So….let’s talk about “Striking Vipers.”
After Black Mirror season 5 dropped on Netflix, the episode, which stars Anthony Mackie, Nicole Beharie and Yahya Abdul Mateen II, was all everyone on Twitter wanted to talk about. It spurred memes for days, as well as discussions about sexuality, relationships and monogamy.
— Angelica Ross (@angelicaross) June 10, 2019
— Rho (@DeleteriousMiss) June 5, 2019
Theo: “Guys can be so awkward”
Danny and Karl: pic.twitter.com/ZF4HmbrX7n
— ???????????????????????????????????? ❕ (@XXXAESIR) June 6, 2019
— Luke Stevens???? (@lukesaturn) June 7, 2019
I will say this about “Striking Vipers” – I’ve been having some interesting convos and witnessing reactions to it that are challenging their perceptions of monogamy and marriage. I’m here for it. #BlackMirror pic.twitter.com/kUlnGQ0Arp
— Rebecca Theodore-Vachon (@FilmFatale_NYC) June 6, 2019
Watching @blackmirror ‘Striking Vipers’. What an incredible take on the underestimated complexity and fluidity of gender and sexuality. Mindblown. ????
— ＭＵＮＲＯＥ ???????? (@MunroeBergdorf) June 5, 2019
hi so the new Striking Vipers black mirror episode is frkn brilliant 4 my gender/sexuality studies friends sorry to be annoying bye
— grace (@GraceVarsames) June 10, 2019
Okay I really loved this season of Black Mirror!!! Striking Vipers is my favorite, it’s such an interesting exploration of sexuality, plus it’s funny to go online and see straight men boil down the discussion to “so was that gay or not my dudes”
— Gita (@GITSbydrdre) June 6, 2019
In summation, “Striking Vipers,” chronicles two college best friends, Danny (Mackie) and Karl (Mateen) who years later, begin to reconnect via a video game that they used to play in college, which now has intense VR capabilities. They enter in a virtual, sexual relationship via their game characters, Roxette (Pom Klementieff) and Lance (Ludi Lin). It makes them question their relationship outside of the game and blurs the line between sex and a fully realized, intimate relationship.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Mateen says, “This is going to bring about conversations about masculinity, romanticism and sexuality being fluid. And about whatever you call bromances and things like that. There’s this moment at the end where they themselves don’t know what their sexuality is. There’s this are they-aren’t they moment that I love. Where they try it out and realize they are not in love, or that the love is only confined to the connection they feel in the video game. So, what does that make them in the moments when they’re participating in their relationship in the video game? It’s so cool to be able to be a part of something that allows you to explore all of those questions and then give it to the audience.”
On if the characters actually had feelings for each other out of the game, Mateen added, “What’s fun is that you kind of get to play it both ways. They’re definitely searching for a connection. And look, Karl does not want an intimate connection with Anthony outside of that world. He’s always saying, ‘Meet me inside of this game. Because you’re someone that I can talk to; you understand me. And, if this is what it takes to find someone who gets me, then that’s where I’m going to get it.’ He doesn’t want anything from him in the real world, or at least that’s what Karl tells himself. But they both do want that connection, so I think it makes sense that Anthony’s character would fall in love with that connection and that he would feel it’s appropriate to send an ‘x’ at the end of the text because, in a way, he has taken on another lover. He absolutely has taken on another lover no matter which way you cut it. Maybe I’m biased to say, ‘Well, Karl hasn’t but Anthony has.’ I’m sure plenty of people would argue otherwise.”
The episode concludes with Danny and his wife, Theo (Beharie), coming to an agreement that once a year she’ll be able to explore outside of the relationship and he can have sex with Karl in the game. On the game itself, creator Charlie Brooker told IndieWire he was inspired by some games that had a homoerotic nature in his mind. “One of the starting points [for the episode] was, I had been struck before by the slightly homoerotic nature of those fighting games,” said Booker. “I loved Tekken and used to play Tekken religiously in the ’90s—myself and a flatmate used to play it all the time, we’d have miniature tournaments, etc. And I realized one day that our neighbors, because we lived in a small flat in London, the people who lived above us and below us must have thought there was an S&M dungeon operating where we were living because constantly the air was filled with us screaming, UGH! YES! NO! all day and night.” He continued, “It’s about the exploration of porn in a world where porn is so sophisticated and can be tailored to your own personal preferences, and so it would increasingly become immersive, and at what point does porn stop being a healthy distraction and actually becomes like you’re having an affair, or cheating on your partner? It is much more about pornography, and we realized that we hadn’t done an episode that was specifically about that. But it’s also an infidelity story, so it felt like that was a good, roundabout way of getting into the subject of porn.”
Black Mirror season 5 is now streaming on Netflix.