“White Christmas” is a loaded episode. The story begins on Christmas day with a conversation between two men, Matthew and Joe, who appear to be living in a run-down house in the middle of nowhere. There are many unknowns as to where the house is, what the men do there, and how they got stuck there. These mysteries are gradually uncovered as Matthew and Joe tell their bizarre and tragic tales. At first, this may be seen as two men confiding in each other, but things are not as they seem.
Joe’s story highlights a technology called “Z-Eyes” that everyone has implanted in their eyes. This type of technology is a common theme in other “Black Mirror” episodes like “Nosedive,” “Arkangel,” and “Men Against Fire”. “Z-Eyes” functions as a phone would; it gives people the power to take photos, communicate through instant messaging and calling, and block people — but in real life. The ‘block’ feature causes a lot of strife for Joe who was blocked and deserted by his girlfriend. Since he’s blocked, he cannot see or communicate with her in real life, nor can he message, call, or see images of her. What his girlfriend did is called “ghosting.” It’s not uncommon for an individual to cut ties with someone to run away from a problem, but technology has exacerbated this issue. Joe exemplifies the potential adverse effects ghosting has on people’s social, emotional, and mental health.
Matthew’s story focuses on software called “Cookie” that is used to power a smart home device. Imagine Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa that people use to control the temperature, lighting, and other amenities in a house. Cookies do just that, except they require a digital copy of the person to power it, much like the replicas in “USS Callister,” except they are not made from DNA, but rather code. Cookies are similar to internet cookies in the sense that they make a user’s daily life easier. The writers are calling attention to how websites and applications track users’ online activity and gather personal information to the point that they know them and can predict their thought processes. While this is an important observation, the writers fail to convey the moral of the story.
Joe is a complex person. He seems like an amiable fellow who cares about people. At the same time, he’s a reckless drunk, borderline alcoholic, and an aggressive and obsessive boyfriend. Joe exhibits anger management problems — yelling, shouting obscenities, throwing objects. His girlfriend is afraid of him, and rightfully so. However, when Joe’s listening to Matthew’s story about Cookies, he empathizes with the Cookie; he thinks enslaving a digital copy of a person is barbaric. When Matthew describes Joe as a good man, Joe refutes because he’s conscious of his wrongdoing and even admits to it. Matthew, on the other hand, refuses to admit to his crime nor does he feel remorse. He even lies about his involvement to Joe and tries to smooth talk the police because he believes he should walk free. Although he was in a situation similar to Joe’s, he doesn’t appear distraught. This demonstrates his lack of care for other people.
The majority of the episode consists of flashbacks, which is different from other “Black Mirror” episodes I’ve reviewed, but intriguing nonetheless. Although the stories that Matthew and Joe told were unrelated to each other, the episode flowed seamlessly, and the plot twist was absolutely genius. The ending tied everything together neatly, but I was disappointed by the police and their decision to punish Matthew and Joe without providing them the opportunities to right their wrongs, reform themselves, or participate in restorative justice. I remember I felt the same way about the ending of “Shut Up And Dance,” in which I had argued, it’s the “criminal justice system’s jurisdiction to determine his sentence,” but here I’m reminded that the police are corrupt and the justice system is flawed.
I loved this episode because it was filled with mystery and drama. The technologies were creative and interesting — I especially liked Matthew’s story about Cookies. I’d rewatch this episode for fun, but there are other episodes with more profound messages, such as “Nosedive” and “Men Against Fire.” After taking all of these factors into consideration, I rate “White Christmas” 4/5 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 “White Christmas”? Leave a comment below!
Cover Image: screencap of “White Christmas”