Writer’s note: As you read this, realize I was writing as I was watching and all of my thoughts are as if I’m seeing it for the first time I would say. If you seen it then feel free to comment on what you got from it.
Once again, I’m back writing about another Black Mirror episode, but this time it’s about Hang The DJ. So let me just dive in.
Toward the beginning we notice two random people meeting for a date as if they hooked up with one another off of Tinder or Twitter. They hit it off pretty smooth for “two strangers,” but one thing I noticed, which seemed like no big deal was when the main guy asked the girl for a bite of her food. You see him peeking over his shoulder to a guard, but a guard ice grilling you because you ate off someone’s plate was confusing to me nonetheless. Having seen the entire episode, I understand what the “system” is so maybe this guard is some type of gatekeeper making sure the people within the “system” play by the rules. I’m not completely sure. What if you didn’t though? Let’s say you went against the system as we’ll get into later.
Now about this “system.” It reminds me of two other films, Timer and In Time. Both had the idea of time playing into the story, but unlike those films, Hang The DJ uses time in another way. It places what appears random people together and these devices that look like dragon radars find the length of the relationship.
Right off the back, I thought if this were really a thing in our society, where we place our potential love life in the hands of artificial intelligence, that it would show how integrated we’ve truly become with technology. It’s one thing to have it shape and alter our behavior, but influence something like who we’ll love and start a family with as well is beyond me.
Aside from all that, I thought this episode captured the “love knows no bounds” phrase accurately where no system or technology can stand between what comes naturally to us. We see this discussion play out during the bedroom scene and the girl says, “must have been mental before the system.”
That entire conversation made me think, especially the part she says about relationships how, “it’s so much simpler when it’s all mapped out.” At least that what she thought.
But I question that notion. Is it really simpler when life is predetermined for you and all you have to do is follow the path? I mean, what kind of fun is that? It would be like knowing when you’re going to die and leave you with no mystery, no type of thrill for the unknown. Not only that, it’s like stripping a person of their autonomy. The very thing that makes us human is that we can make our choices and find our own destiny. I think we would lose a part of ourselves if we didn’t have it because one thing about it is we get to grow from the choices we make, whether they’re right or wrong.
By the way, this all has me thinking about The Adjustment Bureau film as I write because it too had similar themes around a system, fate and destiny.
But just to pull back for a minute, I like this episode not just for its futuristic themes, but for it’s ability to display two people chasing after the same shit a lot of us are undeniably searching for. Now I could make a complaint, like many would, about the black woman being captured on-screen with a bunch of white guys, but that’s beside my point here. Why? Because when I see these two people navigating this system from partner to partner, I think about it personally and not so much the surface level. And yeah I know this episode, like a lot of films, gives a superficial look at relationships, but there are parts that are relatable to the point you’ll say, “damn I miss that,” but not because it’s something planted in your head. Nah, I don’t think about it like that, at least not fully.
I think it’s because a lot of us had similar experiences in our own life that felt like time didn’t exist and it was just you and them against the world. Of course, it’s not always cookies and cream, but it’s gotta be worth something when you find that person who can help make everything in life a lot less boring, even if it gets messy from time to time.
Now back to talking about Black Mirror
Remember what I said earlier about growing? This “system” sort of provides it, but it’s artificial. For instance, when the guy partnered up with the girl who despised everything about him, you kind of come away realizing these jumps from person to person give you that experience we would normally get without a system.
But again, can you really call it growth when your experiences are ultimately shaped for you? If this all sounds confusing then we’re on the same page because I’m just letting it all flow as I watch and make sense of it.
Now the part when the guy paired with the girl for a long time and they both hated every moment of it, it’s kind of familiar when you think about it. People getting together and forcing something to work for years not realizing time is just flying by, but because of some reason they stick around. The episode got that right, but revealed it in a world where humans and technology are fully integrated.
There were parts that threw me off
I had trouble watching the girl fuck all these randoms and when you see her sitting on the side of the bed it’s like, “damn the system playing her like some soybean burgers,” because you can just see the lifeless expression on her face. And I’m not gonna lie, I felt bad for the girl for putting her trust in it and going thru body after body, ignoring her gut in the process. She was feeling the guy from the beginning, but followed the system instead of herself and it took a while before she finally realized it.
One scene I did find funny however was the one guy who kept making this noise, and then as he was eating her out, this ham stops and goes “ahhh,” like he was drinking the finest juice that ever dripped.
The story does turn itself around though
When we see the original pair back together again, you realize from their reactions how relieved they were. We even hear the girl explain how sex for her, after experiencing “bloke to bloke,” wasn’t exciting anymore, which added to the idea that a relationship built on sex alone might not be all it’s cracked up to being. It’s definitely desirable no doubt, but after a while I know the body and mind starts to crave for something more. And she made a good point too, especially when you’re just fucking some random who’s name you’ll forget two weeks from now. Better it be with somebody you’d go the distance for and knows you better than you know yourself.
Now here’s where the episode caught my attention
All that love and romance stuff I talked earlier is cool, but one thing that stimulates me more than the “pleasures of the flesh” (word to Jazzy Jeff) is something that stimulates my mind. Black Mirror is a known mind fuck and where it hits is when we see the two discussing the realities of the system. The girl asks, “what if that’s us and we’re stuck in a simulation?”
That concept of a simulation is rather a tricky one because it says our entire existence is one giant sim and we’re all just pieces of it, like a grand theft auto character, who haven’t realized it yet because we believe it to be real. It’s tricky I say because it questions reality and everything we’ve led ourselves to believe about this world live. Does it all really matter? The ills? The thrills? Etc? Love is just a chemical sensation I’m told. So does any of it even mean anything if everything is a simulation, like myself writing this post, essentially playing right into the pre-written script that is my life? It’s sounding a lot like The Adjustment Bureau in here again. But even if this is a simulation, like the guy said, “how would we know?”
This leads me to the ending, or at least near it, when we see the main guy check his “dragon radar” and it glitches out on him, driving down the long time he would have had dramatically. I didn’t understand that part personally because the A.I. said, “one sided observation has destabilized the expiry date.” It might not have a meaning but it’s Black Mirror though, you know? Maybe the system was testing them because we hear the device say, “everything happens for a reason,” and maybe his viewing the radar and it flipping out is a test to him, and eventually her, to see if they go along and let it determine their lives or rebel and follow each other to the world’s end.
Personally I think the latter is more thrilling because if this dating program is a simulation then what more is there to lose? Why settle when you can take a leap of faith? Fortunately, that happened. It was the girl who wised up.
She even had a Neo in the matrix moment where all of her assumptions about the system became a confirmation.
However, as they came to a close realizing it is a simulation they’ve played 998 times, I have to ask this question. When it cuts to the party scene, was it like the end of Inception where it could be just another entrance to a simulation or the real thing and they, upon seeing each other again, had all their memories intact from before and knew what it was right then and there?