‘Black Mirror’ Study Guide: The Entire History of You

Themes: Surveillance and the new age panopticon, memory and control, and living in the past.

Howard Chai
Sep 14, 2017 · 3 min read
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‘Black Mirror’ is a satirical anthology series that examines the dark aspects of modern society, particularly as it relates to our relationship with technology. Each standalone episode presents a picture of a world that’s futuristic, yet believable; cool, yet horrifying. Each of these study guides will touch on some of the themes the episode explores.

Surveillance and the New Age Panopticon

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This technology makes it so that everybody is constantly under surveillance, by each other. In this world, everybody is Big Brother and every set of eyes are telescreens, forcing us to keep ourselves in check at all times, because make one little mistake —maintain lingering eye contact with an old lover a little too long, for example — and an observant witness can playback the video and spot your feelings.

Control Is All About Memory

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One of the upsides of this new “grain” technology, as one character mentions, is that your memory cannot be manipulated by others. Nobody can make blatant lies and get away with it, because there’s always video evidence waiting to be accessed (i.e., “show me the receipts”). Gone are the days of being gaslighted, and if you have full control of and access to your short and long-term memory, you are in complete control of your reality. (Except one can still edit videos to leave out stuff they don’t want to remember.)

“Living In The Past”, Literally

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In your spare time, you don’t watch TV, you re-watch your day, or revisit a euphoric memory. “Re-do and chill” is the new “Netflix and chill.” The famous author Stephen King once said: “When it comes to the past, everybody writes fiction.” In this world, the past can never be fictionalized, or dramatized, or romanticized. Reality can never beat fiction.


Bonus: Two Small Details I Loved

  1. The episode title.

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