Each episode of the Black Mirror anthology series takes on a different aspect of pop culture and technology, exposing its hypocritical and dark underbelly. While some stories are creepy, Joan is Awful is pure comedy evoking several chuckles at situations like lengthy Terms of Service (ToS) agreements and how we click “agree” without reading them.
Joan is Awful writer and creator Charlie Brooker told Netflix it’s “the most overtly comical episode that we have ever done.” Indeed the casting— Schitt’s Creek‘s Annie Murphy, Salma Hayek Pinault, and Michael Cera—reflect its humorous tone.
In the episode, Joan and her fiancé sit together, trying to find something “other than true crime” to watch on the Streamberry streaming service. Streamberry is an obvious parody of Netflix down to the big red “S” (instead of Netflix’s “N”), rainbow lines, and “tudum” sound effect.
Joan has had a challenging day as she must fire a friend, confides to her therapist about her dissatisfaction with her current relationship, and sneaks off to meet an ex-boyfriend. Her actions were cold, selfish, and discontented.
As the Streamberry show title indicates, the new show is not a flattering look at Joan; there are real-life consequences to revealing her day’s actions. Let’s stop here so there aren’t any further spoilers.
The rest of the episode becomes a dive into using CGI-generated actors, Ai-generated stories, and how we, in the real world, need to pay attention to those long Terms of Service we agree to when we sign up for an app.
Clearly a smart marketing tactic, Netflix has created a real-life streamberry.tv website. (Be careful if you Google it; it’s “.tv,” not streamberry.com, which is a porn site.) The Streamberry site has about a dozen titles that can be streamed listed under “Top Picks for You” and “New to Streamberry.” While the titles are not new to Netflix, the links start playing popular episodes of Black Mirror, including Emmy-winning Selling San Junipero. Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too starring Miley Cyrus is renamed Ashley On A Roll Tour Live! on the site. A couple of titles aren’t Black Mirror, including the interactive video Cat Burglar, called Rowdy and Peanut, and Death to 2020 called Average People.
The streaming website also lets visitors choose to “be awful.” Clicking “make me awful” takes you to the second site YouAreAwful.com. Here you can add your photo, and it will create a mock page with your name in the series title, as in Barb is Awful.
On the final page of adding your photo, you must click to agree to the Terms of Service. Before you post an actual image, note that the home page states, “You may even end up on a billboard,” as an enticement to those looking for their 15 minutes of fame.
Although the Terms of Service (ToS) is likely real, it too is a parody worth reading. Unlike most Terms of Service for real-world websites, it is an over-the-top invasion of privacy. For example, under “Collection and Use of Information,” which is typically a reassurance that the company won’t collect information that violates your privacy, this ToS reads:
“In order to provide you with the Experience, we and/or our Experience Providers may collect certain information and/or content from you, including the following:
Identifiers (such as name, e-mail address, postal address, postal code, telephone number, IP address, payment information, identifiers from the devices you use to connect, identifiers from your social media accounts, such as your twitter and/or instagram/tik-tok or other social media handles, characteristics about the networks you use when you connect to our Experience)
Audio, electronic, visual, thermal, olfactory or similar information…” and so forth.
There are many more twists and turns to the episode, and around each corner, a not-so tongue-in-cheek poke at other streaming service actions, marketing, and more. After watching the show, you might enjoy Joan is Awful Ending Explained.. It’s filled with spoilers, so be sure to watch the show first.