BLACK MIRROR : THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF YOU (Channel 4)
Facebook’s much hyped Timeline app is fine and dandy if all you want to remember is “your memorable posts, photos and life events”.
The ideal digital lives are those of happy, shiny people living happy, shiny lives full of holiday adventures, warm friendships, perfect families and fulfilling careers.
While I can understand the rush to share such positive experiences, real life (remember that?) has a nasty habit of casting shadows over sweetness and light.
Deaths of loved ones, getting sacked, divorced, cheated on, lied to or having periods of sadness, confusion and depression are not the kind of things I’d personally want on my interface.
But perhaps I’m not representative of current lifestyle trends. As daytime TV has shown, there is never a shortage of folks willing to air their dirty laundry in public; the internet merely provides a much larger outlet for such warts and all confessionals.
The way technology has rewired our perception of reality has been the theme of Channel 4’s excellent Black Mirror trilogy. The final instalment – The Entire History Of You – touches on some of the issues raised by Facebook’s new toy without referring to this or any other social network by name.
It envisages a near future where implanted microchips enable people to save and play back scenes from their lives – a kind of HD Timeline. The fictional advert promoting this device features a seductive voice assuring potential customers that “memory is for living”.
I can think of many occasions when such a tool would have been useful to prove what someone did or didn’t say in the past but mostly the “I know what you said last Summer” scenario has more cons that pros.
So it proves for a “soon to be unemployed and unemployable lawyer” named Liam in the TV drama. Not only is his career on the rocks but he also suspects that his wife Ffion has revived an affair with a smug ‘friend’ named Jonas. Liam doesn’t believe her story that the amorous interest was confined to a one week fling before they were married. She hardly helps her case much when she says things like “not everything that isn’t true is a lie”.
The ability to rewind and review memories allows Liam to pick holes in her weak defence and to prove not only that her lapse was far more than just a “weird week”. Worse still, it raises the possibility that Jonas is the father of their child.
The Entire History Of You had many similarities with an episode of The Twilight Zone or could be a modern day Tale Of The Unexpected. Unlike the previous two Black Mirror episodes, it was not written Charlie Brooker but is the work of Jesse Armstrong; the co-creator of this year’s comedy-drama hit Fresh Meat.
It is the weakest of the three dramas because, despite the technological novelty aspects, it is essentially a retelling of an age-old story of marital infidelity and jealousy. The first two episodes were more original because they presented dystopian scenarios to show how the intrusions of the virtual world have created an entirely new set of moral dilemmas for humanity.
The drama does however prove the wisdom behind the lyrics to the popular hit The Way We Were : “Memories may be beautiful and yet , what’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.”