Black Mirror – The National Anthem Review

Hey guys! I’d thought I’d give this a go, and it also gives me an excuse to watch my favourite show. Black Mirror takes a look at the near-future and shows a dystopian side of it, and the way that technology is used. Of course, I will also look at Bandersnatch in the future.

On this day, we’re looking at what I’d consider the most divisive episode in the entire series, The National Anthem. I’d say that if you can get through this, you can get through the rest of the series. And with all of my review posts, this one is filled with spoilers.

I’m going to start off with saying that if you’ve never seen this series before, you’re all uncultured swines. Speaking of swines, the weight of the series and the dark turns are introduced to us straight away. Basically the Prime Minister, Michael Callow, hears news of Princess Susannah’s kidnap. What does the kidnapper want? Money? Revenge? No, he just wants Michael to fuck a pig live on TV. Yes, that’s why I made the swine joke.

Of course, after seeing this play out for the first time, I’m reminded of the story that broke out about our former Prime Minister, David Cameron, inserted his…unmentionables in the mouth of a dead pig, as part of a university initiation. We here call that ‘Piggate‘. Of course, Mr. Cameron has since denied the allegations, but you can’t help but wonder about the similarity of the two, as Piggate broke out after the release of this particular episode.

The scary thing here is the might of the internet and how something can be made viral. In the space of just over an hour, a video was uploaded to YouTube, downloaded by the masses and reuploaded when the original was taken down. It was done this way to stir the interest of the public, and make it into some kind of gossip of the day. It works, and it’s terrifying.

This episode has me intrigued not because of the threat looming over Michael, but of the fact that the other unnamed masses that we see are so intrigued by the story, and how it will play out. As humans, we cling on to anything controversial, and this is just the beginning! All of the reporters and TV stations are competing with each other to bring the most hype-worthy broadcast. Even that one bint of a journalist going to the supposed location and getting shot because she wanted the article. Probably for the best that her phone got destroyed, I suppose it ought to teach her a lesson.

I feel that the words of Michael’s wife, Jane, speaks truly about the episode, and furthermore the human race: “We love humiliation, we can’t not laugh.”. But of course, while everyone joked around, the idea of shooping Michael’s head onto a performer using a chroma key did not go down so well. One threat and a severed finger later, the public declared that they wanted to see the grim action, I suppose for Michael to atone for the issues that his staff caused. It’s almost like cancel culture, but I’ll refer to that another time. So in the end, he has no choice, but to do the deed. I can’t bear to say it explicitly.

I think the worst thing is that I laughed when Alex (the Home Secretary) says “It’s time to go in now” as it’s definitely a double entendre! But I feel that everything that happens from here on now really sets the tone. The people in the pub cheer on the indecent act like it’s a football match, everyone is watching at home despite the cautions not to watch it. The streets are quieter than a COVID-19 lockdown, and even the noise played beforehand doesn’t deter anyone – quite frightening, really.

Of course, the big kicker is that once the deed starts, the laughing stops and people are actually disgusted with the entire thing. I suppose it’s one thing to joke about someone doing something, but to actually watch them have to go through with it is something else, but they can’t tear their eyes away from it. I wondered why this was the case, and it turns out it’s to do with our ‘fight or flight’ response, and how we as a species perceive tragedy and disaster. Here’s an interesting article on it.

And of course, Susannah was released from captivity while all of this is happening, and because there is no-one on the streets, there’s no-one there to witness her. And her kidnapper chooses to commit suicide, and it’s revealed that he cut his own finger off and not Susannah’s. I mean, of course some people find her on the bridge, at least.

The fact that the kidnapper let Susannah go prior to the broadcast made it so that the whole thing was a statement to show that we can be gripped by any controversial topic and it spreads like wildfire, and we just stand there, beers in hand, and just watch.

It must have been traumatising for Jane to have to watch her husband have to go through that, and it’s shown later on that on the surface, everything is fine, but their marriage is torn apart after the scandal. A later episode features an Easter egg that states that they are divorcing.

Overall, I’m in the camp of people that enjoys this episode. I tend to look beyond the bestiality, and I’d rather look through the psyche of the human, and what we as a species, especially of this generation, do with the information that we gather and seek.

I mean, this sort of thing could happen tomorrow. It could be as easy as having one of our princesses being kidnapped and Boris Johnson having to comply with the demands. I talked about the near-future aspect of the show as a whole, and this one is probably one of the closest that we’ll see to something happening in today’s society, the other of which we’ll talk about in its review.

Next time, we’ll discuss the episode Fifteen Million Merits! See you then!

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