I would think most people who read this blog are fans of The Twilight Zone. All the various iterations. In igloo-ville we also received The Outer Limits during the 90s. Psychological, horror, sci-fi…mostly standalone episodes. All of them acting as parables or warnings for what could happen. It’s either in the now, or about 15 minutes from now, making the best of those episodes very poignant.
Looking back at them now, without the social context of the time, it’s hard to fully appreciate what they had going for them. The best of them certainly do. It’s a Good Life may be the most recognizable.
The real joy of these is that they are not brain dead stories, or pure entertainment. They engage your brain matter and feel like they are talking to you. Compare to say, Game of Thrones or Lost. Both excellent but the viewer is not an agent. Rod Sterling talked to us.
Black Mirror is as close as we can get to that feeling today. Disclaimer – I have a soft spot for English writing. Proper English. First season ran in 2011 and woo is that episode a doozy. Season 3 and 4 have been picked up by Netflix and each have 6 episodes. I’m only a few into season 4 now. USS Callister was solid with a good premise. Crocodile was like a mini-psychological thriller. Hang the DJ is what happens when Tinder goes on steroids (and the most uplifting of the bunch). Arkangel though – that’s a Phillip K Dick short story.
The foundation is solid – an anxious single mother who worries about her kid. She loses sight and ends up putting a tracker on the daughter. But the tracker does more… it gives a health check, let’s her see what her daughter sees and can filter “bad things”. I’ve read enough sci-fi to see where this is going.
Sure enough, it follows the proper notes, with the necessary social commentary. As a parent, I could relate with the steps taken to “protect” the kids. It hits a special note where there’s a clear psychological impact of permanent helicopter parenting and you really hope the mother learns a lesson.
Of course she does until her teenager lies about where she is for one night. And what teen has not done that? The draw to snoop on her kid is too much, and then it’s a massive descent into invasion of privacy.
Side note – since I work in IT, in particular user-facing IT, I’ve been very exposed to the concept of privacy and network connectivity. In that privacy doesn’t really exist. If people knew what Facebook on a smartphone actually collected… or maybe if they cared…
Back on track. The 1 hour episode felt more like a mini-movie. There was some rather solid points to be made about a nanny-state (within a family), in particular when the individual being spied on is not aware of it. The hurtful part was that the mother deemed watching her kid better than talking to her kid. Like the data collection only ever needed to be one way and from one source. (A bit like getting your news from a single source without any dialogue).
The best part is the feeling of not being comfortable watching the episode. It hits really close to home. I am really enjoying this series. People should take a watch.