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Women are Leading Every Episode of Black Mirror Season 4 (In Front of Camera, at Least)

Season four of Black Mirror hits Netflix tomorrow, December 29th, and according to executive producer Annabel Jones, every one of the six episodes will center on a female protagonist. The show has a solid history of producing great woman-centric content (the incredible episode “San Junipero” springs immediately to mind, but it’s not an outlier in the first three seasons), so this is a nice step to expand on that already great precedent.

Interestingly, Jones is insistent that this season’s all-women protagonist lineup wasn’t an intentional statement. She told THR, “Charlie [Brooker] and I don’t tend to think about the stories that way. Sometimes, it just comes out. But it’s great — great! — that they’re all strong female protagonists. I think what’s lovely about the show is that it’s not a strident statement. It’s more: Why not? We don’t even think about it from a gender perspective and I hope that’s progress. It’s more that we explore the best story and the best way to tell it.”

That “best story” and its sibling, the all-too-familiar “best person for the job” line are often used as excuses for hiring or casting men, specifically white men. So it is nice to see it applying to the casting of women. (Although a deliberate statement would have been just fine, too.) That’s especially true because according to Jones, not all of the scripts were written with women in mind for the lead characters. The main character of episode three, “Crocodile,” was originally written for a man, but actress Andrea Riseborough (Battle of the Sexes) changed their mind.

“Andrea read for one of the other parts and she really liked the journey of the protagonist and she challenged us and said, ‘Do you think it could be a woman?'” says Jones. “Then we sort of said, ‘Oh, hold on.’ We hadn’t quite thought about that. We questioned it and worked it. Apart from the physicality element of it — a requirement that plays out in the episode’s first few minutes — we thought, ‘How often do you see a mother reduced to this level of desperation?’ Then we thought that was actually quite interesting, and that’s the result of Andrea’s role.”

While women will lead the season in front of the camera, the numbers aren’t nearly as strong when it comes to writing and directing. Only one episode, “Arkangel” is directed by a woman (Jodie Foster). According to IMBD, she’s the first and only woman to have directed an episode of Black Mirror. Charlie Brooker usually writes all the episodes, but at least last season we saw a Rashida Jones co-writing credit on one. This season, no women are credited with contributing to the writing. If Brooker and Jones are so excited to tell women’s stories, I hope that in the future, they allow women to actually be a part of shaping those stories.

As a reminder, here’s what we can expect from season four of Black Mirror. (Because this is twisty-turny Black Mirror we’re talking about, all synopses, as gathered from the trailers, might very well be less than 100% accurate descriptions.)

Arkangel,” about a definitely fine and not troubling implant for parents to keep their kids safe.

“USS Callister.” This looks like Galaxy Quest, but creepy.

“Crocodile” shows a woman interviewing subjects with a machine that can access their memories.

“Hang the DJ,” about a futuristic dating app that gives couples an “expire date” for their potential relationships.

“Metalhead” is shot in black and white and is the shortest of any Black Mirror episode at only 38 minutes. I honestly have no idea what is happening in this trailer.

“Black Museum” looks like it’s going to scare the crap out of us. A woman explores a museum of “criminological artifacts,” with a lead-up to some sort of untold but definitely terrifying “main attraction.”

(via THR, image: screencap composite)

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