In the much-awaited Season 6 of the anthology series Black Mirror, Episode 1 titled “Joan is Awful” has made its debut on Netflix after a long four-year hiatus. This season, like its predecessors, is filled with unpredictable twists, turns, and supernatural occurrences, creating an atmosphere of uncertainty where anything can happen at any moment, leaving viewers enthralled.
Unraveling the Plot
The first episode of Season 6 revolves around Joan, a manager at a media company, leading what seems to be an ordinary life. She has a boyfriend named Krish, manages the unpleasant task of letting her co-workers go, and grapples with lingering feelings for her ex-boyfriend, Mac.
After reuniting with Mac and sharing an intimate moment with him, Joan returns home to Krish, where they have a bland dinner together and settle down on the couch to watch a show on Streamberry, this universe’s equivalent of Netflix. As they browse for something to watch, they come across a show titled “Joan is Awful,” starring Salma Hayek sporting Joan’s signature blonde streaks. To their bewilderment, the show seems to recreate the events of Joan’s day with astonishing accuracy.
A Life Played Out on Screen
As the show progresses, the couple, along with Joan’s assistant, her boyfriend Mac, and the co-worker she fired, become increasingly aware that the plot is a replica of Joan’s own life. Her firing of the co-worker, the kiss with Mac, and even her candid therapy session are all portrayed on the show. This revelation leaves Joan questioning the value of being the main character of a show that exposes her private life to millions of viewers.
The Web of Intrigue Unfolds
Joan’s life takes a devastating turn when Streamberry, the streaming platform airing “Joan is Awful,” leaks sensitive company information, leading to her termination from the job. Seeking justice, Joan consults a lawyer to sue Streamberry and Salma Hayek for libel. However, she learns that she has unknowingly agreed to terms and services that grant Streamberry the right to use her life and likeness for profit.
Moreover, her lawyer explains that Salma Hayek’s portrayal of her on the show is not a genuine representation but a deep fake created with Hayek’s image under contract with Streamberry. The platform collects data from Joan’s devices, perpetually listening to her conversations to construct a virtual version of her life.
A Desperate Bid for Freedom
Feeling trapped and seeking retribution, Joan resorts to an extreme plan to get Salma Hayek’s attention. She consumes copious amounts of burgers and laxatives, intending to create a spectacle at a nearby wedding that would be featured in the next episode of the show. The plan succeeds, as Hayek takes notice and decides to join forces with Joan to bring down Streamberry once and for all.
A Revelation Within a Revelation
Intriguingly, their quest leads them to Streamberry’s headquarters, where they discover that the platform plans to launch other shows using the same format, tailored to their 800 million users’ preferences for negative connotations. It is then revealed that the entire reality portrayed in “Joan is Awful” is merely a show within a show, and Joan is actually a TV star named Annie Murphy playing the character of Joan.
Escape to Reality
In a bold act, Murphy destroys the Streamberry server, abruptly ending the fictional world and catapulting everyone into the real world. Here, we finally meet the genuine Joan, a coffee shop worker whose life had been exploited for content. The episode concludes with Annie Murphy visiting the real Joan’s coffee shop, as both characters wear ankle monitors as punishment for their actions against Streamberry.
A Harrowing Glimpse into Public Scrutiny
“Joan is Awful” offers a chilling perspective on what it means to be thrust into the spotlight as the main character of a show for all to see. This phenomenon is reminiscent of Twitter’s tendency to designate a “main character of the week” and subject them to relentless scrutiny and criticism. Joan serves as yet another victim of the incessant content-driven culture that pervades our daily lives.
In conclusion, Black Mirror Season 6 Episode 1, “Joan is Awful,” presents a gripping narrative that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats. With its unexpected plot twists and thought-provoking themes, the episode delves into the perils of voyeurism, the blurred lines between reality and fiction, and the consequences of a society driven by an insatiable appetite for captivating content.