Critical Review of Netflix Hit Black Mirror Episode-White Bear: We are Complicit
Emily Phoen

By: Emily Phoen






Participating, watching, or feeling a sense of entertainment when watching horror makes us complicit. For example, the people that recorded the woman who believed that her life was in danger are just as dangerous as she was when she watched her boyfriend burn the child in the woods. They believed that it was okay because they were doing to her what she did to the girl. But it is not okay. Do they not realize that they are partaking in the same action that they are punishing her for? We want to all believe that we are good samaritans because we, for the most part, follow the law. But the truth is that it is harder for us to be good than for us to be bad because we are just terrible people. When go out of our way to be kind, to follow the law, it is not natural for us. It is natural for us to want to take what we want, when we want to, for us to feel good when drinking underage or otherwise getting away with breaking the law, and to take enjoyment in watching chaos. The real monsters are those recording her terror, the people who constructed the park, the actors, and anyone else taking pleasure in her pain. She is also a monster. She kidnapped a child and watched her burn alone in the woods. Her boyfriend is also a monster. He convinced a woman to kidnap a little girl with him, murder her, and burn her in the woods with no chance of ever living a normal life. Her boyfriend then killed himself instead of taking responsibility for his actions and left her to take the punishment. Her punishment became harsher because the public wanted the party responsible for the child’s death to feel the wrath of all of their anger and because he was gone she was going to have to carry the weight for both of them.


The show reveals that punishment does nothing to improve society. It makes us all complicit. We are made to believe that all convicted criminals are hardcore and deserve to be punished by fellow inmates away from our families. We have no sympathy for people that commit crimes because we try our hardest to not get caught breaking the law. We believe we live honest lives because we pay taxes, go to work/school, and “work hard” for the lives that we want while criminals just willy-nilly do what they want at will. We don’t think about their circumstances. Many criminals have been deprived of the many privileges that we take advantage of. The support system a parent, friend, or family. Having food available. Being in a home with electricity and running water. What is the point of becoming a sheep to the system that had failed them? They were not given the necessary recourses in life to be productive members of society and when they are caught committing a crime to survive they are punished and treated as animals. Yes, there are people that commit crimes and have no sense of remorse and should be punished, but for the people that show remorse and are ready to change their lives for the better should be given the chance to reform. As a public dependent on media, we are often swayed before finding out all of the information available. We railroad people and pressure investigators, mayors, and public figures into rushing cases that sell papers. And then our pride makes us unable to move away from a judgement made on someone. If we have already decided that someone is guilty then nothing will prove otherwise. And they must be punished. Trapped in a cage for 23 hours a day. Using around $50,000 a year in tax dollars. We have a choice. To rehabilitate or to punish. Create someone that will be productive to society or to create a worse criminal. Either way we pay for them to receive an education. What type of education depends on us. For generations we have decided to pay for their education on how to become worse criminals. When will the change come where we decide to give them an education worth a job? We have allowed ourselves to normalize violence. We all know that people can be killed in prison, raped, and made into slaves. Yet we think that it is okay for that to happen because they have been convicted of some crime. We don’t want our children or families to be assaulted, but as long as they have been imprisoned (even if they are innocent and awaiting a trial) it is okay, right? No. We have become complicit because it no longer involves us. We basically subject them to being assaulted. The show shows us that punishment is so enjoyed by our public that it does not matter who is punished anymore. It could be someone in desperate need of mental health services, drug abuse prevention, or basic living necessities. We are so involved in ourselves that we believe that no one can understand our pain. That our pain is worse than anyone else’s pain. But that is not true. Many of us have someone that believed in us. Many of us have gone hungry, but food was eventually available. Many of us have been abused, but had counselling available. Many criminals did not have that. Their homes did not have heat, water, or electricity. Their parents may not have been involved or if they were taught them about drugs instead of how to read. Constantly they are subjected to punishment because of their social or economic standing. There are people that have it worse than we do. We just don’t want to admit it because we did not experience their pain. Our scale of pain goes only to what we have experienced. No matter what state our bodies or minds are in when we commit a crime we should take responsibility. That does not mean we should be subjected to rape, being murdered, or trapped in a cage all day. This means going to AA meetings, going through therapy, taking the steps needed to become a productive citizen. Not just going out of our way to follow the law, but to go above and beyond to follow the law and take preventative steps to never break the law and teach others to not break the law. Yes, what Victoria did was terrible, but that does not mean that she should continue to be punished to the brink of death day after day. She no longer remembers who she is or what she did. She can be taught to be a good person. Trained to be someone that follows the law, works a lawful job, pays the appropriate taxes, and lives a relatively normal life. I believe that our lust for punishment will always outweigh our desire for peace. We believe that the actions that people take define who they are. It does not matter what the circumstances were as long as they have been convicted or are waiting for a trial they must have done something to end up there and should take responsibility. Our pain outweighs our forgiveness. It is so much easier to hate when everyone tells us that it is okay than it is for us to forgive which is taught to us and supposedly awarded by someone in heaven or whatever people believe in. People are tangible, God or whatever heavenly overlord we believe in is not. We don’t think about people once they are accused. We rush to judgement and want someone to cause them pain. We are terrible people. We love watching people fight, criminals being attacked, or just generally having a worse day than we are. It is just as the saying goes “it is like a car accident, you don’t want to look, but you cannot or do not want to look away.” We all have urges to watch someone be hurt. And we take these urges out on people in the system because they have done or are just accused of having done something bad. We feed off of the adrenaline we feel of people being in danger. Because it is not happening to us (anymore if we are the victim) the adrenaline is like a drug. Watching something bad heightens our emotions and senses and makes us feel alive all without being in any real danger. Peace is boring. We live for drama, to be able to complain, to feel the power of having someone else’s lives in our hands. That is what it is. If we rehabilitate people we cannot control them. We do not feel secure. But if we punish them we can take away their rights.

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