'Black Mirror’ Proves Why We Need More Women Sci-Fi Writers  

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

*This article contains spoilers*

Whether it’s a book, movie or graphic novel, the science fiction genre is known for bending the laws of science (obviously). However, I think that one of the unspoken rules of sci-fi is that the content still respects the laws of science, and if any distorted scientific principles do exist, they warrant an explanation. Unfortunately, episode two from the fourth season Black Mirror seems to have neglected this rule.

In the episode titled “Arkangel,” the main character, Marie, has a daughter, Sara, who she is very proactive about monitoring and mothering. At one point in the episode, Marie catches her daughter having sex, and almost immediately after the incident discovers that Sara is pregnant. (If you somehow aren’t well-versed on pregnancy logistics or essential women’s health, the American Pregnancy Association explains that it typically takes someone two weeks after conception to find out that they’re pregnant.) Then, to prevent the pregnancy, Marie stealthily grinds an emergency contraceptive (EC) pill into Sara’s smoothie, which somehow terminates the pregnancy.

Even in a futuristic setting, Black Mirror should still need to accommodate for any innovations that have the potential to detect pregnancy early––especially if the pregnancy was immediate––and distinguish the difference between emergency contraception pills and abortion pills.

While Black Mirror may have avoided this prevarication of how EC works by consulting professional scientists (or preferably medical doctors), the show might think its future setting can easily explain this dilemma. However, that simply isn't the case.

Daniel Grossman, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California San Francisco and director of Advancing New Standards In Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), tells The Lily, “Maybe in this dystopian future, EC means something else, but the EC we have now does not cause an abortion. It will not affect an established pregnancy.”

Could Black Mirror’s advanced timeline explain Sara’s expedited pregnancy test or how the EC terminated her pregnancy? I don’t know, nor do the viewers, which is problematic when a series dramatizes health topics and medications that currently exist. Black Mirror obviously has faced a lot of backlash following these discrepancies.

Like Black Mirror, some sci-fi creations get away with impossible logic, and in many cases, it drives success. Look at the Sharknado movies that feature sharks who can survive in a tornado without water, gluttonous for human flesh––you know, because sharks have their priorities of eating > breathing. Also examine The Thing, where an ambiguous extraterrestrial creature escapes from a block of ice that starts rapidly melting, despite that the fact that ice is in a refrigerated room. I can ascribe the unprecedented melting rate to have something to do with unexplained alien physiology.

If other successful franchises have gotten away with wildly inaccurate scientific facts, why is Black Mirror’s latest inaccuracy much more than just an oops? For me, this Black Mirror episode exacerbated the problem that there needs to be more education surrounding women’s health and contraception. Subsequently, if reproduction is going to be a topic that sci-fi starts covering more frequently, productions need to devote time, money and effort to quality research.  Actually, I can’t help but think that, if there were more women writers for Black Mirror, then maybe this episode wouldn’t have been drowning in falsehoods about EC and women’s health.

Despite the fact that a woman, Mary Shelley, invented the sci-fi genre, only 22 percent of published sci-fi authors are women. Although there are plenty of successful women writers in the sci-fi realm, it's still a feat for women to become established professionals when men dominate the industry. Encouraging more women to facilitate their interest in science fiction will not only help fight the inequality and sexism in sci-fi (both on and off screen), but it will also help prevent harmful misrepresentations like this scenario on Black Mirror

No, an influx of women creators in the science fiction genre wouldn't automatically fix all these blatantly harmful references about women’s health—especially considering Jodie Foster did direct this episode of Black Mirror and still let EC misinformation slip through. But encouraging more women to contribute to the sci-fi community invites professionals, medical doctors or acclaimed scientists to be consulted before an episode like this enters our TV screen. 

About The Author

Chelsea is a Feature Writer, Beauty Writer and News Writer for Her Campus. When she isn't writing for Her Campus, she is probably drawing insects, painting with wine (while also drinking it) or taking photos of unsuspecting animals. Follow her on Twitter: @cjacks_draw