Last nights episode of Black Mirror has divided critics, tweeters and the igoo office when trying to decide; was it believable, did protagonist (Leonora Crichlow) take her screaming and crying a step too far and had Charlie Brooker made the core message more explicit than it needed to be.
‘White Bear’ focused on a young woman, Victoria, who awoke with no recollection of who or where she was. As she wandered outside, she was met with a mob filming her on their smartphones, whilst offering no help at all. As she continued to stumble, she was hunted by masked gunmen and only with the help of a stranger, is she able to remain hidden. The premise is that a signal is being transmitted, forcing the population to become zombie like monsters, only capable of wielding their cameras at unsuspecting victims.
The drama seems almost tame up to this point, the explicit filming acting as a clear metaphor for the culture in which some would rather film a catastrophe or an accident, than rush to someone’s aid.
However, in a stomach churning plot twist that no-one could have predicted, this has all been a ruse- Victoria is actually a child murderer. She is being repeatedly subject to psychological torture by the public, who experience a perverse sense of justice, in order to pay for her crimes. Everyday, her mind is wiped and she is the central attraction to ‘White Bear’ theme park, where members of the public pay to take part in this sick experiment.
An overwhelming majority of viewers on Twitter have stated how wholly unbelievable the narrative was, yet media witch-hunts are obviously highly prevalent and emotive. With the mob justice which is riled within the public sphere following horrific crimes, it is conceivable that some would relish being part of this torture as a form of justice for brutal acts.
Until the late Nineteenth Century, criminal hangings were public in the UK and supplied weekly entertainment for communities who flocked to see capital punishment in full glory. White Bear exploited these concepts to the full and by doing so, prompted some uncomfortable issues regarding the privatisation of the justice system and the desire by a proportion of the population to bring back the death penalty.
As always with Black Mirror, the unsettling satire prompts many questions and few answers. The premise for next weeks episode on a political platform is sure not to disappoint in this respect. We wait with baited breath…