Black Mirror : White Bear

White Bear

I know this is a season 2 episode, but I just got into the series and I'm randomly watching episodes.

I was wondering about the ethics behind this episode. The main character was a disgusting person, and i can see how this punishment seems suitable. However, they are wiping her memory every time they do this. She doesn't even know why this is happening until the end, then she's basically tortured and forced to do it again. But if she no longer remembers what she's done, then she is no longer the person she was when she committed the crime. Who we are is heavily based on our experiences, and they erased all the experiences that made her a terrible person. So they are basically punishing a "new" person each time they do this. This makes her punishment seem much more excessive and immoral. Am I the only one who was thinking this?

Re: White Bear

My immediate thought after watching that episode was that one would have to be a total sadist to perpetrate that sort of punishment, so what does it say about all of them?


Re: White Bear

The way I saw it was a stab at what people say our zoos are. This creature is denied all of its natural rights and freedoms and coxed into performing for people. Its a predator (former murder) who was captured, and than caged, and forced to appease a crowed, even if by just existing and trying to survive like any caged animal.

the public doesn't view this person as a human, they underline how horrible she was and is.

Re: White Bear

Zoos have many different types of animals, not just predators.

Poor analogy.


Re: White Bear

"My immediate thought after watching that episode was that one would have to be a total sadist to perpetrate that sort of punishment, so what does it say about all of them? "

Well congratulations to you for getting the point of the episode. Give yourself a big pat on the back ?

Re: White Bear

I think its a fair punishment. And the point is she has to suffer and not know why untill the end. Like she did to the little girl "why is noone helping me why am i here why are you filming me"

Exactly how the little girl must have felt.

A fitting punishment id say

Re: White Bear

Even though I still disagree with it anyway, I could understand it being a fitting punishment if they did it to her once. Wipe her memory, let her feel the fear of having horrible things happening to her while no one else helps and wondering why, and then at the end having her horrific crime revealed to her and having to live with the knowledge of what she's done for the rest of her life. Sure, that would mess you up and show you how bad what you did was and probably deter you from ever doing it again. But to do it to her over and over again and keep wiping her memory makes no sense. How can she repent or pay for what she's done if she's not able to remember it for more than what an hour or two before her mind is wiped again? The punishment is not fitting and shows how psychotic, sadistic, and hypocritical the rest of the public can be. Just because the target may have done something bad in the first place, it doesn't make people that then torture and kill that person any better.

Re: White Bear

I think that question is the main point of the story. My biggest issue/concern was less about punishing a person who doesn't even remember her crime (although you do make a good point), but rather I was disgusted at how everyone basically got their rocks off on torturing her.

And you bring up another good point. This society apparently has the ability to wipe a person's mind/personality, in essence creating a new person. Why wouldn't you do that with murderer and rapists instead of the intricate punishment. You are essentially "killing" the criminal when you wipe their mind. You also turn them into a potentially decent or useful person, and you don't spend a crap-load of money on their punishment.

It's kind of a rehabilitation vs punishment vs vengeance argument. I don't think the writers intend for you to take a specific side. Instead, they want you to consider the very questions you are asking and possibly see how they apply to the real world.

Re: White Bear

yea but that comes down to nature/nurture or even fate, what if murderers and rapists are MEANT to be that, and wiping them only works a short while..

besides cant be fully wiped...cos she can still speak and run which means everything is still there just suppressed.


also everyone gets off on it, take a look at any story of a child rapist or murderer who gets beat up/killed in prison and tell me you would of liked to get a swing in?

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Meant to be that by what or whom?

Re: White Bear

I get your point about nature vs nurture, (although the fate part is thought I wouldn't entertain) but no, I don't feel much of a desire to take a swing at those types. Of course there is the initial outrage where my first thought is something like "Feet-first into a wood chipper with that one," but that's what our nifty high-functioning brains are for - to help us override that sort of response. It's important to do so, because punishment and violence are addictive. And when that violence is "ethically acceptable" people get to live out whatever fantasies they want.

Violent criminals should be kept separate from the public, of course, especially those who target children. And I'm even for the death penalty in extreme cases. But I don't like prison justice, and I really don't like the mouth-watering joy with which some people discuss it.

And while I don't like slippery slope arguments, it doesn't take much imagination to see how when torture becomes acceptable for one case, it can become acceptable in many others.

It's hard to argue with someone who says child rapists deserve whatever they get, but it doesn't change that the crime happened. It also doesn't really act as a deterrent. All it does it tie up the minds of those who survived.

If the person is beyond doubt, guilty of such a heinous crime, throw them in a cell until they die, or give them the needle. Why allow them to continue to victimize everyone by encouraging brutality in normally stable people, not to mention be a waste of resources? Those people on the show who carried out her daily punishment (and presumably the punishments of others), how much does that all cost? What else could they be doing? And most importantly, why is poor little girl's death turned into a public spectacle every single day? This seemed less about justice and more about giving people a "safe" outlet for their psychopathic needs.



Re: White Bear

I completely agree. I think the reason this episode in particular resonated with me was because of how society was enjoying this cruel treatment of the woman because it was "justified". And as you can see by most viewers' responses to the White Bear episode, it's not that far of a stretch from where we at now. She's a murderer, so we ought to stoop down to her level and psychologically torture her over and over again? Imagine if this episode had been bold enough to have a rapist as the "protagonist"! I don't think anyone would be questioning the morality behind the punishment fitting the crime.

This episode pretty staunchly put me in the rehabilitative punishment category.



A rose is just a rose.

Re: White Bear

The purpose of the memory wipe each time was to put her in the "vulnerable position" of the little girl. She couldn't understand why all these people were just standing around taking pictures and/or video taping her while all these violent things were attempting to happen to her. Much the same as she did to the little girl during final moments of life - she video taped her as the little girl begged for helped (not understanding why she didn't help her). Of course later she had acted like she was under her boyfriend's "spell", however there had to be a point she could have saved the child's life.

Throughout we see her having flashes - one where she tells the child to duck down because a police car is driving by. And once everything is revealed to her, she cries from apparent guilt and even asks to be killed.

Do I agree with that form of punishment - NO, they basically turned her punishment into an entertainment park because of the public's blood thirsty need for justice. The boyfriend committed suicide in jail, so he seemed to almost get off easy in comparison. However, they needed to see - actually SEE someone punished and she got the brunt of the punishment in the form of a theme park and a never ending day - where she's wiped and relives the same day over and over. I think until at point her mind will eventually break for good or she'll die from exhaustion.

I do think the episode also shines a black mirror on the participating and all involved. Seriously, who would go to such a theme park? It's seem pretty sadistic to me, and we see people bringing their children. I agree she should be punished, however I'm more for conventional types of punishment. This just seemed horrific to me, I know there are different opinions on it.

Re: White Bear

i think this is the best form of punishment AND deterrent, when your dead your dead, when someone goes to prison its a 50/50 of forget them or know they survived it and so can you.

See the *beep* she is going through on TV everyday? would you even entertain the idea of committing violent crime again?

Re: White Bear

Why would that be a deterrent? It's not you anymore. The personality that committed the crimes is dead. It was wiped from the start. They have to show the new personality vids every dead of her past personalities crimes. You are your memories. A complete death of personality seems to be you're giving them an easy way out. All they're torturing is a husk.

The old personality isn't experiencing any of the horror you’re putting them through. You’ll picking on a blank slate that hasn’t done anything wrong. They can’t learn anything from it. Since they get wiped again at the end of the day. So basically that just makes you feel good about yourself. You feel vindicated for torturing this person that has no idea what is going on. So you’re basically in the position of the abuser. Excepted it sanctioned by the public so you don’t have to feel bad about yourself.

If you’d allow this to go universal how would you feel about a person that was framed, wiped and was tortured for years for a crime they didn’t commit?

To me the point of the episode was “Social Justice. How much is too much?” A person does something truly terrible and the public tortures them forever. It doesn’t matter if that they’ve truly changed. Or that they're quite literally a different person now. They can never move past it, because the public won’t let them. And a lot of people on the bandwagon don’t even care about the actual crime. Just the spectacle of it. White Bear just pushes that theme to an extreme. And leaves it up to you to question the parallels.

Clever things make people feel stupid and unexpected things make them feel scared

Re: White Bear

I think you make a valid point. Perhaps two days of torture for the masses then a final day where at the end once she has learned what she did she should have been burned like the girl was, i cant see them doing it forever with one person massive waste of resorces

Re: White Bear

Yep. I'm no saint. A few weeks of torture, where you make a backup of each experience before you wipe it. Then you re-upload the old personality and make them assimilate these new memories. A month of hell pushed into them all at once.

No need to torture a husk for years. Go after the source. That would be a deterrent. And I think that would be enough to curb a lot of crimes.


Clever things make people feel stupid and unexpected things make them feel scared

Re: White Bear

I 100% agree with everything you've said!

Re: White Bear

Oh absolutely, part of the horror was the slow realization that only someone completely sick in the head (the "friendly" driver turns out to really be a villain after all) could perpetuate this and enjoy it, and the audience's desensitization speaks volumes. It's all *beep* up.

Re: White Bear

She kept getting flash backs and things so maybe they need to do it everyday in order to fully wipe her memory.

They said that she is still dangerous at the end and so they are all armed with tasers.

On the calander we were quite a long way through the process so how she reacted to the I guess said treatment was different in the begining. Maybe she was more violent and rememberd who she was and then eventually has become the person portrayed in the episode. And soon her entire memory will be erased allowing her to intergrate into society again.

Re: White Bear


And soon her entire memory will be erased allowing her to intergrate into society again.


They're never going to let her integrate back into society. It seemed evident that they were just going to keep doing it to her over and over again until she died of starvation, dehydration, or exhaustion, or a mix or all 3.

Re: White Bear

No, I thought the punishment was disturbing and definitely excessive and immoral. If they'd done I to her once, I could possibly understand because it may be a good deterrent. Show them how it felt for the other person and then finally reveal to them what they did and let them live with that guilt for the rest of their lives. But to do it to her over and over again is just plain sadistic and makes them no better than her, in my mind.

I feel like that is the point of this episode (and all the episodes, really) to get us to think about and question our morals and see where we sit on these subjects.

Re: White Bear

Yes is the effect of mob mentality. Unfortunately we are all subceptible to it and this internet age is making it much worse.
If you wanna watch a perfect example of mob mentality in film, see "Ministry of Fear" which Fritz Lang made right after of emigrating to US, portraying feelings that he experienced first hand in Nazi Germany, in an American setting. Powerful film. You may have noticed that the parents of the victim were the punishers and the foot soldiers were taking orders from them. What a society

Re: White Bear

Exactly, this isn't about the girl who is punished. It is about the people wanting justice that they feel is sufficient. It doesn't matter if it works as a form of punishment or as a deterrent, there's no rehabilitation, but the mob gets what they want on this occassion.

Re: White Bear

That's the message behind the episode. At one point does justice become unjust?







Poop? Poop.

Re: White Bear

I got the feeling from the show that the memory wipe isn't 100% hence the flashbacks and that they have to re-administer the drugs everyday, meaning it wouldn't be safe to 'wipe' someone and then release them

The concept of the gameshow is pretty much on par for Black Mirror, which is broadly today taken one or two steps into the future, yes it's horrid and cruel but its only a few jumps beyond todays reality shows
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