What Watching Black Mirror with My Boyfriend Taught Me About Love

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What Watching Black Mirror with My Boyfriend Taught Me About Love

Illustration: Akshita Monga/Arré

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here are few better ways to wake up to a New Year than snuggling in with your boyfriend to watch a brand new episode of Black Mirror after a night of partying in Amritsar, aka Punjab’s party capital (translation: a few drinks at the Bar at Hyatt against the backdrop of “Chittiyan Kalaiyan”, watching stick-thin Punjabi boys doing bhangra on the road.) Watching our favourite dystopian drama series on the failings in humanity is something of a dating ritual between us, and we never break it by cheating – although he did watch one minute of “USS Callister” without me, which is a gross transgression by all definitions!

Anyway, we settled in with “Hang the DJ”. As we watched Amy and Frank working The System, we wondered if they’d rebel. We also wondered what the two of us would’ve done in that situation. Halfway into the episode, my boyfriend would explode into occasional rants: “Why the heck did he have to check the expiration date!” “My God, that woman is insufferable! And so cold, for leaving that easily!”

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The scene I particularly love is the one where Amy stretches out her hand lying beside Lenny, and he doesn’t take it. I looked towards him for a response. There was none. I remember feeling a little let down.

When we had watched “The Entire History of You” earlier, I often found him scanning my face for reaction when Ffion did something out of line or suspicious. I caught him looking with the satisfaction of having unearthed some great knowledge about me when Ffion and her ex-sexcapade would talk to each other in the episode. I saw him form judgements about me based on how I reacted to those scenes, and for a while after, we had actual passive-aggressive arguments over how we’d find out “so much stuff” about each other if we had the Grain. “We wouldn’t last a day,” he had said. We went on for quite a bit, deciding which one of us was the husband who lost it, and which the wife who cheated. One instance, he told me in the middle of an argument: “You know, you will never get the Grain that couple had. Because I’ll see everything, and you’d not have a chance to explain because it’ll all be time-stamped and tamper-proof.”

I definitely had to catch a breath after hearing that.

Black Mirror

As we watched Amy and Frank working The System, we wondered if they’d rebel. We also wondered what the two of us would’ve done in that situation.

Image credit: Netflix

The thing about watching a great series that reflects our time, is that it sometimes reflects us too. Too clearly. A married friend recently watched an episode of Easy with her husband. The episode was about a couple in a long-term marriage that decides to select a third person together to invite into their bedroom. The third person turns out to be a friend of his wife’s and things in the bedroom go into interesting places. She told me how she could see the idea of this threesome entering her husband’s head. She could see him evaluating her friends.

So I can understand my boyfriend thinking about us when he watches “The Entire History of You”. We have a long-distance relationship and he’s in the army. During a good spell, we see each other every couple of months. At our worst, after half a year. We’ve seen our relationship through many transitions – us moving cities, me graduating, getting a job, and all this interspersed with intermittent break ups. The result is a lot of catching up to do. Wouldn’t it be handy to have a Grain? Or a Recaller?  

Trust, I’ve come to realise, isn’t an eternal spring of confidence in your partner.

We are at an interesting point in the world of entertainment. Thanks to the internet, the stories we are telling push the boundaries, reflect uncomfortable realities, and no longer cater to the masses. There is an individual relationship borne between us and what we’re watching and it forces us to look at new viewpoints and ask tough questions. We are allowing ourselves to go into places that we would not have without this a impetus. I actually wondered if watching this stuff together was creating a real trust deficit between the two of us, because there’s honestly just too much relating with Ffion and Amy and Frank. They are us and we are them in so many ways.

But trust, I’ve come to realise, isn’t an eternal spring of confidence in your partner. It is learning to win over this sense of wonder that they’re upto fishy things when you’re not looking. Know how you’d rather not sign into your SO’s Facebook account for fear of what you might see, even though they give you their password as a gesture establishing trust (Tactic only useful up until 17 years of age)? It’s a little like that, except somewhere along the line you grow up and realise your suspicions are more about your insecurities than your partner’s activities.

So, when I saw he was as moved by the episode as I was, I figured I’d treat the memory implant like I’d treat his Facebook password. I’d rather not have it. So wouldn’t he.

The thing about putting yourself and your relationship through the grind like this is that you could come out on the other side either broken up or then stronger than ever.  I think we’ve come through scepticism, lack of faith and potential mistrust, to some weird sense of comfort with “Hang the DJ”.  Amy and Frank eventually do rebel against The System. I remember squeezing my boyfriend’s hand a little more tightly when they come into the real world together now, as each other’s ultimate. And I remember him squeezing my hand back.

That’s all, I thought. Hang the DJ now, for all I care. I have my perfect match with me, right here. 

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