"Black Mirror" is coming back, but do we even need it?

The show is brilliant, but we're already living in it

Published August 25, 2017 12:07PM (EDT)

"Black Mirror" Season 4 (Youtube/Netflix)
"Black Mirror" Season 4 (Youtube/Netflix)

Today, Netflix released the first teaser trailer and show details about the upcoming fourth season of the satirical, often harrowing dystopian British television show "Black Mirror".

One episode of the forthcoming edition of Charlie Brooker's brilliant, wonderfully depressing series seems to be in black and white. Another promises to be a homage to "Star Trek" with Jesse Plemons of "Fargo" sitting in the captain's chair. It's all very slick looking, very scary, very gripping.

Take a look for yourself.

Sharp, right?

But, as many will no doubt ask over white wine at house parties across the globe, do we even this?

A running joke (if you can call it that) as the election results swept in on November 8, 2016 was that we had been transported into a particularly nasty, particularly sad episode of the critically acclaimed show — that the looming presidency of a bigoted, sundowning reality star seemed pulled straight from a Booker script. (Indeed, some saw season 2 episode featuring a vulgar cartoon bear winning political office and then turning Britain into a dirty authoritarian hellscape as highly prescient.)

As the term of President Donald Trump as shambled along at upsetting speed, the nation (and the world) has only descended further into absurdist, Bookereque scenarios. Now, the commander in chief dictates policy and threatens nuclear hellfire via social media, sides with Nazis, rewrites history at will, compels the Justice Department to monitor those who demonstrate against him and continues to use his base in the Oval Office to wage petty, personal wars against other celebrities. He sources a tin-foil hat conspiracy theorist for his daily news.

With a revolving cast of despicables running in and out of the West Wing while opening fighting with each other and pushing "alternative facts," almost every Trump critic has compared the Executive Branch to Trump's reality show, "The Apprentice".

All this misery has metastasized beyond the White House. Kid Rock may (or may not) be running for Senate. More than half of all Republicans would be fine with Trump delaying the 2018 elections. A significant portion of them would rather have Jefferson Davis — a traitor and a poor leader who lost the Civil War — as president than go through another Barack Obama administration. Men in polo shirts hoist tiki torches in fear of losing not their rights, but their systematically reinforced privileges.

While Trump's numbers are down overall, his most ardent supporters seem more impressed with him with each and every obvious falsehood or legislative fail. The worse he performs, the more they love him. Our newsfeeds, and the powerlessness many of us feel while looking at them, are quite a bit more frightening and surreal than anything Booker has offered us.

But you know all this, you've probably said all this. At a time when every headline is more instructive of our flawed system (and more grimly vicious), the power of "Black Mirror" to point out the cracks in Western society dims.

When it debuted during the Obama administration, it was a needed corrective to the shared liberal belief that equality, sanity and justice were right around the corner. Much as how "Get Out" was designed to explode the myth of a post-racial America, "Black Mirror" arrived to reveal the often unseen monsters lying just beneath the surface of the connected, seamless future Silicon Valley and the technocrats surrounding Obama had sold us.

Now — as you have said, as we all have said — we live with those monsters every day. As relevant as a fourth season of "Black Mirror" and "The Handmaid's Tale" may be, they run the risk of becoming rote, of simply contributing to the echo chamber of misery and fear that is our Facebook feeds, our off-hours conversation and cable news. What once was revelatory is now no different, and quite a bit more prosaic, than a White House press briefing.

What's to learn from this show? What's to fear that we don't already scream about? How is "Black Mirror" a wakeup call when we already can't sleep at night?

But, again, you know all this already.

It will be interesting to see if Booker and company can chart out new relevancies, new unexplored fears that have gone unaddressed in the Trump era. If "Black Mirror" cannot do that, however, it will fail. After all, we spend every day on the other side of a dark looking glass.



By Gabriel Bell

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