“Black Mirror” continues to excel at limited world-building


SINCE the launch of “Black Mirror” in 2011, critics have lauded Charlie Brooker for his dark and thought-provoking stories. Stephen King called the anthology series “terrifying, funny, intelligent”. Jon Hamm was reportedly such a fan that he asked to appear (he got his wish, starring in season two). Indeed, a good episode of “Black Mirror” is an uncomfortable thought experiment. Most occur in the near future, and the show bills itself as “tapping into collective unease with the modern world”. Advanced technology sets the terms for each edition but, as with so much speculative fiction, it is a frame through which to study people and how they interact.

The conceits range widely. In season two, a grieving widow turns to an artificial version of her late husband, generated from records of his online behaviour: it weaves a story of loss and the difficulty of letting go when so much of the people we love is immortalised on social media. In season three, the ethics of internet abuse are brought into focus by a swarm of killer…Continue reading

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Redeeming Mary Magdalene

EVERY generation of artists has brought its own sensibilities and experiences to the depiction of canonical Christian stories. Giotto, an Italian painter, set Bible scenes in medieval Tuscany. Rembrandt gave his a hint of mercantile 17th-century Amsterdam. “Mary Magdalene” is similarly a retelling of some of the faith’s main events …

The mysterious reggaeton bangers of Mexico’s election

FOR evidence that modern democracy has lost its pep, look back to the age of cheery campaign jingles. The art form dominated elections from America to the Philippines after the second world war. Australian political parties used them well into the 1980s. It is tempting to believe that melodious campaigns …

The maddest March: at last, a 16-seed upsets a number one

THE line separating the improbable from the impossible is hard to pin down. The annual single-elimination tournament to crown the champion of North America’s National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in men’s basketball is known as “March Madness”, thanks to the steady diet of upsets it produces. Every year, a few …