Title

“That’s a bit creepy, what you’re doing”: Black Mirror and the Perverse Gaze”

Subject Area

Film and Literary Studies

Abstract

The British dystopian science fiction television series Black Mirror satirizes society’s abuse of technology by speculating how, if current trends are followed, we will dehumanize ourselves through social media, television, and artificial intelligence in the near future. In one episode, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom sodomizes a pig on television and social media to pay off a ransom; in another episode, a crass and cynical performance capture cartoon becomes a political brand. In one episode, life recording and blocking technology from social media destroys minds and relationships when they are adapted to real life; and in another episode, a grieving woman downloads her boyfriend’s consciousness, collected from social media, in an artificially intelligent robot replica. Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan defines perversion as “an inverted effect of the phantasy. It is the subject who determines himself as an object [of another will]” (Seminar XI 185). Lacan associates the subject’s gaze with symbolic castration because “perception is not in me, that it is on the objects that it apprehends” (Seminar XI 80-1). Read through the psychoanalytic lens of the perverse gaze that cuts into and cedes subjectivity, Black Mirror suggests how our fantasies of self-control and connection with others, when passed through the looking glass of technology, turn us into emotional masochists who can neither experience life’s pleasures nor mourn its losses and political sadists who inflict abject nihilism upon our fellow citizens.

Brief Bio Note

Alex E. Blazer is an Associate Professor of English at Georgia College & State University, where he teaches contemporary American literature and film. He has presented three conference papers at SECCLL: on Bret Easton Ellis, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Don DeLillo and Ben Fountain’s war novels, and Mark Z. Danielewski.

Keywords

Black Mirror, television, psychoanalysis, satire

Location

Room 210

Presentation Year

2017

Start Date

3-24-2017 2:15 PM

Embargo

11-4-2016

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Mar 24th, 2:15 PM

“That’s a bit creepy, what you’re doing”: Black Mirror and the Perverse Gaze”

Room 210

The British dystopian science fiction television series Black Mirror satirizes society’s abuse of technology by speculating how, if current trends are followed, we will dehumanize ourselves through social media, television, and artificial intelligence in the near future. In one episode, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom sodomizes a pig on television and social media to pay off a ransom; in another episode, a crass and cynical performance capture cartoon becomes a political brand. In one episode, life recording and blocking technology from social media destroys minds and relationships when they are adapted to real life; and in another episode, a grieving woman downloads her boyfriend’s consciousness, collected from social media, in an artificially intelligent robot replica. Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan defines perversion as “an inverted effect of the phantasy. It is the subject who determines himself as an object [of another will]” (Seminar XI 185). Lacan associates the subject’s gaze with symbolic castration because “perception is not in me, that it is on the objects that it apprehends” (Seminar XI 80-1). Read through the psychoanalytic lens of the perverse gaze that cuts into and cedes subjectivity, Black Mirror suggests how our fantasies of self-control and connection with others, when passed through the looking glass of technology, turn us into emotional masochists who can neither experience life’s pleasures nor mourn its losses and political sadists who inflict abject nihilism upon our fellow citizens.