Spoilers ahead from Black Mirror Season 5, "Striking Vipers."
Black Mirror Season 5 started with "Striking Vipers," starring two major comic book movie actors -- Marvel's Anthony Mackie, aka the new Captain America; and DC's Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, aka Aquaman's Black Manta. I thought it was the strongest episode of the (admittedly short and underwhelming) season, delving deep on issues of sexuality, gender, porn, and whether virtual reality sex should be considered cheating.
But people only seem to want to talk about 1) gay gamer jokes and 2) that polar bear line.
In Black Mirror Season 5's "Striking Vipers," Danny Parker (Anthony Mackie) and his old college friend Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) play the futuristic virtual reality fighting game "Striking Vipers." Danny and Karl end up having sex in the virtual reality as their favorite male and female players, respectively. Danny gets uncomfortable with the virtual sex, especially when it causes a divide in his relationship with his wife Theo (Nicole Beharie).
Karl tries to argue that they should continue, because it gives them both the best most "transcendent" sex of their lives. In his argument, Karl very earnestly whispers to Danny that he tried having sex with other virtual characters and it didn't work for him:
That "fucked a polar bear" line became a whole thing, because of course.
Charlie Brooker wrote "Striking Vipers," along with every other episode of Black Mirror Season 5. He and executive producer Annabel Jones addressed that viral quote during a talk with THR:
There was no further discussion of what Annabel Jones had seen a farmhand doing, and for that we should be grateful. Black Mirror always has easter eggs tying episodes together, and many viewers saw the polar bear line of "Striking Vipers" as a nod to the great Season 2 episode "White Bear," so it sounds like they took whatever the farmhand was doing and paired it with a white bear.
In the same THR interview, Charlie Brooker said the starting point for Black Mirror's "Striking Vipers" was two different ideas that collided -- one was a different take on romance, and another on fighting games.
Annabel Jones added that she thinks it's a great thing that it's not defined. That's what makes it so perplexing for the characters of Danny and Karl, who both seemed to see themselves as straight.
Yes, we even see Danny and Karl awkwardly try to explore if their connection works in the real world or not, and the answer became "not." Ultimately, "Striking Vipers" ends with a compromise that works for Danny and his wife Theo, with both spouses getting to enjoy some sexual escape role playing while retaining the rest of their marriage.
Black Mirror is currently streaming now on Netflix, complete with more ambiguous endings and easter eggs. Stay tuned to see if Netflix will renew the series for Season 6. It does sound like there's more story to tell.
Gina grew up in Massachusetts and California in her own version of The Parent Trap. She went to three different middle schools, four high schools, and three universities -- including half a year in Perth, Western Australia. She currently lives in a small town in Maine, the kind Stephen King regularly sets terrible things in, so this may be the last you hear from her.
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