Black Mirror is just awesome television. With sharp scripts, a killer cast (Don Draper, anyone?) and impressive genre-switching, it’s a definite Brit favourite. But I would argue that it’s the conceptual idea for each episode, above all else, that gives the show its edge. Offering an illuminating (and often terrifying) insight into humanity’s not-so-distant future, we watch Black Mirror to explore the intriguingly twisted worlds of Charlie Brooker’s creation.
Being of a similarly twisted ilk, I’ve come up with four concepts that I’d like to see on the next season:
Every child gets the same education with a hologram teacher leading all classes.
This episode follows a typical British family, with two children who are subject to the modern hologram teaching method. The younger child has known nothing other than this style of learning, whilst the older sibling can remember being taught by humans. The government and school boards are encouraged by the fair and systematic rolling out of education standards across the board, but certain groups of adults and children alike are unhappy with the lack of creativity and human touch involved.
Lack of creativity and human touch
Things escalate when the award-winning education system enters the home, and the hologram tutor begins acting as a quasi-mother figure, even reading the children bedtime stories. The younger child becomes attached to the parental figure, but the older child joins a rebel group at school, which involves underground classes and rebellion against the modern education system.
No one ever goes on holiday. Vacations are implanted virtually into a person’s brain, and while feeling like a month or a week, trips only last a few minutes.
The story follows a small group of “Holiday Makers,” whose job is to create the immersive, virtual experiences that people pay for. They have the rather exciting job of travelling to cool places and then using their experiences to design trips for holiday-goers. Employers offer employees bonuses in the form of virtual trips, with office workers leaving the room for five minutes, then returning with souvenirs for all and a sunburn.
Vacations are implanted virtually into a person’s brain
This world is presented as idyllic, until one of the Holiday Makers discovers that none of these places they travel to are actually real. The world as we know it is a deserted wasteland, with experience existing solely in the imagination or from memories of places past.
Every dream and every nightmare you’ve ever had are recorded. Throughout life, you are unknowingly part of a scoring system, the results of which help a jury dictate where you deserve to go after death.
The story begins with the SparkNotes version of a man’s life — the ups and downs, important relationships, key moments, etc. Then in his middle age, he abruptly dies in a sudden car accident and wakes up in a place akin to purgatory. This purgatory has the clinical feel of a dentist’s waiting room, and a big door leading to the “Boardroom.” The man (let’s call him John), walks through the door where there are 12 juror-types sitting around a big table. They explain to him the scoring system that has followed him his entire life, and that with his score they cannot determine whether he deserves Paradise or Perdition (the names on two clearly visible doors in the Boardroom).
Every dream and every nightmare you’ve ever had are recorded
So to decide where he belongs, John must prove to the 12 jurors where he deserves to go. John doesn’t know what’s happening, so the Jury Foreman gives him a taste of his potential future at stake by allowing him five minutes in Paradise then Perdition. Seeing the place of his dreams and then the place of his nightmares (quite literally), John is keen to make it to Paradise. The jurors then put John through his paces in a series of life situations to see the actions he takes and how he reacts. Seeing his score drop and rise from each test, John is unbelievably stressed. It’s the trial of a person’s life, with average members of society allowed to decide the fate of a dead man. Society plays God in the highest stakes version of an assessment centre that could ever exist.
Everything we own and experience we have are downloaded. The higher the income, the more you can download, but if you can’t afford the payments then parts of your life are repossessed.
A young couple are shown around a small but brilliantly decked-out house by an over-enthusiastic estate agent. It’s actually the bare bones of a house, but in this version of the future, estate agents use augmented reality technology to show what a house could look like, and can even show visitors the vision of them living in a house. Sold by this exotic vision of their future, the couple buy the house. Reality isn’t as romantic, as it takes a lot of hard work to do up, but steadily the couple builds their life together. Working long and hard hours at work, they earn enough tokens to download items for their house, starting from basic necessities like food on the table, to cabinets and square feet of lawn.
Everything we own and experience we have are downloaded
A few years later and the couple have children and even download a dog — steadily “upgrading” the place. But to maintain the lifestyle, the couple must work constantly. When one of them gets ill, they have to gradually “downgrade” their house, they fight constantly and times are tough. Success is dictated by material possessions, lifestyle and the “smart” home. As their income decreases, their social standing drops and everything steadily caves in. Things hit an all-time low when the dog is repossessed and they are reduced to the absolute basics of living. But rock bottom brings the realisation that they can be more self-sufficient. Instead of downloading firewood for warmth, they learn to chop it. Instead of downloading dinner, they grow vegetables and learn to cook themselves. Ultimately, losing everything upgrades their family life.
I can’t seem to get Black Mirror off my mind. So please, for the love of God, comment your episode ideas below so that I can have someone to talk to about it.
The best people in life are nosey. People watching is a common hobby, shared by everyone from the resolute novel writer in the coffee shop to the bleary-eyed commuter on the tube. And with the meteoric popularity of movements like Humans Of New York or the Metro’s ‘60 Seconds With X’ series; hearing peoples’ stories clearly still fascinates us. What is that lady thinking? Where did she get that obscure hat? Why is that man frowning like that? Are those two people a couple or just friends? What does that person dream of at night?
I consider such questions, like countless others, over a packed lunch in my local park. It is intriguing to think about another person’s thoughts, emotions and actions. We are insatiably curious about those around us, and public spaces make the perfect spots for a bit of people watching. But recently I’ve begun to think about my local park a bit differently. As more than just the backdrop to London’s assorted players.
A good friend of mine recently qualified as a personal trainer and needed experience, so I grudgingly agreed to be one of her first clients. Whilst me gurning and sweating it out in the local park is hardly newsworthy (though each to their own), to distract myself from planking and lunging as part of our weekly sessions, I started to really notice my surroundings.
No longer were the benches objects for sitting, the yellowed central scrub of grass a place to relax, or the bordering trees attractive shade-givers. The space had transformed into a place of physical significance. The forefront feeling being pain. The benches are for hellish press-ups, the central scrub for timed run-sprints, and the trees act as check points from one ache to the next. I know every inch of this space. And since that first gruelling session, I’ve averted my focus from the people in space, to how a person uses space.
One evening I see a frantic man directing his two disenfranchised actors, using my press-up bench as their deathbed. On another, a group of dancers take turns using the scrub as their podium. The trees one day become pillars, draped haphazardly with bunting to celebrate a child’s birthday.
Intrigued by this new method of observance, I’ve taken to thinking about space as a fluid organism that can bend to human will. My days of looking for the nearest tube have been swapped for wandering without plan and deliberately getting lost. As many drunken travellers have (perhaps regrettably) had ink-emblazoned on their skin: “Not all those who wander are lost”. A clichéd mantra to follow? Yes. But my writing is better and I feel better.
All the fellow nosey, curious observers out there, I challenge you to turn your thinking on its head. Take a new route to work. Shake things up. Walk and observe. Like Baudelaire’s strolling flâneur or Will Self’s urban walker, space is designed to be explored, adapted and transmuted by us.
So let’s get walking shall we?
*to be read in hushed voice-over*
And here, we observe the recently hired graduatus, or in the common tongue, ‘graduate’, inspecting their new surroundings. Inquisitive, rosy-cheeked and fresh-faced, this young individual practically oozes relief. Observe his surroundings; fresh pastures, lush vegetation and vibrant flora abound. The graduate is settled, filled with purpose and excitement for days to come. But it was not always like this for our intrepid friend. Oh no. To understand this oft-misunderstood species, we must first travel back to where it all began…
The graduate as we know it came into being after the completion of the universitas magistrorum et scholarium life stage, or ‘university’. A difficult transition for any species to endure, filled with emotional and physical strife, he completes this cycle after adapting to a strict learning curve and mastering significant life challenges. The graduate revels in this achievement, and engages in riotous (and occasionally pagan) social festivities to celebrate.
Upon completion of said stage, the graduate is presented with a unique head piece as part of a traditional societal ritual, signifying dominance and mental prowess. However, it must be noted that some believe this honour diluted as the amount of head pieces adorning the graduate population increases.
Our friend spends a few months in euphoric elation with his fellow graduates, manifested in states varying from hibernation and exploration to inebriation. But, like all that is good on our beautiful earth, everything must come to an end. The graduate must return to the nest, where the promise of sustenance and shelter beckons. Comfort arrives in swathes, swaddling the graduate in warmth and tranquillity.
Though like the setting sun, elation can sour as quickly as it rises. Our friend’s serenity is pierced by rising tensions in the homeland. Pressures mount, claustrophobia takes wing, and boredom ensues.
Desperate to escape this retrogression, and following substantial familial threat, he puts time and energy into finding purpose. Seconds, minutes, hours, days and months pass. The hot sun beats down on the graduate’s neck as he trawls the endless wilderness. Hunting for occupation becomes occupation. Monotony is the only constant, perforated by fleeting bursts of hope. Hard labour becomes the norm, sanitation levels wane and time becomes one infinite day, without respite.
Yet all this hard work does not yield a strong harvest. The graduate’s efforts are rebuffed, ignored or overlooked. A creeping melancholy seeps through all. The hunger to live up to the triumphs of the rest of the pack becomes an intense burden.
As resources dwindle, the only option for the graduate is to bring home the proverbial bacon. The hunter must moonlight as gatherer. Our friend feels beneath this toil and is consumed by fatigue. But the procurement of new resources does help to mollify familial discord.
The hunt for purpose continues with haste. Slowly, more attention is gained. However, a wise elder informs the graduate that purpose can only be found once knowledge is gathered. This perplexes our friend, who does not understand how knowledge can be attained before an occupation is found.
The graduate takes to community circles to vent his growing frustration. Voices demand reasons for our friend’s purposeless existence. And once again, paternal disquiet rears its unsolicited head.
A compromise is found in the form of a local sympathiser, who allows our friend to shadow his daily tasks within the pack. The graduate learns much from this, but receives no reward for his labours.
Instilled with a fresh spurt of determination, however, he applies himself as he never has before. His days become more productive, if occasionally peppered with existential crises and rejection. Like the patient housecat stalking its prey, perseverance and grit triumph. After months of virtual silence, everyone is suddenly interested in the young graduate. Old friends and new crawl from their respective woodworks and offer their support and intellect. Before long, he has several meetings set up to discuss his occupation hunt. The meetings go well.
But the competition is brutally fierce, and rejection once again presides. Every graduate must fend for himself in this fight to win. Friends become rivals, rivals become enemies, and long does the war reign supreme. But our graduate is a warrior. He has not fought this hard for this long to be usurped by someone lacking his skill.
More trawling, more hunting, more meetings with those from lands far and wide. Toil and sweat envelop our fighter. He is determination itself. But soft… what light through yonder cloud breaks?
One meeting leads to another and suddenly he is shaking hands with the leader of the tribe. And in an instant as brief and hauntingly exquisite as the flicker of a butterfly’s wings, our graduate grasps glory in his fated hands. He has found purpose. Victory has never meant this much to another. Tears fall, limbs relax and relief sighs. Our planet is an exquisite land, encompassing life in its most barren of corners. And the graduate, in all his extraordinary, resolute majesty, has found his place in it.
There have been some fantastic films out in the past year (let’s just ignore The Legend of Hercules). And being the nerdy English graduate that I am and with the year soon drawing to a close, I fancied writing some haiku about some of the most memorable. So I did. Why haiku you ask? Why not!
Media frenzy, two sides
Torn apart, who left?
Dust, space, surf’s up, cool
Murphy’s law, there is a chance
Trust none, time will tell
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
J-Law kicking ass
District destroyed, angst galore
Will Peter return?
The Maze Runner
Shut in square, no reason
Leaders, runners, then a girl!
Fear, escape, next phase
22 Jump Street
Bromance, cars, self-mocking fun
Same as the last
Wicked fairy horns
Young love gone bad, all suffer
Aurora is key
Drug mule mystery
Unlocked mind, full potential
Never do drugs, kids
Hunger games rip-off
Dystopian, angsty, bleak
Bland teenage saga
Not many recent graduates (in fact NONE as far as I’m aware), can say that they’ve held down a series of part-time jobs, completed a degree, had an active social life AND successfully trained to become a professional female jockey of all things by the tender age of 21. No one, that is, apart from the tenacious and trailblazing Lizzie Kelly. Fresh from her impressive win on Aubusson in the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle at Haydock, I spoke to Lizzie about graduate life, competing with ‘the lads’ and what’s next on the cards in the world of racing.
Which university did you go to and how did you find the overall student experience?
I went to the University of Winchester. I enjoyed it as I could participate in as much or as little as I wanted, which for me was a big benefit! Horses have always been a massive part of my life and I was able to continue that passion at uni. That was really important for my career and has ultimately enabled me to become a professional jockey upon leaving.
Do you embrace your recent graduate status or do you pine for your student days?
I am lucky enough to have my dream job, but of course there are things I miss about university. Mainly my friends and the freedom that we had to do whatever we wanted the majority of the time. Being a student was great and it definitely gave me time to do things like head off to Ireland which I did in the amazingly long summer holidays.
Can you explain what it means to be a professional jockey and how you got into the role?
I’ve been dreaming about being a jockey since I was a kid, it’s a huge deal for me. I’m only at the beginning stages now, and I’ve got a very long way to go before I am where I want to be. It feels like a big achievement, especially as it’s not very common for a female to be a jockey. It’s all come about as a result of my parents training racehorses, but I did have various career options, and I always thought I would work in racing but from the angle of marketing or racecourse events. At the moment, however, riding racehorses is where my heart lies and I will pursue this for the foreseeable future.
How rare actually is it be a professional female jockey?
It’s very rare! There are about 6 of us. I don’t see myself as any different from the lads, but of course there are differences. The most difficult part for me is being in the ladies changing room as it is almost always empty! It can get boring and on bigger days can have an awful atmosphere. However, because I am a girl, I do seem to get a lot of media attention which will hopefully help me out a bit!
Tell me all about your latest win (oh and WELL DONE by the way!)
Thank you! I’m not sure what to say really. I was able to get a lift up to Haydock with a couple of friends, Conor O’Farrell and Tom Bellamy, as we were all riding in the same race. On the way up I marked the card, which basically means that I looked through the horses’ previous positioning and looked at any that I thought were going to be running well. Aubusson is probably the easiest horse to deal with that I’ve come across, so riding him is a relaxing affair. Of course though, this race was the Fixed Brush Handicap Hurdle, so the pressure was on. This is the biggest race I have won so far in my career. It was a great day and actually the first winner I’ve properly celebrated! It is a better feeling than anything else I’ve achieved in my entire life. It’s the pinnacle of everything I’ve worked for for the last four years!
I know you’re keeping an eye out for sponsorship, what are you looking for in a sponsor?
Yes I am! It’s not a vital part of my career right now though so I’m able to take my time over it. Ideally I will find a sponsor with a fashion or media element as I can see that being a good option for me later on. I’m massively interested in fashion, especially at the National Hunt meetings. There is definitely a gap in the market that I feel I could fill. In fact, I have just begun to blog at caughttheeyefashion.wordpress.com (link here), so hopefully potential sponsors will see that I’m serious about fashion!
You are known for your wild and boisterous nature, would you say that is an accurate observation?
Yes, I would say that that is pretty much correct… Life has been a little wild, but perhaps that’s because I’ve taken every opportunity I’ve come across, even if it’s terrifying! I’m glad I’m boisterous and wild, because I don’t think I’d be where I am today without that side to me.
If you had to invent a cocktail that encapsulated you, what would you name it and what would be in it?
Ooh I’d call it ‘The Rascal’. It would be full of Archers and grapefruit, with maybe a splash of something a bit stronger to give it a bit of a kick!
What, in your opinion, are the hardest and best things about being a recent graduate?
The best feeling is probably the satisfaction. I finished my degree to a good standard and I have it forever! That’s a great thing to know. For me, there isn’t really a downside or a worst thing. I’m in a job that I love, and I know it won’t last forever, but I already have a back-up thanks to my degree. It’s all pluses from where I’m standing!
If you could go back to any point in history for one day, where and when would you go?
Any place, any time; that is such a hard question! Perhaps because there are so many options I’d have to travel on Concorde! But really I think I would like to be there when man first landed on the moon. It must have been truly incredible at the time as it was such an enormous step forward for the world in terms of exploration as well as technology.
What advice would you give to any job hunting graduates out there?
My advice would be to broaden your horizons. It’s very easy to think you have to follow a path that you’ve set for yourself. Always take the opportunities that present themselves and more importantly create your own. Change creates opportunities so never be afraid to do something that you didn’t expect!
What is your idea of heaven?
Heaven for me is a place where your hard work pays off, your bank balance is never in the red and olive oil has no calories!
And finally, kiss, marry or kill – Taylor Swift, Jeremy Paxman and John Cleese.
Oh I’d definitely kiss Taylor Swift (who wouldn’t?!), marry John Cleese (so I could demand THAT German soldier walk all the time), and kill Jeremy Paxman…