Black Mirror: Snatching us from the jaws of fate?

Fate or free will. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch has attacked the oldest question in the world with the newest movie medium in the world. As if they weren’t fucking cutting edge enough. Spoiler alerts head FYI.

Bandersnatch is a movie that is designed in the same way as a choose your own adventure book . The novelty of the experience doesn’t exactly outweigh the mediocre story line but the concept is fascinating. As you go through the movie you make choices that direct the story. It starts innocuously enough: what tape should the main character listen to? The importance of the choices gets bigger and bigger until you’re deciding the story arc. As I faced dilemma after dilemma (made all the more stressful by a countdown), I wondered every time about the opportunity cost, about what might have been.

And then I realized something. It made no fucking difference. No matter what I chose, the writers had decreed that the story was going to finish a certain way. Sure, there might be details that were somewhat altered but in the grand scheme of things they made very little difference. Bandersnatch was short changing me in the freedom department but probably compensating in the truth department.

Rewind 3 years and I was having a conversation with a friend of mine. Unhappy with life and choices I mused (yes mused, sue me) that when it came to big things in life, we have no control. We choose what to eat, what TV show to watch, scotch vs beer, but when it comes to large, significant choices maybe we don’t really have as much choice as we think. Maybe there aren’t three crones spinning the threads of life, but instead couldn’t it be that, like a string of dominos, the big things in life follow one another? Our choices are based on personalities that are formed when we’re young (personalites we can’t escape) combined with the gentle nudging of Ok Google and the insufferable Siri. We have a lot of choice but maybe not a lot of agency.

I’m not sure any of this is the point Bandersnatch was trying to make but if it wasn’t, it’s a pretty mediocre movie. The story is sub par, and the acting is very 1990s low budget British drama. The soundtrack is pretty good though.

At the very least, it gets people thinking about how much their choices matter and where we lie on the spectrum between fate and free will. Choose wisely. Or don’t, it probably doesn’t matter.

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