"Men Against Fire": An Exploration of Otherness, Identity and Ethics in a Postmodern Age

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The 12th chapter of technology-driven series Black Mirror, ‘Men Against Fire,’ presents a military campaign designed to eradicate a population of ‘roaches.’ Already from the first encounters, the episode uses the monstrosity of a perceived mutant, one who promotes affective responses of disgust and revulsion, as a justification for the killing of one’s enemies (or the collective actions of the military). Through the use of advanced helmet technology which alters the appearance the people the soldiers encounter, rendering them monstrous and their actions as threatening, the military specifically alters the perception of the soldiers to take advantage of what is posed as an instinctual reaction to the monstrous mutant other. However, when the technology malfunctions, and the ‘true nature’ of the roaches is presented as a population of Danish-speaking humans, who do not appear to be threatening, the episode takes on new meaning. The use of augmented reality technology to deceive the soldiers shifts questions from previous uses of otherness to promote antagonistic propaganda (famously done in WWII) from the ethical responsibility of soldiers to act in a humane fashion, to questions of the technology to which we cede such decisions (and the apparatus behind that ethical shift). Furthermore, the use of a contagion as the mechanism of otherness both operates with typical dehumanizing rhetoric as well as how our own affective reactions to horrific stimuli could be, through technology, mobilized against political enemies. This paper, thus, would demonstrate how identity is constructed within the episode, including questioning the ability to meaningfully, or ‘naturally’, draw a line, and furthermore how through technology our deepest fears and instincts, contagion and the monstrous other, can be mobilized against our own interests. In an area of increased police action, and during a global pandemic that alters our trust in government and technology, this episode gives us increasing pause.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventGothic in a Time of Contagion, Populism and Racial Injustice: A Gothic-Without-Borders Conference - Online (Hosted by Simon Fraser University, Vancouver; Canada
Duration: 10 Mar 202113 Mar 2021


ConferenceGothic in a Time of Contagion, Populism and Racial Injustice
LocationOnline (Hosted by Simon Fraser University, Vancouver; Canada
Internet address


  • Gothic
  • Contagion
  • Racial Injustice
  • Television Studies
  • Otherness
  • Black Mirror
  • Science Fiction


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