American society reflects a never-ending cycle of sociopolitical anxiety; as one source of anxiety disappears, another materializes. One of the most prominent and relevant examples of a sociopolitical anxiety currently plaguing the United States is our government, especially the president. Donald Trump, a successful businessman with no political background who is infamous for his crass, rude demeanor, is currently in charge of the United States. At the Women’s March in Washington on January 21, 2018, a protestor held up a sign reading “This episode of Black Mirror sucks” in response to President Trump’s election into office. Women, especially, have felt so threatened by Trump’s presence that they have made comparisons between the current political reality and the depressing dystopias illustrated in Netflix’s series Black Mirror. Such comparisons speak volumes about the current state of our country, suggesting that our future is likely to devolve into one similar to the exaggerated and decidedly dark futures portrayed in the series.
In order to evaluate this sentiment, this thesis will explore the representation of various modern social anxieties as presented in five different episodes of Black Mirror: “Fifteen Million Merits,” “White Bear,” “Nosedive,” “Men Against Fire,” and “Hang the DJ.” The essay begins with a brief introduction to the series and background information that explores the modern relationship between technology and some of the anxieties it raises. Following this contextualization, I will present a definitional section that outlines the various concepts that are relevant to dystopias and the ones depicted in Black Mirror specifically. The next segment discusses the more specific evolution of technology within dystopias. I will analyze nondiegetic and extratextual material related to the series, such as the Black Mirror theme music and the posters used to advertise the series. This section will also include some background information about the show, including its structure and the intentions of the creator as expressed in interviews. The main portion of the thesis will use the aforementioned episodes to demonstrate the various threats that technology presents to the individual, such as commodification, an illusion of agency, emotional and mental deterioration, and obtaining pleasure from violence. The paper also discusses the threats that technology poses to society including brainwashing, a lack of authenticity in social interactions, the presence of monotony, and dehumanization. Finally, a concluding section will explain how the series Black Mirror represents prominent modern social anxieties and conveys why contemporary users of technology should fear it.