Black Mirror: Hang the DJ
December 29, 2017 8:16 AM - Season 4, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Paired up by a dating program that puts an expiration date on all relationships, Frank and Amy soon begin to question the system's logic.
posted by fearfulsymmetry (49 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
That was strangely optimistic for a Black Mirror episode. I enjoyed it.
posted by Superplin at 5:43 PM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Huh. I thought it was horrific. Despair and death a thousand times over, all for the sake of someone who doesn't care about you because you're just software.
posted by Mogur at 6:26 PM on December 29, 2017 [10 favorites]


It's like the same tech / same idea being used in several episodes this season. Reminds me of the toxic idea that in the future advanced AI may create sentient digital copies of anyone from the past (and of course, people would think, torture them, a modern hell). An ideal horror conceit, total helplessness forever. Reminds me of some sci-fi in cyberspace book series I didn't finish, Otherland, and the anime Kaiba which also had consciousness transfer and someone's mind being put into a stuffed animal. Very much unlike the episode with the Boston Dynamics like dogs, which I can totally see happening, I find these tropes too sci-fi somehow and like the "5 minutes into the future" ones like Nosedive better.
posted by yoHighness at 2:25 AM on December 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


Not a whole lot to this episode, really.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:57 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm with grumpybear69 - not a whole lot to this one, which was a shame, because there are interesting elements and ideas at play here but none of them are really explored. If this is the "happy ending" episode of this season (cf. San Junipero last season), this was rather dull.
posted by crossoverman at 7:06 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised by some of the negative reactions...I thought the episode was absolutely brilliant. The principals within the simulation have no recollection of life prior to its beginning, so to me, this isn't at all on the same ethically-bereft level as Daley's personality/soul-transference (or whatever it was) on the first episode. Rather, this is a clever exploration of what the OKC/Tinder dating culture could be X years from now. Why not upload your entire personality to find your perfect match rather than relying on a hit based on the fact that you like dogs and traveling and Game of Thrones? For 95% of the episode, we think it's all about people toiling needlessly... but the last bit shows us that it was all just a computer crunching 1s and 0s to save the real life people from wallowing in the well-trod sewers of the traditional app dating realm. I can't really imagine a more positive and hopeful future than what Booker and co. offered here.
posted by jason and the garlic knots at 8:20 PM on December 30, 2017 [22 favorites]


I liked it too. It was clever, the couple was charming, and the pay-off with what the 99.8% really meant made me smile.
posted by haruspicina at 1:30 PM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]


So weird. I disliked Crocodile and really enjoyed this ep. I thought this fit in really well with the Black Mirror World-torturing alternate versions of yourself for your own convenience.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:32 PM on December 31, 2017 [6 favorites]


Also I really got emotionally engaged with the couple. I WANTED them to be happy together.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:33 PM on December 31, 2017 [16 favorites]


For me the part of this I really liked was the metaphorical elements, the mirror it held up to dating culture, the highlighting of how not knowing your future can make the present utterly sweet. And the twist killed most of the power of all that, made it feel cheap.
posted by joeyh at 7:35 PM on December 31, 2017


Welp, I pretty much sobbed my way through this one and thus lack any sort of coherent sophisticated breakdown. Frank + Amy = 4EVA.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:38 PM on December 31, 2017 [8 favorites]


We are so accustomed now to the idea of running simulations—of elections or animal populations or whatever—I think it was awesome to imagine it from the point of view of being inside the simulation. I also like the idea of true love breaking the universe.
posted by snofoam at 10:10 PM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]


Also: sip, aaahhhhhh.
posted by snofoam at 10:25 PM on December 31, 2017 [14 favorites]


I like how there's a horrific and a romantic reading of this episode and it seems balanced on the knife edge betwen the two. On the one hand, pretty fucked that all these simulated people have to suffer for 2 people to be happy! On the other hand, they're pretty cute together.

Also neat how the rebellion was built into the system -- reminded me of 15 Million Merits in this way. (Charlie Brooker is starting to repeat himself, but not necessarily in a way I mind. Yet.)
posted by speicus at 2:05 AM on January 1 [5 favorites]


I think the horror/happy conclusion depends on if the simulations are sentient or not... I could see arguments either way.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:19 AM on January 1


I think it is pretty romantic that they set such a high bar for compatibility. I feel like most systems would be designed to consider several months of being pretty happy a successful simulation.
posted by snofoam at 8:28 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I guess the negative/horrific flipside if that is that they can set the bar so high because the Frank and Amy that we saw aren't people so much as tools for assessing compatibility for the "real" Frank and Amy. That's how they were able to run the program 1000 times. At least in this instance their "consciousness" was turned off (destroyed?) once the objective was achieved. I got warm fuzzies watching this episode but having seen the entire season I'm finding it more troubling in retrospect.
posted by TheLateGreatAbrahamLincoln at 8:41 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]


I think the moral is more simply that in this new year we should all resolve to be thankful, respectful, and appreciative of the sacrifices our software agents make for us.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 9:03 AM on January 1 [11 favorites]


First black mirror episode that I didn’t bother to finish
posted by growabrain at 8:53 PM on January 1


I liked this episode more when it was extrapolating weirdly upon online dating, and less when it was once again the story of digital avatars discovering they aren't real.
posted by ejs at 9:53 PM on January 1


In the thread for previous episode Crocodile haruspicina pointed out:
I have to admit, my most fascinated moments of "this is the very near future and we are living in it" were in regard to the decision to make the celebrated professional on a business trip and the insurance investigator both women, and to have their male partners be the primary childcare providers - right down to the little gendered details of how the drinking, porn, departures and even bathing were handled. There was an interesting self-awareness without heavy-handedness there, and I'd love to see more of it.
I thought this carried over a bit into this episode and I appreciated that Amy was the one who was doing all the stereotypically manly things, including but not limited to: talking loudly in public about the reduction of sex to the old in-and-out, reaching out to test the stun gun, first one up the ladder on the way out, etc.
posted by komara at 10:27 AM on January 2 [8 favorites]


Despair and death a thousand times over, all for the sake of someone who doesn't care about you because you're just software.

What despair? There is copious amounts of love. Yeah there's death, but all life has death. How much and what quality of life can justify the death it comes with?

This episode has a simple as hell concept, but I think it's an interesting counterpoint to simulated person torture porn in White Christmas, USS Callister, and Black Museum. The people in this are being spawned and killed incredibly frivolously, but on the other hand, 99.8% of them are finding True Love. How much life does that buy?

San Junipero has a similar sort of implied question going on just under the surface. Like, how much unhappiness is love worth? How foolish and doomed are we?
posted by fleacircus at 10:00 PM on January 2 [5 favorites]


I appreciated that Amy was the one who was doing all the stereotypically manly things, including but not limited to: talking loudly in public about the reduction of sex to the old in-and-out, reaching out to test the stun gun, first one up the ladder on the way out

I see that now but my first reaction was that we see Frank's thoughts. We see him talking to his coach, we get to hear how he's feeling about almost everything. But for Amy we just see her having sex, over and over again. We don't get to hear what's going on in her head, even though she's the one who solves the problem.
posted by LizBoBiz at 8:03 AM on January 3 [3 favorites]


At the time, the main thing that I noticed was Amy's sing-song "I'm gonna see your diiiick," which stuck out after reading haruspicina's earlier comment. (Everything else really does track too, and I think it's awfully clever both for them to do that and to call zero attention to it.)
posted by mordax at 1:47 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


At the time, the main thing that I noticed was Amy's sing-song "I'm gonna see your diiiick"

I actually thought that was kinda adorable.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:00 PM on January 3 [9 favorites]


Oh, me too. Amy and Frank 4-ever, too - sometimes a plot like this will just *tell* us two characters are meant to be together, but Hang the DJ deftly just showed how great they were as a couple.

It was just such a hilariously dudebro thing to say, and I did laugh.

(I'm really enjoying this season of Black Mirror, various plot holes and all.)
posted by mordax at 2:10 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


LizBoBiz: "We don't get to hear what's going on in her head, even though she's the one who solves the problem."

I don't think that's entirely true. We get to see her puzzling out the 'why does every stone only skip four times?' problem, and one of those scenes is her talking to her coach (which she then skips like a stone four times).

I mean, I hear you, and I'm not saying that Amy's interior monologue got equal billing with Frank's, but at least they gave us something to show that she was thinking and not just reacting.
posted by komara at 2:53 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


But hey maybe the episode was written that way intentionally, once again playing on our assumptions that the female character is the one with all the thoughts and feelings and drama whereas the male character just gets to make important incisive decisions after using logic.
posted by komara at 2:54 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


I got warm fuzzies watching this episode but having seen the entire season I'm finding it more troubling in retrospect.

Right there with you. Liked the episode, but then I started thinking about all the work that, in a world with digital consciousness, will be offloaded to those consciousnesses. Who needs a job? Just run a simulation with thousands of drones to do all work. Can't decide what to have for dinner? Run thousands of simulations to see which of your digital selves are happiest with which meal. The same idea works for basically any choice you could make. The idea of digital consciousness is terrifying enough; using them to decide which brand of toothpaste you should use is an existential nightmare.
posted by god hates math at 4:45 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


What happens when there are two people who are meant to be together but they're not observant or smart enough to work out that they're in a simulation? I mean, the stone-skipping was pretty astute.

I loved this episode though and I want to see a TV show with those actors because their chemistry is amazing.
posted by AFABulous at 6:24 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I think that's the goal of the simulation. Their compatibility seemed to be based on how many times out of 1000 that they decided to rebel together. For Amy and Frank, there's a 2 out of 1000 chance that they either don't work out that they're in a simulation, or they just never get observant enough.

Amy's speech lamenting the drudge of going through so many relationships and then the system tells you it's the one but you're just accepting that because you're so tired of looking is the realest thing a simulated computer program has ever said. I related to that so hard.
posted by numaner at 10:25 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Presumably the dating app checks you against multiple people in its database--there might be millions of users in it. How many other copies of Frank and Amy were matched up with copies of other users to find The One?
posted by EarBucket at 5:10 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


komara: I disagree on whether it was intentional, and if it was that it got the point it was trying to make across. In a normal movie, the dude is the interesting one who solves the problems and gets all the camera time regarding feelings and motivations. This time it's the chick who's the interesting one but still we're stuck with only really seeing the dude's perspective. Yes there were a couple of lines from Amy about the skipping rocks, but not much else besides her having alot of sex. (Which now makes me wonder, is she just the kind of person who would try to escape, no matter the partner?)

All of that aside, I totally give Black Mirror a pass on this since the rest of the season was so woman focused. The dudes can have one episode I guess.
posted by LizBoBiz at 5:45 AM on January 5


You have a good point about how in a normal movie the male hero protagonist gets both, and I think you're right that if this were a conscious full reversal Amy would have both.
posted by komara at 6:47 AM on January 5


If they're teaching the ethics of AI simulation (i.e. is turning off a conscious AI murder?), this is a pretty decent opening assignment for the class. I enjoyed it.
posted by Happy Dave at 11:23 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Aw I liked this episode! It seemed so sweet. I really wanted them to figure it out as a couple from the very beginning, totally engaged. Also liked the premise of having a sort of consequences-free tryout period, although clearly that can go awfully wrong.

I find it strange folks are trying to read these episodes clearly and see if they make sense as coherent worlds, with consistent plausible mechanics etc. I don't think Black Mirror is that kind of show.
posted by Nelson at 9:02 PM on January 5


I'd like to see an episode that explains how global warming was averted by harvesting 10% of the sun's total power output to run endless full-molecular simulations of human consciousness for A/B testing.
posted by benzenedream at 1:04 PM on January 7 [4 favorites]


It only seems fair that all the wiped digital personae should get a fresh start on a colony somewhere in the Infinity game from e1.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:35 PM on January 8 [1 favorite]


less when it was once again the story of digital avatars discovering they aren't real.

But...they didn't? They "thought" they were escaping when they were de-rezzed and thrown into the calculation pit for a sec before being processed. Only them at the end were real, who saw calculations for each other based on the 1000 or whatever relationship simulations the computer ran. I imagine all 1000 simulations run in like a second.

I see that now but my first reaction was that we see Frank's thoughts. We see him talking to his coach, we get to hear how he's feeling about almost everything. But for Amy we just see her having sex, over and over again.

I don't think this is meaningful. They each have different drives, different Tinder-swiping patterns, so to speak. That's why she gets paired with a bunch of meatheads and he spends a year with Dull N' Antagonistic. She's not neurotic like he is, he's the one always processing through the coach.

I'm not sure if they really spell out why they should be together, maybe that she's smart and attractive and he's capable of recognizing and supporting that? Projection on my part for sure, but it seemed like she was the stronger of the two, but the other dudes she was flung with didn't care about her mind. I liked the episode.
posted by rhizome at 7:07 PM on January 9 [3 favorites]


Absolutely awful.
posted by codacorolla at 10:23 PM on January 9


I think reading the reactions in this thread has been almost as enjoyable as the episode.

I think it's excellent that Brooker has continued to mine this digital personality copy concept. In previous episodes (SPOILERS!) they've been used to extract confessions, live after death on the cloud, provide truly personalised personal assistance, and used as pawns in a computer game. Then in this episode they've been used to simulate the likelihood of a romantic match. I love that rebellion against the system is expected and, in fact, is the factor giving the success/failure rate of a match. These copies never even had a chance.

1000 copies created and destroyed for matchmaking purposes. I love Brooker's trojan horse approach (reminiscent of San Junipero) of hiding the instantaneous creation and destruction of a slave race in an otherwise relatively innocuous romance narrative.

There was also some great moments like his betrayal in checking how long they had resulting in a shorter relationship timeframe. Also, her second partner misreading the handhold as a bootycall and then subsequent *aah.
posted by Start with Dessert at 2:05 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I really wanted to like the episode but I think what we ended up with was the most mundane version of this overarching scenario. The tension could have been ratcheted waaaaay up and the payoff much bigger. I wanted to see what kind of monsters these lovely people could turn into in the wrong relationships. I'm *positive* that Frank wasn't just patiently tolerating his year with Ms Miserable, but we didn't see any of that painful, relatable horror. Nor in Amy's mindless slog through back-to-back 36-hour party flings. I wanted that a lot less neat, because holy shit that could be a living NIGHTMARE. And it seems they were trying to show that it was, but weakly imho, as if it was just exhausting and mildly disappointing.

In short, it all could have been a lot more soul-crushing! From Black Mirror, I expect to feel the cringy, icky, sickly horror of unavoidably painful human interaction, mediated by tech. Not to the degree that the focus is on the tech but rather on the humans, in all of their fleshy sick-to-the-pit-of-the-stomach imperfections.

Did anybody think the addresses on the bungalows were the scenario numbers? I kept wondering the significance of them and then at the end I thought it *must* be that.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:17 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Did anybody think the addresses on the bungalows were the scenario numbers? I kept wondering the significance of them and then at the end I thought it *must* be that.

It's funny you mention that , because the first thing that came to mind when I saw the guys in black with tasers and then the automated golf carts was that this was an homage to The Prisoner. You know, that old British series where everyone had no name but a number. "I am not a number! I am a human being! *Maniacal laughter*"
posted by Start with Dessert at 4:22 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]


Just like with "San Junipero", I think my favourite part of this episode is precisely the ambiguity about whether the ending is happy or not.

Two people in the "real world" get to fall in love and enjoy a happy life together, so that's good! But also a thousand virtual copies -- which the series has painstakingly established as being fully conscious and equal to "real" human beings in terms of their ability to think and feel and experience emotions -- are created and then destroyed, which is pretty bad. But also the virtual copies aren't exactly being tortured, really, I mean their lives inside the simulation seem pretty much the same as most people's lives in the "real" world, except that there's also a chance (a 99.8% chance, in this case!) that they find True Love and get involved in this fantasy scenario of escape. Which is... Good? Bad? Neither? Both? All of the above?

I'm gonna go with "all of the above".
posted by tobascodagama at 11:23 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]


First black mirror episode that I didn’t bother to finish

This MetaFilter thread disolves into a bare wireframe. On Charlie Brooker's phone, a notification pings:
99.8% of simulated viewers finished watching this episode
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:38 AM on January 29 [17 favorites]


There was also some great moments like his betrayal in checking how long they had resulting in a shorter relationship timeframe.

I read this as the coach's calculations falling into the logic trap from the "unexpected hanging paradox". If it had stayed at 5 years, then at 4 years and 11 months he'd have started acting weird and she'd have found out he looked at the expiry and it would end early. So it recalibrates to 4 years 11 months. But then he'll start acting weird at 4 years 10 months, and she'd find out, and it would end early, so it recalibrates, and so on and so on.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:43 AM on January 29 [6 favorites]


An Unexpected Hang-the-DJ Paradox?
posted by glonous keming at 7:14 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]


I thought the expiration date calculation could have come from a nested set of simulations. I mean, why not?
posted by Pronoiac at 9:27 AM on March 26 [2 favorites]


first one up the ladder

I noticed that, and as someone with experience, the front is the safe position. If you fall buddy behind can still save you.

But of course to do that right, second guy should be directly behind, so front person is kind of cocooned.

So it was the correct and gentlemanly choice for the bigger / stronger to take this role... but he was not really much bigger or stronger than her anyways, and she was too far above him, so overall it is a wash.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:06 AM on April 18


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