Cynical of Cynicism

So that was Black Mirror, then. A popular princess is kidnapped and a truly troll-worthy ransom request to the Prime Minister has pubs packed with the cheering masses too busy speculating on Twitter and discussing their favourite directors to ask why the UK Government are making an exception in this case and, in fact, WILL negotiate with terrorists.  The civil servants are no better, exchanging sensitive information for a tit-shot on a mobile and reassuring the Prime Minister that it’s fine to capitulate to the demands of a terrorist and disgrace the leader of a country so long as it keeps the opinion poll figures up – princess be dammed, we don’t want them muttering about us on that there Twitter.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Charlie Brooker just fine, I just don’t think the feeling is reciprocated. Charlie Brooker thinks I’m a bastard. He thinks you are, too. If your country was being held to ransom you’d think little of it, you wouldn’t have time to think any more as most of your brain power would be taken up by discussing at length the “ins and outs”, har de har, of Prime Ministerial coitus with swine. You have hashtags to think of, for god’s sake!

I get it. Honestly, I do. “Black Mirror.” He’s holding up a dark mirror to society as a cautionary tale about the results of our passive, speculative society and our appetite for the salacious, the outrageous and the downright malicious. He’s Charlie Brooker, if he wasn’t being satirical he’d be out of a job, probably several. As a whole, I do think the show was well written, well acted and well directed. It had a goal in mind and it seems to have achieved it pretty well, so long as you overlook a minor detail or two regarding how a country deals with terrorist demands.

My issue isn’t really about a lack of negotiation protocol with unknown terrorists. It’s not even about the idea that the people in charge of the country are, in various degrees, incompetent, shallow and more concerned with appearance than  they are with right and wrong. I’m annoyed that stuff like this is so popular.

It feels pretty self defeating, creating a show warning against mob fascination with the macabre and sensational, a show that so successfully attacks modern cynicism and commentator culture, when the majority of the viewers of said show are watching because they loved the writer’s column wherein he so savagely commented on modern culture with a cynical slant. Brooker’s intention is likely that the viewer sees themselves in his mirror and walks away having learned something, or with a slightly new outlook on things. Admirable, definitely, but I’m not entirely sure it was achieved. A random sampling of the #BlackMirror hashtag tweets:

“I have only been watching #blackmirror for 10 minutes and it’s already the funniest thing I’ve seen all year.”

“Black Mirror was disturbingly brilliant.”

“#blackmirror interesting to see the true reflection of society being crystallised in a brutal but effective medium. Gameshows next week…”

“The #blackmirror PM may have fucked a pig on TV, but the real life PM fucks us all ever day. Eh? Eh? Right guys? #satire.”

“Feel strange tweeting my thoughts on Black Mirror”


OK, so not all of those are entirely damning, I did want it to be random and not biased towards my opinion, but lets look at them anyway. The first one. Funniest thing all year. Lesson learned. People engaging in amorous activity with farmyard animals is hilarious, especially if its the Prime Minister. Third one down kinda depresses me. If Black Mirror was a crystallisation of society then we’re pretty much screwed. The last one is closest to my opinion on it. A show designed to make us look at our darker appetites and how we express our opinions essentially has most people expressing opinions about edgy material on Twitter. Or making jokes about Cameron.

I suppose in the end, I can’t quite see the point in it all. It seemed to chant in a loud voice, “People are shit!” And people responded with a resounding, “Yes, we are!” It’s no surprise to those who know me that my usual tastes when it comes to cultural intake are pretty far removed from that. There’s every chance that this is just me personally being fairly boring and shying away from edgy material. It may also be my lack of faith in the viewing public, as I think the intended message will be missed by those who need to hear it most. I think I just don’t like my mirrors black, or dark or otherwise obscured. Kind of defeats the point of a mirror.


2 responses to “Cynical of Cynicism

  1. (I haven’t seen Black Mirror, so I’m just talking generally here…)

    The problem with cynicism is that it assumes that everything’s going to suck as much as it’s always done. I know that’s how my cynicism works – it’s actually turned out to be a fairly good predictive tool in some cases. And that’s fine as far as it goes, but it starts to get very nihilistic fast.

    Cynicism is as its best when it’s angry, spitting rage at the injustice and stupidity it’s forced to recognise every day. Because then it can be a tool for change. Satire is great in its place, absolutely, but, for instance, a total cynic couldn’t have delivered the I Have A Dream speech…

  2. Pingback: Yet Another 12 Blogs of Christmas #1: It’s cliched to be cynical at Christmas « Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

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