What if your entire life was being recorded and rated, with every action and decision judged by millions of strangers? That’s the terrifying reality faced by the protagonist in Black Mirror Season 1 Episode 2, where a world of constant scrutiny and social validation takes a chilling turn.
Black Mirror Season 1 Episode 2, entitled “Fifteen Million Merits,” takes place in a dystopian world where people are required to pedal on stationary bikes to generate electricity and earn “merits,” the currency used in this society. The story follows Bing, a young man who uses his merits to enter a talent competition show called “Hot Shot,” hoping to escape his bleak existence.
After impressing the judges with his singing, Bing is approached by a judge named Abi, who he develops feelings for. Abi is offered a chance to become a pornographic actress and, feeling hopeless about her situation, accepts the offer. In an effort to help Abi, Bing uses all of his merits to buy her a ticket to a talent show in which the winner is allowed to leave the bike-pedaling world and live a life of luxury.
At the show, Bing persuades Abi to join him in making a statement against their society by performing a duet instead of their individual acts. However, the judges turn on them, insulting and degrading them in front of the live audience, and Bing is given a choice to either stay in the system or speak out against it.
In the end, Bing decides to use his remaining merits to speak out against the oppressive system in a public rant, but instead of being punished, he is offered a job by the judges to help create more reality TV shows. The episode ends with Bing sitting in his luxurious new apartment, trapped once again in the very system he was trying to escape.
What does this episode mean to us?
Black Mirror Season 1 Episode 2, “Fifteen Million Merits,” is a commentary on the dangers of a society driven by consumerism, social media, and reality television. It portrays a dystopian world where people are trapped in a cycle of pedaling on stationary bikes to generate power and earn “merits,” which are then used to buy food, entertainment, and other necessities.
The episode critiques the idea of a society that values people based solely on their ability to generate power and consume goods. It also explores the damaging effects of social media and reality television, where individuals are forced to constantly perform and seek validation from others.
Furthermore, the episode highlights the struggle for individual freedom and the difficulty of escaping oppressive systems. Despite Bing’s efforts to speak out against the system, he ultimately becomes a part of it by accepting a job offer from the very people who were exploiting him.
Overall, “Fifteen Million Merits” serves as a warning about the dangers of a society that prioritizes superficial values such as fame and wealth, while neglecting the importance of genuine human connections and individual autonomy.