Black Mirror’s Charlie Brooker: ‘I Feel Sorry For Millennials. You Get A Bad Rep!’

Black Mirror is back and it's darker and closer to the truth than ever. Don't worry though, Charlie Brooker's got young peoples' back. We meet the man I am definitely voting for in the next general election. Whether he likes it or not. *Spoiler free*

charlie brooker black mirror three

by Jess Commons |
Published on

I know I get excited about a lot of telly shows because I’m grumpy and I don’t like going out anymore but, look at it this way; the fact that I like telly is only a positive thing for you because it means I can test all your TV first so when you DO get time off from your fun lives and want to watch something, you'll know it's good.

That being said, I think I’ve found a winner for the best telly of the whole year. And it’s Black Mirror Season Three.

Following on from Season One (includes the now infamous pig episode that kind of actually came true), Season Two (life online after death and reality shows gone mad) and the Christmas Special (Jon ruddy Hamm), is Season Three which has been transported to Netflix, had it’s budgets upped and episode number increased.

There’s six episodes (with six more to follow next year) and each one is a blistering comment on modern culture and society, either as it stands now or where it's headed in the future. Some episodes serve as a metaphor for our current society (check out Nosedive for an only slightly unfamiliar imagining of a world being driven by social media rankings), others are a reminder of what could really actually happen now (watch Shut Up And Dance and never use your computer again), others still look at how our current attitudes could one day spawn harmful behaviour as soon as enabling technology becomes available. For this, check out the particularly disturbing Men Against Fire, an episode which has sat with me for days now.

IRL, Charlie is not the scary man from Screenwipe who hasn’t got time for our useless politicians. I mean, he probably doesn’t have time for our useless politicians, but, watching Black Mirror and speaking to him, it becomes very clear that he has got time for us, the kids chucked on the end table by the older generations. Black Mirror this season feels closer to the bone than ever before. A warning to us perhaps.

I managed to sit down with Charlie for a chat about all of this and, despite me being VERY NERVOUS, he turned out to be super amiable and, really rather sweetly concerned for us and generations younger than us. Here's what he said.

PS, you have mine and Charlie’s assurance that this is a SPOILER FREE interview. In fact, he promised that if I even started shuffling towards a spoiler, he’d start screaming.

Hi Charlie! Was there any disturbing technology or social media platform you dreamed up for this season only to find out it already existed?

Not so much on this series although previous ones we’ve done there’s been stuff that’s come true really quickly. There was one episode we did where there was this service that sort of resurrects your personality after you’ve died based on your social media profile (Be Right Back – season 2) and that’s service now that someone’s offering!

In this season, one of the episodes involves an extremely immersive video game that’s extremely unpleasant (Playtest) and then I tried out the PlayStation VR headset the other day and one of the demos for it is a Resident Evil style thing where you’re sitting tied to a chair and I did think 'OK I can shave another five years when I think that prediction will come true!'

Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis in San Junipero
Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Mackenzie Davis in San Junipero

One episode, San Junipero (and trust me on this Debrief readers, you will bloody LOVE this episode) takes our obsession with nostalgia to task. Why do we love the past so much Charlie Brooker?

Because it probably looks nicer than the present I would imagine! This episode is set in 1987 which is a bit of a departure from the usual but there’s more to it than that… It’s an idealised version of 1987 that we’re presenting there. I think there’s something comforting about the past. I‘m decrepit enough to remember 1987. I’m part of Generation X, so I feel sorry for Millennials. You get a bad rep!

There’s one episode where trolling gets WELL out of control. In a way I can actually imagine happening now. Do you think policing Twitter is the answer?

I think that social media is an amazing invention and really I suspect what needs to happen is that we just as a species get better at dealing with it and comprehending the etiquette of it and appreciating the fact that everyone on there is a real human being and that you could gravely upset someone with the things you’re saying and doing.

I’m generally against legislation against free speech but I can see it’s a massive problem when you’ve got people who are going out of their way with targeted abuse. It’s a very difficult thing to deal with. I don’t know the answer. I don’t know the answer!

People should be more accountable for what they say. It’s just difficult to see how you do that without the law getting involved. I think it’s like we’ve evolved an extra limb – social media is just like we haven’t worked out how to walk with three legs yet – we just keep banging into the walls.

Bryce Dallas Howard in Nosedive

Goddammit Charlie. You were my last hope for that one.

Alright then, how about armed officials standing behind everyone with a gun pointed at the back of their heads every time you’re texting or tweeting anyone. You like that future? Ha ha. (Charlie does a very nervous chuckle).

Social media is being blamed for a rise in mental health issues at the moment. How easy do you think it would be to withdraw from it altogether?

It's difficult at the moment because you’re made to feel like a pariah if you don’t partake. Certainly, if it’s making someone feel unwell then it would be wise to step back. That wouldn’t be a defeat. Just leave the party. I don’t think you should ever get to a point where it’s so required of you take part. It’s something that’s come along since I’ve been an adult - it’s not water I’ve swum in my life. I can’t imagine how horrific it would be to be 15 and on social media. I find that a stomach churning thought. Actually it’s making me quite sad just thinking about it – It’s a terrible pressure!

A horrible pressure we probably don’t need right?

I think we are designed to have several different personas. I once had a party and there were people from all different parts of my life people; some were work colleagues, some were the people I swear with, some are the people I pretend to be witty and erudite with and they were all mingling in one room and I’d walk over to a group of them and I’d think, ‘Oh I don’t know how to interact with this mixture of people’ and I’d think, ‘Who am I?’ and I had a sort of existential crisis at my party! The problem is that online you’ve only got one persona and to try to cater to everyone I think is probably not mentally healthy. Because you are not just your online persona.

That’s refreshing to hear.

It’s a bit like being a celebrity or being a newspaper columnist. It’s slightly inauthentic because baked into that system is a need for approval and retweets and likes and followers. You’re playing a role-playing game. Social media is a video game and that’s good to remember.

Also, often, people on there? SOD THEM.

Wise words Charlie thank you bye.

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Follow Jess on Twitter @Jess_Commons

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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