Dystopic Black Mirror Episode Offers the Ultimate Grief Relief Product

Funeral Industry News Grief & Loss January 10, 2018
Justin Crowe

Justin Crowe is the Founder and CEO at Parting Stone offering families a complete alternative to cremated remains that can be touched and held - no more “ash.” He is passionate about empowering families in their grief through meaningful experiences. Justin is co-host of the Deathcare Decoded podcast available here.

Dystopic Black Mirror Episode Offers the Ultimate Grief Relief Product

The Black Mirror Netflix series is a brilliant bunch of stand-alone dramas that are reminiscent of the Twilight Zone series of the 1960’s. Each Black Mirror episode is centered around a radical future-vision of current 21st-century budding technologies. The cinematography is beautiful and each episode is wonderfully dark and dystopic. The show offers sharp warnings of the future presenting real technologies gone horribly wrong.

Black Mirror’s Season 2, Episode 1 titled “Be Right Back” is a compelling dive into the powerful emotions in grief paired with the stunning (not far fetched) technologies we are currently developing. The episode begins with a young couple in love, Martha (Hayley Atwell) and Ash (Domhnall Gleeson). Ash dies quickly in a undisclosed way leaving Martha grieving and alone. At the funeral, Martha’s sister tells her about a new service that analyzes the deceased’s social media profile for their speech patterns, sense of humor, and personality to develop a chatbot of the person.

The dead-person chat bot is actually very possible today, considering our current capabilities with chat-bot tech and machine learning.

The show follows Martha’s spiral into obsession with the chat bot of her deceased husband, a process which appears to parallel a fall into substance abuse addition. It becomes clear that the relationship with the chatbot has reached an unhealthy place when Martha accidentally drops her phone and breaks into tears repeating “I dropped you, I dropped you.”

In an attempt to become even closer to her deceased husband Martha orders a new product – a realistic bio-robotic replication of Ash that puts a body to his digital personality. The is might be the ultimate memorial product that strokes the desire for closeness to the deceased when in grief. The remainder of the episode follows Martha’s continuously evolving creepy, awkward, and tragic relationship with her real-doll dead love.

I can’t help but think about this idea of “the ultimate grief relief” memorial product. Twenty years ago it was weird to put cremated remains in jewelry or turn them into diamonds, but now it commonplace. What is the new product that is pushing the limits of closeness after loss? Is it the dildo urn or the coffee cups glazed with remains? And will this incremental acceptance of seemingly obscure grief relief have a “weird limit” or will it go as far as Martha’s chatbot and real doll? Black Mirror themes are timely warnings to approach progress with caution and consciousness. The death care industry is certainly not immune to the failures of careless technology adoption and in an industry historically bad at new adoption of any kind I think we need to be particularly careful. Im certainly not suggesting that we need to be luddites because that will almost certainly end in peril. We can’t stop progress, but conscious progression is essential.

I highly recommend the entire Black Mirror series available on Netflix, but a warning, the show is dark and addictive.