Black Mirror, Netflix’s dystopian anthology, probes what it means to be human in a technological world. While the show raises interesting, if not disturbing, questions, it refrains from giving answers, putting the onus on viewers to continue the conversation. Accordingly, Theology and Black Mirror engages questions and prominent themes in the show with resources from the Christian tradition, including the academic disciplines of biblical studies, theology, philosophy, and ethics.
Amber Bowen is assistant professor of philosophy at Redeemer University (Hamilton, ON).
John Anthony Dunne is assistant professor of New Testament and the director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Bethel Seminary (St. Paul, MN).
More Than Meets the Eye: An Introduction to Theology and Black Mirror
Amber Bowen and John Anthony Dunne
Part 1. Agency and Conditioning
1.Ethics through a Dark Lens: Ellul’s Technological Morality in Black Mirror
2.Barbarism, Boredom, and the Question Concerning Pornography in Fifteen Million Merits
3.Free Will and (In)determinism in Hang the DJ
Taylor W. Cyr
4.Too Many Twos: Ashley and the Artificial Authentic
5.Smithereens as Technological Theodicy: Addiction, Emergence, and Resistance
John Anthony Dunne
Part 2. Idols and Anti-Christs
6.Arkangel and the Death of God: A Nietzschean Critique of Technology’s Soteriological Scheme
Amber Bowen and Megan Fritts
7.Seeing and Being Seen in a Black Mirror, Dimly: Phenomenology and the Dim View of White Christmas
King-Ho Leung and Patrick McGlinchey
8.Evil Gods and the USS Callister
Celina Durgin and Dru Johnson
Part 3. Truth and Justice
9.Crowdsourcing Judgment: The Dark Side of Justice in Hated in the Nation and the Johannine Trial Narrative
Andrew J. Byers
10.Re-Dos and Re-Visions: Replay and the Search for Meaning in the Shepherd of Hermas and The Entire History of You
11.King David and the White Bear Justice Park
12.Alternate Eyes: Perspective Shifting in the Samson Narrative and Black Mirror
Brandon M. Hurlbert
13.“Not Some Crazy Spiritual Thing”: Rewards, Punishment, and Afterlife in Black Mirror
James F. McGrath
Part 4. Hope and Transcendence
14.Be Right Back and the Ethics of Mourning: (In)Authenticity and Resurrection in the Digital Age
Rebekah Lamb and Joanna Leidenhag
15.Reflecting the Infinite or the Finite? The Mirror Motif in Black Mirror and Gregory of Nyssa
16.Memoria and The Entire History of You
Nathaniel A. Warne
17.Look Door, Get Key: Presence in Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch
18.Where are You? San Junipero and the Technology of Shared Space
19.Uploaded to the Cloud: Transhumanism and Digital Hope in Black Mirror
Theology and Black Mirror is a rich, rewarding, and provocative look at this cultural phenomenon that sheds new light on its familiar themes of future technology gone wrong. Moving beyond simplistic dystopian readings of the show, the book uncovers a deeper texture to Black Mirror’s challenges to the understanding of human nature, meaning, finitude, and transcendence embedded in theology and moral philosophy. This book helpfully reminds us that Black Mirror’s reflected anxieties about the powers and limitations of technology are inseparable from our enduring anxieties about our own.
By focusing on Black Mirror as a case study in the human condition, this striking volume offers profound theological reflection on what it means to find the courage to live in a technological age (especially when life so often seems unlivable). This is more than a book—it is an invitation. I pray that we all are up to the task of living into the possible future it envisions, while finding the fortitude to avoid the alternative future about which it warns.
Charlie Brooker’s series Black Mirror is not the most popular show on television, but it may be the most impactful. In an era of mindless “binge” streaming, Black Mirror has managed to carve out a niche as a provocative, often gloomy exploration of the repercussions of twenty-first century technology. As such, Black Mirror has already generated notable philosophical interest, but theologians have been slower to respond, seemingly put off by the series’ pessimism and violence. Theology and Black Mirror features well over a dozen essays ranging across a number of topics, demonstrating a dogged willingness to peer into the darkness of Black Mirror and seek genuine theological insight.
Theology and Black Mirror goes beyond theological explorations of popular culture and sharpens conversations surrounding intersections of religion and taboo. The authors unflinchingly tackle mainstream representations of free will, addiction, pornography, and death through a variety of philosophical lenses. Challenging presumptions of morality in a digital world, the essays reflect on the humanity that is perceived lost yet inherently gained through encounters with anathematic evils; this book identifies those stories as essential tools for examining the intrinsic nature of theology to culture and acknowledges modern technology as both manifesting, and a manifestation of, the ethical underpinnings of human behavior.