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Tech-wary triptych a dark provocation

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Black Mirror: The National Anthem

A refreshing sense of enthusiasm attends this series from Charlie Brooker. Not because it reinvents the Twilight Zone milieu but because it offers provocative drama with ample doses of dark comedy and a sense of the foreboding that accompanies our rapid embrace of technologies offering instant everything — notably communication, gratification and recall.

Social advances created by technology often contain the seeds of dystopian social elements. In most aspects of life, there's an equilibrium in which gain, accepted without question, conceals potential losses. We expeditiously ignore the downside for the up. OK, I'm a Luddite, reluctant to compromise my privacy or rely on gadgets promising sugarplum notions of individuality.

Black Mirror — comprising three self-contained episodes — is a provocative journey through a glass darkly, reflecting the repercussions that might flow from the surrender of restraint to ambrosian algorithms.

In The National Anthem, the instantaneity of the Twitter/Facebook revolution permits a twisted scenario to unfold. A mysterious individual kidnaps a royal princess and his ransom demand is that the prime minister have sex with a pig on live national television. Failure to comply will result in the princess' murder.

Weird? Perverse? Disgusting?


Porn is readily available but transnational humiliation is the name of this game. Debasement of humanity equals ultimate porn. Cory Bernardi might have an argument.

Next week's instalment, 15 Million Merits, takes a sarcastic lunge at reality programs and the distractions they offer people who prefer to exist voyeuristically while watching others conducting their lives in reality-game scenarios.

Watching television 24/7 is mandatory in this mechanised society, and only by earning merit points can individuals escape constant online porn, humiliation and drudgery.

The final episode, The Entire History of You, involves a couple who use implanted camcorder gadgets to replay any aspect of their lives. Everything is recorded and stored for later review. Nothing goes unnoticed, nothing can be hidden.

These are imaginative and edgy scenarios highlighting our tendencies towards susceptibility and the bovine nature of our species.

Black Mirror, SBS, Monday 9.30pm.

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