“Shut Up and Dance” — the third episode of the season three of Black Mirror — definitely teach its viewers two lessons: (1) it’s probably a good idea to tape up your computer’s camera, and (2) don’t download every type of software available to you on the internet.
Kenny, the main character of this episode, would have benefitted from learning these lessons and plenty other ones. When we first meet him, Kenny is seemingly timid and eager; he’s a teenager working at Barnie’s (a UK-styled McDonalds knockoff) who’s very protective of his electronics. When his sister causes his computer to freeze up, Kenny downloads a malware program onto the computer to fix it.
What happens next destroys the notions that Kenny is innocent. After pleasuring himself while the front of his laptop was open, he receives a message from an anonymous sender, exclaiming that they know what he did. They also attached a video to the email message of what Kenny had just done. The anonymous sender provides Kenny with instructions: to send them his phone number, to leave his phone on and charged, and to turn his location on. What Kenny fails to realize is that he’s about to enter a dangerous game.
The Gamemakers, as they will be called from now on in the recap, activate Kenny while at work, forcing him to leave to go a quick excursion across town. When Kenny gets to the next location, he receives a cake box from a Black motorist, who seems to know about what Kenny has been dealing with in the conversation with the anonymous sender. The Black motorist, whose name we don’t learn, tells Kenny to keep playing the Gamemakers’ game until they tell him that he’s out of the game.
Kenny leaves with the cake box to a hotel room where he has to deliver the box to a man there. Kenny pleads with the man, whose name is Hector, to open the door so he can deliver this cake and leave. Kenny informs the Gamemakers that Hector doesn’t want to open the door, so they tell Hector that it is from Mindy, Hector’s mistress. Hector lets him in and Kenny frantically tells Hector about the game. He also shows him all the text messages he has been sent by the Gamemakers. Because Kenny has gotten Hector involved, Hector is now a player in the game.
The Gamemakers now want both Kenny and Hector to go to a new location with the cake box. Hector drives the car left by the Gamemakers for them to find and he tells Kenny about the secrets they have on him. He was at the hotel to meet Mindy for a night on the town; he has also sent her sexual pictures after they met on a dating website. The Gamemakers warned Hector if he doesn’t help Kenny, everything about him and Mindy will be sent to his wife, ultimately destroying his relationship with both her and their kids. Kenny tells Hector that they saw him pleasuring himself through his computer camera. After filling up the gas tank of the car, Hector runs into an old friend, Karen, who asks him for a ride to the train station. Karen asks Hector about his wife, and Hector quickly tells her that they are doing fine. They quickly drop Karen off to her destination and hurry to the next location for the game, a bank.
The Gamemakers sent them both a text to dig into the cake in the cakebox. Hector found a gun, a cap, and some ugly yellow sunglasses. Hector and Kenny had to choose who would be the robber and who would be the getaway driver. Kenny robs the bank and then drives away with Hector to a new location where they would receive their final instructions from the Gamemakers.
Hector and Kenny travel to the woods, and this is the last time they will see each other. Hector is told to destroy the car, and Kenny is to travel into the woods with the money. There, Kenny meets an older guy with a drone with a camera attached in a large box. The drone was for the Gamemakers to watch them both fight over the “prize money.”
We discover the other guy and Kenny have a secret in common: They both pleasured themselves at pornographic images of children while the Gamemakers caught them in the act. Now they would fight each other for the money and the right to leave this terrifying game. If they didn’t fight, everything on them both would be released to their contacts. Although the other guy is more physically dominant than Kenny, Kenny wins the fight, leaving the woods bruised and bloodied. Hector receives a final text message from the Gamemakers, a picture of a cartoonishly distorted face, as he enters his home to see his kids. But the damage is done as the Gamemakers sent Hector’s wife all of the details of his affair. Kenny’s mother was sent details about what Kenny did and he was met by police as he tried to leave the woods.
Given the recent hacking scandals of the past two years, this digital ultimatum game could become a reality. Hackers have enough technology and resources right now to invade our computers and other devices to receive any information they need to get on their victims. They could do something like this, just to receive compensation from their victims. They could also be sadistic like the hackers in the episode. The hackers could’ve exposed Kenny when they first received his information, but they played with him like a plaything, which might be why the episode is called “Shut Up and Dance.”
Due to the hackers being anonymous, they became extra powerful in their pursuits against people they chose to participate in their game. Kenny and the others had no idea who had this type of information, so they could go along with whatever the Gamemakers said to clear their debt. This episode really proves that your internet etiquette needs to be decent because you never know who is watching or listening. [Note: I do not condone any of the behaviors the people did in this episode.]
Jasmine E. Crenshaw is a young public health professional, a writer, and the media curator of the online space, Curated in Color. In her downtime, you can find her cooking, eating lots of Ben and Jerry’s at home, and crying at videos of baby animals. You can follow her at twitter.com/JECrenshaw.