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For this week’s edition of City Paper Arts Club, arts editor Kayla Randall and multimedia editor Will Warren watched “The Entire History of You”—the third episode of Black Mirror’s first season. It’s a truly horrifying look at what life could be like if we had the ability to watch and replay every single moment, so of course we ate it up. Next, we’ll be watching Moonlight, and we’ll definitely cry at its beauty.
These arts club chat excerpts have been edited and condensed for clarity. For the full chat, subscribe to Washington City Podcast.
Kayla Randall: This episode is about a near-future in which everyone has a memory implant right behind their ear called grains. What these grains do is allow people to “re-do”—which means to be able to see their entire lives, their past. Whatever happened in the morning, you could rewind it and see exactly what happened, sort of eliminating the faulty nature of the human memory.
Will Warren: And this one character is driven mad by what he perceives as an affair that his wife is having with another person. [He] becomes increasingly unhinged in his pursuit of the truth.
KR: This is one of my favorite episodes; it’s just so resonant in terms of the themes it portrays. Our main character is Liam, and honestly, he’s kind of a relatable guy.
WW: Yeah, he does some pretty barbarous things, but in the beginning, and obviously they know what they’re doing, they set him up as this guy you want to root for. His bosses beat down on him, he’s uncertain about his job future, he’s trying to stand up to corporate evil. You can see yourself in him, which, it turns out, is unfortunate because he does some bad stuff.
KR: Having a memory implant at first might be appealing, but then to be able to just replay your life over and over again like it’s a movie proves to be really toxic.
[Eventually one] whole night escalates into him rewatching all of his interactions, and rewatching the interactions that his wife has had with this guy. At a certain point, you’re kind of like, alright, Liam, let it go. But again, at the same time, as a human being, I could see myself easily doing the same thing—becoming obsessed. Personally, I always lament how garbage the human memory is. In fact, there’s a line in the episode: “Half of the organic memories you have are junk.”
WW: Is there a part of you that would be interested in getting a grain?
KR: A little tiny bit? I don’t know.
WW: We see the state and security apparatus using it. [The airport] scrolls through his timeline and is like “oh I guess you didn’t pack any bombs or talk to any shady people, so you’re good.”
KR: That’s really scary, that kind of police state where people are allowed to see your whole life.
WW: It’s interesting that the only person for whom the grain works is the state.
KR: Exactly, and if the state is the only institution benefiting from something, let’s re-evaluate it.
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