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Joanna McIntyre is a Lecturer in Screen and Media Studies at the University of the Sunshine Coast. She is the author of the forthcoming book Transgender Celebrity (Routledge) and the co-editor of the forthcoming collection Gender and Australian Celebrity Culture (Routledge). She publishes work on queer and transgender representation, celebrity, film, television, and Australian culture, including in The European Journal of Cultural Studies (2017) and Outskirts (2015).
Email: [email protected]
Volume 39, Nov 2018
Charlie Brooker’s science fiction television series Black Mirror has engendered intense audience responses, from discomfort to abjection, since the popular series first aired in 2011. While the majority of this anthology series’ episodes grapple with disaster arising from the oppressive technology-driven social regimes, a notable exception is Season 3’s Emmy Award-winning episode ‘San Junipero’. This episode follows two distinct female protagonists who fall in love with each other while experiencing redemptive possibilities of future technologies – their romance is facilitated by a simulated reality destination for human consciousnesses called San Junipero, accessible only to the elderly and deceased. ‘San Junipero’ is transgressive in its depiction of a liberating technologised future unconstrained by patriarchal power structures. We argue here ‘San Junipero’ re-manifests the hopeful, egalitarian vision Donna Haraway explicated in her influential 1984 work ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, and that it does so via its hybridisation of codes and conventions of science fiction – traditionally a masculine genre – with those of melodrama – traditionally a ‘women’s genre’. The cutting edge ideas Haraway elucidated in ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ have since been developed within the discourse of cyberfeminism, which analyses illustrations of technologised feminist potentialities in the face of oppressive technologies, as well as critiquing the misogynistic frameworks that could/do underpin technologised social structures. Applying a cyberfeminist lens, we find Black Mirror explores the subjugating possibilities of future technologies – in its representations of what we term the ‘tech-symbolic’ – as well as, in ‘San Junipero’, the liberating power and potential of technology Haraway predicted. We contend ‘San Junipero’ offers a unique textual rupturing even within the context of its own series, as it evokes tropes of science fiction as well as melodrama to reconceptualise the masculinist nature of Black Mirror and the science fiction genre more broadly, giving light to a vision of a unified, queer technological future.