“Why won’t any of you help me?”
It has come to be expected of Charlie Brooker’s work to be hard to watch at times but this week’s Black Mirror entitled White Bear is uniquely disturbing as once again we are transported to another scarily realistic alternate reality where we punish a criminal in maybe the sickest and most horrifying way he could think of and the important essence to this story was the order in what everything was shown so the entire time we were on Lenora Crichlow’s character Victoria’s side and did indeed feel for her rather than the twisted individuals taking part in ‘The White Bear Project’ in the end sequence.
White Bear is wonderfully gloomy throughout and feels like not only a slasher film to watch but also something from the zombie genre with mindless people with camera following her round silently recording everything she does sends a chill down your spine from the very start and with the revelation in the bag at the end begs the question of how close are we to doing this in reality and would you be a person to be taking part? Thinking about how news stories are being reported and often over-dramatised (don’t get me wrong I’m not saying something like killing a child is ‘right’) makes this whole story all the more real to watch in the end thinking that to get a ‘revenge’ on an evil doer would be to make them live through a hell every day of their lives.
The conclusion, and as we learn Victoria is being put through the same excruciating pain every day of her life for the sick pleasure of some form of revenge is a chilling thought but the way it is created is clever, watching it with the reveal at the end we see the details added to her ‘story’ she keeps living and how she is being punished by having the torture she put someone else through done to her on an epic scale.
The story itself reminded me of ideas brought up in Brooker’s previous work on Dead Set where the statement of the piece is in fact that people become brain-dead from watching mindless television like Big Brother and it is the audience that initially get turned into zombies and this idea is then summed up in the closing scene with a marvellous nod to king-of-zombies as we know them George A. Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead as we see zombie-Kelly wander down the halls of a shopping centre and get stuck looking up at a television in a store that is still streaming the live feed from the Big Brother house. White Bear to me talks about the same issues again of how far we would push an idea of revenge; so far in fact that we punish someone so much until we would become as morally guilty for torture as the now victim of the piece.
When I really start to think about the piece as a whole it becomes all the more chilling and horrific when you think they have the technology to wipe Victoria’s memories completely on a daily basis and reveal her truth back to herself. If we take this idea of being able to wipe a memory they could do it once and let her live a normal life after serving a sentence as she is clearly a different person, if that is through the stress of going through the same torture every day or because of the mind wipe. It also makes me think if she is having to live with the memory of what she has done isn’t that enough as she is clearly not the main purportrator as the news report says she is pretty much taking the brunt for her fiance’s crime.
The plot also takes into account how desensitised we are to horror and violence that we are able to turn real-life terror into entertainment at the expense of another. Mindless voyeur is a favourite subject of Brooker it is clear with Black Mirror essentially pointing it out every episode as well as his Screen Wipe constantly and hilariously pointing out how dumb the media has become that we are stuck watching shows like Take Me Out for ‘entertainment’ and even in Nathan Barley swipes are taken at the kind of person who mindlessly has to have the latest ‘cool’ gadgets.
I think the sublty at the end of the episode was satisfying because I’m not sure how many people realised the woman in the bunny mask and the man in the welder outfit were actually the girl who was killed mum and dad. As the people most effected by what happened you can understand they would be hurting but most people would want to move on after having the satisfaction of justice. However, this pair are fine with the idea of seeing the woman who assisted in the murder of their daughter every day just to get this revenge instead of moving on which can only make them as bad as Victoria. I think that tiny detail for me that was not lingered upon made the biggest impact after it had finished.
A real step up from last week and I think an episode that can stand proudly beside series 1 as a real terror to watch with the disturbing plot that is unique but then is able to pack a real gut-punch at the end with the audience wondering whose side they should really be on.