Photo: Duarte Amaral Netto

Black Mirror’s “Fifteen Million Merits”: Re-Defining Human Bodies with Dystopian Technology

Zita Hüsing

Louisiana State University

Abstract | Two seasons of the British television show Black Mirror, created by Charlie Brooker, aired on Channel 4 between 2011 and 2013, and three further seasons have been released by the streaming service Netflix since 2016. The show holds a unique fascination since it depicts a nearby future that seems almost graspable by demonstrating dystopian developments of today’s technologies and technological platforms. “Dystopian” refers here to a dark version of a possible future in fiction. Further, it also reflects on our present struggles in society. Accordingly, Laurence Davis defines “dystopian” as a “satire on existing society with a parodic inversion of transcendent or controlling utopian aspirations” (26). In a similar manner, this anthology series reflects upon human dependency on technology in the format of an unsettling and anxiety-inducing dark television drama.

Essentially, Black Mirror highlights what it means to be human in our digital times. In the context of the impact of digital technologies, the episode “Fifteen Million Merits” indicates a dark vision of the contemporary state of humanity. Arguably, this episode highlights the status of human bodies as commodities in a dystopian, technological environment. In the narrative, human bodies and the “dopple” bicycles become interconnected by creating new spaces of signification. Consequently, mind/body as well as human/non-human binaries become blurry. This analysis will investigate the breakdown of such binaries as well as the accelerating interdependence of humans and their technologies in a posthuman and anti-capitalist reading.

Keywords | Black Mirror, Fifteen Million Merits, dystopia, satire, science fiction, posthuman