This blog post is in response to a study question for ALC203. Question: What did you think of the ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ episode of Black Mirror? What ‘messages’ or warnings seem to be conveyed in the text?
“I just want something real to happen, just once.” – Bing, Black Mirror
Throughout this episode, I can honestly say my eyes were glued to the screen. I enjoyed watching this episode in the context of futuristic possibilities and how technology has become entrenched in so many of our lives today, but seeing future possibilities made it all the more interesting. After all, none of us can predict what the future holds, but one thing is certain, technological devices will continue to expand. While watching the episode, I thought that yes, technology is a wonderful thing and has definitely kept me connected to the world (I only purchased a smart phone last year). My life was very different without a smartphone. I’ll admit it, I prefer being a smartphone owner with Facebook in the palm of my hand almost 24/7.
But when is it enough?
This episode flipped the wonderful side to technology for me, it was almost used as a weapon to dehumanise people and reality was a prize to be won. Apart from feelings and emotions, nothing else was authentic in this futuristic world and peddling was the only life known. I love the ending, when he is no longer inside his shoebox room with virtual screens for wallpapers. Instead, he stands facing a huge clear glass wall which overlooks the treetops. What a fabulous view. Even as a viewer watching the episode, it was almost unusual seeing the green treetops outside because I was so used to seeing screens and technology throughout the episode. It was unexpected and showed the contrast between a virtual world and reality.
People can become both physically and mentally confined through the use of technology. Some days I’ll be sitting on a tram and there’s dozens of people around me scrolling through their phones and some are looking through social media newsfeeds. The technology exhibited in this episode reminded me of the technology some people would love to have for leisure and would cost the ordinary person an arm or leg. However, others may see it as lazy or brain numbing. For example not having to put toothpaste on the toothbrush, not holding the gun during a virtual game or playing an air violin. What came to my mind early on was the game of Wii, but these people were living in the virtual world whereas we can switch the game off. I feel as though one of the messages throughout this episode is to see that there is a chance we are becoming blind to technology’s wonders and we may become our own futuristic enemy. In a sense, technology is torturing the human race. Are we loosing our social instincts and connectedness to each other? Will talking face-to-face become abnormal and people start to avoid talking, creating a snowball effect.
I know a family who always need to have the latest technology. It’s almost like they are compulsive shoppers, new technology = must have. One night, my family went out for dinner with them, and sadly, their eyes were glued to their phones and hardly engaged with us at all. It’s all good and well keeping up with the latest technology but I wonder if there will come a time when people have had enough? In the future, I wonder if people will rely on technology to the point where they don’t need to lift a finger to work and that they will forget what it was like to be human. Has technology created a new human race? Are we already starting to rely on technology too much?
In terms of media ‘audiences’, I believe Bing and the others who are with him are passive media audiences, everything has already been pre-determined, for example peddling. In order to purchase food or gifts they have to peddle for it. This is the way they are forced to live and are not given any other choice. They are controlled by higher authorities and the Talent Show executives. Bing’s speech is a powerful one, I believe at this moment he becomes an active audience member, expressing his own opinions. He challenges the talent show authority’s idea of a passive media audience. We can see someone who is standing up and against an ideological system which is quite similar to traditional media methods, when audiences didn’t challenge or question what was written in newspapers or what was said on the television was all truth. Sometimes, one person standing up for the rights of many is enough to start a movement for social change. Other people may have never thought about it before until somebody acts.
This episode was an eye-opener for me, it made me think about the possibilities of an even more technologically converged future. Will there be a time when people are so dehumanised to the point they are almost living robots themselves? Or will others try to escape the technological advanced future, understanding the consequences and shift in society.