Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror – “White Bear” Series 2 Episode 2

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This week’s episode was completely different from the last one. It pulls away from any emotional and romantic themes to something more dark, tense and surreal in the only way that Charlie Brooker can.

The story revolves around a woman called “Victoria” (Lenora Crichlow) who wakes up inside a house with no memory of who she was. When she finally ventures out of the house, she finds that everyone around her is filming her every move. She discovers that she is being chased by a group of scary masked people called “The Hunters” wielding shot guns and electric saws and manages to escape their clutches with the help of a young rebel (Tuppence Middleton). It turns out, a signal was sent out to every TV and Smartphone which turned everyone in Britain into a mindless zombie. Not the brain eating kind – all they are able to do is mindlessly film stuff on their phones. They need to make their way to the “White Bear” control tower to wipe out the transmitter that is making everyone turn into “onlookers”.

Then, the plot is turned completely on it’s head as we discover that everything that Victoria went through was a lie. Her entire experience was filmed as part of a TV show as her surroundings fold away to reveal a jeering studio audience. At this point, it seems as though Victoria has been part of a “Derren Brown’s – Apocolypse” style experiment of some sort but we find out that she was an accomplice in the brutal murder of a little girl.

The entire TV show is based around a justice programme that Victoria is part of where she is subjected to physical and psychological torture by being thrown repeatedly into apocalyptic style situations as punishment for her actions and, of course, for the public’s viewing pleasure. Think of “White Bear Justice Park” as a wildlife safari where you can take pictures and film the mental torture of a criminal.

This episode asks many questions. Victoria’s crime was that she was an accomplice in the murder of the little girl. Her fiance had tortured and killed her while Victoria stood by and filmed the whole thing. Is Brooker possibly suggesting that people that stand by and do nothing are just as guilty as the people that carry out the crime?

Of course, Brooker addresses the issue of human rights and morality in each episode. Did Victoria’s punishment fit her crime? Yes, I think so. Was it wrong to make a glossy, packaged show out of it? Probably. Do we feel any empathy for Victoria? I did, purely because everything that happened to her was completely horrific, whether or not she was a criminal. We go on this journey with her without knowing anything about her and feel completely empathetic yet, are we really so fickle that we can still change our minds in an instant?

The most important thing that I took away from this episode was that how any sympathy goes out the window when the character in question is reduced to an image on the TV screen. We live in a world where everyone enjoys watching people being humiliated for entertainment. I also think this episode echoes the sort of real life witch-hunts (eg. Ian Brady & Myra Hindley) and how hysterical red-top newspaper headlines can capture and alter the opinions of an entire nation.

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