The objective of this work in writing is to examine the production of the show ‘Fifteen Million Merits” and to answer as to the non-narrative elements used including such as music, color, imagery, symbolism and to answer what is used in this production to make it an effective and compelling dystopia. In addition, this study will answer what of today’s world is it satirizing and if the present society is getting closer to its reality.
“Fifteen Million Merits” is the second episode in the series of Black Mirror. This show is a satire on shows that are produced for entertainment purposes and the audiences desire for entertaining distraction in television and movies. In this dystopia all individuals are required to ride exercise bicycles because this energy is utilized to provide power in the society and earns the individual ‘merits’ which is the currency form in this society. This is a slave society in which the individuals in society are at the mercy of the powers that be. In addition, the people’s daily lives are barraged with advertisements that they have to pay attention to or they will be charged fines.
The music used in this production is a happy type of music that sounds like a song of love and generally is used at moments to produce an aura of joy. The instrumental soundtrack used in this production sounds like it has guitar and perhaps some reed. The instrumental soundtrack is disharmonic to a great degree and has a sense of foreboding as the music travels through the composition with movements that are joyful then returning to a sound that is not nearly as harmonic. Some of the music is reminiscent of a type of carousel music and reminds one as well of the music used in cartoon productions for children. The use of this type of music makes the dystopia more compelling because the cartoon music combined with the actions, setting, and realities of the characters in this production creates such disharmony combining reality with sounds associated with children and entertainment of children. In the society of today a comparison could be the use of cartoon viewing for prisoners while they are being put to death by lethal injection. It is the sharp difference in the use of this type music in a very harsh reality that makes such a disharmonic combination. The music in this show works well to give an eerie feeling of dystopia and the mirrors that are present everywhere certainly add to this feeling of dystopia.
This production is a satire on the present society which demands entertainment and which contains sensationalism that is liked to sexual messages prevalent throughout all of television production and advertisement. This is true in the present society as well as advertisements in between scheduled programming contain and relate all types of sexual messages from what type of clothing one should wear to the type of feminine products one should use. Advertisements tell the audience what they should drive and what type of perfume they should wear in order to have sex appeal. In today’s programming the same element of sexuality is presented indicating that sleeping with many partners is to be desired and that infidelity is the norm among those whom are married. Today’s society is very much like the society in ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ in that, in order to watch television programming one is essentially required to cope with if they are to watch television in the present society. This type of sexual indoctrination is also present in children’s shows with innuendos that adults fully understand and while not yet understood by children instills certain concepts into their minds in the manner of planting seeds that will take root in their minds and personalities as they become older.
The episode ‘Fifteen Million Merits’ is a futuristic type world and features ‘black mirrors’ which are ever present in all aspects of the lives of the characters. In many ways, the black mirrors are similar to the cameras that exist everyone that one goes in society today. Security cameras dot the landscape throughout towns and cities both on the streets and inside buildings, in restaurants, department stores and even in the workplace in today’s society. These black mirrors add to the air of dystopia in this production and are a symbol of the lack of liberty and privacy in the society in “Fifteen Million Merits”. The merits earned from the power generated riding the bicycles are used and every little need of the individuals whether it be something from a vending machine or even purchasing some toothpaste results in merits being taken away from the net worth of the individual. The idea of the Verichip that has been introduced only minimally by volunteers in today’s world by which they can be tracked everywhere they go and the ability to track their purchases by this chip inserted under their skin makes the idea of a merit tracking system in the present society something that is an ominous reality.
This particular episode is focused on a character named Bing who owns more merits than most people due to inheriting these upon the death of his brother. His daily life is comprised by awaking in a room that is very small with walls comprised completely by screens. Today’s world is much like this as one cannot pump their gas at Wal-Mart without being in the presence of a screen attached to the top of the gas pump that is spouting out information to the purchaser of the gas. There are many other such screens already present in society and it appears the writer of this work is aware of such in society and making an effective statement of the potential of such ever-present screens in the life of an individual.
Bing rides his bike and looks at his avatar who is also riding a bike. When Bing returns to his room his mind is flooded with porn and what are called ‘Hot Shot’ ads which he can skip if he wants to but this costs him some of his merits. Bing meets a woman named Abi and urges her to go on ‘Hot Shot’ purchasing her a ticket at the price of 15 million merits, an awfully large amount in this production. Abi enters the competition but does not win but because she is very attractive is offered a role in porn which would allow her to get away from the daily bike riding earning her merits to live. Later in the show, there is a scene where Bing is forced to watch Abi in a porn advertisement and when he attempts to shut his eyes there are sirens and flashing lights and he is forced to open his eyes and watch. Bing manages to save enough merits to buy himself a slot on the show ‘Hot Shot’ and in his performance he rants about the terrible way that the society is in this world. One of the judges likes his performance complete with a shard of glass in his hand threatening to cut himself and he is given a 30-minute slot performances which are featured next to avatars and porn. While Bing has managed to earn enough merits to retire in wealth and this is indeed how the show ends the truth is that the society in which he lived did not undergo a change due to what he states as true about the society but instead the powers that be in this society have used his rantings as a form of entertainment and therefore has demonstrated to the people in this society that Bings ‘reality show’ while revealing the ills of this society is no more than fanfare and entertainment for the masses. Bing has earned for himself a better life but ultimately has not bettered society or the lives of others in this society.