December 29 meant sitting curled up on the couch and binge-watching six-plus hours of the new and anticipated season of "Black Mirror." If you are unfamiliar with "Black Mirror," it is a Netflix original show which explores modern society and the consequences of new technology. The new season had six new episodes ranging in times and themes.
However, one episode particularly stood out to me — “Hang the DJ.” The episode explores the idea of online dating, particularly, platforms such as Tinder. The episode points to the idea that individuals will put themselves through a variety of pleasant and unpleasant interactions if they are certain that their “perfect match” is waiting on the other side. The idea that individuals will give up certain aspects of their lives for a certain guarantee. Like Tinder, we use the app and it can lead us to become a bit obsessed in the off chance that there is a suitable partner somewhere within the algorithm.
In “Hang the DJ,” the characters use an automatic system referred to as “Coach,” which promises that after a series of dates, a perfect match will be found. The dates are arranged for different time periods. Some dates will last 36 hours, while the next date could last up to a year. Each date is meant to reveal to the user more about what they want and need from their perfect match.
Main characters Frank and Amy go on their first date with the new system which is meant only to last 12 hours. As the episode continues, both characters move from partner to partner for a variety of times learning more and more about what they want. You see character Amy craving more than just a physical relationship, but something more meaningful. Toward the end, coincidentally Frank and Amy end up back together but decide to not see how long they have with one another. Frank, anxious to know how long he has with someone he truly cares about, secretly looks without consent from Amy. The System punishes him for that moment of dishonesty by cutting their time together down from five years to 20 minutes.
Long story short, Frank and Amy rebel against the system’s restriction to be together. Of course, it would not be a "Black Mirror" episode if it didn’t have a major plot twist — we find out that the two characters are really a part of a bigger app in which real Frank and Amy use to find each other.
The episode helps tell us a haunting story not only about online dating but love. With the “system” portrayed in the episode, there is no fear of rejection, because the app chooses for you. The characters also know how long the date will last, therefore knowing how much emotional energy to exert. In today’s culture, we submit ourselves to these platforms because we may be afraid of love.
Dating apps give us a certain control and power over the situation. The episode helps explore the idea that we as humans are very lonely because of these apps, therefore we are afraid to reach out for what we want. However, the episode ends on a happy note. The two main characters are brought together because of the algorithm and now are starting a journey together. So, what is the creator of the episode really trying to show and teach us? We may never know.