Black Mirror, Striking Vipers, VR
What am I listening to as I write this you ask? Willow. Perfect mood music for this post.
Black Mirror is a fantastic series that is also a #Netflix original. I started watching this show some years ago from a recommendation that it is reminiscent of one of my favorites growing up, The Twilight Zone, but with a modern twist. Each episode has a completely different story and cast so you could watch any episode, from any season, in no particular order.
The brand new season was released June 5, 2019 with three episodes but this post is only about the first episode, Striking Vipers. I have become so obsessed with this episode, so much so that I’ve watched it 6 times so far. Anyone I can corner for at least an hour I demand they watch it. So before proceeding, if you have not watched the episode it would be useless for you to read on.
Striking Vipers begins in a nightclub with the yummy Anthony Mackie (think Falcon in Avengers and The Hurt Locker) and the beautiful yet relatable Nicole Beharie as a couple enjoying the night together. They are fun to look at and its clear that they have hot and steamy chemistry from the start but when the episode flashes forward to marriage, you can feel the distance from that heat in the beginning. It turns luke warm or better yet a stagnant cool puddle of rain water in the backyard. To me this is the place most relationships progress into over time and also the place where couples get restless for something new or exciting, if not careful. I related to this place and watched in complete anticipation for where the story would take this couple.
The Anthony Mackie character “Danny” ends up playing this VR (virtual reality) game named Striking Vipers with an old friend Yahya Abdul-Mateen II “Karl", this game is meant to be a fighting game (think Mortal Combat) but ultimately the duo engages in sex every time they play. A side note; the fighting characters they use in Striking Vipers are a woman and a man which really deepens the complexity and dept of this twisted plot. The two friends were having the best sex of their lives as fictional characters inside the game. The sex was so, so good that they both decided to kiss in real life to determine if they were gay, but after finding there were no fireworks in real life, they concluded the sex was something that was special, only within the game.
What I want to discuss is my thoughts on the concept of sex in VR. Is this cheating?
So admittedly I’ve gone back and forth on this decision but after more thought I’ve concluded that the two friends in the episode (Danny and Karl) were not participants in an affair.
Sex is an action that requires the mind and body, could a person technically have sex in the mind? Is dreaming about sex or fantasizing of someone other than your partner the equivalent of cheating? Here’s the thing, there isn’t one human on this earth who hasn’t had a thought of sex with somebody else. Our thoughts convict us all. In the episode both men are in relationships outside of the game but are not actually having sex with each other outside of the game.
It’s the action plus the thought, in my opinion, that deems it cheating. VR is simulated reality and it can try to come close to the real world that we experience, but the truth is, it is not real. The actions these men performed in their mind was condemnable but in reality, I could not condemn what they shared. I have played out this scenario in my mind many times and if my partner were to have done what Danny and Karl did in this episode I could not say I would have been upset. Perhaps laughable or confused at best.
I am able to separate the fact that their actions were indeed detrimental to the relationship, but not cheating. They let the game effect their relationships negatively, just like men who watch sports religiously and are unable to give their partners attention. Or another example, men or women obsessed with their careers and neglect love, attention, affection and sex with their partner. All these things fall into the same category for me. Distractions.
Striking Vipers is a metaphor for me to all the things we become obsessed with, all the things that distract us from our relationship. Our smartphones, social media, fantasy football, makeup or whatever it may be. All are distractions.
Do you agree?