Spoilers Follow Below
So, far, the only disappointment of season five of Black Mirror (on Netflix) is that there are only three episodes. Episode one, titled, “Striking Vipers” written by Charlie Brooker sets the new season off with a pistol running start. There are a few subjects explored and sexplored such as relationships and it's “rules”, life fulfillment, taboos in sexual fluidity and its roles.
A brief synopsis is we are introduced to Danny (played by actor Anthony Mackie), Danny's college girlfriend Theo (played by actor Nicole Beharie), and Danny's college roommate Karl (played by actor Yahya Adbul-Mateen II). Danny and Karl's relationship as friends and roommates are reinforced by their love of gaming namely a Tekken*-ish game called “Striking Vipers”. Fast forward ahead, eleven years, Danny & Theo are now married with a young son and both are a career couple. They grow accustomed to their daily mundane routines with the totality of work & married life without any excitement. Karl is a bachelor, professional and successful, and dating women 10 years his junior while living his best life. The two college friends are reunited during Danny's birthday cookout and Karl has brought a gift that conjures thoughts of nostalgia for them both; it's a new video game called “Striking Vipers X” that has a VR (virtual reality) card enhancement that will bring the gaming experience to an amazing new level.
Spoilers Follow Below
The guys meet online to play. Karl provides the instructions to Danny while each select their favorite go-to character. Karl selects Roxette (a blonde Asuka Kazama* type character) and Danny selects Lance (a leaner Marshall Law* type character). The fighting challenge begins and awkwardly goes awry after Roxette flips Lance, straddles over him, and drawn by an unknown force, leans in and passionately kiss. Oh, by the way, this VR card interacts with a dime-sized electronic disc that you place on either side of your temple. The” experience” is that you feel every sensation from each blow and punch. So, during this virtual reality kiss, it awakens a myriad of feelings with them both. They began to have clandestine meetings virtually, in and as characters giving, what the kidz say, DL tease. As both of the men wonder...Is this cheating? What is the feeling? Am I gay? I will stop here for there is more to this episode and I don't wish to spoil more of it and especially the ending.
My own thoughts were, damn, not only was this episode homoerotic it also allows an introspective look into one being fulfilled in your life and in your relationship and simply questioning if you do have or could have a same-sex attraction whether physical, mental or emotional.
Life is about living it fully, realized, and free. It is indeed a challenge in being or feeling satisfied when there are obligations and feeling liberated when there are commitments. My take was one in acknowledging the deeper connections and honoring that despite and in spite of anything.
Shortly, after I relocated to Atlanta, I was adjusting to the move, my new apartment, the new job, and finishing my second degree. My circle (best friends) were back home in NY and my philosophy was like a line in Drake's song, “No New Friends.” I got a DM on Twitter from another new transplant to Atlanta who was also Dominicano. So, with that and a mutual love of music and hip hop we bonded. We began to hang out at a few bars and restaurants picking up women together. I knew that hermano was straight and in spite that I found that I was drawn and attracted to him. Secretly pining for an intoxicated advance whether it was a slip of his hand to my thigh or an awkwardly brave drunken kiss. That moment never happened and how anticlimactic was that? After hanging out one evening, he told me he was moving to Cali. Before he'd go this was my chance to tell him how I feel. I told him in the most non-threatening way that he was giving me everything that I miss from home. The male bonding and connection with him meant a lot. I said, “...and not to be on some “homo shyt” I fux wit u and it'll be cool to jack dix or whateva ya kno.”
His response was politely dismissive while displaying love and support. He didn't flip tha phuk out. He embraced me and said, “That's cool”. [Record scratch] That's cool?!? I am thinking, “Is that all?”
I later interpreted that to mean that he values the friendship enough to not acknowledge the welcoming of a sexual advance. I believe that is progressive thinking for a hetero male of color. Black and brown men are raised to not show emotion and any form of expression is a weakness. There was love in that expression and in his response. I never revisited for that would be clearly crossing a line. We remain in contact still. Honestly, I do harbor a relatively small amount of “feelz” though it's completely manageable and nothing, really.
Real talk, if you hadn't seen this episode, please consider doing so. It was very well done and palpable for general consumption to the masses. It's not GAY if you know what I mean. No offense to anyone. It's definitely in the diaspora; Q for Questioning in the LGBTGIA moniker.
I'd like to know what the squad thinks about this written piece and the episode? I may do a follow up in a few weeks opening for questions and side discussions On The Boards.
Best Posts in Thread: “The Transcendence of Striking Vipers: Rated Q for Questioning"”
Being someone who went through this just recently I thoroughly enjoyed this episode! It had so many layers that I want to break down so I’m warning you now that this will have spoilers. I first want to discuss how if you watched the episode from the beginning, there’s clues that Karl is definitely feeling Danny more than just friends. I saw myself in both characters but Karl was me. After Danny and Theo had a night full of sex, Karl whose is Danny roommate is in the den playing Striking Vipers and encouraging Danny to stay up and hang with him. I wanted to know why Karl wasn’t with the girl he was with at the beginning of the episode. Then after Theo comes out complaining a bit and returns to bed, Karl is seen humping and Thrusting on Danny.
Next time we see both of them together was at Danny Birthday party! Karl is your typical can’t keep a woman. But what raised my eyebrows is when Danny is so intrigued if Karl is shaving his dick and balls. That conversation lasted a little to long for just guys catching up. Throughout the game and virtual affair, you can clearly see that both of the friends are falling in love with each other while neglecting everything else that’s around them. When Theo brings up how they are not having sex that’s when Danny feels like he needs to stop but Karl is not so sure.
Life seems to be going great for Danny and Theo but Karl life turns into a downward spiral. So now flash forward to Danny’s 39th Birthday and Karl returns into the picture. Karl is practically confessing subtlety that it’s more than just the virtual sex, they have a connection. Danny fights with him but still falls victim to the same thing and they continue the fuck fest. But once Karl says he loves Danny that’s when in that moment it got real. So they meet up in real life. When they kiss to see if it was real, I feel both more Danny was holding back just knowing it’s wrong he’s married and should not be feeling this way towards his best friend. Because Karl seemed like if Danny actually said yeah, he would try the relationship thing with him. Like Danny held all the cards in this relationship. It’s almost like alpha Karl became the woman (taken her role in more ways not only in the virtual sense).
When things blew up and Theo finds out, leading to an open relationship, I felt some kind of way. I feel in real life most guys do have a special bond with their best friend but are taught not to show emotion like that because you’re labeled gay! Meaning we are more sexually fluid than we like to lead on!I felt the show was unresolved and I needed more explanation as did Karl breakup with his girlfriend (side note when Karl was on the date with his girl in the beginning, out of all the things he pointed out he finds the male bartender to talk about his looks. I feel like Karl is bisexual)? Overall this was a great episode that is stirring up conversation left and right about relationships, sexuality and even porn/virtual reality. Plus I want to know if Theo actually ok with Danny and Karl “virtual affair!”
This episode is a good one because it can help folks digest the notion of having feelings/attractions that you arent familiar with and it brings about the topic of sexual fluidity which i feel most folks try to ignore.