Vigilant Citizen – Jan 29, 2019
Warning: Enormous spoilers ahead!
Described as a “Netflix event”, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is an interactive film that allows viewers to “choose their own adventure”. On several occasion during the film, viewers are presented with two options and are given 10 seconds to decide. Upon selection, the option plays out and the narrative adapts accordingly. Consequently, the choices made by the viewers lead to different scenes, story paths and, ultimately, to different endings. However, once an ending is reached, the film loops the viewers back to unselected choices, making it easy to view the entire film and analyze it as a whole.
The viewers are making the decisions for Stefan Butler, a young computer whiz who is adapting a fantasy choose-your-own-adventure book into a video game. The film appears to be heavily inspired by this 1984 BBC documentary that follows the creation of a “mega-game” named Bandersnatch by the London software company Imagine before the holiday season. That game was never released.
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch takes the context of this fascinating period of British tech history and adds a whole lot of creepiness to it. And, considering the fact that this is a Black Mirror episode – a series about the potentially perverse effects of modern technology on humanity – things get very meta, very quickly. In fact, several levels of meta end up leaving most viewers’ minds looking like this.
As Stefan attempts to create an innovative game that allows multiple narrative paths, he’s also the protagonist of an innovative film that allows multiple narrative paths. As things progress, Stefan realizes that he is not in control of his own mind – the viewer is. This realization triggers a descent into madness as Stefan begins obsessing about a specific symbol (named the “White Bear”) and a demon named Pax.
In short, the viewer controls Stefan’s mind. In shorter, that’s mind control. Appropriately enough, the film is replete with symbolism relating to MK-ULTRA and trauma-based mind control. Furthermore, in some story paths, Stefan discovers that he’s was drugged, studied and monitored since birth.
While several news sources analyzed Bandersnatch, nearly all of them missed an obvious point: It is about trauma-based mind control. From the backstory of the protagonist to the MK-symbolism peppered throughout, Bandersnatch is an “adventure” in the mind of a slave. And it all starts with the title of the episode.