BiMediaWatch: Black Mirror

Beware this edition of BiMediaWatch is going to be heavy on the spoilers.

The excitement is on Netflix this month, first because pansexual popster Miley Cyrus is in the new season of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian Black Mirror sci-fi drama. In Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too Miley appears in a role that feels custom made for her, as a teen pop sensation whose personality has been replicated in robot dolls for fans. How much of Ashley O has been incorporated into the machines?

There’s no particular hint of her character’s sexuality in the show though, which is – to throw in another tiny spoiler – nowhere near as doom-laden as some of the programme’s previous stories.

Striking Vipers is in stark contrast. We start by meeting Karl and Danny, two young black men out on the dating circuit and hanging out playing a Street Fighter style videogame, Striking Vipers, on the sofa together.

Cut to a few years down the line: Danny is married with school age kids, while Karl is still living it large.

The lads get back into touch and they start playing a souped-up version of the fighting game online – now using a virtual reality chip that plants itself on your face and makes everything much more real.
Since the early days Karl has chosen a female avatar. But now rather than joystick juggling at some pixels on a screen players see and feel everything their characters are: in this case a different sex and a different race.

Before they know it, Karl and Danny’s avatars Lance and Roxette are making out and then having sex in virtual reality: but will their romance there translate into the real world? And as Danny’s wife notices their relationship is on the slide will she find out her husband is virtually cheating…

The drama has a satisfying payoff at the end. At one level it’s a shame to fit clichés of black bi men having sex with other guys in secret, of bis being cheaters, and so forth. At another level, we find an ending that seems to give everyone the things they secretly need, that they could probably never have communicated to each other without the game. As Roxette says: in here you can do so much shit you can’t do out there.

By Black Mirror standards, this is surprisingly optimistic stuff.

 


BCN issue 155 coverThis originally appeared in

Bi Community News issue 155

Published July/August 2019.