Men are informed at quite a young age that they are made of “slugs and snails and puppy dogs tails”. After watching part one of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror: The National Anthem, I’m inclined to agree. And if you were to open Brooker up? You’d possibly find the slugs and snails doing “bad things” with the puppy dogs tails. On the surface the programme answers a classic pub question, “If you kidnapped someone of global importance, what would your demands be?” The nation’s sweetheart, a ‘Kate’ type figure has been kidnapped, the country, nay, the world is in shock. State your demands, what is it you want? Money? Pfff. Boring. Obvious isn’t it? That’s right – make the Prime Minister have sex with a pig.
With reference to the summer’s riots, The National Anthem provides a darkly satirical, yet brutally honest insight into the damage social media can make. What was highlighted throughout the programme (whilst I tried to surgically remove the PM’s sweaty sex face from my brain) was that essentially, Facebook and Twitter are broadcasters in their own right. Yes, they don’t have an anchor or weather report, and despite 90% of the social media giants feeds being clogged up with “Dave is never drinking again LOL!” the remaining 10% can be useful news. The government have the power to silence the press on certain pieces in the interim for the greater good, but can they stop Sharon from Essex tweeting “PM’s gonna fuck a pig! OINK OINK! LOL”?
Prior to screening the trailer led us to believe that this was a clichéd 24/Spooks kidnap scenario. Those who have watched Charlie Brooker’s Screen Wipe as well as his first series Dead Set (A ‘what if’ zombies took over the Big Brother house scenario) would know to expect anything other than ‘PM saves the day’. The National Anthem, asks the question, ‘what if?’ – But apart from being a gripping fast paced black satire it also embraces honesty in how – particularly the public – would react. Brooker himself was quoted in The Metro agreeing it’s “an absurd situation, but it could happen”.
Much like Simon Pegg’s character in Shaun of the Dead – which offers a comedic truth of how you’d go about life in an absurd situation, you ask yourself – what would you do in a state of national panic? Well, if honest, like Pegg… probably go to the pub – and if the Prime Minister was to be televised on all terrestrial and satellite channels having sexual intercourse with a pig? Despite it obviously being pretty damn disgusting, you would in all honesty, put your vote in, mention it on Facebook, and go to the pub to watch it with your friends. Not the whole thing of course… Ahem.
Black MIrror also puts the ‘mob mentality’ of the public in major events under the microscope – especially those behind a laptop or smartphone. Disorder, chaos, and the fate of a man can be organised from the comfort of your own home. It appears Brooker is eager to highlight the unfortunate culture of sadism society is practicing at present (a small number it has to be said); whether it be to invoke rioting via social media or belittling fame hungry contestants on X Factor type shows (covered in the next episode -15 Million Merits). Yet it is portrayed in a way that doesn’t belittle or preach to the audience.
Despite its grossly voyeuristic finale, it’s refreshing that the PM met his fate. No rescue, no saving the day with one second left on the clock. Honestly, I mean… would Jack Bauer fuck a pig?
Black Mirror: 15 Million Merits will be on Channel 4 this evening (11/12/11) at 9.30pm. It is available here on 40D
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