×
Back to IndieWire

‘Black Mirror’ Creators on the Porn and Homoerotic Video Games Behind Anthony Mackie Episode

"Striking Vipers," the first episode of the Netflix anthology series' fifth season, takes on the world of virtual reality porn.

"Black Mirror"

“Black Mirror”

Netflix

Black Mirror” Season 5 kicks off with “Striking Vipers,” starring Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as longtime friends who begin a sexual relationship inside of their favorite virtual reality video game. Mackie’s character, Danny, is married and thus questions arise over whether or not having sex in a virtual reality space constitutes as cheating. “Black Mirror” creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones recently spoke to The Daily Beast about the episode, in which the VR video game is a riff on such classic fighting games as “Tekken,” “Mortal Kombat,” and “Street Fighter.”

“One of the starting points [for the episode] was, I had been struck before by the slightly homoerotic nature of those fighting games,” Brooker said. “I loved ‘Tekken’ and used to play ‘Tekken’ religiously in the ’90s—myself and a flatmate used to play it all the time, we’d have miniature tournaments, etc. And I realized one day that our neighbors, because we lived in a small flat in London, the people who lived above us and below us must have thought there was an S&M dungeon operating where we were living, because constantly the air was filled with us screaming, UGH! YES! NO! all day and night.”

While the idea for the episode started from fighting games’ homoerotic undertones, the storyline filled out as a meditation on pornography and not just video game culture. As Jones said, “It’s about the exploration of porn in a world where porn is so sophisticated and can be tailored to your own personal preferences, and so it would increasingly become immersive, and at what point does porn stop being a healthy distraction and actually becomes like you’re having an affair, or cheating on your partner?”

“It is much more about pornography, and we realized that we hadn’t done an episode that was specifically about that,” Brooker said. “But it’s also an infidelity story, so it felt like that was a good, roundabout way of getting into the subject of porn.”

The episode has proven to be a polarizing one among television critics. While some have commended the show for tackling the ambiguities of sexual orientation, others have criticized the episode for not exploring the ideas it brings to the table enough. IndieWire television critic Ben Travers gave the episode a C+ review, calling it “oddly narrow-minded in its scope.”

Not even Brooker knows for sure if the virtual reality relationship his characters begin means they are gay. As he told The Daily Beast, “I find it a fascinating one, because I still don’t know where I come down on it. Is it a homosexual relationship? In some ways it is, and in others it absolutely isn’t. It’s really about male friendship and the issues that men may have communicating with each other.”

For Jones, it’s all about a fundamental question to the “Black Mirror” franchise: “How much control we have over our life and how much we’re prepared to be lured by technology, and how much it threatens our relationships.”

“Black Mirror” Season 5 is now streaming on Netflix.

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , ,


Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox

Newswire