Touted as Hong Kong’s very own version of Black Mirror, ViuTV’s The Republic <理想國> has a lot to say in regard to our current society. The final episode “Sonic Jail” <聲音監獄>, which aired on August 21st, stars Film King Anthony Wong (黃秋生) as an imprisoned small-time criminal who has to follow a set of rules and demands in order to gain enough credit for certain jail benefits.
Prior to the episode’s broadcast, critics compared the episode to Black Mirror’s second episode “Fifteen Million Merits,” which stars Get Out star Daniel Kaluuya as a man stuck in a society where they have to cycle on exercise bikes in order to earn currency.
“Sonic Jail” however is much more similar to Black Mirror’s episode “Nosedive,” the first episode of season three, which is set in a society where people rate each other based on interactions. The higher the ratings, the higher the socioeconomic status and the more societal benefits one earns. In the episode, main character Lacie (portrayed by Jurassic World star Bryce Dallas Howard) is obsessed with her ratings and tries different ways to increase her ratings as much as she can.
In “Sonic Jail,” Anthony Wong plays prisoner Sim Man-ki, who resides in a correctional facility where bathrooms are made into prison cells. The facility is guarded and managed by an AI system that dictates the prisoners’ lives. The moment the prisoner steps into the cell, a point rating system is activated. The higher the points, the lesser the sentence. Prisoners who accumulate more points get to enjoy various perks during their sentence, including residing in a bigger cell and getting to call family. However, these prisoners are put in a rigid schedule—times for grooming, eating, exercise, work, and sleep are extremely limited.
Both “Nosedive” and “Sonic Jail” can be considered as satires of our current society, in how social approval and acceptance are becoming dictators in one’s happiness and prestige. The systems used in both series have also been compared to China’s Social Credit System, an initiative planned for 2020.
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.