Film: Black Mirror, Season 6
Episodes: Joan is Awful, Directed by Ally Pankiw, Starring Annie Murphy, Salma Hayek Pinault Mazey Day, Directed by Uta Briesewitz, Starring Zazie Beetz and Clara Rugaar
Why You Should Watch It:
It’s Black Mirror, duh!
It’s hard to imagine that any Black Mirror episode could possibly dethrone the great San Junipero in my mind or its runner ups, Hang the DJ and Nosedive. However, I’ve got a couple new favorite episodes thanks to the recently released Season 6 lineup. I present to you in no particular order of favoritism, Joan is Awful and Mazey Day.
“But, Wendy!” You might say. “Black Mirror isn’t a film! It’s a TV show!”
Yeah, I know, but stick with me here.
I love to consume stories in film and the written word, but my leisure time is at a premium. It’s no secret that novellas are having a moment, particularly in horror, and films around the 90 minute mark are also making a comeback. Plenty of other critics have written about Black Mirror and why it’s so appealing to viewers, but my take is that the short form storytelling fits our modern lifestyle. Shows like Black Mirror give you a complete story in under an hour, or in some cases, a little over an hour. Just like novellas, you get all the satisfaction and production quality of a two-hour film (or book) in half the time. Could many of the Black Mirror episodes have been fleshed out into feature-length films? You betcha. But I love Black Mirror because of its brevity in storytelling without sacrificing any enjoyment.
Still with me? Good because I need to convince you to watch at least these two episodes from the latest season.
Joan is Awful
As the title suggests, the main character of this episode is a lady named Joan (played by Annie Murphy from Schitt’s Creek) who is awful. She’s not evil, just awful in the way that someone you intensely dislike at your day job or an annoying neighbor might be. She feels untethered, unattached to her job or her fiance, and like she’s not the main character of her own life. Joan does some awful things that a lot of other people do, but none of those things make her villainous, only unbearable. Joan is the type of sympathetic, highly unlikeable (and later, unhinged) main character that I love to root for because I know deep down, there’s a better version of her in there somewhere.
But Joan isn’t the most awful thing about this twisted tale. Enter Streamberry, a very familiar looking streaming service that’s meant to stand in for Netflix. While Joan is doing a Streamberry and Chill with her fiance, she stumbles upon a show called Joan is Awful, which happens to be an exact dramatic account of her day starring none other than Salma Hayek (played by herself). How did they do this? How could they possibly make a show about her life so fast?
This is the point in the story when sh*t really goes sideways, and revealing anything more will spoil it for you. The one thing I will tell you is that you might want to go over the user agreements you sign going forward and maybe just throw all technology into the ocean forever.
Remember how in the early aughts paparazzi were wild with the way that they harassed celebrities? How we ate the tabloid images of messy pop stars and actors up with a spoon? How that attention drove quite a few people either into seclusion or mad? Yeah, that’s what Mazey Day is about.
Zazie Beetz (Domino from Deadpool 2!) plays the part of a hungry paparazzi looking to get a hefty payday in the form of an exclusive photo of a troubled actress (Clara Rugaar). There’s plenty of early 2000’s nostalgia to be enjoyed in this episode from the music to iPod minis, questionable fashion choices (hello Ed Hardy) and cell phones that weren’t yet smartphones. At one point, our main character actually uses a paper map when plotting out her route and man, did that take me back!
There are plenty of themes to explore in this episode from greed and addiction to our personal rights to privacy and our hunger for celebrity. Anyway, like you may have come to expect from every single Black Mirror episode, things aren’t as they seem and telling you too much will give away the surprise. Just know that the ending really took me by surprise in a way that I know all horror lovers will appreciate, and in a way that I certainly didn’t see coming until the very end.
The other stories from this season were fun to watch as well, and I in particular enjoyed seeing Josh Hartnett in Beyond the Sea. That one had a gaping plot hole that my husband pointed out that kinda ruined the whole story for me, but it was still fun to watch. I’ve been anxiously awaiting more Black Mirror episodes and I’m pleased to report that they were all worth the wait. Check them out on Netflix if you dare!