June 15, 2023

CABLE | 'Black Mirror' Binges 'Joan Is Awful' on Streamberry

"I'm not the main character in my own life story."
Annie Murphy Ally Pankiw Charlie Booker | Joan Is Awful | Black Mirror Netflix
Broke & Bones
After a four-year hiatus, Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker gets even more self-referential in the surreal first episode of the sixth season of his aforementioned popular near-future, dystopian anthology series. "Joan Is Awful", directed by Canadian filmmaker Ally Pankiw and starring Schitt's Creek actress Annie Murphy as the dubious title character, is a metafictional satire on the personal cost of our current content-obsessed streaming culture.

At the core of the latest Black Mirror season is the exploration of the toll the entertainment we consume takes from us thanks to an endless string of "prestige" television often based on the real-life trauma of others in the vein of true crime adaptations and how or why they are produced for audiences in the first place. Murphy goes about her regular life when a new "Streamberry" (a thinly-veiled Netflix analogue with the exact same branding) series premieres that adapts her actual real life in near real-time including embarassing personal details.

Co-starring Salma Hayek Pinault as the surreal Hollywood version of Murphy's character in the A.I. and CGI-generated meta adaptation within the show, Murphy's Joan laments how she feels like a supporting character even in her own life. Booker takes this kernel of an idea and other very real influences from reality and popular entertainment to mine for fiction as another piece of content. He includes a strong element of biting the hand that feeds you with his explicit satirical skewing of the socially bankrupt streaming binge culture Netflix popularized.

Black Mirror this season, most evidenced in this episode, is more focused on the glossed-over ramifications of the convenience of new technologies more than ever. We are so eager to give up elements of our lives, privacy, and well-being for instant gratification. "Joan Is Awful" is an amusingly clever 56-minute romp that articulates elements of our current culture's simultaneous desperation and struggle to connect to each other so sublimely.

Season six of Black Mirror is available to stream on Netflix.

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