TV

Charlie Brooker on holding a black mirror to our Brexit-battered reality

With a pilot episode that featured a fictional PM copulating with a pig, Charlie Brooker knew he was making a statement. What he didn't know was how disturbingly close to the truth some of the predictions in his tech-nightmare alternate-future series 'Black Mirror' would be

The Big Issue: In your new book, you say that when reality and Black Mirror align you feel like, “We’re all living in my dream.” How do we wake up?

Charlie Brooker: I don’t know how we wake up from the constant unfolding Black Mirror episode we seem to be living in. The world is in a transitional period. I was trying to work this out the other day, is it more mental now than people would have thought it was in the Cold War? I guess the world is constantly in a state of upheaval. I just hope as a species we find our way through. We have to stop hoping that other people will sort it all out and do it ourselves.

Is the current state of upheaval making it harder to write Black Mirror?

It would be a fool’s errand to say, “Well, I’m going to do an episode about that” because once you’ve done it everything could have changed again. On the other hand, more prosaically, the technology in the show makes life a little easier because we can show it doing fantastical things and a) people are more prepared to believe and b) you don’t have to explain stuff as much as you would have done. An episode like Nosedive [in which Bryce Dallas Howard falls foul of a TripAdvisor-style human ranking system] where everyone is ranked out of five – that would have been very hard to explain to a viewer 10 years earlier. Now people understand it and can relate it to their real life.

Has it made you look at technology like your phone any differently?

I suppose I’ve been a slightly paranoid and neurotic individual anyway and in one respect it has probably been a bit cathartic and relaxes me. I don’t think it has changed my attitude towards technology because I’m quite pro – I’ve always been a bit geeky. I don’t even follow the technological news – now everyone emails or tweets me anything Black Mirror-y so I don’t really have to.

That’s strange considering that you have become very good at predicting it…

Weird, isn’t it? The ideas don’t come from me reading a report about Samsung bringing out a 3D whatever, they come from ideas like, “What would happen if you made a machine that could read what an animal thinks?”

Black Mirror has changed how the audience perceives the world but in the seven years of writing the show, how has it changed you?

In some ways I’m more confident. When I think everything I write is dogshit and I think I should break my own fingers and fuck off somewhere, I know that I can just say, “You always think that so get on with it because you’re still going to have to finish the script so just shut up.”

Why is now the time to reflect on Black Mirror?

It’s largely because we have wrapped enough stuff to make a book that is big enough to kill a small animal. That was my first criteria: is it going to be big enough to hurt a burglar or kill a small animal if I threw it at speed? But seriously, we realised there was an appetite for it and because each episode is sort of an individual film, there is quite a lot to say about them.

Were any small animals hurt in the making of this book?

No, not that I’m aware of. And I wouldn’t recommend that people hurl it at animals. But if an intruder does break into your home then by all means use our book as a weapon but only in self-defence. It would fuck them up good and proper.

Inside Black Mirror is out now (Ebury Press, £20)

Read the full article in this week's Big Issue.
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