“Shut Up and Dance” is full of suspense — the kind that makes you feel sick to your stomach. The story follows the protagonist, Kenny, whose computer has been infected with malware that allows hackers to gain access to his webcam. The hackers capture him masturbating and threaten to leak the video to everyone in his contacts if he doesn’t obey their instructions. If you read my review on “The National Anthem,” you can expect that this isn’t your standard blackmail. The story unravels quickly from thereon as we watch as Kenny is manipulated by the hackers to perform bizarre and illegal activities.
The story serves as a reminder to be careful what you do on the internet. The first lesson we learn is don’t try to illegally stream or download movies. The second lesson is everything you do online can be traced back to you. If you do something immoral or illegal online, people can use technology to track down your IP address, invade your digital space, and acquire your personal information. Cyber attacks like hacking and phishing happen to thousands of people every day, and there have been many real-life accounts of webcam blackmail, which often lead to self-harm or suicide. As important as these lessons are, they don’t present any new information. Most children and youth learn about cyber safety in school.
Kenny comes across as a normal, socially awkward teenage boy who was down on his luck. This is what we’re led to believe right up until the last few minutes. I saw the emotional distress that he’s put in, and I sympathized with him and questioned what he did to deserve such a cruel and unusual punishment. When I was let in on his dark, perverted, and not to mention illegal, obsession and I immediately felt repulsed. We learn that Kenny is a coward who never admits to his wrongdoing, not even at the end.
My favorite thing about this episode is how elaborate the blackmail scheme was. I found it fascinating how the hackers cleverly orchestrated and strung together every minute detail. I also appreciate how the writers integrated other blackmail victims into the story by using them as checkpoints in Kenny’s mission because it made the episode more thrilling. It was interesting to watch Kenny’s interactions with them, well, except for the last guy. My least favorite thing about this episode is the final instruction that he was ordered to do. It was far too extreme, and while Kenny deserves to be incarcerated, it’s the criminal justice system’s jurisdiction to determine his sentence, not the hackers’.
Watching Kenny being tormented by the hacker for 50 minutes was anxiety-inducing and hardly tolerable, but the plot twist at the end of the episode really pushed me over the edge. It was so disturbing that I can’t bear to think about it, let alone watch it again. After taking all of these factors into consideration, I rate “Shut Up and Dance” 2/5 stars.
After reading this review, consider the following: is technology a problem in and of itself, or is it the people who design and use it, or is it both?
What do you think of “Shut Up and Dance”? Leave a comment below!
Cover Photo: screencap of “Shut Up and Dance”