Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

T’Challa a.k.a Black Panther was introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) in Captain America: Civil War, originally serving a role similar to the one Spider-Man played in the comics (the figure who joins Iron Man’s side but then changes his mind). Once Marvel were able to secure the rights for Spider-Man again, Tom Holland’s version of the character was hurriedly fit into the film. Spider-Man was brought in, but Black Panther remained and I think many people would agree that he shined in his debut.

The writing, the suit, the fighting and Chadwick Boseman’s portrayal all introduced the new King of Wakanda, and Black Panther picks up shortly after, where T’Challa is returning to Wakanda to be crowned king.

Firstly, there has bee a lot of excitement about this film because it is one of the first mainstream Hollywood films with a black director and a mostly black cast. Additionally, it is also one of the first movies in a while focusing on a black superhero. Inevitably, people’s excitement at these developments is also being met with the “colour-blind” or outright racist resentment.

  1. You don’t see me cheering for a new movie with a white cast.

It wouldn’t make sense for you to. There is an endless parade of films with white main characters and supporting characters. Your characters have a wide range of traits and professions. They are not often portrayed as thugs, or streetwise comic relief. The numerical representation of white people on screen far outstrips their representation in America, with over 70% of speaking roles in Hollywood films going to white actors (Sept. 2014- to August 2015). You are so used to this now that you have become blind to it.

Whiteness is the most desired commodity in Hollywood. It is why many stories focusing on black heroes are not viewed as “marketable”, despite successes like Straight Outta Compton and Hidden Figures. Studio heads are more willing to bank on white actors. This is why they favour adaptations of properties with white characters. This is why a character can be whitewashed when Hollywood adapts a story, because they view it as marketable. Then audiences start to internalize the same excuse, and get to the point where they genuinely support the idea that a movie loses interest for them if the protagonist isn’t white.

Consider this, even with the Marvel brand and Black Panther’s introduction in Civil War, it was still considered a “risk” to give $200 million to a black director whose previous work was critically lauded and profitable. There is a long-standing belief that black doesn’t sell as well as white, especially overseas, and Black Panther is challenging the dogma with its empathic opening weekend.

Don’t accuse black people or minorities as a whole of being racist here. Black people and Hispanics generally see more movies than white people do, meaning that a lot of them shell out money to watch (or even repeatedly watch) movies with characters that may not look like them. If minorities can do it, why can’t white people? We can appreciate a good story regardless of race, but we can also be appreciative when we get a great story and great film with actors that represent our population.

In short, if you go into this movie and carry your resentment with you, it is likely to influence your rating of the film.

Moving on…

Firstly, I have to say that this film did an amazing job of bringing Wakanda to life. Everything from the costumes, customs and music transports you to the fictional country that was never colonized. Its technology and clothing blend traditional and futuristic, borrowing inspiration from existing African countries to create something that is truly afrofuturistic.

Second, Black Panther actually gives us a good villain. Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Killmonger gives us a villain with a tragic backstory and a mission that is more unique than a lot of others you will see. Essentially, he wants to take over the world, but the nuances and motive behind his aspirations are what makes him and the film special. Jordan can be charismatic, intelligent, empathetic, but also threatening. Other villains have also been physically threatening, such as Ronan in Guardians of the Galaxy, but without good writing they end up as generic placeholders. In terms of the entire MCU, Kilgrave from Jessica Jones may still have Killmonger beat. However, I have to place Killmonger above Loki as the MCU films’ #1 villain. Black Panther doesn’t shy away from exploring issues of racial identity and racism, and that was a pleasant surprise coming from the same company that turned a doomsday story into a buddy comedy (Thor: Ragnarok). Killmonger’s last line in particular, is one that left me speechless.

Speaking of comedy, it’s generally handled well in this film. I have previously ranted on YouTube and this blog about Marvel’s insistence on humour in their films. The Thor films as a whole are the worst offenders, giving us sloppy writing that regularly fails to build tension because we always know a joke is soon to follow, usually from the most annoying characters (looking at you Kat Dennings). Black Panther has one or two moments where I felt like a joke could have been cut, but overall I believe it is one of the MCU films that has the most balanced humour. There is nothing wrong with humour in itself, but it must fit the characters and the storyline.

In terms of jokes that could have been cut, one of the most notable comes from Andy Serkis as Ulysees Klaue a.k.a Klaw. Reprising his role from Avenvers: Age of Ultron, Klaw serves as an ally to Killmonger. If you have seen the trailers you know there is a scene where Killmonger frees Klaw from captivity, so what I am about to say won’t be too much of a spoiler. During Klaw’s interrogation, he is randomly singing What is Love. I guess the “don’t hurt me, no more” part is meant to be funny because Klaw wants to avoid torture, but the scene also comes across as really random and very Marvel-esque in terms of sloppy humour.

Most of the humour comes from Shuri, T’Challa’s sister. Letitia Wright previously portrayed Nish in season 4 of Black Mirror and she is also able to shine here with the lighter material and the more intense moments. Shuri’s rapport with her brother is one of the highlights of the film and is a perfect example of a more organic approach to comedy, where it flows from a character naturally and doesn’t feel like it was forced in to keep things “fun”.

Alongside Boseman, Wright and Jordan we also have a host of other talented actors and actresses. Danai Gurira, best known as Michonne on The Walking Dead, makes Michonne look like Elsa in this movie. Daniel Kaluuya also plays an important role but he does get outshined by Winston Duke’s M’Baku. Martin Freeman also returns from Civil War as agent Everett Ross, and is yet another talented cast member and Lupita N’yongo rounds it out. For those who have seen the movie, you know her character is the real MVP.

The action in the film is at its best when the hand-to-hand choreography is on display. Some of the larger scenes do feature some shoddy CGI but thankfully these scenes aren’t prevalent enough to ruin the film. The Black Panther shines in his action scenes but Boseman also brings a great presence and power to the character, building off what we saw in Civil War. He is someone who is torn between tradition and chance, past and future.

I know that the hype or the outright anti-black animosity will affect some people’s views of this film. Some might say it is overhyped. I was pleasantly surprised not to feel that way. It is my new favourite MCU film, beating out The Winter Soldier.

Go see the film for yourself, and hopefully you can enjoy the film simply as a film, while also appreciating everything else that comes with it.

Maze Runner: Death Cure

As someone who hates bad acting and love stories, I generally hate young adult (YA) books, tv shows and films. The Maze Runner (2014) still piqued my interest despite the horde of teen girls in the YouTube comments and I eventually checked it out. The performances were a welcome surprise, with Dylan O’Brien being a pleasant surprise. Aside from O’Brien, Aml Ameen, Thomas Brodie- Sangster, Will Poulter and others also helped to carry the film’s concept and story.

The Maze Runner‘s ending revealed that a solar flare has devastated most of the world, and has also lead to a virus known as the flare virus. The maze was one of a series of experiments being used to test the bodies of people immune to the flare virus, in hopes of finding a cure.

The Scorch Trails continued with the character’s escape from the maze, introducing us to a desolate world filled with “cranks”, those infected by the flare virus. WCKD continues their pursuit of the group, after the group escapes from their facility in search of a resistance group called The Right Arm. The setting of the second film wasn’t as unique as the first, since we have seen post-apocalyptic worlds and zombies before. However, maybe I am a sucker for those elements. I didn’t hate The Scorch Trials as much as most people did. I still found it to be an enjoyable movie, although it was somewhat forgettable.

The Death Cure mainly follows the group’s attempts to find Minho and the rest of those taken captive by WCKD, hatching a plan to break into WCKD’s home base, nestled in the Last City. The performances continue to shine here, especially O’Brien and Sangster. I found Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) somewhat forgettable in The Maze Runner but feel like she had a much better role in this film. The action sequences were a highlight of the second and that continues here, although the scenes do have those small moments of nonsensical actions that tend to ruin suspension of disbelief. For example, there is a scene where soldiers are approaching the heroes and instead of shooting from afar (but still within range) they wait until they are less than fifty feet away before pulling their triggers. Once the soldiers start shooting it is clear they are not planning to take the heroes alive, but that goes back to the issue, why not shoot when they were a little further away and had clear shots?

The action and the writing only allows a few characters to truly shine, with Thomas, Teresa and Newt getting the brunt of that. Honourable mention also goes to a short but powerful performance from Walton Goggins (as always) and a character who returned from the first film. Others, such as Brenda and Jorge get their action scenes, but get much less character development. They exist mainly to provide firepower for the main group.

In terms of the villains, Aiden Gillen is competent as Janson but is not that memorable (same as the second film). Patricia Clarkson’s “Ava Paige” is more of a standout as WCKD’s leader, but her character also fails to be a standout. She is a villain facing the utilitarian struggle of sacrificing some for many, but we don’t get too much time to explore her moral conflict.

Like The Scorch Trials the cranks were surprisingly creepy in the Death Cure, and the film actually has two jump scares that are better than some of the attempted ones in horror movies. I will say that some of the scenes, action or otherwise, feature cliches that detracted from my enjoyment of the film e.g. we hear a gunshot and think a main character got shot, but someone else did OR we think everyone’s doomed, but a last minute rescue comes into play. At one point, it seemed like there was a loop of these cliches but thankfully they faded somewhat as the movie went on. The most effective villain in this film is simply the idea of WCKD, the entity that wants to imprison the heroes.

The Death Cure also adds a resistance group that resides just outside the walls of the Last City, eager for their chance to break through and seek revenge on the company that has kept them out. I thought this subplot was interesting but we don’t actually get to explore the community much, although they make their presence felt in the third act.

The performances and the action are the best parts of this film, and arguably the series. The characters birthed in the first film are the ones who remain the strongest throughout, giving us the film’s heart and most of our reason for caring about the fate of the heroes. I will commend the series for being one that makes you root for all of the heroes, even if they are not well developed. Unlike some of the terrible slasher flicks or terrible sci-fi films I have seen (looking at you AVP: Requiem) I never crossed the line of truly not caring about certain characters. In contrast, caring about the character is what makes you want to know them better. The characters aren’t stereotypes, or simplified archetypes e.g. the jock, the smart one. There is more to them but we don’t really get to see that. We root for Thomas, Newt etc. and then root for everyone else by extension.

Although the film had its faults I still loved seeing it on the big screen and would be happy to see it again. I believe The Death Cure was a strong end to the series. The film was long but I honestly didn’t feel like it dragged. Maybe I’m just a YA fanboy but that’s my honest opinion. Do yourself a favour if you’ve seen the other two and don’t let critics sway you too much. See the film if you want to, and let yourself be the judge.

Solo

Sunday brought a much-anticipated Patriots defeat at the hands of the Eagles. For the movie geeks like myself we were also excited to see new movie footage and trailers debut during the big game. There was more Infinity Wars footage but I was not too excited about it, maybe because I’m afflicted with a bit of Marvel fatigue.

For the moment, I don’t have any Star Wars fatigue. When I originally heard about the plans for the anthology films, and extended universe of films separate from the “Episode” series, I viewed it as a cheap cash in. However, Rogue One became my favourite Star Wars film. The film excelled on its own merit but I also found it refreshing to see a Star Wars tale that was not tied to the Skywalkers. There is an entire galaxy with interesting worlds and people, and these films allow the filmmakers to diverge from the battle against the Sith and show us other layers of the universe.

The Super Bowl gave us a tv spot for Solo: A Star Wars Story, which was pretty much an announcement trailer. The full trailer arrived today. I’ll be discussing both, but let’s start with the tv spot.

Obviously it features less dialogue than the full trailer. The few bits of dialogue we get don’t give away too much in terms of the plot (and they shouldn’t), but give us just enough to understand what the movie is about as we lead up to the title shot. The visuals look amazing, very photorealistic and devoid of the cartoonish CGI we see in some films. That is also a relief since this film doesn’t have that much post-production left to go, with a May release date.  This marketing footage was released pretty late- some movies have teasers come out nearly a year before release- likely due to all the production issues Solo had. Former directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired weeks before principal production was set to finish. Ron Howard then came in and oversaw five weeks of reshoots.

Reshoots don’t have to be a bad thing, since well-loved films like Back to the Future and Rocky also had reshoots. Not to mention The Force Awakens and Rogue One. Reshoots aren’t always about removing or changing a storyline, they can simply be some behind the scenes special effects work, like the reshoots for Force Awakens. However, the fact that two directors got fired into production makes it obvious that the Solo reshoots could likely have altered the story of the film. The Lord and Miller take was a more comedic venture, described as a “screwball comedy“. While Han was used for comic relief at points in the original trilogy, that doesn’t mean the film itself has to be a comedy to work. The reshoots could work out well or the film could end up being some Frankenstein monster of subplots, characters and storylines that don’t mesh.

Moving on the actual footage, Donald Glover looks like an OG in the tv spot and the trailer. We don’t get any lines from Lando but we do see him piloting the Millennium Falcon at one point. In the original trilogy, we find out Han won the plane from Lando in a game of sabacc. We’ll likely see the ship change hands in the film. I actually came across an article that argues a Lando film is more deserved than Solo, especially since Han’s character is relatively fleshed out in the original trilogy and already has a conclusive end in The Force Awakens. The author argues that some mystery about Han’s early years fit the character, meanwhile the level of mystery Lando still has makes him a better candidate for a film. Of course, the comments have one guy complaining about a “poc obsession”. I doubt he complains about the much longer phase of the white people obsession. Anyways…

I generally avoid watching or reading anyone’s thoughts on trailers before I give my own, since my opinion could end up swayed. If someone is negative I could go in with a negative mindset, or settle for something mediocre simply because it wasn’t as bad as one critic or YouTube reviewer made it out to be. I came across a tweet yesterday that I can’t help but agree with.

Like I said, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed or been as bothered if I didn’t read this tweet first.

“I got kicked out…for having a mind of my own.”

“A pilot…the best in the galaxy.” Almost reminded me of the Pokemon theme song.

“Hey kid, I’m putting a crew together. You in?”

That being said, at least the delivery isn’t too bad. I am sure Woody Harrelson will give a great performance, like he usually does. Emilia Clarke can be hit or miss, I’ve even noticed this from her performance on Game of Thrones. Some actors and actresses also seem to flounder outside of a certain role, and I am hoping that isn’t the case here.

The biggest question mark so far is Alden Ehreneich as Han. Apparently his performance initially failed to impress Lucasfilm and necessitated an on-set acting coach. Now, the article says the acting coach isn’t necessarily a bad sign. The worrying part is how late into production the coach was brought on, which is implied to be some point late into principal production.

This film hinges on Ehreneich’s performance. Many fans are likely skeptical of seeing someone else portray Han at this point, even if it is a role that would make no sense for Harrison Ford to play. People will likely nitpick Ehreneich’s voice and looks, and if he gives a poor performance on top of that, the film’s anchor will be ruined.

I was actually more excited for this film after the tv spot, than I was after the full trailer. With that said, I am still curious to see how the film turns out and I am still looking forward to seeing Donald Glover as Lando.

Metalhead: Black Mirror

Note: Just some quick thoughts motivated by a podcast I was listening to. The @decipherscif podcast was going through the second half of season 4 of Black Mirror, breaking down the science in episodes like Black Museum. Interestingly, when the conversation moved to “Metalhead” the podcasters pretty much skipped the episode, criticizing its plot.

For anyone who’s been reading the blog, you’ll know Black Mirror is one of my favourite tv shows. I recommend it to people anytime the topic of tv pops up. When I heard about a fourth season on Netflix I completely forgot about wrapping up season 5 of Samurai Jack and moved on to Black Mirror. The season has birthed some new favourites for myself and other fans, such as “Black Museum” and “USS Callister”. It has birthed some episodes that might land in the middle, such as “Crocodile” or “Arkangel”. Season 4 has also birthed an episode that I personally believes gets an unfair helping of hate, “Metalhead”.

Now, it is easy for me to see why the hate exists, but I don’t think the hate exists simply because the episode is poorly done television. For many, “Metalhead” was likely just an unwelcome deviation from what they expected in a Black Mirror episode. The philosophical underpinnings weren’t as salient, and the episode doesn’t offer any of the twists or turns fans came to expect. Instead, “Metalhead” offered a simple chase sequence that has drawn comparisons to Mad Max and Terminator. Compared to the episodes that came before, “Metalhead” was a drastic shift.

Personally, I still put “The Waldo Moment” at the bottom of my list, and people may consider my reasoning shallow, but I could not stand the voice the actor used for the cartoon character. The messages were good and turned out to be quite relevant (cough, Trump) but it is an episode I refuse to revisit.

I have always loved post-apocalyptic stories, and although the Skynet-esque trope of technology hunting down humankind has been done, I still found the episode very engaging. It is not the type of scenario that can ask the same type of questions about topics like consciousness or reality, but “Metalhead” did leave me speculating what led to the world we see in the episode. We can guess the dogs were a military weapon that either went rogue, or may be hunting a certain segment of the population. I liked the fact that we were left to speculate about the details surrounding the character’s predicament. I also thought it was amusing to see a more literal representation of technology leading to death. While some may criticize the subtlety of this episode, I also think there is a segment of fans who like to feel smart because they watch the show, just like the denizens of Rick and Morty fans who claim you have to be pretty smart to “get it”.  An episode like “Metalhead” breaks the illusion of philosophical theater.

Maybe “Metalhead” was a bad Black Mirror episode but it certainly wasn’t bad tv.

More Right-Wing Straw Mans

For those of you who do not know, a straw man argument is an argument that does not address the argument an opponent made. Typically, the straw man is created by either exaggerating or simplifying an opponent’s argument

For example

Person 1: Racism still impacts minorities

Person 2 (Straw Man): You’re saying minorities shouldn’t work hard since racism holds them back anyway!

This may seem like an exaggeration on my part but the online realm is rife with straw man arguments. This post is actually motivated by an argument some racist (sorry, alt-righter) presented on twitter. According to them, acknowledging that racism still impacts minorities just gives minorities a license to become lazy. Sadly, this thread was met with a wave of support and criticism of liberals who would try to create a utopia where no one has to work hard.

This particular straw man argument is a very popular one and shows the strength of denial and straw man arguments. A lot of people on the right wing, and those sympathetic to them, love to complain about liberals being the ones that never listen to the other side or heed facts that contradict their world view. This straw man argument is one example of an argument that is borne out of willful ignorance.

No reputable figure who studies racism or even acknowledges its impact tries to argue that minorities shouldn’t bother to work hard or improve themselves, since racism will stop their progress anyway. This is not an argument that liberals make. There is plenty of evidence to show that racism still impacts minorities, such as the study that people with racially ambiguous names get more responses to their resumes, even though the resumes are identical. So people who don’t want to face the facts can simply ignore the actual details of the study, see the headline that says “racism” and jump to a stupid argument.

My mother never told me I shouldn’t bother to work hard because of racism. I was taught that I would have to work twice as hard to get the same respect. She was right. If I fail, it’s because I’m a lazy black guy. If I succeed, people assume I am unqualified because they don’t understand how affirmative action works.

We are stuck in a cycle where people say we can work hard and succeed, and are then treated with suspicion if we do succeed. Racist assumptions abound as people wonder if we AA’d our way in or if we are selling drugs to support our lifestyle. This is the beautiful colour-blind world we live in.

Race Swap

I previously shared a blog post titled, The Only Cure for Racism, where I describe my dream of a world where we can transplant the mind of someone into a different host body. This has been done before in science-fiction, but I examined how this could be used specifically to demonstrate how people can receive different and harmful treatment based on their skin colour.

There is so much information out there to demonstrate that racism is alive and well, but denial, straw man arguments etc. allow many people to ignore this information. These willfully ignorant people include groups like the alt-right and more enlightened individuals whose worldview is still shaped by ignorance. This is the age where terms like “libtard” and “social justice warrior” are used to describe people who have some knowledge of the issues affecting minorities. Don’t get me wrong, some people do legitimately see discrimination where there is none. However, the “right wing buzzwords” paint a wide swath of people with the same brush and ultimately help to derail conversations that can help society truly move forward. No form of discrimination or injustice was ever overcome by avoiding its discussion. If that is the lesson people have learned from history, then that is just more proof of the power of denial.

With that in mind, I began to write a story about race-swapping. In this story, a disgruntled white man volunteers to have his thoughts and personality implanted into a black host for six months. If he goes through the six months without feeling like he received any harmful treatment due to his skin colour, then he will receive a cash prize of $200,000. I wanted my protagonist to be representative of many of the racists present today. I am still fleshing out the story, but I know he will be young and educated (looking at you Ben Shapiro).

This story is still in its infancy, but I wanted to share this first piece since sharing this also motivates me to continue working on it. I am still working on my fourth book, Alive: Part II, as well (deadline of September). I am not sure how long “Race Swap” will end up being. It could be a short story of a few thousand words, or perhaps a novel. Either way, I will keep chipping away at it. Enjoy.

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The libtards challenged him, and now he was going to prove them wrong. Their latest machination was something born out of desperation, because they couldn’t find facts to support any of the garbage they spouted.

My parents were poor, and they struggled most of their lives. Just like I did. I never got a handout but the Democrats and social justice warriors have the audacity to tell me I have white privilege, as if every white person has it easy. The blacks complain about racism and yet they get affirmative action, instead of just working hard like the rest of us. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve lost a job I deserved because some black C student got a free ride. They complain about racist police, but maybe they’d have an easier time if they just obeyed the law.

I thought off how much easier my life could have been if I was one of them, and I endured my commute with anger flowing through me. I saw the black school kids with their white girlfriends, knowing that people would call me “racist” just because I think people should stick to their own. One thing after another showed me how unfair the world is, why people like me need people like Trump to look out for us. We created this civilization, and now it was leaving us behind.

By the time I reached my destination, I had to take a few deep breaths before ringing the intercom.

“Good morning, how can I help you?” A female voice said from the speaker.

“I’m here for a 10am race swap.”

 

First Factinate Article

As I’ve mentioned before, I recently started writing listicles for Factinate.

At the very least, the venture brings in some extra money but I am hoping I can leverage it for something greater. As of now, I at least have an article published on something other than my own blog. As they say, “progress, not perfection.”

25 Money-Making Facts About Hollywood Industry

 

Dark and Stranger Things

I recently finished watching Netflix’s “Dark”, knowing that it was drawing lots of comparisons to “Stranger Things”. After watching the show, I am reminded of the comparisons people made between IT (2017) and “Stranger Things”. Both involve kids, and both took place in the 1980s. That was pretty much it for the comparisons and that was enough for people to throw out words like “rip-off”.

With “Dark” and “Stranger Things”, both shows involve a missing kid and sci-fi elements. That is it for comparisons. The cast is mostly comprised of adults and teenagers, with a teenaged main character (as opposed to kids). There aren’t any sci-fi monsters in “Dark”, and the time travel theme is a far cry from what we got in “Stranger Things”.

If we always reduce a show or movie to its most basic elements, it is easy to compare just about any film to another one e.g. you can reduce The Dark Knight to a story about a man who lost his parents. Then you can compare it to a lot of other films that are actually nowhere near close. Although we have so much information available online people either don’t come across facts, or aren’t bothered to look up facts that clear up their ignorance. For example, all of the IT trailers (if I’m not mistaken) advertised the film as a Stephen King adaptation. Yet you still get idiots that said IT was inspired by “Stranger Things”, when in fact it is the other way around. Pacific Rim got compared to Transformers simply because they both have robots, even though the plots are actually very different, and the inspiration for Pacific Rim came from a 1958 anime called Tetsujin 28.

“Dark” is a strong show, with a somewhat unsatisfactory ending, that is a victim of the online sound chamber: People who parrot the criticisms that they hear online, refusing to think for themselves and viewing their entertainment through a lens that someone else placed on them. Any issues I have with “Dark”, have nothing to do with comparisons to “Stranger Things” or any other show.

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.