Black Mirror’s “Shut Up And Dance” is the series’ most disturbing episode, but the original idea for it could have made it better than it is now.
Black Mirror season 3, episode 3, “Shut Up And Dance”, follows the unsettling story of a young man who turns out to be a sexual predator. While the way it stands now is disturbing enough, the original concept for the episode could’ve made it a lot more distressing in an entirely different way. Here’s how the initial script for “Shut up And Dance” was better by adding a new level of fear.
Alex Lawther, known for his role in Netflix’s The End Of The F***ng World, stars as Kenny, a seemingly inconspicuous young man who falls victim to internet hacking. As a result, the hackers blackmail him into committing various crimes, including murder. While it is initially assumed that Kenny hasn’t done anything wrong, as he was only caught masturbating to internet pornography, the ending reveals that he was looking at child pornography. It is Black Mirror’s most disturbing episode because it acknowledges that a child predator can be anyone and, even more so, a individual can interact with them without the knowledge of their seedy desires.
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The original script for “Shut Up And Dance” did not include the child pornography plotline or the sexual predator aspect of Kenny’s characterization. Instead, it was set to solely follow his journey as he became a victim of internet hacking. With the very real possibility that anyone and everyone can become the target of random hackers, this would’ve made the episode even better than it is now, with an entirely different level of disturbing contents.
While “Shut Up And Dance” is recognized as the most disturbing episode due to its child pornography and sexual predator storyline, the original script could’ve evoked a different type of fear in viewers. Without those primary themes, the episode would’ve followed Kenny as a victim to a group of bored hackers who threaten his future with blackmail that would’ve been left unknown to audiences. This could’ve opened the door for audiences to make their own assumptions about what he did. At the same time, it would have also recognized how hackers can gain access to anyone’s computer, phone, email, and more if they are capable of doing so.
Black Mirror season 3 premiered a few short years after the beginning of “The Fappening”, when a group of hackers invaded the data of numerous celebrities and leaked their photos. As of this writing, there are still photos that are periodically leaked or used as blackmail against everyday citizens. Daniel Goldhaber’s 2018 psychological horror movie Cam dealt with the issue of people using deep fakes to edit people’s faces on other’s bodies in order to sell pornography that falsely claims to feature a celebrity, influencer, or a complete stranger. The prospect that people who are well-versed on the internet have the incredibly horrifying power to make or break someone’s future through hacking is a very real possibility. Had “Shut Up And Dance” not included the child pornography aspect, it would’ve created a boogeyman-like ascription to the internet.
It’s unknown why Charlie Brooker chose to move forward with Kenny’s sexual predator storyline, but it is likely due to the social and political commentary that Black Mirror is known for. If they hadn’t included it, the episode ran the risk of being one of the least satisfying stories, as they even cut out the original ending where a group of hackers are seen in a coffee shop with nothing but their boredom driving their blackmail scheme. This isn’t the only time a major ending reveal such as this has been cut from an episode, as the ending of “Metalhead” was meant to feature a man controlling the mechanical dog assassins. Season 3, episode 3, “Shut Up And Dance” is Black Mirror‘s most disturbing episode, but it could’ve been bettered by making the fear universal to everyone who has a secret that fears the day it gets uncovered rather than featuring a more specific target.
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