Black Mirror: USS Callister-Bullied Becomes The Bully

Note: Happy New Year everyone.

The past week has been a dead zone with the holidays, but I am happy to return to this blog in 2018. As always, there are New Year’s Resolutions, but I intend to stick to these ones. I refuse to be like the horde of people who swarm the gym in January and February, before disappearing in March. Two of my biggest writing goals are to have something published in 2018, whether it’s an article or a poetry piece. The second is to complete my fourth book, Alive: Part II. I have already tried to get all of my previous works published but I realize now that it will likely be easier to get smaller pieces published, and use those to gain some traction for attempting to publish my novels.

Without further ado, I present some thoughts on Episode 4.1 of Black Mirror.

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I would be lying if I said that Black Mirror won me over instantly. While I was still enthralled by most of the first episode, the ending could have been a breaking point. I understood the purpose of the ending and the rationale but I could not help but be repulsed by it. Then again, that was the show’s intention. Black Mirror is this generation’s Twilight Zone and it would be a disservice to stop watching because it makes you squirm. At the most basic level, the show analyzes how technology affects the way we interact with each other. From my least favourite, The Waldo Moment (that stupid voice really got on my nerves) to Shut Up and Dance or White Christmas, technology is central to the stories.

Season 4 continues the trend with an episode that is dark but also lighter than many of the others. “USS Callister” is a story about wish fulfilment and escapism gone wrong, and those are the elements that I wanted to focus on in this piece. I wasn’t interested in doing a review, although I will say that the performances were great and that I loved the homage to Star Trek. The ending is meant to be happy but I can’t help but wonder if an infinity surrounded by online trolls is truly happiness.

I think anyone who has ever been bullied or ostracized could initially empathize with Daly. Of course, forcing the female members of Space Fleet to kiss him at the end of every game was undeniably creepy and I’m not going to defend that. What I could relate to more was a fantasy where you are a hero to your bullies. That is why I found it interesting that Daly is unquestionably a villain by the end.

In a sense, Daly’s escapism prevents him from asserting himself in real life. He hides behind technology to avoid confrontation. Many people do this, with the mentality that it is easier or more polite. Ghosting is just one of the many anti-social and spineless methods people now use in an attempt to avoid uncomfortable situations. However, uncomfortable situations are a part of life and it is impossible to mature without them. Instead of being more assertive in real-life, Daly goes to the other extreme in his modified version of Infinity. He goes from a pushover to a tyrant, when what he needed to become in the real-world was something in between.

His rejection by his peers guides him further away from them, and further into Infinity. As part of the vicious cycle, this only makes him more off-putting. The staring that causes Shania Lowry to avoid Daly, is implied to be part of his vetting process. He analyzes his potential subjects to see what objects he can steal in order to add them to his game. Of course, his staring is also a part of his fantasizing and the literal possessiveness that we see play out in Infinity. 

What I have always liked about Black Mirror and science-fiction as a whole is that it can use outlandish concepts to mask or examine relevant truths. “Hated in the Nation” attacks online mobs, “Men Against Fire” attacks prejudice and propaganda, “San Junipero” and “USS Callister” examine virtual realities.  Daly is no different than the online trolls who abuse others in order to feel a sense of power they likely don’t have in the real world, the supposed “Kings of Space”. As technology evolves, these trolls will evolve too. People will retreat further from the real, avoiding confrontation and the truth to hide deeper in their fantasies.

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