For some time now, patients talk more about series than movies. The ritual of going to the movies and then discussing impressions in the café was gradually replaced by the more intimate and sometimes much lonelier ceremony of devoting the entire weekend to zeroing in on a series. Betrayals and feuds arise when someone moves the chapters forward, goes straight to the last season, or spoiler, as the reader will have below about the series Black Mirror. For years my house has become a Sunday night meeting place with friends of my children vibrating the death and life of Jon Snow or Ramsey, in Game of Thrones. Before that came Thursdays with House and the nights of Law and Order. In Brazil, this phenomenon continues the archetypal family experience of watching soap operas together. Narratives of this type are a powerful nourishment for our social ties not only for the examples they bring, for the conflicts they deal with, but also for the specific logic of recognition they invite us to practice.

Black Mirror (2011-2016) is the first series that takes for itself, as a theme and as a form, the very degradation of experience required by this new digital format. Remember that the black mirror is a witchcraft technique that involves visualizing the future from the artificial deformation of images reflected in the present. In fact, the series systematically works with the exaggeration of technologies that, if they are not available at the moment, we can intuit their existence in the near future. From this we draw unpleasant ethical consequences. It is not a science fiction that makes us look, from afar, at the dystopian effects of what we value today, but a reflection of what is already underway at the moment. The series is a kind of conceptual map of new forms of suffering, which makes the experiment highly valuable for clinicians and psychoanalysts.

Basically, the big question in Black Mirror are the experiences of false recognition. They are at the origin of our feeling of inadequacy, of the incurable resentment generated by a culture of broken promises and exaggerated loves. The chronic deficit in recognition, whether it is called depression or low self-esteem, appears in a wide spectrum of symptoms ranging from insoluble dissatisfaction with one's own body, with one's career, with the country where one lives, with the life one leads. . Massive experiences of false recognition are the epidemic social cause for the induction of neurotic suffering today. Lives felt as deficient, inauthentic and below what is expected are often lives formed on the basis of ideals of recognition far beyond what can be accomplished, but above all lives that have not understood that it is possible and desirable to choose the terms by which one wants to be recognized. . The law of recognition has no a priori content, so the struggle for recognition is not just a narcissistic battle to see who has the most and best image, but a structural antagonism to determine which symbolic law will govern our experiences of recognition.

in the episode nosedive the protagonist can only have the right to buy a certain house if it is in a certain social rating level. To do so, she must be approved by people of a higher class than hers. All of this takes place in the midst of a system of permanent evaluation of people through any gesture, act or daily encounter, carried out through the cell phone. The recognition of the most recognized is worth more than the recognition of the less recognized. Therefore, the biblical justice of Matthew is valid: “whoever has much, more will be given; whoever has little, even this little will be taken away”. All the disasters happen on the way to get to the "popular" friend's wedding, where she expects to be duly scored. This shows that the degradation of recognition stems from the obsession with progressing in your race without questioning your terms or your convenience. By accepting this general law of “uberization” of social relations, with methods and means of approval that bribe people, the episode ironically brings out the obscene law that such a metric creates.

In another episode, the British prime minister must have sex with a pig, broadcast live on all media, as a way to save a kidnapped princess. Even if it was released ahead of time, even if the finger sent by the kidnapper is fake, even if it was all a hoax concocted by a performance artist, the truth created by this fictional structure imposes an autonomous reality record, propelling the politician's career. The heroism created by circumstances goes against the artist's initial intention to denounce the servitude we have in front of our public images. In other words, when trying to symbolize the imaginary functioning of politics as a spectacle, the artist had his act absorbed into this same imaginary.

In how many ways can we fail, block or refuse to recognize the other and ourselves? Freud [1] has a small article dedicated to false recognition in which it examines this experience of estrangement in which we feel that we have already been there, or that that situation has already happened, the déjà vu(feeling of having already seen) and the deja raconté (feeling that this has already been said). A milder form of this phenomenon occurs when we feel telepathic, thinking about a person who calls us right away, or when we are seized by the intuition that we know something is going to happen. Pythagoras argued that they were reminiscences of past lives and neurology suggests that it is a kind of mismatch in the transmission of brain impulses between the two hemispheres. For psychoanalysis, both hypotheses are true, it is about a past life, the childhood life, and we are really facing a mismatch between the unconscious and conscious inscription, between desire and memory. That's why we remember something without knowing exactly what we're remembering, more or less like in grief when we know we've lost someone, but we don't know exactly what was lost along with the person. This is the disturbing question that so often leads us to ask: how many grams of real are there in a given symbolic-imaginary articulation?

It's the episode San Jinupero, in which people in a vegetative state live an experience of illusion, within which certain choices can be made. In this context, the protagonist has to choose between her family partner, with whom she led a lukewarm life, and a great youthful passion for another woman. She chooses, improbably, the second. In other words, it is a denunciation that entire lives can be consumed in a state of falsehood when one does not recognize one's own desire. It is also an allusion to the fact that certain acts have the property of separating the imaginary and the symbolic, deciding their meaning and order.

When it comes to the false recognition between memory and desire, Freud cites the case of a patient who remembered having cut his finger with a razor and who lived a long time after that, thinking he had a finger missing. False memories lead to false recognitions. False recognition involves both the relationship with oneself and one's own body (felt then as inappropriate) and the relationship with the other (then felt as strange). The correlate of this in Black Mirror it is the episode of the woman who loses her husband and gradually replaces him with a robot with the anatomy, memories and dispositions of the deceased. The discomfort we feel with this is that we realize that she is deceiving herself; but is deception so effective that it is not worth it? In this case, it seems to be the symbolic that reoccupies and replaces this impossible gram of real: death and finitude.

Misrecognition can also result from the difficulty of separating our perception from our hallucination. in the episode men against fire, soldiers are brain-implanted in such a way that they view alien and undesirable human beings as cockroaches that must be exterminated. This avoids the feeling of pity that can disrupt the effectiveness of the operation. A certain error allows the protagonist to see things as they really are. also in polar bear a murderess is condemned to relive every day, in a kind of Big Brother, the terrible experiences he inflicted on his victim. After a day in this park of horrors and persecutions she is subjected to a machine of oblivion to relive and repeat her martyrdom the next day, thus being punished infinitely for her crime (she tortured and killed a child). In both cases, the system of illusions involves a kind of error in the machine. My perception is real, I see human beings as cockroaches, I experience persecutions as real, but they are actually hallucinating perceptions because I cannot recognize them as faults in memory or faults in perception. When the possibility of recognizing the error emerges, the subject almost always chooses the worst. Having realized that people are seen as cockroaches, the soldier is asked if he wants to be treated like a cockroach by others or if he would rather have his memories erased and start over. What is most real, therefore, is error and failure, and what is most tragic is that reality emerges and we do not recognize it, wanting nothing to know or remember it.

The interesting thing about the series is that it almost always goes beyond the first level in which a certain illusion is denounced by submitting the subject to a second choice. That is, when we discover the lie of our illusions, we can choose to reinforce our illusions. Continue to act like we don't know. Recognition of false recognition does not always lead to true transformation. It can lead us to a kind of double alienation, an alienation within alienation, as we see in the episode of the young boy who spends his life traveling, avoiding answering his mother's phone call, and who ends up going crazy when he submits himself as a guinea pig in a test. for creating a horror video game.

Misrecognition can also be produced through the exaggeration of affections or interests, in the manner of a mirroring of remembrance. For example, in Hated in the Nation, a vengeful ex-employee develops a social network where we can choose people who should die (both habitual criminals and ordinary people who make moral mistakes). Once convicted, mechanical bees enter the victim's ears and devour the area of ​​the brain responsible for the pain. Here the metaphor is literal, if we had the means to disclaim responsibility, we would act like a killer hive. An updated retelling of Milgram's Experiment, which in the 1960s showed that under orders from a scientist most people would harm another helpless person. But here the false recognition shifts from the constituted authority of science to the authority of the anonymous group of a social network. This captures a collective and ascending feeling that all our instances of authority – scientific, moral, religious or political – are at bottom just expressions of an obscene system of interests. Black Mirror it goes further by showing that this dissatisfaction with the imposture of our symbolic institutions can only be a pretext to give way to our sadistic and violent impulses.

the malaise that Black Mirror creates is a black mirror of ourselves. But it is not only an anguish inducer because it shows our immoral, petty and selfish side, but because it denounces and explains, in an almost didactic way, how our way of dealing with recognition, today and now, is leading us to the mismatch of ourselves and our desires. It shows how we are actively producing and exaggerating our own emptiness of experience, touching on the essential point of the etiology of narcissistic suffering of our time, beyond the traditional prescription on this matter.


[1] Freud, S. (1914) About the fausse reconnaissance (déjà-raconté) in the course of psychoanalytic work. Sigmund Freud Complete Works V-XIII. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu pgs. 207-212.

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