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Saturday, November 19, 2016

Black Mirror Season 3, Episode 3: "Shut Up and Dance" and The Art of Control and Power With Technology

Season 3, Episode 3: "Shut Up and Dance"
Starring: Alex Lawther, Jerome Flynn, Susannah Doyle
Created By: Charlie Booker
Network: Netflix
Rating: B+

My Thoughts: We put a lot into our time into technology and we do this so blindly that we tend to forget that though we technically own this technology, it's not really "ours." There is always someone else in control. Once we get a new phone or computer, there's always an option to upload all of our information to these Cloud servers in case of mishaps. Most of the time, people unknowingly agree to sync their information to the Cloud and it's at that point that the companies that own these servers achieve the ability to access to this information whenever they want. While we'd like to believe that we have privacy, that's obviously not the case and this episode proves just that. In this episode of Black Mirror, we meet a young man named Kenny (Alex Lawther) who is just your average kind of guy. He works in a grocery story, fights with his sister and chronically masturbates, as guys generally do. However, one night he gets a text from an unknown number saying, "WE SAW WHAT YOU DID." While still trying to figure out who could've gotten this information, he begins getting more text messages with instructions. The messages also state that if he does not follow their instructions, they will leak a video of him "doing the deed."

As with other episodes in the series, this episode doesn't prey on technology as the catalyst in our own undoing. It's us. We want privacy and for the most part, we believe that most of our information is safe in the Cloud, even when it's actually not. With all the ICloud hackings and catfishings going around, it's evident that the electronic world is not as safe as we'd like to believe it is, but yet we still continue to share our information with these servers as if we're in control of what happens once it's been uploaded. We want control and because we're in control of these tiny devices, we believe that we're in control of what happens with whatever is on them. Kenny thought just like this at the beginning of the episode, but he soon loses that luxury once the anonymous text messages begin rolling, which makes for quite an interesting shift. A majority of the suspense lies not in Kenny trying to discover who these people are, but in whether or not Kenny will go through with demands as they begin to get more vicious. We're experiencing these trails through Kenny's eyes and every time he goes through another psychological, emotional experience, so do we. We're encouraged to sympathize and feel for Kenny during his ordeal mainly because we've seemingly connected with a nice guy whose just gotten into a little bit of trouble.

After the show's twist reveals that Kenny isn't who we think he is, everything shifts. We felt for Kenny beforehand and we ultimately felt as if we were in control because we believed we knew everything about him. However, we were incorrect and once we find out that it's Kenny whose the bad guy, all of the power we believed we had is gone. And we're faced with an even bigger dilemma as we're now not worried about what's going to happen to Kenny. We're worried about what's going to happen to us. Throughout the episode, we rooted for Kenny, but now that we know the truth about him, can we still root for him? Should we? Is Kenny that same awkwardly, adorable young man now that we know what he's done? Can we forgive him? Should we? And even more importantly, can we forgive ourselves for rooting for a potential child molester? And because we have these kinds of questions lingering in our heads, it's evident that our own moral codes may be slightly unreliable and that we're in even less control than we thought.

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