The Dystopia of the Spectator. Past Revival and Acceleration of Time in Black Mirror ("The Entire History of You" and "Be Right Back")

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Angela M. Cirucci & Barry Vacker
This chapter aims to question the issue of time structure regarding two Black Mirror’s episodes (2011-): “The Entire Story of You” (2011) and “Be Right Back” (2012). They show stories that break the relation between past, present and future. In both cases, past becomes predominantly homogenised, as well as the present converts into a mere revival of the past. Therefore, the natural course of history and time seems to be stopped. First, we propose to analyse the structure of the series, to discuss the heterotopic narrative developed. By focusing on different characters in every episode, putting the emphasis on the histories of the self, subjected to connecting technologies, that comes to reduce the perception of both space and time. Second, we will study the elements that make “Black Mirror” a dystopia. In our perspective, the key mechanism (that one which prohibits the happiness and well-being of the society pictured in the series) is the “pause gesture” in the narration. Thus, we believe that the way in which each episode works by stopping the natural course of the narration, and therefore the future of the character, by showing repetitive images of the past, as the main possibility offered by over-connexion. Third, we will show that “pause gesture” engenders the aesthetic of the acceleration of time, by the act of rewinding immediate and rapidly and show the image of a revival past. In other words, in the two episodes, the ones who have the leading role are precisely spectators of lives which are rebooted in an accelerated way. That is what we call “dystopia of the spectator”. Our hypothesis points out that this dystopia allows to avoid fear, anguish of the uncertainty of the future and present. As a matter of fact, the way in which these stories deal with reality issues as well as the tragic endings develop a radical critic of the “media-oriented society” (Couldry, 2004). We attend to observe how once again the fundamental role of the gaze works toward controlling (Foucault, 1975; Crary, 1992), due to the central role of images in both episodes. That might even build a dead relative, thanks to the possibility to check and corroborate every word, tastes and identity features, based apparently on algorithms and behaviour in social networks. However, there is a high level of connexion and performance that has been reached in the society depicted in the series. It certainly shows the transformation of the gaze and the ways of looking at both in the global and the intimate environments (Crary, 2014). In these two episodes to be analysed, words, things and emotions are synchronised by the repetition of images, and the immediacy of that past brings control as well as fear and stop progress (Virilio, 2010).
Series de Ficción Televisiva, Dystopia, Tele-Inter-Activity, Memoria, Dromoscopy, Presentism
En: Angela M. Cirucci, Barry Vacker (eds.). Black Mirror and Critical Media Theory. Philadelphia: Lexington Books, pp. 235-245.