Black Mirror: The Twilight Zone successor
The beauty of cinema, the true beauty, is it’s undeniable ability to make audience members feel. It’s talent to extract those who dare to put themselves before it for however long (2 minutes, 20 minutes, or even 3 hours), and place them in a comatose state of awe. This is what makes this art so well loved. Through series of compelling stories displayed, you can find this self reflection of the current world you live in. Television in many ways is no different; often shorter though. The lines have been blurred to the point where it has become more difficult to determine the difference between a television series and a cinematic film. Now, fusing that cinematic element, television as of lately has found a way to introduce more originality by telling more personal stories that audiences can connect to on exclusive levels. Releasing its fourth season on December 29th, Black Mirror has found a way to captivate audiences with the “what if?”
Using each stand alone story to tell a form of social commentary in very authentic and intricate ways, almost daring the viewer to pull away from whatever device they are watching from. The honesty and truth delivered from each story allows the viewer to take the situation and be able to place themselves in a science fiction fantasy world. These traits are the main reasons it has become one of the most important shows of this generation. This ability to do what it does to viewers, and be what it is at its level is breathtaking. However, it is far from the first to introduce this style. There are many to give this style off, but as with most great things, there truly can only be one.”That one” is Rod Serling’s brainchild, The Twilight Zone.
Yes, the argument can be made that Alfred Hitchcock Presents introduced a similar concept first, but in the end, the difference is in the execution of showmanship. When The Twilight Zone released, it sent audiences not into peril, but this alternate form of wonder. It gave profound statements on the human condition; for example: fear. The Twilight Zone played on fear exceptionally well, and at the time when the red scare was at its height, there was nothing but paranoia. Schools were flooded with public service announcements warning children and parents about the dangers that were in the world today; this era destroyed the wholesome image that came with the baby boomer era.
In Season 3 of The Twilight Zone, there was an episode called “The Shelter,” and in this episode, a collection of neighbors gather in a household to celebrate the retiring of their dear friend, Bill Stockton. Only for the night to be ruined by an announcement that unidentified flying objects are making their way to the United States. Trembling in uncontrollable terror, the families disperse back to their homes in search of a haven. For the man of the hour, Dr. Bill Stockton, it was no more than a test for what he been preparing for; he had his family run to the bomb shelter he had been constructing. It wouldn’t be long before many would come to the conclusion that they were not as safe as Bill and his family; madness spreads like a virus. The neighbors run to Bill’s basement proceeding to demand he open the door, and let them in. By the end of the episode, they’ve torn the door down not only risking Bill and his family, but themselves as well. Once it is proven to be a false alarm, they are forced to reflect on how much they really knew about the people they call their loved ones. The depth in their aftershock is what made this episode so powerful. The revelation that while we may portray one thing, fear has this strength to claw nonstop until one’s mask comes off, revealing just what truly is on the inside.
Continuing with the same theme, Black Mirror has shown the same ability. In a recent episode, “Arkangel” directed by Jodie Foster (on the new season), it does justice to keep this feeling alive even though it is not the best episode in the series. In this age, it can be frightening to be a parent because you are always wondering what your children might be consuming when you are not around. This one takes that, and raises the bar with the what if you could. An overprotective mother goes out on a limb, and has a chip installed in her daughter so that she would be able to see everything her child does. This also comes with the ability to censor everything her child sees; this then shows the negative side of just why too much censoring could be bad as she becomes numb. She feels less because she understands less. While Black Mirror has far more deep-seated episodes, this one does its job on keeping pace with the rest of the series.
A common theme one could find in both The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror is the overreliance on technology. The obsession with it, and it’s advancement is a curious case going as far back to the Titanic, where man was willing to place full faith in machine. For these shows, viewers are more than the audience, they are characters because so often you can see yourself or someone you may or may not know.
I will add, while we may love The Twilight Zone as dearly as we do, it would be best to allow it to reside in its prime state; leave it as we remember it. There is no need to revive Rod Serling’s brainchild as its illegitimate child has done a wonderful job resurfacing this ability on its own merits. It’s better than the remakes.