I wonder to myself…
Although not quite the masterpiece that was Season 3’s San Junipero, the fourth season of Black Mirror offered an interesting take at romance and technology in the episode Hang The Dj.
The episode takes its name from refrain culled from The Smiths’ 1986 rebellious anthem Panic which was a critique, against the out of touch playlist of BBC disc jockey Steve Wright.
The story goes that Johnny Marr and Morrissey were listening BBC 1 when a news broke of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine. Immediately following the new reports DJ Steve Wright earned his place at the gallows by his alleged tone deaf selection of ‘I’m Your Man’ by Pop duo Wham! featuring George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley.
“I remember actually saying, ‘What the fuck does this got to do with people’s lives?'” Marr recalled. “We hear about Chernobyl, then, seconds later, we’re expected to jump around to ‘I’m Your Man'”.
As implied by the episode’s title, Hang The DJ, directed by Tim Van Patten (Game of Thrones), makes an ironic reference the to nature of dating apps—in particular the totalitarianism and dystopian compulsory service “The System” which is reminiscent of The Hotel from 2015’s The Lobster.
The System shuffles the protagonists of the episode Amy (Georgina Campbell) and Frank (Joe Cole) through a series of preplanned relationships beginning with their own, with set expiration dates ranging from 12 hours to 5 years.
In the final scene we learn that by rebelling against The System by climbing over the wall containing this dating community governed by the app and dating coach, Frank and Amy have completed a simulation, where they are but 1 in a 1000 versions of themselves being utilized to test compatibility before they meet in the real world.
Black Mirror showrunner Charlie Brooker gave some insight into the twist ending to the episode in a recent interview with EW:
“I think it’s a very happy moment and I think Tim did a brilliant job of directing it, and Georgina and Joe did a fantastic part playing that final scene. They know they are destined to have a very serious relationship and they’re each others’ chosen ones and I think they go through a gamut of emotions. You see them finding it exciting and taking on the weight of it, and then you see Georgina quite playfully just steps toward him at the very end. I hope the takeaway is that it’s playful and hopeful. So though there’s an algorithm that brought them together, and now they’re about to take the first step on that journey together.”
Brooker goes on to explain that the point of the algorithm is to rebel, as is the point to be taken from The Smiths’ song ‘Panic’. So the irony is that if the virtual you does not rebel against the app, then you are not meant to meant to be together:
“Now we do see at the end, [the app] runs it 1,000 times and two didn’t rebel. So I would think they would be matched with a random other person and their world would end. We did have a lot of torturous conversations about what’s really going on. We decided it’s a cloud-based system that’s simulating 1,000 different run-throughs of yourself and a potential partner to see how many times you’d rebel against it. And it deliberately is setting a tight framework. And if they do rebel, that means they’re destined to be together. So if you don’t rebel, the system has served its purpose and your reality ends.”
Did you like the episode? Do you think it has the wit, irony, and romance worthy of being named after a Smiths song? Was it a worthy followup to San Junipero?
Better yet, do you think dating apps say ‘nothing to you about your life’?