What’s up with Car Accidents and Black Mirror Season 4?
As a rule, each episode of Black Mirror presents a new faustian bargain: technology extends our mortality, community, or knowledge at the price of unforeseen consequences. Viewers recognize technologies of the present (Tinder! Instagram!), while Charlie Brooker teases excitement in what their futures might hold, and horror at the new realities they’re creating.
Season 4 delivers another critique: we’re already living in the future of an earlier time, with its own exuberances and horrors— the future world of cars.
~100 years ago, the age of the automobile ushered in rapid personal transportation for human civilization. It also delivered one of the the leading causes of death among children and adults, a force that, though normalized, can’t be understated. Black Mirror reminds us that we’re the inhabitants of that age.
Crocodile (episode 3) opens to a night and morning of drugs, sex, and driving, set to Goldfrapp’s ‘Strict Machine.’ As Rob and Mia cruise across expanses of Icelandic mountains, we could very well be in a car commercial.
Technologies of driving and neurochemistry unlock new and heretofore unimagined freedoms for our protagonists, until things devolve into a hit-and-run:
In a moment, someone (a cyclist) is killed by the driver. Human finitude — of awareness, response time and control — mixes with1,500 kilos of metal, for a life-defining tragedy, one that’s repeated 1.25 million times per year according to the World Health Organization’s last count in 2012.
Likewise, in Black Museum (episode 6), a new family is irrevocably destroyed when the mother steps back for a quick photo:
Besides these two instances, Crocodile features a collision between a self-driving-pizza-truck and a musician:
while Archangel (episode 2) presents a near miss with a truck, as a girl walks to school.
In all, a season of only six episodes features four near-fatal encounters with cars. Despite this staggering frequency, cars barely register as a theme of the show, and receive little mention in post-season criticism.
Charles Bramesco suggests that the title of the episode Crocodile might allude to crocodile tears — hypocritical displays of sadness and emotion — shed by Mia.
Instead, let’s imagine that the eponymous crocodile tears are those shed by the audience: aghast at the near future horrors presented across four seasons of Black Mirror, but inured to the tragedies of technologies of the present.