One of Black Mirror’s most notorious moments saw Prime Minister Callow (Rory Kinnear) endure personal relations with a pig, yet it’s not entirely clear why – despite his apparent self-sacrifice – his wife seemingly abandoned him after the incident. Perhaps understandably, the climactic pig scene in “The National Anthem” is still regarded as being among Black Mirror’s most daring conceits. Reflecting the reality of what would happen in real life, the episode’s protagonists are filled with a mixture of horror and revulsion at the prospect. However, while these powerful emotions would perhaps be enough to justify a wife leaving her husband, there’s actually something more subtle at play in the episode that makes it even more powerful.
While it’s hard to imagine many circumstances where someone could be forced into becoming intimate with a pig, Black Mirror season 1, episode 1 does an excellent job of making the scenario as believable as possible. Callow finds himself in such an unenviable position after a mysterious figure kidnaps a member of the Royal Family. He promises to release her, on the condition that Callow has intercourse with a pig live on national television. Despite several proposed workarounds, Callow eventually agrees. In the aftermath, it is revealed that his personal poll ratings have improved – undoubtedly as a result of his perceived selflessness. However, the episode finishes with the revelation that Callow’s wife is ignoring him.
The Prime Minister’s Wife Felt Betrayed After Black Mirror’s Pig Episode
The obvious answer for Callow’s wife Jane refusing to speak to him is her sheer disgust at what he did. However, closer inspection suggests that it is not the act itself that she found so distressing – rather, it was her husband’s decision to proceed without consulting her or considering what it would mean for their family. Until the Black Mirror episode’s very last moments, it is actually Jane who reaches out to her husband – trying to contact him both before and after the event. Her complete removal from the decision-making process is therefore a much more powerful motivator than pure revulsion.
This interpretation sheds Callow’s actions in a different light. While he may have thought that doing what he did was the only way to save the princess, he was also aware that not doing so would be disastrous for him politically. He therefore not only had sex with a pig without discussing it fully with his wife, but did so mainly so that he could preserve his political reputation and popularity. This, in turn, suggests that Callow is far from the hero of the sordid story – he did what he did out of avarice over empathy.
Jane’s Reaction Reveals Another Meaning To Black Mirror Episode 1
Making the Prime Minister’s decision to sleep with a pig about personal gain rather than self-sacrifice adds a whole new dimension to “The National Anthem”. Rather than presenting Callow as a heroic figure, his actions can actually be considered a comment on the lengths that politicians will go to seek approval. Arguably, Callow is never more concerned about the fate of the princess than he is about his poll numbers. This makes the episode even darker than it already is, and explains why Callow’s wife is so reluctant to speak to him. Having realized what her husband will sacrifice for a popularity boost, she understandably feels unable to trust him. As a result, Black Mirror episode 1 remains one of the series’ most multifaceted ever.
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