Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

How Black Mirror's best new episode repudiates the awful fanboys of the internet

Black Mirror’s fourth season was a mixed bag of the brash, prescient ideas we’ve come to expect from the series and the inevitable regurgitation that tends to afflict stories treading such unexplored ground. What many can agree on, however, is that the season’s first episode, “USS Callister,” was its strongest, most accomplished outing, a stylish, subversive critique of fanboy culture.

“USS Callister” couldn’t be timed more perfectly. With the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, entitled “fans” have spent months now whining about any number of grievances, nearly all of which boil down to “Girls! Yuck!” So, as many struggle to understand how somebody could so thoroughly hate a movie as crowd-pleasing as The Last Jedi, let us direct you to this new video essay from ScreenPrism, which aims to delve deep into the mindset of the toxic fanboy.

The episode, if you need a refresher, centers around a programmer named Robert Daley (Jesse Plemons), the CTO of a virtual reality gaming company who secretly creates a private virtual world set in the fictional land of his favorite TV series, the Trekkian Space Fleet. There, he essentially tortures living avatars of his co-workers, who he despises for perceived slights.


What ScreenPrism’s essay touches on so well is the sexism inherent to the “nice guy fantasies” satirized by the episode. In countless nerds vs. jocks narratives throughout the years, the triumph of the nerds translates to something resembling intellectual and sexual subservience from those who once mocked them. What “USS Callister” is highlighting is the reality that the desire for that kind of subservience tends to eclipse one’s humanity. The genuine desire for affection curdles beneath bitter waves of entitlement. The result, as we see in the episode, is a need to punish.

Watch ScreenPrism’s full essay above. Black Mirror, you haven’t already binged the entire thing, can be found on Netflix.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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