Dr. Alex E. Blazer

Department of English & Rhetoric

Georgia College & State University

Milledgeville, GA 31061

alex.blazer@gcsu.edu

alexeblazer.com

"That's a Bit Creepy, What You're Doing": Black Mirror and the Perverse Gaze

 

The British dystopian science fiction television series Black Mirror satirizes society’s abuse of technology by speculating how, if current trends are followed, we will dehumanize ourselves through social media, television, and artificial intelligence in the near future. In one episode, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom sodomizes a pig on television and social media to pay off a ransom; in another episode, a crass and cynical performance capture cartoon becomes a political brand. In one episode, life recording and blocking technology from social media destroys minds and relationships when they are adapted to real life; and in another episode, a grieving woman downloads her boyfriend’s consciousness, collected from social media, in an artificially intelligent robot replica. Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan defines perversion as "an inverted effect of the phantasy. It is the subject who determines himself as an object [of another will]" (Seminar XI 185). Lacan associates the subject’s gaze with symbolic castration because "perception is not in me, that it is on the objects that it apprehends" (Seminar XI 80-1). Read through the psychoanalytic lens of the perverse gaze that cuts into and cedes subjectivity, Black Mirror suggests how our fantasies of self-control and connection with others, when passed through the looking glass of technology, turn us into emotional masochists who can neither experience life's pleasures nor mourn its losses and political sadists who inflict abject nihilism upon our fellow citizens.

 

This abstract summarizes my presentation, "'That's a Bit Creepy, What You're Doing': Black Mirror and the Perverse Gaze." Southeast Coastal Conference on Languages & Literatures. Coastal Georgia Center, Savannah, GA. 24 Mar. 2017.