I have always been a fan of the statement "life often imitates art," and in this season of Black Mirror, that was exactly the case.
After watching the first few episodes of the season, I assumed that each episodes topic was going to be extremely far-fetched, especially after the wild ride we got with "USS Callister." But this season, if you really take the time to watch with a more objective mind's eye, you'll learn that each episode provides us with deeper commentary about the way we treat one another.
**Spoiler Alert: Spoilers for the "Black Museum" episode below**
As soon as I saw the title for episode six in this season, I was screaming, "I bet it is going to have to do with something related to Black people and the Black struggle."
I was right.
I remember being somewhat worried when watching the opening scene of the episode because I know the history that Black people have in sci-fi shows. We often don't last long and when we do, there is always some type of twisted situation we get caught up in.
So seeing a Black woman driving through what looked like a scene from The Hills Have Eyes spelled disaster for me. But for some reason I was immediately drawn to the main character, specifically because of her style, her carefree and curious disposition and the fact that she too enjoyed a good Dionne Warwick song.
But it would be more than just clothes and music that connected us in this episode. As we are introduced to Nish (Letitia Wright), the only thing we know is that she is on her way to visit her father. While it seemed that most of the episode would be centered on the Rolo Harvey's (Douglas Hodge) exhibit of unsettling evils, we learn through the storyline of "Black Museum" that there so much to be said about pain when it is on display for everyone to see. While it can be said that this episode examines the human impulse we have to share in someone's fear and pain for thrills, we quickly learn that the rhetoric changes when the pain hits close to home.
As the story further unfolds, we learn that what may seem like a "random" trip for Nish is not random at all, but that she is on a mission to vindicate her late father, a Black man who sold his soul to Harvey for what he believed would be freedom. But I believe this episode speaks volumes about incarceration and how it affects the families who are involved.
The reality is that having a family member who is incarcerated is painful, and rarely do we get to see or hear about the effects of it from the perspective of the child.
For Nish, carrying the suffering of her late mother and knowing the agony her father is facing is something I know so well. I can recall my father being incarcerated around the time I was five years old and the effect it had on me, my brother, but specifically my mother. For my brother and I, having an incarcerated father meant having to explain that your father was away for something that you couldn't fully understand. It meant having a mother who did her best to explain to you that your father wasn't able to be present because he lacked the freedom to be available.
What it fully meant was trying to conceptualize the pain of watching your mother leave to go visit your father at a place similar to that of the museum, a place riddled with pain and agony. Even more, it was growing up listening to others around you make generalized comments about incarcerated people who like Harvey believed that incarcerated people got what they deserved.
No one can ever understand the pain of what the prison system can do to a family and rarely do we ever discuss the power dynamics that are involved.For most families who are dealing with an incarcerated family member, the situation always comes back to the interactions that said family member has with those who are in positions of authority.
Though the episode does well to make Harvey look like the perfect villain, let us be reminded that the greatest criminal in this episode is the one thing that actually frees Nish's father in the end: power. In the moments where Harvey felt the most powerful, Nish's father suffered. But in the moment that Nish took said power back, it was only then that she could right the wrongs of Harvey, freeing both her father and the woman that Harvey had been keeping in captivity in a stuffed monkey.
Yeah. This episode had a lot going on.
But alas, there is always something there to remind us in this episode that power isn't always the best thing to want, or even to have. Further, a reminder to never find joy in someone else's pain as we never know for certain when we will be in the exact same hot seat with no air and no water.