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Black Mirror Season 6: ‘Joan is Awful’ Review

Exploring the new season of Black Mirror through the unique episode ‘Joan is Awful’.

Salma Hayek in Black Mirror Season 6.
Netflix: 'Joan is Awful'.

The new season of Black Mirror has launched, and fans are divided over the satricial episode ‘Joan is Awful.’

What is Black Mirror?

Black Mirror fans were ecstatic to learn that Season 6 launched earlier this month on Netflix. The series was launched in 2011, and Season 6 marks the show’s return after a four-year break. While each episode covers various genres, most are set in dystopias with sci-fi technology in the near future. Season 6 diverges from its successful formula by incorporating broader themes of horror and history.

Episode 1: Joan is Awful

The episode centers around a seemingly ordinary woman ‘Joan’ (Annie Murphy) whose life becomes a hit series on the fictional streaming service ‘Streamberry’. Salma Hayek is used in the Streamberry show ‘Joan’, as it offers dramatized recreations of Joan’s seemingly normal life. Black Mirror presents a dramatized satire of ‘Netflix’ through the platform ‘Streamberry’, with Joan becoming exploited as her private and intimate moments are mimicked through the television show.

Joan cannot stop the series due to the platforms’ tedious terms and conditions because the show is entirely CGI, and Salma Hayek’s character is simply a digital likeness and deep fake. It turns out that when Joan purchased a Streamberry membership, she signed away her rights in the fine print and had no control over how her image was utilized.

A Clear Ending?

The ending of ‘Joan is Awful’ divided fans. As Joan attempts to take down Streamberry, it is revealed that Joan is Awful is essentially a show within a show. The actual Joan (Kayla Lorette) referred to as ‘Source Joan,’ is revealed to be a regular barista who, like us, is watching ‘Joan is Awful’ unfold with Annie Murphy as Joan. The pattern continues with Annie Murphy watching Salma Hayek as Joan, onto Cate Blanchet as Joan. All the ‘Joans’ are a construct of Streamberry, except the source Joan who destroyed the high-tech facility, hence Annie Murphy’s final realization that ‘Source Joan already stood here in reality’ and the plot is based on “decisions that have already happened”.

The Meaning behind ‘Joan is Awful’

The latest social commentary in “Joan Is Awful” targets the threat of user agreements and what terms people could unknowingly be signing up for when they’re just trying to watch their favorite content on a streaming platform.

Greg MacArthur

The show employs comedic elements whilst offering a social commentary on the dangers of surveillance, streaming, and big data. Basically warning audiences to keep checking terms and conditions for advanced technology platforms such as Netflix.

Black Mirror’s “Joan is Awful” addresses various modern themes and concerns based on content creation, how far technology has gone in creative fields, how the media distorts information and sells it as facts, and how big corporations don’t care about the pain they cause as long as they can make a profit

Adrienne Tyler

Criticism of the new Series

The new season of the hit series has received criticism for moving beyond a successful and traditional formula. Although the season touches upon the future of technology, especially within ‘Joan is Awful’ through the invasive nature content creation and streaming. Several episodes go deeper, and explore the existential threats associated with technology and the future of modern society. According to Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker:

Black Mirror wasn’t meant to be “this is what’s going on in technology this week.” It was always designed to be a more paranoid and weird and hopefully unique show.

Amit Katwala

However, the changes within the show have disrupted fans expectations of the show, with audiences now turning to social media to express their confusion and disappointment

The Americianization of Black Mirror

Critics and audiences have noticed a switch from the earlier seasons, which continually promoted a satirical undertone and cynical humor that were deemed exclusively British. The incorporation of A-List Hollywood actors such as ‘Salma Hayek’ and ‘Annie Murphy’ within episodes such as ‘Joan is Awful’, were due to a transaction between Netflix and Black Mirror, promising a higher budget in exchange for more seasons of the show being produced.

However, the new season still gained 11.3 million viewers within its first four days on the platform, with fans eager for news of season 7. Regardless of the new style of the show, Black Mirror continues to engage and surprise audiences each season and each episode.

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Hello! My name is Rachel, I'm from Manchester and I'm a Journalism student at Cardiff University! I love writing anything related to popular culture and entertainment.

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