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Black Mirror: What Happened to Abigail in 15 Million Merits?

May 30, 2023May 30, 2023

With Season 6 of Black Mirror just around the corner, let's analyze the "choice" Abi made in Season 1's "Fifteen Million Merits."

Black Mirror is known for its futuristic, dystopian worldview in a majority of its episodes. The main plot for Season 1, Episode 2, "Fifteen Million Merits," is that characters are expected to ride mobile cycles as a workout every day in order to obtain merits. Merits are the characters' main source of income, and they receive merits the more they work out. Characters can then use merits for certain luxuries, such as new accessories or subscribing to a certain channel. Or merits can be used for necessities, such as brushing their teeth or eating a meal.

The main protagonist, Bing, meets a woman named Abi who moves onto his floor. He hears her singing one day and suggests she try out for Hot Shot, a twisted version of UK's Pop Idol. Black Mirror's universe is populated by horrific "games," as seen in the shocking Season 2 episode, "White Bear." Bing then purchases a ticket for her, costing him all of his 15 million merits, and she is able to audition. Abi sings for the judges and the audience and is met with applause and positive feedback. However, the judges suggest that even though she's "alright" in singing, she would be a star in pornography. After being praised for her body and told how much attention she'll receive becoming a porn star, Abi reluctantly agrees and is followed by a roar of approval from the audience.

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Prior to performing, Abi is told by one of the stage managers that she must take a sip of "Cuppliance," a juice that was made to help performers with any stage anxiety and reduce nerves prior to their act. After drinking some, Abi notices that she begins feeling a bit off, telling Bing "everything's a bit wider apart." The cinematography as well as the audio becomes disoriented, hinting to the audience that this is the sensation that Abi was experiencing before walking on stage. Black Mirror has nodded toward futuristic technology and advancement similar to this in episodes such as "Playtest" and "Arkangel."

The name of the beverage Abi was required to drink prior to performing sounds a lot like the word "compliance." Abi had originally gone on to Hot Shot with the hopes of being recognized for her singing and "be as big as Selma one day," another woman who had started at the bottom as a cyclist and eventually became one of the most famous singers. But after her performance, the judges completely disregard her singing and begin praising her physical appearance, stating that she would be a better candidate for pornography than becoming another singer. Abi shows hesitancy but eventually complies and agrees to become a porn star, thinking that it would be the better option than getting back on the cycle.

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Cyclists are seen as one of the lower tier people, coming second to last to the maintenance staff, the larger people of this world who are not "fit enough" to ride the cycles. All that cyclists are expected to do is wake up, exercise, eat, sleep and then repeat. Black Mirror Season 2, Episode 4 "White Christmas" presented characters who were incarcerated that lived a very similar life: a life of repetitiveness and their lack of control over it. Prior to her appearance on Hot Shot, Abi was nearly invisible nobody who pedaled her days away.

After Abi finishes her performance, the positive comments regarding her singing are quickly brushed over as the judges begin making comments about her appearance. Some comments involve how the men wouldn't really pay attention to her singing because they'd be too focused on her looks, and that women will hate her every time she was on stage because everyone will just be gawking at her.

When Abi begins to voice that she didn't intend to become a porn star, one of the judges shushes her and says, "You will never have to pedal again, not one minute!" and turns to the audience and says, "She will be a star on our stream" (referring to the pornography channel). She continues to be met with the benefits of becoming a porn star, things like how she "will have pleasure forever" and she either chooses that lifestyle or the bike. With a sip of "Cuppliance" and an offer of fame and "independence," Abi swapped her singing dreams for one of adult entertainment. While not the choice or life she imagined, Abi is no longer simply a cog in the machine.

Black Mirror Season 6 premieres June 15 on Netflix.

Zoë Searle is a recent graduate from Hope College where received her Bachelor's of Arts in Communications with a double minor in Psychology and Writing. During her junior year, Zoë received a position as a digital editorial intern for Modern Luxury, where she wrote a lot about pop culture regarding celebrity fashion releases, the latest NFT updates, and different parenting techniques that have become very popular on social media.