Last night saw the airing of Charlie Brooker's National Anthem, the first installment of his Channel 4 three-part comic drama Black Mirror. The story takes place over one day and focuses on the online hivemind reaction as a fictitious princess is kidnapped. Her captors have only one demand, that the Prime Minister have sex with a pig on national television. What aimed to be an examination of the "darker side of our gadget addiction" disappointingly and predictably just ended up as Brooker telling us yet again how thick we, the general public, all are.
I didn't have high hopes. Of late I've avoided Brooker. I find it's not the best way to start Monday, reading about why I am such a sniveling moron. A moron for enjoying a Christmas advert. A moron for going to Glastonbury. A moron for not watching television in the "correct" aspect ratio.
I am a fan of Brooker and he is an undoubtedly brilliant and skilled writer but as the years have gone on he has become more and more genuinely misanthropic. The same drum banged a thousand times. "You are all stupid." There's a limit to how many times I can be told.
National Anthem was not all bad. It was compelling from the start and kept a good pace throughout. The actors, especially Rory Kinnear as Prime Minister Michael Callow, were committed in spite of such a far-fetched plot. During one scene where the Prime Ministers press team are assessing how far the story has leaked, the line "The Guardian are running a f**king live blog and a short think piece on the historical symbolism of the pig," is reason alone for me to give it another chance next week.
Despite the unsubtle premise it did have elements of realism. An inconceivable idea, that over an hour became almost believable. Yes, a programme about the prime minister shagging a pig, had elements of realism. We've all seen the Twitter mob in action and the power of social media in shaping world events. We've all probably been part of the Twitter mob and uncomfortably questioned what our over-excited ramblings have done.
Part of the appeal of the "Cult of Brooker" has always been, from Nathan Barley to his columns on reality TV, that we join in, mocking the subjects, foolishly thinking we are in someway above it. We feel better that we aren't the idiots depicted or part of an enlightened gang now we've seen the error of our ways. But it's wearing thin and predictable. I long for the day he attempts something new.
Despite the better elements of National Anthem I couldn't get away from that lingering undercurrent. The notion that the general public is terrible. Unlike the fantastic Dead Set, Charlie Brooker takes an altogether more sneering tone at the faceless public as a whole.
Naturally, like the idiots we are, we all took to Twitter to discuss it. It was depraved, genius and dark according to the hashtag. I couldn't see it. It wasn't revolting, it wasn't that shocking, it was exactly what I've come to expect from Brooker.
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