By Alyssa Saunders
If you asked me a year ago to characterize Black Mirror- before calling it a modern version of The Twilight Zone- I would’ve called it a British show, first and foremost. The characters, situations and settings in the first two seasons were all rooted in the UK, with most of the actors being English or Irish. Even the short season length was representative of its British influence. While the key concepts were relatable to all nationalities, the show maintained its strong UK presence throughout the initial six episodes.
But something changed in the Christmas special. Jon Hamm, star of Mad Men, was given a starring role in the seventh episode. There’s no hiding his “American-ness” here. He’s everything the stereotypical American male is: smooth, confident, and macho, with shades of Don Draper to boot. You’d almost expect to see him eat a cheeseburger while riding a bald eagle and shooting an AK-47. He’s in huge contrast to his two main male co-stars, two bumbling Brits whose vulnerabilities prove to be their downfall. The move to not just add a very notable guest star to the anthology, but an American at that, represented a shift in tone and scope for Black Mirror.
If UK characters are done in by their sensitivities, American characters are doomed by ambition and haughtiness. Hamm’s character Matt relishes his role in breaking down “cookies”, copies of us meant to make our lives easier, and his hobby of guiding loveless losers into sexual encounters is all well and good, until one of the poor lads ends up dead when his schizophrenic date poisons him. Matt mostly manages to escape punishment in the end, but he is “blocked” by everyone, meaning he simply becomes a red silhouette due to his attempts to escape justice to maintain his perfect life.
In the first episode of the new season produced by Netflix, Bryce Dallas Howard portrays Lacie, an upbeat, seemingly perfect woman obsessed with making herself look good for everyone. Her drive to attend a childhood friend’s wedding results in her being thrown in jail. And Wyatt Russell’s Cooper is so desperate to escape his humdrum life in the States, he jets off to find adventure, only to end up dead in an attempt to earn money.
The only American characters that do get a happy ending, Yorkie and Kelly, must die in order to escape a reality that does not accept their sexuality. Stripe from “Men Against Fire” is also led on a journey that results in his memories being erased so he can live a “happy” life.
These characters are all done in because they are constantly reaching for something they can’t attain, and Black Mirror subverts the American dream by twisting and contorting it, with the help of technology.
What did you think about the new season of Black Mirror?