Sex. Polar bears. Virtual reality. Damn it, Charlie Brooker. You've managed to mindf*ck us all once again with the first episode of the latest installment of Black Mirror.
As I sat silent for about five minutes wondering wtf I just watched, I realized that that shows like The Handmaid's Tale (which also dropped today by the way), and Black Mirror are starting to look less like creepy TV thrillers and more like reality. The show is developed in a way that and, much like Jordan Peele's films, is meant for you to figure it out through the progression of the plot while mirroring everyday life in the most mind-boggling way possible.
In this episode, we meet Danny (Anthony Mackie) and Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), two bachelors who spend much of their time playing video games and joking around. Their bachelor lifestyle is suddenly interrupted when Danny falls in love with his soon-to-be wife Theo (Nicole Beharie) and becomes a kept man. Years later, when Theo and Danny are married and trying for a second child, self-proclaimed coochie king and Danny's former BFF, Karl re-enters their lives and gifts his old friend with a newly updated, virtual version of their old favorite video game.
When they meet for a late-night brawl in the video game, their rendezvous gets steamy and uncovered a whole world of what the f*ckery in the minds of everyone watching. While the episode is surprising, to say the least, it brought to light a number of untold truths that are typically taboo in the black community about gender identity, sexual fluidity, and relationships in general.
If you haven't had a chance to check out the recently released episodes yet, tune in tonight and make sure to be ready to have your mind blown. Here's some of the Easter eggs you may have missed:
It’s Not You Sis, It’s Him
While Danny is having late-night sex on the virtual beach with his blonde-haired Asian companion, his wife Theo is busy pointing out every one of her insecurities and putting them on display. I can appreciate this episode of Black Mirror because it showed how we as women can often blame ourselves for things that virtually has nothing to do with us (pun intended).
One of the most interesting points in the episode, to me, was when Karl explained how he felt in a woman's body. I realized that his feelings were probably reflective of the experience of many LGBTQ+ Americans. Gender and sex are not synonymous, and it's important for people of color to hop on the equal opportunity bandwagon before more of our brothers and sisters are ostracized by the community and killed as a result of our lack of research and understanding.
Men, specifically black men, are burdened by an expectation that we as women will never experience. The Black community tells young boys that real men don't cry, and most importantly, real men don't kiss other men. Near the end of the episode, when Karl and Danny meet to kiss in real life for the first time, they become so emotional that they are brought to blows. I think Black Mirror did a pretty impressive job of portraying that this rebellion against being "soft" or feeling like a "punk" can lead to a community of men with a whole lot of repressed sexual feelings and even more anger.
I saw a tweet that said this entire episode was basically two guys saying "no homo" the whole episode and that statement is spot-on. Throughout the episode, the two continue to insist that they are not gay for enjoying sex with one another, and I can't help but be reminded of the monolithic "down low brother," or a man who has sex with other men in secret. Karl and Danny actively hide their relationship out of fear of being seen as homosexual, but anyone with knowledge of sexual orientation knows that there's a spectrum.
Just because a man likes to have sex with men, it doesn't make him gay; and just because a man likes to have sex with women, it doesn't make him straight. Sexual fluidity was a strong theme in this episode that people of color should explore more often.
Polyamory and Open Marriages
At the end of the episode, we learn that Theo still decides to stick by her man after learning that he was having an affair with a male friend and even allows him to continue the relationship on a case-by-case basis. We also learn that as a part of this compromise, Theo is allowed to have an evening of uninhibited fun, too. The last scene, we see her preparing for a night on (and on top of) the town with a handsome stranger, implying that Theo and her husband have agreed to a somewhat open marriage.
Traditionally, black folks have come to a consensus that monogamy is the morally acceptable way to live, but the concept of an open marriage could ultimately be interesting to any couple that becomes bored enough with their day-to-day routine.
Black Mirror is now streaming on Netflix.