Black Mirror, “The National Anthem” – TV Review

“What’s the playbook?” The Prime Minister Michael Callow asks his advisor. “This is virgin territory Mister Prime Minister” he replies, “There is no playbook”.

Charlie Brooker’s new TV series Black Mirror premiered last Sunday. It is a three part mini-series which focuses on this era of Facebook, twitter and invasive technology. Each week will tell an individual story that emphasizes the world we live in today and our “relationship with technology”.

By Feline_Dacat, via Wikimedia Commons

In the first episode The National Anthem, we see a fictional Prime Minister Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) threatened to perform an unimaginable act in order to save the kidnapped nation’s sweetheart, Princess Susannah (Lydia Wilson). The kidnapper’s only demand is for Callow to have sex with a pig on live national television.

The story portrayed in The National Anthem could easily cause even todays ‘open’ generation to feel uneasy. However, the brilliant acting (by both primary and secondary characters) and the well composed episode is definitely worth watching. It is grasping right from the beginning, despite feeling repelled by what it displays, it is near impossible to resist the urge to watch the episode till the very end.  Rory Kinnear’s performance was entrancing; he portrayed the emotions of his character spectacularly and extremely realistically.

The National Anthem satirises the use of social media. Individuals of the 21st century seem to have a sturdy relationship with technology. News that is still to appear on the most efficient news channels seem to be proficiently uploaded on YouTube, ‘tweeted’ about on twitter and posted all over Facebook.

The show parodies how the public’s opinions can change to conform to the masses opinion or can be influenced by the media and by what they read or hear through their various forms of technology. In The National Anthem the public opinion changes from protecting their Prime Minister (voicing that it is absolutely absurd to even ask for him to perform such an act) to “he has no choice but to do it”.

Not only does Brooker look into the Era of technology, he also capably taps into the human psyche. At the very beginning of the episode we hear that Prime Minister must have sex with a pig. The viewer’s initial reaction is mirrored aptly by the actors within the show that hear this news; a giggle, confusion and an ever so subtle sense of disgust. Additionally, towards the end of the episode, a reporter says that the event can be considered to be the first great artwork of the 21st century. It was an event that was watched by 1.3 billion people and something that caught everyone’s attention. Though this act was watched in disgust, it was watched nonetheless.

Hoards of people are gathered in a pub to see their Prime Minister carry out the illegal deed of bestiality. The gravity of the situation strikes the giggling nation as they watch their prime minister have sex with a pig on live TV; simultaneously, the gravity of the situation hits us.

The National Anthem is a must-watch work of genius and the perfect way to grasp us TV viewers into watching Brooker’s mini-series. “Charlie Brooker’s obscene satire was thrillingly daring and highly intelligent,” says Jack Seale. Personally, I can only agree and highly recommend Black Mirror.

About the author

Tara Sud

After living the first seventeen years of my life in India, I travelled to the England to study at the University of York. My undergraduate degree was in English Literature and Linguistics, and I am currently completing my Masters degree in Romantic and Sentimental Literature. Apart from writing, I thoroughly enjoy playing piano and consider myself a commendable Scrabble competitor. I have a keen interest in literature, psychology and biology and love to learn in general.