My Take on Black Mirror’s Latest Season

We live in the age of technology. Nearly every spectrum of our life is associated with some form of tech. Man made machine but now, it’s the machine that makes the man. Whether it be through the formation of our identities on various platforms of social media or the consumption of news and media through the Internet, we are heavily reliant on technology to lead our day-to-day lives.

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And that’s why Black Mirror, the bleak sci-fi anthology series created by Charlie Brooker, is exactly what we need to remind us of the grim outcomes that may result if we continue blindly down this path. Our technological advancements come with the risk of detaching from human interaction – and when the the very essence of humanity stems from empathy and connection, wouldn’t this place us on the losing side of a bargain?

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As every episode of Black Mirror imparts viewers with a key message to reflect upon, I can’t entirely say that Season 5 was a hard miss but in comparison to the brilliant, mind-blowing impact of some of the previous seasons, it was rather underwhelming.

The casting was undoubtedly well done with familiar and talented faces all around. In particular, Andrew Scott’s (you may remember him as Moriarty from Sherlock) performance was impeccable. His acting was probably the saving grace of the episode ‘Smithereens‘ in which he features.

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That being said, this season was definitely a little ‘softer’ around the edges in comparison to the previous episodes which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as it hit closer to home, especially with regard to ‘Smithereens’ and ‘Ashley O’. I found the episodes to be much more indicative of issues that already exist in today’s age of technology, issues such as social media and porn addiction.

My favorite episode was without a doubt ‘Striking Vipers’, the first one in the season. I’m surprised that it’s one of the lower rated episodes, considering it brings the classic shock-value and distinct discomfort associated with the better Black Mirror episodes, but more so because of the themes it opens up for discussion – the potential for technology to impact forms of human intimacy.

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Yeah…let’s not go there yet, Karl.

Unlike ‘San Junipero’ or ‘Hang the DJ’ however, ‘Striking Vipers’ is comparably less heartwarming with the real-life implications it presses in a world of Virtual Reality which can alter people’s perception of self-image and broaden the boundaries of human sexuality. Through the uncomfortable intimacy projected on the screen of two college best friends entering a cyber-affair filled with lots of virtual sex, I somehow came to understand and appreciate what Brooker was driving at.

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Any Street Fighter or Tekken fans will feel some major throwbacks with this one.

Whether or not you’re an avid gamer, you know what it feels like to want to live out a fantasy with zero repercussions on your life. It’s human to desire more and search for an escape from a dissatisfying aspect to our lives. The episode brings to light the cost of doing so and the fight to either accept the blowback and own up to it, or continue to live in a world with no fantasy to fall back on.

The audience quickly realizes that Danny and Karl (our good ol’ cyber-loving buddies) do not feel the emotional or sexual intimacy they experience in VR in reality. They are not, by any means, ‘gay’ in that sense. However, the two of them who share years of friendship and closeness, finally find a platform to explore the meaning of that intimacy. And it stays there, limited to that realm of existence, virtual as it may be.

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The complex dynamic of VR allowing emulation of the sexual experience in a woman’s body for a man whose heterosexual identity in reality is now redefined and put into question, was brilliant. The ramifications of this on Karl’s sexual performance (in real life) are also explored in the episode. His sexual fulfillment is now entirely dependent on, not just adapting the gaming persona of Roxette, but in having it be with Danny in that form.

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Technology has the potential to completely redefine the boundaries of sexuality, gender identity and self-image. While this season may have been a little ‘mellow’ with its shock-factor, Season 5 still holds up to true Black Mirror fashion – provoking its viewers to think and reflect about how much power we’re willing to give away for our progression and the real-life impact of doing so on the most fundamental aspects to human life.

Beatrice Reviews “Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes

“Flowers for Algernon” by Daniel Keyes
★★★★★

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The story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie’s intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance–until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?


I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.

I remember the first time I heard about this book. Chandler Bing, one of my favorite characters from FRIENDS, made a reference to it. “But we can’t live in the small apartment after we’ve lived here! Didn’t you ever read Flowers for Algernon?” To which, Joey made a not-so-witty reply (being Joey of course).

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When I started reading this novel, I did not expect the level of emotional attachment I would form with the characters to be so deep and truly, in a sense, profound. This story isn’t about some mouse on the cover (as some people believed it to be) but a tale of humanity, hope and the strength of the human spirit. This novel being classified as part of the ‘science-fiction’ genre, I did not expect it to explore the human condition in the way that it does.

I am afraid. Not of life, or death, of nothingness, but of wasting it as if I had never been.

Charlie Gordon has an IQ of 68. Everyone sees him as a retard, a moron. No one sees him for what he truly is: a human being. In his pursuit for normalcy and social acceptance, Charlie is admitted into an experiment designed to increase his intelligence to a nearly ‘super-human’ level. Of course, such endeavors come at a price. With self-actualization comes the bitter truth that the sheltered life he leads is not what it seems.

Now I understand that one of the important reasons for going to college and getting an education is to learn that the things you’ve believed in all your aren’t true, and that nothing is what it appears to be.

The book examines a number of things and ultimately raises the philosophical question of the meaning of life. Everything you think you know is put under the lens. In the process of examining several themes such as mental disabilities, kindness, intelligence and human nature (and how often those three things overlap), Flowers for Algernon begs the question of what it means to be human. Should our self-worth be measured through our IQ, or through the capacity we have for love?

How strange it is that people of honest feelings and sensibility, who would not take advantage of a man born without arms or legs or eyes – how such people think nothing of abusing a man with low intelligence.

I do not wish to prattle on about my love for this novella too much but I sincerely urge each of you to go read it. Flowers for Algernon is a godsend for those of us who have lost our appreciation for the simpler things in life.

The human civilization continues to seek ways to expand its’ intelligence and in turn, dominance over this world. In this journey, we have to make sacrifices to achieve such greatness but at what cost? At what point in our search for fulfillment will we have lost too much of our essence? At what point will we think to stop, breathe and reconsider what it means to be human?