“15 Million Merits”, starts by playing music that gives the feeling of waking up to a new morning, though morning is really just a simulated effect of images and light emitted from screens covering the walls of a small cell. The main character, Bing, goes through a mundane routine that he repeats every morning and puts on his clothes which is a fully gray sweat suit worn by everyone else. As he makes his way to his work station, it is very clear that there is a lack of colors on the walls or any part of the surrounding giving a gloomy, depressing, and cyclic atmosphere. His working station consists of pedaling on a stationary bike along with everyone else in their gray sweat suit trying to earn merit points which they use to purchase everything. The only distinction in colors that can be seen is the yellow jumpsuit worn by the cleaners and the customizations for a virtual avatar. During their biking, everyone has a choice of choosing between various forms of entertainment or virtual scenery to mask the mundane pedaling and to keep everyone from formulating ideas of change or revolution.
This episode of Black Mirror actually satirizes many things today’s society. An example is their popular show “Hot Shot” which is a talent show that is set up like American Idol with three judges who critique the individual’s performance and decide whether or not they can turn them into celebrities. However, the real goal of this show is to find people who are exceptional and turn them into slaves of the entertainment industry. The industry executives know that these contestants yearn to be famous and not stuck on a stationary bike for their whole lives. Just like many people today who feel that they are talented enough to display it to the world, they end up being forced into contracts and are compelled to perform at the schedule of the promotional labels leaving them very little freedom.
Our society’s dependency on consumerism –working all day and night just to purchase cheap entertainment- is also satirized. In the episode, everyone works by gaining merit points through biking and use these merit points to buy virtual goods or food. The only tangible good is the food and even those are not exactly natural, they are all grown in petri dishes. This shows just how clever the large companies in modern day try to sell you goods that are so tantalizing that you must work tirelessly so that you can afford it even though it is not an essential. This also goes for the food industry that purposely price food the way they want knowing people will buy it because they need it to survive.
Likewise, with the rapid advancement of technology, everything becomes easier and many things are phased out such as art, reading, and social interaction. In “15 Million Merits” everyone lives in a cell covered in glass screens that displays shows or games to entertain people and they are forced to watch the shows or face losing merit points. They have absolutely no reason to read a book or draw because all they need for entertainment is within those screens. They do not even need to interact with other people and share their feelings. In our society today, technology has advanced enough for us to slowly begin drifting down this path where a majority of our day consists of sitting in front of a screen. For many people it is possible to be isolated from the world and live in their own reality where they find pleasure.
Despite the shows satirical elements, I don’t exactly think we would end up this way. Sure we have many problems that are unsolved, but we would never need to resort to collectivism to solve them nor would we ever let technology become so huge that it would encompass our whole lives. I believe our society will always have individualism and we would never become an extreme dystopia. The reason for this is because there is no real government that can impose collectivism on people. There is always going to be a group of people who would want to live in a democratic society. Also, through many dystopian works, people know that a collectivist society never works and is flawed because of their strict control.