any directions, paid ad-free options, things we can relate to, albeit in a much smaller scale.
As we get acquainted with the world of Bing, we notice all of them in variation of the uniform sweats, tracks, and tanktops or wifebeaters in shades of gray. But their doppel can be decorated in various outfits, hairstyles, and objects. A familiar concept to those who is familiar with the world of RPG games or online gaming. All virtual adjustment that does nothing to improve a real life condition, merely a representation of each individual view of themselves, something Bing does not get tempted with. But When Bing met Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay), and hear her sing he encourage her to join Hot Shot, a chance to alter their life and make their dreams come true, be it as an singer, dancer, or any sort of entertainment. To join Hot Shot Abi must have a golden ticket, which costs 15 million merits, which Bing gladly gifted to her, using almost all of his saving.
The Hot Shot itself is a distinct reminder of the numerous talent-search reality show, anything from American Idol, The X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance, etc. The kind of shows that in our current reality often called themselves as a place where dreams come true (which just made me think of that one season where Simon Cowell and Nicole Scherzinger basically made One Direction). The show offers glory, fame, money, a general promise of a much, much better life. Of course this so called better life sometimes do not come as something you expected. Sometimes the offer comes with condition where you have to bargain with your ideals, values, personality, or anything it demanded. The question remains, how much of yourself will you be willing to trade for the once-in-a-lifetime chance. But aside from what happened on stage, there were a more chilling phenomenon that happen to the audience. Though each person has a different point of view and personal judgement at first, their initial reaction then blurred into crowd characteristics, blended in with others. It is a common thing we can find nowadays, especially in the world of social media, where people are so easily provoked by mass reaction of people, and loosing some of themselves in the process.
The second installment of Black Mirror, delivers something more commonly known and easier to engage than the first one. With production design by the aid from Painting Practice team (read more about the creative process of the production design here), the episode is delivered with a great panache. It might overwhelmed you, but it definitely serves its purpose.
15 MILLION MERITS (2011)
BLACK MIRRROR | SEASON 01 | EPISODE 02
GENRE Drama, Thriller, Science Fiction
DIRECTOR Euros Lyn | CREATOR Charlie Brooker | WRITER Charlie Brooker, Konnie Huq | CINEMATOGRAPHER Damian Broomley | MUSIC Stephen McKeon | PRODUCTION DESIGN Joel Collins | EDITOR Jamie Pearson | CHANNEL Channel 4 | COUNTRY United Kingdom | BROADCAST DATE December 11th, 2011
STARRING Daniel Kaluuya, Jessica Brown Findlay, Rupert Everett, Julia Davis, Ashley Thomas
Pictures are taken from various sources | 15 Million Merits on IMDb