A topic within sociology that always seems especially interesting to me personally is postmodernism. There has certainly been a trend in the film industry and production of television shows. Series and movies questioning the theories of Western philosophy have existed for a while considering classic shows like The Twilight Zone, but within the last decade I have noticed another wave that pushes postmodernist theories cinematically. One of my favorite shows is the Netflix series Black Mirror. The show has four seasons, with a fifth releasing at the end of December, and each episode has a different plot and cast as well. Science-fiction, dystopian, and utopian stories are all graced with an element of satirical comic relief that makes these episodes all too relatable and plausible for the future of society. For this blog post, I’d like to walk through one of my favorite episodes with a sociological lens.
One episode from season three is titled Men Against Fire. The protagonist is followed through a military based setting, and his first couple of days post training are depicted. He, as well as every other soldier, are implanted with an implant that is supposed to enhance their performance. As he enters the battlegrounds with his crew, a few members of the group pump themselves up for what is about to take place. Their targets are what they call “roaches.” Notorious for being ruthless, sickly mutations of former humans, roaches deserve no mercy, and killing even one on the first day is highly honorable amongst the crew members. Roaches live in abandoned homes, which is where the military group heads to in order to take out their enemies. Throughout this initial battle, the main character experiences his first interaction with the roaches and at first is reluctant to kill them as he’s been vigorously trained to do. Eventually shots fire, and one of the roaches holds up a contraption which starts to have effects on the soldier over the next few days. The end of that combat ended in the soldier brutally stabbing a roach to death. He smells no blood, barely hears any screaming, and is operating as one with technology. As the story progresses and combat continues, he begins to feel “out of it” and starts seeing things differently. At first, he seeks the help of medical on the base, but after a quick evaluation they send him back with the rest of the soldiers. The next instance of combat is when things change. The main character no longer sees the unsightly roaches that he saw the first time, but instead he sees regular people fearing for their lives. He begins talking with a woman who explains how the government outcasted her ethnic group until eventually, all of society saw them as these “roaches.” The military was using an implant that affected the soldier’s vision, smell, hearing, and overall mental capacity. The soldiers were literal killing machines. After this the main character begins fighting for the people that his team is assonating.
This episode spoke volumes to me, because it first addresses the postmodern aspect of technology and ethical conversation of what is too much when paired with human skill. The overall message made a huge impact on me, because it reminded me of the way stigmas are attached to certain races which can result in seeing people as subhuman. Language is so powerful, and using discriminatory language respectively has a larger impact on us that most realize. Black Mirror allows me to put lessons like these into perspective and wonder about what the future holds for a society that is right at the cusp of making some of these episodes a reality. Cultural production is largely affected by different forms of media, so I think it is important for shows like this one to continually be available to the public.