Warning: Contains plot spoilers for the Black Mirror episode ‘Hang the DJ’.
Dystopian drama Black Mirror normally leaves us cowering under the covers with its predictions for a tech-dominated future where our loved ones haunt us as digital ghosts and killer robots are programmed to attack people who have been condemned on social media.
But there’s one episode in the new season that’s got a much more positive outlook on the future. The source of this optimism? Believe it or not, it’s the often-treacherous world of online dating.
Hang the DJ is about two twenty-somethings called Frank and Amy. In their quest for love, they’ve signed up for a dating service called The System. It works via an AI-enabled palm device which pairs people with potential mates. The catch? You’ve got to stay with them for as long as the computer demands – anything from a few hours to several years.
This is bad news for Frank and Amy, who have totally fallen for each other but whose relationship is only given a short time span. The drama shows them being forced apart and re-matched with a long sequence of less compatible partners.
So far, this is just the sort of horrible creepy scenario that Black Mirror is famous for crafting.
But there’s a twist. Because it turns out Frank and Amy aren’t really trapped under an oppressive regime where love can only happen with government permission. They’re actually in a virtual dating game, and every time they rebel against The System and choose to escape with each other they increase their real-world compatibility.
In the final scene, we see Frank and Amy meeting in a dive bar in real life – they’re a 99.8% match according to the dating app on their phones, which means that they chose to be together in the simulation 998 times out of 1000.
Twitter users have been going wild for the unusually optimistic message of this Black Mirror story.
so i’m ready to fall in love again! 2018! i change my mind about single life! (i’m watching hang the dj)— xtina (@xtinatattoo) January 2, 2018
Some people are comparing the episode to last season’s fan favourite (and Emmy award-winning) San Junipero - a love story in which two old women “upload” themselves to a virtual simulation of a 1980s town so they can spend eternity together.
Although of course, not everyone agrees that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Back in September 2017, Stylist published an investigation into the burnout experienced by women dating online. As foster agency worker Yaa Osei-Asibey, 30, summarises: “I’ve been on Tinder for a while now and my general cycle is constant swiping, finally making a match, some good banter and eventually, a meet-up. They inevitably end up being an idiot so feeling crushed, I delete the app – then download it again a week later to start over.”
It’s no wonder everyone’s so excited to have an inspirational story for once – we just didn’t expect it to emerge from the Black Mirror universe.