Charlie Brooker, creator of the Netflix sci-fi/horror anthology show Black Mirror, has responded to criticism that the series has “lost its edge” since going international and moving from Channel 4 to the streaming giant in 2016.
Speaking at a session during the SXSW Sydney event, the British writer and former video games journalist explained that, following Netflix’s purchase of the franchise after Black Mirror’s second season, he wanted to market it to a more international audience.
“One of the criticisms we sometimes get is, ‘I preferred the show when it was British, and everyone in it was miserable, and everything smelled a little bit of shit, and all the stories were horrible'”, Brooker said, referencing the accusations from die-hard Black Mirror fans.
“‘And then it’s gone to Netflix, and suddenly everything’s sunny and happy, and everyone has wonderful teeth, and it’s full of Hollywood stars, and it’s lost that edge.'” Despite joking that when he first moved to the US, “everyone expected me to be like the Unabomber”, Brooker insisted the evolution of the show’s tone was solely down to him.
“I was aware we’re going on a global platform now, so we’ve got to make these stories a bit more international. And I wanted to mix it up a bit, as in not just keep doing bleak-a-thons,” the writer explained, after pointing to the fact that “Arguably the happiest [episode] I’ve ever written was ‘San Junipero’ and I just did that off my own back.”
He also drew attention to the ‘Loch Henry’ episode in the latest sixth season, which heavily featured themes of murder, torture, sexual abuse and imprisonment in a remote Scottish town. As Brooker puts it, the episode was “fucking nasty – nasty as anything we’ve ever done.”
Regarding his own views, the writer said, “It frustrates me when people go, ‘Oh Black Mirror, that’s the [smart]phones are bad show,’ or, ‘That’s the show written by a Luddite.'” Brooker added: “I love technology. I’m very interested in technology.”