Episode: “The Entire History of You”
“The Entire History of You” is an episode from the show Black Mirror that illustrates the dark reality of what it would be like if you were able to relive your entire life. The episode is centered around a small device called the “grain” that is implanted into the skull of individuals within the society. This device made it possible for everything that is seen through a person’s eyes to be recorded and stored so that they can replay that memory whenever they want. However, while this device is first seen as a positive thing because it allows memories to be shared, it quickly turns into being a total nightmare.
It is evident to see that the society illustrated in this episode is a dystopia because while no one thinks that the grain is causing any harm, it is in fact taking total control over basic human interaction. For example, when it came to a dinner party, the characters were watching moments from each other’s memories as opposed to verbally discussing it. When it came to physical interaction between the protagonist Liam and his wife Ffion, the grain made it possible for them to both rewind back to a time where their sex life was more pleasurable so that they could enjoy each other in the present time. Their baby even had a grain implanted so that they could see how the babysitter treated their child; a whole new level to our present day “nanny cam.” Control by the grain is also seen in the airport when people need to show the security guards an ample amount of memories they experienced in the past few days.
As the episode progressed and the plot thickened, the physical appearance of Liam deteriorated every time he used the grain to try to unmask his wife’s affair; his eyes glowed almost demonically as he accessed the memories and he looked like he was in a trance. This was a significant detail because it showed just how much of an effect the grain had on the personal and social aspect of an individual’s life. Constantly reliving memories kept Liam in the past that he even lost himself completely and went on a drinking binge and forced his wife and Jonas, the man she slept with, to delete the memory store of the times they were together. In contrast to dystopian literature such as Nineteen Eight-Four by George Orwell, the grain made it possible for there to be constant surveillance in an individual’s life. The only difference is that instead of the government acting on any signs of rebellion against them (as seen in Nineteen Eight-Four), the grain made people act against each other. Through the use of force and torture in Nineteen Eight-Four, in the end, the protagonist Winston ended up complying with the government and accepting everything that the Party bestows upon the society. In “The History of You,” Liam is able to get Jonas to delete the memories by attacking him and physically forcing him so that he could have his mind at ease. However, the difference between these two works is that in Nineteen Eight-Four, Winston is able to feel peace when the torture stops and he agrees with the Party. Liam on the other hand, even when the memories are deleted from his wife’s storage and Jonas’s, he does not feel peace because the grain makes it impossible for him to forget everything that happened. Liam had to force himself to rip the grain out of his skull in order for the control the grain brought, to stop.
In general, the show Black Mirror shows how society and advanced technology can overlap and cause imprisonment within individuals. With technology constantly advancing, the writers possibly wanted to show the dark side of such advances. I found this specific episode interesting because there have been many times that I wished that there was something that allowed me to relive certain memories. However, after watching this episode, I was left feeling grateful that it is not possible. I think that that is what the writers wanted to display in this episode; living in the past can torment your mind and make it difficult to move forward with your life. Also, just the simple fact that the memories could be shared with everyone if you chose to or it could be seen by the government if they ask—it takes away any form of privacy and intimacy in one’s life. Overall, this episode illustrated just how dangerous it could be being able to store memories and watch them whenever you wanted or whenever you are asked.