“It’s too late, Prime Minister. It’s trending on Twitter…”
So Charlie Brooker’s latest gift to television is potentially the greatest bit of programming I’ve seen this year. Black Mirror is a three-piece drama in which each episode focuses on different characters in different situations and all have a cutting edge and social critique I’ve never really seen on TV before. The first episode deals with popular issues that have never been dealt with in fiction; in particular social networking.
The Twitterverse is a wild and untameable beast, both loved and loathed by its users. It was marketed to us plebeians as a means of interacting with our famous counterparts from the comfort of our own home, but soon it grew into a vast, overwhelming monolith competing with facebook as the only means of representing our identity online. Besides, of course, the obligatory vastly exaggerated description on match.com (or is that just me?).
Charlie Brooker appears to see twitter as both a blessing and a curse. On twitter, he gets to advertise everything he publishes or gets on tele, as well as having a continual audience for his opinions, so long as those opinions can be expressed in 140 characters. In terms of societal importance, I would argue that one positive is that twitter is a means of following news and current affairs, albeit a misleading and very much filtered version of it. I do like to think that finding out the news on twitter encourages the average chap to hunt out the story via more appropriate means, but maybe that is wishful thinking. But yeah, it is always nice when your hero sends you a brief “hello”, only to be swiftly retweeted by you and sit proudly on your feed for all eternity.
But on the other hand, twitter is full of idiots. You may have noticed that the majority of arguments on the internet tend to be completed with a comment about Hitler or a picture of a cat wearing trousers or something similarly HILARIOUS. What twitter has done is create a hive mind of similarly thinking people all tweeting their opinions on current events, or at least a well placed pun. Certainly, the most popular tweet this week has been about Kim Jong Il, not being so ill any more…
So the problem with twitter isn’t twitter itself, but the people who use it. Both the overwhelming underclass – you and me - but also our celebrated celebrities. One figure that comes to mind is Ricky Gervais who has taken to a somewhat horrible activity. He will retweet anyone who says anything bad against him and allows his followers to berate the poor sod in a practice akin to lynching. There have even been some outrageous ‘twitter-wars’ referring to things that Gervais has said. When he claimed that the term ‘mong’ had been reclaimed in this modern age, Richard Herring responded by saying that the term might have a different meaning for Gervais, but the term was still being abused by his followers and Gervais has handed them a delightful excuse to use it. This prompted an endless stream of abuse for Herring, who predictably had a few weeks of endlessly being called a mong in his news feed… Eurgh.
The twitterverse does tend to have a habit of entirely missing the point too. In the recent Clarkson debacle when he declared that all the public sector protestors should be taken out and shot, his comments directed all the attention away from the reasons behind the strike. This meant that the online community turned one of the most important public sector strikes into a Clarkson bashing session. And yes, his comments were moronic, but did you expect any different from the man who claimed that all truckers killed prostitutes? It was definitely a joke, albeit a poor one. The whole thing was made worse by the idiotic grinning Matt Baker and his attractive counterpart, who clearly didn’t get it, or didn’t expect anything like that to be said on the dismally boring One Show. My point is that the news and public opinion should have been focusing on the strikes rather than that lumbering twat. And what was Gervais’s contribution to the whole thing? When a follower tweeted him saying that “Clarkson on the one show made u [sic] look like a choir boy”, to which Gervais replied: “So did the Catholic Priest I was sucking off at the time”. Comedy, ladies and gentleman! Comedy.
Black Mirror is written to expose the falseness behind twitter and the social conscious that the internet has allowed us to develop. Throughout the show, we are shown a vertical cross section of society from medical students, journalists, to the Prime Minister. The show plays with the ways in which ‘The Event’ effects all of society through the way in which media has integrated into our lives, which the show presents as a good thing and a bad thing. The show acknowledges the people’s desire and need to know information, but also our insatiable love of seeing fellow human beings in a higher social position than yourself taken down a peg or two. Even if that means seeing them shag a pig on national television.
The programme makes one of the most serious attempts to deal with our age of technology that I have encountered on television and in film. Brooker is trying to show us that somehow, we have surrounded ourselves with screens. Indeed, the name Black Mirror is derived from when you turn a plasma screen off, it turns into a black mirror. We are never without our phones and tablets, and when we get home, before anything, we turn on our TV’s and laptops. Media is constantly badgering us for attention and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Black Mirror is a programme that forces you to look at yourselves and the ways in which you interact with the world. The media presents news to you, which we watch and take in, but often, we miss the real story, particularly if we get our news from the 140 character idiots on twitter.
P.S. – I do acknowledge the irony of blogging about this… I am one of the idiots I’m talking about. Never mind!