Black Mirror’s death of meaning / 2019
Fredric Jameson (2010) pointed out in his essay ‘Utopia as Method’ how we seem incapable of envisioning any changes in our own society “except in the direction of dystopia and catastrophe” (p. 23). Indeed, there is an undeniable dominance of the dystopian mode in contemporary cultural productions today. Specifically within the film industry, Hollywood — the indisputably world’s dominant future-narrator— offers its viewers an overabundance of narratives and images depicting the future of the world.

Hollywood studios devise films that effectively illustrate shared contemporary uncertainties, hopes, nightmares, dreams, fears and desires of the population by commodifying and transforming these into entertainment products. Certainly, contemporary mainstream films are characterised by the depiction of multiple disasters that often threaten the future of human species; such as aliens, diseases, powerful nuclear weapons and artificial intelligence among others. Such is the case for Black Mirror, the so-popular dystopian British TV series that switched to streaming giant Netflix in 2016; and which has been chosen as a focused case of study that will hopefully exemplify the main points of this essay.

On this note, Mirrlees (2015) observed how both Hollywood studios and the large society which they obtain benefit from have failed to represent the dialectical dance of the dystopian and utopian imagination under neoliberalism. This has been translated, as we will later explore in this essay, into an observable dominance of the dystopian mode in contemporary entertainment productions. However, this disproportionate abundance has not always been the case. We should therefore aim at exploring what this dominance is responding to, together with analysing the socio-political causes for such a phenomenon. In addition, we will aim to assess to what extent these dystopian products, exemplified by Black Mirror in this essay, are valuable resources for investigating or criticising capitalism.

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