Femspec - Special Issue on Black Mirror
Femspec special issue: A Feminist Black Mirror? Rethinking Gender and/or Sexuality in the Digital Age through Charlie Brooker’s Dystopia
Call for Contributions (critical essays and creative writing)
Editor: Miguel Sebastián-Martín (Universidad de Salamanca, Spain)
Black Mirror (Channel 4 and Netflix, 2011-present) is one of the last decade’s most iconic dystopias, a cultural phenomenon that has popularly become synonymous with the worst of the digital age. Even though it is an anthology show made of narratively independent episodes, the whole coheres around its thematic focus on digital technologies (see Duarte & Battin, McSweeney & Joy). Still, insofar as each episode gives voice to diverse users who interact with different technologies, the series does not offer a single metanarrative of injustice in the digital age, but rather a polyphony of critical narratives which make the political very personal. The show’s brand image makes clear that the black mirror refers to a fractured screen, and a fractured perspective is precisely what the series offers. Nonetheless, this prismatic polyphony is arguably one of the show’s strengths, potentially the narrative basis of an intersectional critique of the digital. But is this what Black Mirror really is?
So far, the majority of scholarly approaches to the series have primarily focused, on the one hand, upon the series’ reflexivity, in the sense that most episodes examine the digital medium through which the series itself circulates (see Conley & Burroughs, Duarte & Battin, Elnahla, Greer, Kim, McSweeney & Joy, Nee, Panka, Sebastián-Martín, Sorolla-Romero et al., Telotte). On the other hand, a number of studies have laid the emphasis upon the series’ rich transtextuality, examining how many of its episodes are rewritings of pre-existing narratives, mostly literary (see Artt, Egginton, Laraway, McKenna, Panka, Sebastián-Martín, Winkler & Huertas-Martín). However, questions of gender and sexuality have remained secondary except in a few cases (see Artt, Bailey, Greer, Modugno & Krijnen, Rocha & Rocha), even though both of the other main approaches could be expanded, amended and/or put into dialogue with an intersectional, feminist and/or queer perspective, especially given the long-standing association of feminism and rewritings, as well the enduring inequalities and the entrenched biases of the digital milieu.
Trying to address this significant gap in the series’ critical reception, this special issue of Femspec welcomes contributions which address questions of gender and/or sexuality which still demand an answer. To what extent does Black Mirror favour a feminist, queer and/or intersectional perspective on the digital age? How is the series’ representation of perspectives and characters of different genders and sexual orientations? How do the episodes relate with issues of gender (in)justice in digital environments? To what extent does the show live up to its potential as a critical dystopia?
To answer these questions, we welcome both critical and creative contributions, which should adhere to Femspec’s educational philosophy and to its Submission Guidelines. Contributions may pay attention to those aspects of Black Mirror that are centrally and ostensibly about gender and/or sexuality (e.g. examining on episodes such as “San Junipero,” “Black Museum,” “Arkangel,” “Striking Vipers,” or “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too”), but they can also focus on the gaps, omissions or misrepresentations that conform with and/or reinforce cisheteropatriarchal normativity. Regarding creative contributions, we encourage writers to submit feminist rewritings of any episode of Black Mirror, especially if they aim at deepening and/or amending the narratives (i.e. by changing endings, revising specific aspects, giving voice to “background” characters, etc.). With respect to critical contributions, we welcome essays that (a) engage in close analyses of specific episodes, that (b) reflect upon recurrent topics of the whole series, or that (c) examine the series’ own context of production.
Besides the above-mentioned questions, some possible topics for critical analysis and/or themes for creative writing can be found in the following list. In any case, these topics should be examined with a central emphasis on their intersection with questions of gender and/or sexuality:
- Algorithmic biases
- Artificial creatures, androids, robots and other Frankensteinian creatures
- Bodily modifications and transhuman corporeality
- Black Mirror and blackness
- Black Mirror’s production (writers, actors, producers, etc.)
- Digital control
- Digital domesticity and domotics
- Digital (gendered) labour
- Digital racialisation
- Femininities, masculinities, and/or non-binary gender expressions
- Intersectional perspectives and interpretations
- Memory and history
- Motherhood, fatherhood and parenthood
- New technologies in medical praxis
- Private and public spaces in the digital age
- Self and subjectivity in digital environments
- Sex work and sexploitation
- Sexuality and sexual orientations
- Spectators and users, passivity and interactivity
- Subversive and/or non-conforming practices
- The mediated gaze
- Virtual realities and cyberspaces
The deadline for submissions is January 1st, 2023.
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Bailey, Moya. “A Radical Reckoning: A Black Woman’s Racial Revenge in Black Mirror’s ‘Black Museum.’” Feminist Media Studies, vol. 21, no. 6, Routledge, 2021, pp. 891–904.
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Conley, Donovan, and Benjamin Burroughs. “Bandersnatched: Infrastructure and Acquiescence in Black Mirror.” Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 37, no. 2, Taylor & Francis, 2020, pp. 120–32.
---. “Black Mirror, Mediated Affect and the Political.” Culture, Theory and Critique, vol. 60, no. 2, Taylor & Francis, 2019, pp. 139–53.
Conway, Joe. “Currencies of Control: Black Mirror, In Time , and the Monetary Policies of Dystopia.” CR: The New Centennial Review, vol. 19, no. 1, 2019, pp. 229–53.
D’Aloia, Adriano. “Against Interactivity. Phenomenological Notes on Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” Series - International Journal of TV Serial Narratives, vol. 6, no. 2, 2020, pp. 21–31.
Duarte, German A., and Justin Michael Battin. Reading Black Mirror: Insights into Technology and the Post-Media Condition. Transcript Verlag, 2021.
Egginton, William. “Cervantes’s Black Mirror.” Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America, vol. 40, no. 2, 2020, pp. 175–90.
Elnahla, Nada. “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch and How Netflix Manipulates Us, the New Gods.” Consumption Markets and Culture, vol. 23, no. 5, 2020, pp. 506–11.
Gibson, Margaret, and Clarissa Carden. The Moral Uncanny in Black Mirror. Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.
Graae, Andreas. “Swarming Sensations: Robo-Bees and the Politics of the Swarm in Black Mirror.” Senses and Society, vol. 15, no. 3, Routledge, 2020, pp. 329–43.
Greer, Erin. “Wages for Face-Work: Black Mirror’s ‘Nosedive’ and Digital Reproductive Labor.” Camera Obscura, vol. 35, no. 3, 2020, pp. 88–115.
Kim, Jin. “Algorithmic Intimacy, Prosthetic Memory, and Gamification in Black Mirror.” Journal of Popular Film and Television, vol. 49, no. 2, 2021, pp. 109–18.
Laraway, David Phillip. Borges and Black Mirror. Palgrave Pivot, 2020.
Lawtoo, Nidesh. “Black Mirrors: Reflecting (on) Hypermimesis.” Philosophy Today, vol. 65, no. 3, 2021, pp. 523–47.
Maziarczyk, Grzegorz. “Transhumanist Dreams and/as Posthuman Nightmares in Black Mirror.” Roczniki Humanistyczne, vol. 66, no. 11S, 2018, pp. 125–36.
McKenna, Tony. “Behind the Black Mirror: The Limits of Orwellian Dystopia.” Critique (United Kingdom), vol. 47, no. 2, Taylor & Francis, 2019, pp. 365–76.
McSweeney, Terence, and Stuart Joy. Through the Black Mirror. Deconstructing the Side Effects of the Digital Age. Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.
Modugno, Chiara, and Tonny Krijnen. “Through the Black Mirror: Discourses on Gender and Technology in Popular Culture.” Catalan Journal of Communication & Cultural Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, 2020, pp. 3–19.
Nee, Rebecca C. “Wild, Stressful, or Stupid: Que Es Bandersnatch? Exploring User Outcomes of Netflix’s Interactive Black Mirror Episode.” Convergence, vol. 27, no. 5, 2021, pp. 1488–506.
Panka, Daniel. “Transparent Subjects: Digital Identity in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Charlie Brooker s “Be Right Back".” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 45, no. 2, 2018, pp. 308–24.
Rich, Leigh E. “‘Men Against Fire’: Black Mirror, Eugenics, and Othering Outside of War.” Film and Philosophy, vol. 23, 2019, pp. 68–94.
Rocha, Mona, and James Rocha. “The You They Love Patriarchal Feminism and Ashley Too.” Philosophical Reflections on Black Mirror, Bloomsbury Academic, 2022, pp. 184–99.
Sebastián-Martín, Miguel. “Don Quixote as Gamer? Theorising New Media Quixotism through Contemporary Science Fiction Television.” Science Fiction Film and Television, vol. 15, no. 2, 2022, pp. 193–217.
---. “Refabricating Individualism and Commodifying Anti-Capitalism: Melodramatic SF and VOD Spectatorship.” Science Fiction Studies, vol. 48, no. 2, 2021, pp. 332–53.
---. “The Beautification of Dystopias across Media: Aesthetic Ambivalence from We to Black Mirror.” Utopian Studies, vol. 32, no. 2, 2021, pp. 277–95.
Shaw, Dan, et al. Philosophical Reflections on Black Mirror. Bloomsbury Academic, 2022.
Sorolla-Romero, Teresa, et al. “Unreliable Narrators for Troubled Times: The Menacing ‘Digitalisation of Subjectivity’ in Black Mirror.” Quarterly Review of Film and Video, vol. 38, no. 2, 2020, pp. 147–69.
Telotte, J. P. “The Fractured Frames of Black Mirror.” Science Fiction Film and Television, vol. 14, no. 1, 2021, pp. 1–19.
Winckler, Reto, and Víctor Huertas-Martín. Television Series as Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, 2021.