‘Black Mirror’ 1×01 Review: “National Anthem”

Black Mirror.  An anthology series which to me means I could start with any episode and not be lost – other than the different levels of confusion from just watching one episode kind of lost me.

With so many people talking about it, I decided to give it a go and started with season one, episode one. National Anthem.

Initial reaction? WTF?!?!?! I mean, seriously, THAT was the first episode? A kidnapping where the ransom demand is for the Prime Minister of England to have unsimulated sex with a pig on live television? That is some incredibly messed up shit going on and for someone like me who watches their fair share of programs, I loved it.

Television shows like to play it safe lest they upset the fans and then there are the rules that many programs follow but that’s not the case here.  Episode one of Black Mirror didn’t get a copy of the rules and that is one of the reasons why so many people can’t help but talk about it once they finish watching.

So, let’s get into it. The moment the Prime Minister is told about the ransom, I immediately thought the kidnapper made such an outrageous demand that there was no way anyone would go through with it; a way for him/her to validate in their own mind the killing of a royal, because, in all fairness, would you actually go through with that to save someone you knew? I don’t think I could do it, even for my own mother.

This was when I began to empathize with the PM. He said no. The people polled were against it. That should have been the end of it but a personal call from the Queen, telling him that he had to do whatever it took to get the Princess back occurred. There were the wheeling and dealings happening with the porn star, graphics genius and television studio got out and the tide started to turn.  How many times have we seen this play out in real life at 6pm each night.  One moment everyone loves you and the next, they want you to have sex with a pig.

Mrs. PM seemed to be the only one desperately begging her husband to think about the consequences.  Their consequences, not the Princesses, or the Royal Family or general public. What would this mean for them? As she read the never ending tweets of public opinion her fear grew and it seemed no one was on her side. Being the PM’s wife definitely didn’t have any perks in this scenario.

I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t think they would go through with it. I had everyone pegged as an insider, working against the PM (like his snooty female advisor). I was convinced some amazing twist would happen at the eleventh hour because it still hadn’t hit me that this wasn’t your typical television program. As the time grew closer and I watched the PM walk down the hall (what were those pills he was given? Valium? Viagra?) I wanted to yell at each person in front of their television sets, gleefully anticipating this objectifying humiliation that they were all partially to blame for what was about to happen. Each and every smiling person, sipping on their beer, contributed to the rape they were about to witness.

When the last cheer faded and the look of horror crossed their faces, I thought, that’s right, you did this. It was all fun and games until he actually had to go through with it.  Don’t look away. Maybe next time you’ll remember the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’. But we’ve all been around to see most people don’t learn from another’s humiliation.

There have been a few people I’ve spoken with since watching that haven’t agreed with me on the rape point, but I stand by it.  The Prime Minister of England was raped.  He said no but was coerced into doing something he did not want to do.  Another pointed out that he’d watch if Trump was in the PM’s place and I disagreed.  If someone wants to make a fool of themselves, go at it.  If someone wants to make a fool of someone else just because they don’t like the person, that’s against everything that so many people are fighting for when they say they want equality.

But getting back to the actual episode. The ending was heartbreaking. Even with the support of so many people, he had lost the one person that he needed the most.

Many programs have made me angry.  This episode of Black Mirror, along with a handful of others, made me think like it was supposed to.