Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: The National Anthem
Charlie Brooker is a British journalist and writer, best known for his clever words in The Guardian, and his TV series Screenwipe, which he writes and presents. He’s also responsible for Newswipe, Gameswipe, How TV Ruined Your Life and his zombie horror/satire Dead Set. And he co-wrote Nathan Barley with Chris Morris. In case you haven’t been paying attention, a defining theme in all of Brooker’s work is the horrors of popular culture, most notably how the omnipotent threat of ‘technology’ is sucking up our tasty souls like a giant cosmic vacuum cleaner.
Brooker’s nightmare vision is not of a world ruled by robots, but of a society turned into a pantomime where moral values and basic intelligence are replaced by greed, materialism and apathy. A world where culture has a facelift. We’re talking Generation X-Factor.
Kids have grown up with an unhealthy amount of media consumption, and now they’re all sick in the head. Now you can tune in to the idiot box and watch some z-list celebrity quaffing marinated badger testicles, and that’s considered normal. And that’s the worst thing about it; we just accept this is the way society works now, and so millions of excited viewers tune in to some pretend music competition, where the man who brought us Westlife tells some bright eyed moron they’re too ugly to be talented. A human being’s shame becomes entertainment for the masses.
Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror bursts out of the screen like an angry fist, metaphorically speaking of course. The first installment of this new miniseries is The National Anthem, a chilling fable of car crash television, and the power struggle between politics and the media. Prime Minister Michael Callow wakes up one day to some terrible news; the nation’s favourite Princess Susannah has been abducted, and the kidnapper’s demands are both hysterical and horrifying. Michael Callow is left with a dilemma; Susannah will surely die, piece by piece, unless the demands are met, but can the PM really bring himself to do what is being asked of him? To humiliate and degrade himself in the most shocking way imaginable, on live television?
His only hope is that they catch the abductor before it’s too late, but he also has to contend with the media’s input, because it’s impossible to hide the story, it’s already trending on twitter, a video of Susannah begging for mercy is all over Youtube, public opinion of the PM is constantly shifting. It’s clear that nobody, nobody, is in control anymore.
Charlie Brooker seems to both empathise with and hate the Twitter generation, the scenarios he depicts are all too real, which leaves more than a few laughs catching in your throat. This is satire at it’s darkest; Brooker perfectly captures the cynical anticipation and excitement of the masses, at the thought of watching their PM taking one for the team on live television.
The National Anthem is a hard look at the grotesque aspects of our society, how social media can corrupt and influence power and, most importantly, how our unquenchable thirst for constant entertainment and information is responsible for the questionable actions of both the news media and our Government.
That’s right, it’s us, we’re the ones who did this, there’s no nasty man with pointy horns to blame. We’ve shat in the bed and now we have to lie in it. Is Brooker’s fable really so far from the truth? The National Anthem certainly asks what you would do in that situation, but the real question is how far will it all go? What is yet to come? The public’s enjoyment of watching people degraded has already shaped television into the ugly creature it is today, but where will it take us?
We’ve ruined everything forever.
Black Mirror is a three-part television drama series created by Charlie Brooker, you can watch it now on 4od by clicking on this link.