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Tommy Carcetti

Tommy Carcetti's Journal
Tommy Carcetti's Journal
November 12, 2021

Our Waldo Moment (1 of 2)

These past couple of weeks, I've been watching the television series Black Mirror for the first time. So far I've made it through the first three seasons.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show's concept (as I was, until recently), Black Mirror is an anthology-styled show, with each episode essentially serving as a mini-movie.

There's a strong science fiction element to the show, with the overall theme centering on the human condition balanced against new advancements in technology. Episodes take place from anywhere from present day through certain unspecified times in the future.

And they are--on the whole--dystopic and rather emotionally taxing to watch. (Which is why I limited myself to one episode a day.) With one notable exception ("San Junipero," which is uncharacteristically sweet and heartfelt), episodes range from resembling unsettling fever dreams to, in at least one case for "White Bear," outright horrific nightmares. (Seriously though, "White Bear" has to be perhaps the most abjectly terrifying single hour of television I've ever seen, on multiple different levels.)

Of course, the benefit of binging a series that's already been around for a few years is that--so long as you can avoid spoilers--you can get a feel for the reception of the episodes. And as I moved through the series and read various fan comments, there seemed to be a certain consensus on which episode most fans considered to be the weakest of the offerings.

It was the 2013 episode "The Waldo Moment" from the second season.

With this sort of anti-hype preceding it, I naturally approached "The Waldo Moment" with rather low expectations. And honestly, I was rather glad to do so; "The Waldo Moment" immediately follows "White Bear," and after suffering low level PTSD from that episode, I figured it would be a moment of relative levity in comparison.

However, ironically it was "The Waldo Moment" that ultimately unsettled me more than any other episode of Black Mirror.

The thing is, I can understand how by 2013 standards "The Waldo Moment" might be considered a disappointment. It didn't rely heavily on new technology like many of the other episodes did. And its characters, including its lead, aren't very sympathetic.

However, what made "The Waldo Moment" stand out was ultimately how prophetic it would be several years down the road.

The basis for the "The Waldo Moment" is this (Warning: some spoilers ahead for those who might bother to care)

"Waldo" is a cartoon bear (voiced by the episode's lead character) featured in a segment in a British comedy sketch show. His humor is rather basic and vulgar, typically lodged against politicians and other public figures. However, he's well-received and the show's producers consider giving Waldo a show of his own. And to build publicity for the new Waldo show, the producers come up with a rather unorthodox idea: Have Waldo enter the race for a local parliamentary election, where he could troll (via a video and sound truck) the candidates with his insults.

Initially, the main target of Waldo's insults is the stiff, humorless Tory candidate (the favorite in the race.) However, after the voice actor has a brief romantic fling with the underdog Labour candidate but then is subsequently rebuffed by her, Waldo turns his ire towards her as well.

Of course, at first nobody expects Waldo to win, but the public begins to be won over by Waldo's anti-political, anti-establishment and overall cynical and nihilistic take on politics and government. His "humor" is not actually funny, but rather simply a collection of dick and fart jokes shouted over the tops of the voices of the other candidates, essentially drowning out legitimate discussion and discourse.

Soon, a considerable public movement grows behind Waldo, who view the acerbic Waldo as a refreshing alternative to tired politics as usual. Eventually, even his voice actor grows disillusioned by his character and he starts telling the public not to vote for Waldo, but it's too late; the producers strip him of his voice and commandeer Waldo for themselves, whose instructions to the public grow concerningly more violent and destructive in nature. And while the dystopic nature of the show doesn't really reveal itself until the post-credits scene, the entire episode seems to revel in cynicism and crude anti-humor, and the public's willingness to buy into that type message.

(Continued below; got 403 error and couldn't post entire message in one post)

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