"Black Mirror" Creator On David Cameron's PigGate: "I Didn't Try To Predict This"
"I had never heard anything, so it is a complete coincidence, albeit a very, very strange one," Charlie Brooker told BuzzFeed News.
Charlie Brooker was already a national newspaper columnist, a TV presenter, and the writer/creator of a cult show. But since Sunday night, thanks to #PigGate, he can now add modern-day Nostradamus to the list.
Almost immediately after allegations broke that David Cameron had put a "private part" of his body into a dead pig while at university (a claim Downing Street won't discuss), people began noting the story's similarities with a 2011 episode of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror in which a fictional British prime minister (played by Rory Kinnear) is blackmailed into having sex with a pig live on national television after a princess is kidnapped.
Brooker shared marketing material from the episode and excerpts from the script on last night on Twitter.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Brooker said he had known nothing about the allegations, and described what it was like when he was first contacted about the similarities with his show last night: “I didn’t know really what to think, so it took me a bit of clicking around to work out what on earth was happening. I thought maybe that he mentioned [the episode].
"Put it this way, my mind didn’t immediately go, ‘Oh, he must have fucked a pig then?’ I was very confused.”
Brooker said he wasn't thinking of Cameron while writing the show. “I don’t think we say which party Michael Callow, our fictional PM, was from. It was quite a sympathetic portrayal of him in the episode.”
As a result, he said, he feels a bit sorry for Cameron.
"I think it’s mainly because we’re exaggerating the present and sort of coming out with an exaggerated version of now. … I think it is by accident really. This was one that I would have not have seen coming."
Here is BuzzFeed's conversation with Brooker in full.
Hello. How are you?
Alright. I think. Just checking that I'm not living in a simulation. I was genuinely worried about that at one point last night.
How are you handling being the new Nostadramus?
Kind of worried by that. It would be good if I could predict things that were pleasant, like, I don't know, a new praline Kit Kat or something. It's really, really weird. Really, really, weird, obviously. The first question that a lot of people were asking me was, 'Did you know something?' and I didn't. I had no idea. I had never heard anything, so it is a complete coincidence, albeit a very, very strange one.
When you wrote the episode, I guess you must have thought that such an eventuality could never happen.
Not exactly, and that was sort of the point – that it would never happen! That it was such an outrageous request on the part of the antagonist in the story. It wasn't like I had Cameron in mind, even, I think, when writing it. I don't think we say which party Michael Callow, our fictional PM, was from. It was quite a sympathetic portrayal of him in the episode.
No. [laughs] I didn't see this happen.
How did you first hear about it? Did you find it on Twitter?
It was just last night, my phone just went bonkers. It was people texting me, emailing me, Twitter notifications, and this that and the other. And it took me a couple of minutes to work out what the hell was going on, because there was something involving Cameron, Black Mirror, and the Mail. And I didn't know really what to think, so it took me a bit of clicking around to work out what on earth was happening. I thought maybe that he mentioned it? Put it this way, my mind didn't immediately go, 'Oh, he must have fucked a pig then?' I was very confused. Very confused.
And I did genuinely worry for a moment whether reality is a fiction designed to confuse me, which isn't a thought that you are meant to really have.
You went through the scripts last night and tweeted a couple of excerpts last night. Were those the only moments that you saw resonating?
Oh no, you know what? I could have carried on going, but I thought the whole... I think the script is on the DVD. There's whole chunks. I was thinking this morning, there's a whole scene in it relatively early on where there's a TV newsroom and the reporters are all complaining that everyone on Twitter is talking about the prime minister and the pig and that they are not allowed to discuss this on the air and that this is an intolerable state of affairs. And I thought that this scene must have played out in a lot of newsrooms this morning. And they're debating on what language to use within the show. They're worrying about how they can possibly even describe this to viewers at breakfast, so all of that side of things is bizarre.
Watching the episode this morning, it feels now like the episode was written inspired from events rather than the other way round.
[does a high-pitch squeal] It's so strange! Also, at the end of the episode his approval ratings have actually gone up slightly, so it's not all bad. [laughs] I mean, I was asked earlier on, 'Has this changed your opinion of David Cameron?' and I kind of feel a bit sorry for him.
It's such a grotesque... It's a thing that one unnamed person has said in an unauthorised biography co-written by somebody who, by their own admission, has got a grudge against him. But it's so irresistibly baroque and grisly that people are kind of willing it to be true. It says something that we sort of believe that it could be true. I suspect that the reality... I wonder if the reality is slightly more boring, that there were high jinks involving a pig but maybe not that. I don't know. Pics or it didn't happen.
There's apparently a photo, isn't there? You know, there's a sequel to "The National Anthem" – a prime minister has to personally do a Jack Bauer and break into a fortified home to retrieve a photograph with his knob in a pig's mouth. [laughs] I didn't try to predict this!
Are there any other episodes of the show that you fear might also come true?
What's weird was that there was an article the other day about Black Mirror episodes coming true that was on The Daily Beast, and it specifically points out "The National Anthem" and points out, 'This is one where there's no direct correlation with this episode.' Well, actually that has turned out to be the most accurate one.
Quite a few of the episodes, just after they have gone on air, something has happened that is sort of similar. We did an episode called "Be Right Back" where Hayley Atwell plays a woman whose boyfriend has died and there's a service that looks through all his tweets and Facebook status updates and emails and reconstructs an A.I. version of him, and literally a week after that went out a similar service was announced that would do that.
We did an episode called "The Entire History of You" where everyone's every recorded memory is being stored and replayed and then Google Glass and Facebook changed the way its timeline works just after that went out. We did an episode where everyone in the world is peddling on power bikes and currency and generating power screens in front of them and there was a prison in Brazil that sort of did something similar.
A lot of episodes seem to slightly come true. I'd love to think that I was psychic – actually, it would be awful, I've seen The Dead Zone. But it would have been great if in The Dead Zone Christopher Walken had shaken a politician's hand and had seen him fucking a pig rather than starting World War III. That would have been a good plot development.
I think it's mainly because we're exaggerating the present and sort of coming out with an exaggerated version of now, inevitably you end up with reality sort of... I think it is by accident, really. This was one that I would have not have seen coming.
I don't think anyone saw it coming, bar of course the authors and the Daily Mail.
Oh, I know! I mean really when I wrote that episode, I had in mind Gordon Brown and the BigotGate scandal and things like I'm a Celebrity and things like that, do you know what I mean? The whole process by which people, and George Galloway licking milk out of a bowl and spectacles like that, and the spectacle of the story getting out of control. And within the episode it is a sympathetic portrayal really of somebody caught up in this awful, awful situation.
There's an old [possibly apocryphal] Lyndon B. Johnson quote that has been doing the rounds today which was something about it being a political tactic, that you denounce your opponent as a pig-fucker. It doesn't have to be true – [they] then have to try to deny it. So you wonder, because this is just nonsense, and it is maliciously ingenious nonsense, isn't it? There's no way that wasn't going to spread around like wildfire.
I mean, I don't know what to say. Congratulations?
It does worry me. I am always thinking of horrible story ideas and I don't want them to come true. I'm only going to think of happy endings from now on. Someone creates a machine that turns the entire world into marshmallow. And they all live happily ever after.