Black Mirror – Season 2, Episode 2 – “White Bear” – Commodifying Mob Justice

white bear black mirror


“White Bear” was my introduction to “Black Mirror” last night, and now I’m very excited for watching the rest of the episodes that make up the series. “Black Mirror” is a show that deals with the horrors of humanity in relation to technology and how it can be used to ruin peoples’s lives in hypothetical future horrors that are close enough to our time to feel real, but far enough away to be extremely creepy and surreal. “White Bear” is no exception to that and was the perfect way for me to be introduced to this series that feels like a badly needed update to “The Twilight Zone,” for the problems in the era we live today.

I’m going to reviewing “Black Mirror” but I’ll be doing it randomly as I started in the middle and from what I gather, there isn’t an overall arc. If anything it is a great chance to review how horrendous the human psyche can be and to see the critique of humanity each episode provides. There are also only 6 episodes total right now, so I don’t want to rush through the series.

The episode was directed by Carl Tibbetts and written by Charlie Brooker.

Warning this does contain Spoilers.

The premise of the episode begins with a woman who wakes up and doesn’t know who or where she is. All she has to go off of is a picture of a girl who she believes to be her daughter and a haunting symbol that looks like a upside down Y. She soon finds herself hunted by a man wearing the symbol as a mask as people look on with their phones. From here the story unfolds as she runs into someone who appears to be resisting the masked man and tells her they need to shut down the cell tower in White Bear to free everyone.

The Pros: Suffering as Entertainment – This is a theme throughout the episode as the people watching the woman who is scared, alone and clearly suffering is the product for their amusement. We learn how she is used at the end. Which will be another point later, We see this in shows like Maury, and by the fact that torture porn and other horrendous things like it exist. The woman in this episode is the victim of the mob wanting brutal entertainment.

Reality Television – The woman is being watched everyone and she doesn’t know who or where she is…making her is easy to use and purely reactive. Much like the script that exists in reality television, there is a script at work here as her puppet masters mention later that she has done the same thing every time before they reset her memory and mark another date on the calender.

Mob Justice versus Real Justice – We learn near the end that she was criminal who ended up killing a child (the one whose picture she carries). She claimed to have been used by her boyfriend, but we have no idea because her memory has been wiped. All we know is the person she is now is an innocent who hasn’t done anything wrong. She has no memory and because of what she did is now the effigy for the mob that they burn everyday. She suffers an eternity of hell because the mob believes she deserves it, when the original event isn’t even in her memory anymore and she’s become a totally different person because she has lost all awareness of the person she was before. She is the child being burned alive, like the child was burned alive, which is what the job wants…revenge for their own powerlessness.

We see this in how people justify torture too, it doesn’t matter if it works or not, what matters is that someone who might have helped those who hurt us or might be planning to hurt us is hurting. It’s illogical and solves nothing. Torturing doesn’t bring people back and it isn’t dependable for getting accurate information (another justification that is used) either making wrong on all that many more levels.

False Reality – The location where all this takes place is White Bear Memorial Park, which is where the little girl was killed, and all they had to find her with was her white bear. It is from here the owners of the park construct the reality of putting the woman through pain and ending it where she is forced to face the reality of who they think she is and what they believe she’s done. Everyone is an actor or onlooker so she is on a stage similar to “The Truman Show.”

Discovery of Truth – The discovery of truth is another thing going on, and what the truth actually is. Again, remember she has no memory of doing any of the acts and all we know from her when she did as that her boyfriend might have used her like a cult leader to do it. We have no way of knowing but are given to believe her story given we are inside her head throughout the entire episode and we see when the curtain falls and memories that she has and is thinking about before it is lost each night to technology so she can relieve the Hell again.

The Cons: Lack of Character – We don’t get to know anyone in this, they are all symbols and don’t feel like fully realized people. We are meant to inhabit the woman and feel what she is put through to show how unjust it is, to see just how cruel the mob can be. But the mob isn’t a character and the actors aren’t. They are all illusions so we know nothing about their motivations since all of them were only putting on an act, and they are always being watched which makes their motivations harder to realize, again like reality television. This gave me a level of detachment, which is a shame since I wanted to care more about the woman but since it was from her point of view and nothing she saw was real except for at the end…I only got her feelings but not her character. Because we are meant to be her and experience what she’s experiencing we are watching it through a black mirror, which no doubt was purposeful but hurt the story.

This episode makes me excited to watch the rest of the series, but I’m not going to rush it. The ideas covered should be thought about as each episode is a critique of us and  chance for us to better understand ourselves on an individual and societal level. It is truly the genius of the show for that. The cinematography is also really good and the acting is too for what it’s worth. Making them an hour long helps to truly get inside the world and to really explore an idea fully through.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10. Not perfect because I didn’t know any of the characters so had trouble getting invested because of it.


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