Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Inside Story of Charlie Brooker's Dystopian Vision

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Inside Story of Charlie Brooker's Dystopian Vision

Article excerpt

Inside Black Mirror by Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones, with Jason Arnopp (Penguin, PS20) Alastair McKay GIVEN that Charlie Brooker's 2005 satire of Shoreditch idiots, Nathan Barley, turned out to be a prophecy rather than a comedy, it's perhaps unsurprising that the first episode of his tech-fantasy drama, Black Mirror, should anticipate the news by including a storyline in which a politician copulates with a pig.

That story Brooker's fiction rather than Lord Ashcroft's unsupported claim about a prime minister appeared in The National Anthem, which was broadcast on Channel 4 in 2011. It wasn't always going to be a pig. For a while the sex act was going to be a loving embrace between the PM and a cheese-wheel.

Beyond that, the idea for the plot came from watching the speedy thriller 24, and imagining an episode in which Jack Bauer was presented with an obscene dilemma. "And then," says Brooker, "I thought if you played it totally straight it would be hilarious."

Brooker's pig-gate is emblematic of a sense of humour which mixes righteousness and disgust, and sometimes forgets to be funny. His television criticism, as published in The Guardian and practised on the BBC series Screenwipe, was similarly emetic.

As a critic, Brooker was a carpetbomber of nihilistic scorn. Again, he was ahead of the times. Psychopathic flame-throwing has since become the default mode of social media psychopaths everywhere, though with Brooker there was always the suggestion that his rage was tickled by disappointed ideals.

Certainly, Black Mirror takes a nuanced view of technology, social media, the whole narcissistic electroapocalypse.

This book, an uncritical compendium of interviews about the show's 19 episodes, suggests that the original focus of the show wasn't always going to be technology it was mentioned along with terrorism and "generally contemporary things". …

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