Words by MARGA MAGALONG
Unless you’ve been living in a rock for the past several months, you’ve probably heard of Black Mirror’s standout episode “San Junipero.” I say standout because if you’ve watched Black Mirror or have at least heard your friends make outrageous kuwento about it, you’ll know that it’s downright morbid and dark. One could liken it to a modern-day Twilight Zone, where the show’s creator Charlie Brooker, takes mankind’s impending fear of technology and twists them into worst-case scenarios. Among season three’s unsettling episodes is “Shut Up and Dance” where a guy jerks off unknowingly in front of webcam hackers who are out to blackmail him, and “Nosedive” a future society rigidly following a system based on one’s own social media rating.
So, yeah, hope you got the gist of just how macabre Black Mirror is. This makes “San Junipero” an even rarer bloom to come out of the dark series. It shows the more charming side of technology where Yorkie, a paralyzed old woman, is allowed to doze off into a virtual world where she can choose whichever decade she’d like to hang out in on a whim — in a younger body, of course. In this virtual town of San Junipero, she meets a vivacious woman named Kelly. As with any Black Mirror vignette, technology butts heads with ethics and suddenly Yorkie’s one chance for love is under fire.
Although, it’s safe to say Charlie Brooker knows better than serving up the clichés many studios have done to kill off an LGBTQIA+ romance (see: Bury Your Gays trope). Not only does the show provide more diversity in queer girl romance, but you can also bet your bottom dollar there is no compromise in all aspects of what makes a good episode — even down to the soundtrack.
Clint Mansell, who has worked with acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky for the melancholic film scores of Black Swan and Requiem For A Dream, composed the score of San Junipero. Along with Brooker’s curated playlist of ’80s pop hits, it all becomes very Miami Vice meets Ellen Degeneres, where San Junipero is a caricature of 80’s nightlife: neon lights, palm trees, shoulder pads, and the definitive pop music of its decade.
Complete with hits from The Smiths, Belinda Carlisle, and without a doubt, Depeche Mode, the soundtrack is the cherry-on-top of such a well-thought out romance. In an interview with Vogue, Charlie Brooker says:
It was shiny, it’s aspirational, and it just felt like the perfect place to revive this sort of simulation, with this heightened, movie-fied version of 1987. And then there’s huge nostalgia for me. All the music I said I hated, I secretly loved all of it; T’Pau and all of that. It was a great way for me to indulge in all those guilty pleasures.
The good news is San Junipero doesn’t have to stay in virtual reality like in the series. Well, not completely, of course — just the soundtrack. Kick off your morning commute or party your weekend away to Black Mirror’s San Junipero soundtrack.
You can stream both Brooker’s playlist and Clint Mansell’s score on Spotify: