For anyone lucky enough to live in the UK or have access to Directv, last week’s stocking stuffers didn’t just include the usual gadgets and gizmos. Instead, we were treated to a special “White Christmas” episode of Black Mirror, the techie Twilight Zone anthology series created by Charlie Brooker. While the past two seasons of the cult show have focused on not-so-distant futures (think Her, but way creepier) that often resemble our own lives–save one or two high-tech gizmos and/or plot devices– there have been enough outliers in the six episodes (“White Bear,” “Fifteen Million Merits,” the end of “Waldo”) to consider them self-contained parables about the modern condition. But “White Christmas,” starring American legend Jon Hamm, hinted that these realities may be more connected than we realize. Watch the episode below and then read on for our theories.
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First off, let me just say that I’m not a conspiracy nut when it comes to multiverse theories. Do all Pixar stories exist in the same world? Who knows! Stop thinking about Toy Story that hard! But the idea that all Black Mirrors might be taking place in one linear timeline has been floated before, most notably in this Reddit thread. (And Jesus, when that’s “most notably,” you know you are in the deep web.)
This seemed a little too nutty for me, but “White Christmas” had a couple of too-obvious Easter Eggs: we see a character flip through stations where you can see a clip of the show “Waldo” and Hot Spot from “15 Million Merits,” as well as hear the Irma Thomas song featured in “Merits” as a karaoke cover. The “cookie” devices that create avatars based on people’s thoughts and personalities after being worn a week seems only a stone’s throw from the Grain implant we saw in “Entire History of You.” (Though, to be clear, the Grain only logged material that you saw yourself–a sort of contact lens version of GoPro–while the “cookie” is a sentient being created out of internal thoughts and memories. And the Zed Eyes–another concept introduced in this episode, are more like a Google Glass equivalent, which would sort of make the Grain redundant. But hey, maybe it’s the Apple to Grain’s Samsung.)
It’s a fun idea to play with, but ultimately not that satisfying. Because if “Waldo” end in global domination, and the show from “Fifteen Million Merits” is still on during whatever apocalyptic scenario involves working out with Wii Fit at Equinox while waiting for your turn to get berated by future Simon Cowell, we’re only talking a couple of decades where the world will be relatable enough to actually resonate. As Brooker said in a 2013 interview:
It’s amazing how quickly we get used to things. I think that’s what Black Mirror is saying: what if the pace of change is out of control, and we haven’t evolved to deal with it yet in the same way that we as basic apes haven’t really evolved to take responsibility for nuclear weapons? We may not be quite equipped to deal even with the potential consequences of Twitter. It’s sold to us as all upside, but how long is it going to be before the first Twitter mob forms and physically kills someone? It’s bound to happen.
This is exactly why we have to take the Easter Eggs in “White Christmas” at face value, rather than extrapolate some Ryan Murphy-esque single verse theory on how each episode is connected. Because the end result of many episodes implies an apocalypse just along the horizon…not a “back to square one” mentality that reboots each time the credits role.
Secondly, many ideas of Black Mirror don’t really hold up to close scrutiny…let alone a single conceptual universe that would have to be meticulously planned out from the show’s inception. This isn’t Doctor Who, after all. There aren’t even recurring characters, or recurring technology. As is, we’re still a little dubious about some of the ideas put forth in “White Christmas”: that an app that allows you to “block” individuals clearly leads to stalker-esque behavior and does nothing to prevent a person-shaped blob from causing you direct bodily harm. Nor does it make sense that cookies, a relatively new device that costs a pretty penny (so we’re told), would automatically get placed on every hobo that the police suspect of criminal activities. Or that said police would sanction a virtual reality interrogation by another inmate. Or that witnessing a murder and refusing to call it in makes you a sex offender. Or the whole “infinite torture of avatars” idea. Creepy concept? Sure. But it’s not airtight…not by a long-shot. And if all Black Mirror‘s technology is supposed to exist in one linear timeframe, and not say, multiple parallel universes, than we’re going to run into some problems.
As another example: take the finale of White Bear , which has us believe that a whole “Justice Park” of horrors has been built for a woman who was found to be an accessory during a child’s abduction and murder. And that citizens can pay–and TAKE THEIR CHILDREN!–to this Jurassic Park of monstrosity to videotape this woman (whose memory gets wiped every time she wakes up) and participate in some fun, family LARP’ing of torture.
Which, you know, raises several questions:
1) Are there theme parks for every criminal in Britain? Because that one “White Bear” park was pretty vast–large enough to fit in woods and a suburban area and a highway with a gas station–and, to my knowledge, Londoners aren’t going to be traveling to Whales or anything just for a family jaunt.
2) If Britain’s prison system is running a for-profit entertainment park, how does THAT work? It’d be like combining DisneyWorld with gitmo.
3) How can you continue to punish a person for a crime they will never remember committing? Doesn’t that fall under some European Human Rights Act violation?
And that’s just from ONE EPISODE. If you combine all the worlds that Black Mirror has shown us, you’d have a Skynet situation on your hands faster than you could say “I’ll be back.” Sure, who wouldn’t want avatars driven insane by the concept of infinity controlling your household appliances? Why not have an international totalitarian regime run by a rude cartoon? Or dead people coming back to life via their social media presences? It just wouldn’t work…there’d be too much to take in, and tie together, that each individual episode wouldn’t be able to pack the poignant punch it currently does.