‘White Bear’ calls for examination of ethics in entertainment and justice

Alexandria Battista
Oxford Stories

“Black Mirror’s” “White Bear” episode was certainly one of the darker episodes of the series. I watched it late at night, and it left me feeling unsettled until I fell asleep. I think the episode really reflects hyperbolized, but possible, versions of our society.

One societal fault the episode examines is society’s obsession with recording things to share on social media, or with others. When the episode began, I figured this would be what it was about. As people ignored the main character and recorded her instead, I thought it reflected how we ignore people around us too despite their calls for help.

Even more literally, people often do this in society. When something bad happens we are all too quick to pull out our phones and start recording, but when it comes to stepping up to help someone, we are often – as the old saying goes – slower than molasses. Similarly, I thought the episode also reflected a bystander problem within society, somewhat tied to selfishness, where people have little desire to help anyone beside themselves.

When the episode reached the end, we find out what was really going on. The episode depicted a “justice park,” an interactive amusement park for people to assist in the repetitive torture of criminals. It turns out the main character was a criminal who is being psychologically tortured over and over again. The bystanders were simply visitors “enjoying” their “visit” at the park.

This scenario made me rethink the entire episode and made me consider what version of society the show’s creators were examining.  I think the “justice park” scenario examined a twisted idea of entertainment that is underlying in society. In some ways we enjoy seeing other’s struggle in order to realize how well off we are in comparison.

The episode also speaks to what appropriate ideas and practices of justice are, especially for someone that has harmed us or someone we know. I think we can all admit at times there is nothing more we wish than for them to also feel our same pain. In the “White Bear” episode, the main character is repeatedly subjected to the same pain she caused her victim.

Without ethics in our society, these two scenarios of open entertainment and unrestricted justice could easily blend into a situation depicted in “Black Mirror’s” “White Bear” episode. Many have imagined the possibility before. The popular film “The Hunger Games” depicts a similar situation of people watching personal harm being done to others as entertainment.

A society that enjoys watching others suffer for entertainment is frightening and would quickly get out of hand. A situation such as the one depicted in “White Bear” allows one to realize the importance of ethics, especially in the media.

In one of my classes, we learned how there are no legal guidelines restricting the news media from recording the scene of an accident. However, due to ethical guidelines, they do not record accident scenes.

In this scenario, one can imagine how the lack of ethics could radically change what we see on the news and what appropriate forms of content are across our society. “White Bear” made me examine and truly value the ethical guidelines we currently have in place regarding entertainment and justice.

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