“Black Mirror” questions all gender and relationship definitions with VR sex

The Netflix series has once again caused a great deal of confusion. The concept of “Black Mirror” is designed to make us as a society think about ourselves and our behaviour. That’s what the first episode of the fifth season of “Striking Vikers” has done. This time it went into the depths of masculinity, friendship, monogamy, and sexuality. Attention, spoilers!

In the beginning we get to know the two friends Danny (Anthony Mackie) and Karl (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) playing the fight video game “Striking Vipers”. Then eleven years pass and we only see them again on Danny’s 38th birthday. The two have lost sight of each other in the meantime. Danny is married and has a son, he and his wife stopped using condoms and are trying to have another child. Karl only has a few insignificant relationships behind him.

He gives Danny a new version of “Striking Vipers”. But now they don’t use classic controllers anymore, instead they put a chip on their temples and get into a virtual reality to seduce each other. There they can communicate normally and even feel emotions and pain – they take on the roles of Roxette (Pom Klementieff), a woman, and Lance (Ludi Lin).

During the fight, a sexual tension suddenly develops between the two, which no one can deny and ends in an online affair.

After a fight in real life between Danny and Karl, Danny’s wife learns about the virtual reality in which her husband and his friend take refuge. But instead of separating, all parties agree that he and Karl can have virtual sex once a year and that his wife also sleeps with someone else during that time.

Karl and Danny in their roles as Roxette and Lance

The most obvious and difficult question of the episode is probably whether the two are bi- or homosexual because they have sex with each other in virtual reality. In real life there is no sexual tension between them (they test it out), and Karl is male in real life, but female in the game.

A question on which there is no clear “yes” and no clear “no” in the episode. “What an incredible view of the underestimated complexity and the fluid transition between gender and sexuality,” writes model Munroe Bergdorf on Twitter about the episode.

She sums up the whole topic

Sexuality and gender are not always clearly definable, not black and white – sometimes there is a blurred transition that cannot be classified.

“I think it’s always important to check how you understand relationships, sexuality and its expression and how we can empathize with others,” says actor Abdul-Marten II, commenting on the situation of his role in a Hollywood Reporter interview.

But it also raises the question of loyalty and monogamy in a relationship. Does Danny cheat on his wife with virtual sex? After all, the two never have sex in real life, but only online – where the feelings and sensations feel real. Again a question to which there is no clear “yes” and no clear “no”.

“The most important thing is communication and understanding for each other. No matter how we define relationships, boundaries and rules, we must understand what they are and contain and what these agreements give us so that everyone benefits from them,” explains Abdul-Marten II his view of the situation.

After Danny’s wife learns about it in the series, they agree that Danny can virtually cheat with Karl once a year while she is also looking for someone. The marriage continues to work because both have communicated with each other, established rules and abide by them – a basis of trust that works. The series raises complicated issues, but with the end it offers a clear answer: no interpersonal relationship works without communication and understanding – you don’t need clear definitions of sexuality, gender and relationship.