‘Black Mirror’ Study Guide: Fifteen Million Merits

This episode: what advertising may look like in the future, technology’s ability to make us forget what is real, and our corrupt entertainment values.

Howard Chai

--

‘Black Mirror’ is a satirical anthology series that examines the dark aspects of modern society, particularly as it relates to our relationship with technology. Each standalone episode presents a picture of a world that’s futuristic, yet believable; cool, yet horrifying. Each of these study guides will touch on some of the themes the episode explores.

The Future of Advertising

Anybody who uses the internet will most likely agree that advertising is one of the most annoying things about the internet. And they’re getting worse, they’re getting more invasive, and we are kind of the reason why. Because we’ve trained ourselves to ignore certain areas of a webpage, and invented ad-blockers, advertisers have been forced to escalate. We ignore ads on the side of the page, so they place them in-text. We scroll past video ads, so they — with the help of social media platforms whose lifeline is advertising — make videos autoplay.

Fast forward to the future and advertising may look like what we see in “Fifteen Million Merits.” Advertising takes up more and more surface area. The ads are all video (something we’re getting very close to already, with the “pivot to video”), and they autoplay based on what you’re feeling or thinking. They’re always listening and always watching (i.e., digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Home). In this future, however, you’re welcome to mute/skip ads. For a price. And because the currency in this future is all digital, you barely feel the loss.

Something Real

“Fifteen Million Merits” follows Bing (Daniel Kaluuya). He’s an every-man who’s grown tired of life’s…

--

--

Howard Chai

I strive towards a career that ends up leaving me somewhere between Howard Beck and Howard Beale.