[S1E2] Fifteen Million Merits
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Overhearing Abi Khan (Jessica Brown Findlay) singing in the toilets, Bing convinces her to enter Hot Shot, a virtual talent show whose winners can live a life of luxury. He offers to buy her entry ticket, having inherited millions of merits from his deceased brother. The ticket costs more merits than he thought, 15 million, almost his entire savings, but he buys it. Bing goes with Abi to the audition and she gives him an origami penguin. Abi is made to drink a carton of "Cuppliance" before performing "Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand)" by Irma Thomas for the judges Wraith, Hope and Charity (Ashley Thomas, Rupert Everett and Julia Davis, respectively). The judges are unimpressed, but Wraith offers a place for Abi on his pornography channel WraithBabes. Despite Bing's protestations from backstage, Abi, succumbing to pressure from the audience and judges, accepts.
In other words, the system is set-up to coopt the participation of the "have-nots" by offering them an opportunity at advancement with enough "hard work."To be more specific, if any particular bicycler "saves" up "15 million merits" (a very sizeable amount) they can purchase a ticket to enter themselves (or someone else) into an ongoing American Idol-style television talent show (a lottery in a sense).
In the movie, the architect (an intelligent program who designed and maintains the design of the Matrix) explains to Neo (the protagonist) that the mythology of "The One" (a savior) has been used by The Matrix for thousands of years to co-opt all of the revolutionary impulses of humans (who are reduced to bodies/batteries outside of the Matrix much like Bing is generating energy in 15 million merits)..
15 million merits can clearly be read as a Marxist critique of Western notions of the American Dream (if you work hard enough in America, you can succeed). Obviously, what this episode calls into question is what we allow "success" to be defined as and what "success" the system generates or makes available to us (watch the Kardashians on the E channel if you need more insight into what I mean).
It's done something like that already with "Black Mirror," which is but one of many shows in a sea of glittering Netflix distractions. Witness how all 15 million merits can be earned in a simple montage in this episode.
"Fifteen Million Merits" is the second episode of series one of the British television anthology series Black Mirror. It was directed by Euros Lyn with a script written by Kanak Huq. All episodes of series one of Black Mirror became available on Netflix's instant streaming video service on December 4th, 2011. This episode takes place in an undisclosed setting wherein people inhabit small cells and must generate power via an exercise bike, through which they earn merits, which they can use to purchase meager amenities. Bing Madison falls for an amateur singer named Abi Khan and "gifts" her 15 million merits so she can compete in an entertainment competition streaming video series.
15 Million Merits is set in a dystopian society where most people have to ride exercise bikes to earn merits that people can then use to pay for things they need. The only way off the bicycle is to win the talent show called Hot Shot. The episode revolves around Bing (the great Daniel Kaluuya pre-Get Out fame) and Abi (Jessica Brown Findlay). Bing convinces Abi to go on a talent show and spends almost his entire life savings of 15 million merits to purchase an entry for her. Abi doesn't win and ends up on a porn site, which enrages Bing. He ends up seeing ads for the porn site that features Abi. Ben ends up going on Hot Shot and delivering an angry rant against the system they live in. He is offered his own television show and becomes an even bigger part of the system he ranted against. 59ce067264