**Warning: Spoilers Ahead**
Black Mirror: “Bandersnatch”
Well, even if you didn’t want to read it
1. Welcome Back!
2. That hurts
3. Here you are anyways
The Netflix series Black Mirror recently came out with a new interactive episode known as “Bandersnatch”. In this episode, viewers follow the life of Stefan, a young video game designer, who is trying to get his video game “Bandersnatch” produced. During the episode, viewers get to choose what decisions are made (shown below), which ultimately impacts what story line the viewer will be presented with.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch gives the viewers a wide variety of choices throughout the episode from cereal choices to chopping up Stefan’s dad’s body or burying it. Ultimately it is a decision between two choices. In my opinion, this contributes to the purpose and meaning of this story. This episode of Black Mirror was created to demonstrate the illusion of free will and choices. The viewers are given 2 choices, yes or no, jump or don’t, follow him or go to therapy. However, in life, we are given an unlimited amount of choices. In this story, we think we have the ability to control the direction the story goes to, but the story will go to one of 6 endings and eventually all your choices are directed to an ending. In the end, we do not get to choose where the story does, someone else does, but yet we still feel in power, like we control Stefan’s decisions because we get to click Yes or No.
A critic of medium.com also discussed the illusion of choice that is presented in Bandersnatch. The author, Brenden Weber, discusses the “concept of meaninglessness in choice” (Weber). He believes that “knowing how the film was formulated… Every choice you make has a predetermined destination” (Weber). I think this is interesting because it is applicable to today’s society.
As a child in the US, we all have to go to school in the United States from grades K-12, once we are older we get to choose what classes we go to, giving us a sense of control. However, we all still have to take English for 4 years which is required, we need to do that. But because we get to choose what course we take, it makes us feel like we are deciding our future, even though we are all going to end up at the same place, graduation and (mostly) going college. This episode takes an extreme case of control and the illusion of free will to emphasize that this experience is more common than we think. In Bandersnatch, the formula that the writers created determined the outcome and educators determine the outcome of the student’s education.
I also think it important to realize that the choices do not matter because it is formulated. Before reading these articles and understanding the ideas of choice, I thought I was really controlling and had good control of the outcome. But it is important to realize that this sense of control is just an illusion
However, another critic, from The New Yorker, Simon Parkin believes that “Unlike most episodes of “Black Mirror,” “Bandersnatch” is not a tale about the devastating potential of technology” (Parkin). I believe that this statement is not true if you compare it to other Black Mirror Episodes. This author believes that it is “It’s a work of interactive fiction” (Parkin). Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, in my opinion is about the “devastating potential of technology” (Parkin). Stefan, the main character, becomes consumed with creating the game that he drives himself to make bad and destructive choices. Stefan isolates himself from society and ultimately succumbs to the world of creating this video game like his predecessor did while writing the original Bandersnatch book.
“It’s a work of interactive fiction” (Parkin)
Also, along with my idea of what the message is, shows that even in reality we have an illusion of choices and free will. By using this type of technology, it allows the watchers to realize the relation to current day society.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch also uses many modernism and post-modernism characteristics (MoPo)to establish the story line. Metafiction is the act of writing about writing or making readers aware of the fictional nature of the very fiction they’re reading. In this interactive episode of Black Mirror, the use of metafiction emphasizes the subtle scenes that happen in “Bandersnatch”. For example, when Stefan’s father is talking about the futuristic microwave and obsessing over it, we think it is funny because a microwave is basic and not inventive in the 21st century. Meanwhile, we are watching this Netflix episode which seemed unfathomable at the beginning of the 2010s. However, everyone is doing the same thing as Stefan’s father, obsessing over a piece of technology (in this case a TV episode). Even Netflix itself is very futuristic.
Another tenet of MoPo that is used in Bandersnatch is a nonlinear plot/timeline. Bandersnatch uses a branching technique to allow the viewers to pick between two choices, which gives them “control” over how the plot unfolds. By using this tenet, it allows for the illusion of free will. This episode is also written with layers and additionally, it lacks a traditional beginning, middle, and end.
The first time I watched Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, ALONE, I basically made choices that would entertain me and not exactly help the characters. I also watched every single ending possible, I would rewatch endings just to see all of them. I think it took me a solid 3 hours to make every choice and see every ending because I would rewatch them because I love the Black Mirror series. The one choice that I did think about was either chopping up Stefan’s dad’s body or burying it. I flashed back to when the dad was looking at the dog digging up the garden and realized that the dog would find the dad buried in the backyard and Stefan would not get the opportunity to finish the game. So I decided to chop him up. The most important thing to me while watching it for the first time was getting the best review on the game. However, my favorite ending was when Stefan died with his mother because it was lowkey the happiest ending for me because he didn’t go crazy and got to be with his mother. Also, while watching Bandersnatch I found that there was basically no way to relax or get distracted because you are so invested in the plot line.
When I watched Black Mirror: Bandersnatch with my English class, I hated every minute of it because it is so stressful. I could not voice my opinion because I couldn’t spoil it for the rest of my class. The stress was unbearable because I wanted my classmates to be able to see the endings that I was able to see. BASICALLY, WATCH IT ALONE. However, it was interesting to see what everyone else was thinking while making their choices, most of them differed from my own thoughts. For example, when everyone wanted Stefan to jump off the building, I was like dying inside because they bought the idea that Stefan will just come back because of what Colin said to them. I wanted them to make Colin jump, but of course, they didn’t and the story ended.
- EDITED WITH https://photomosh.com
Given Critic Articles:
1. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/on-television/bandersnatch-and-the-pitfalls-of-interactive-fiction?mbid=social_facebook&utm_source=facebook&utm_brand=tny&utm_medium=social&utm_social-type=owned (Links to an external site.)