I expected to see a lot more of this kind of criticism of San Junipero's depressing vapidness and pinched moral imagination after the last season of Black Mirror. But...of course there wasn't. Anyway, this one from Sean Haylock writing in The Agonist is good:
We already treat virtuality as a suspension of morality. Our lives online are lives lived as if on holiday from reality. Slavoj Žižek has remarked (in The Fragile Absolute) that the human rights regime is an inversion of the Decalogue, a theoretical apparatus for granting permission to sin. Similarly, the virtual world of the internet is an inversion of the eschaton, where liberal democratic netizens (a natural development of the liberal democratic citizen) propel themselves ever further from the beatific vision, and by a cheap transgression attain a cheap transcendence. We find ourselves then in a cut-price afterlife, but indebted nonetheless, convinced of the boon of this discount ticket but increasingly anxious to catch sight of our destination. We are caught paying the boatman in perpetuity. Desperately, we deny the existence of the hedonic treadmill. Inexorably, we set it in motion with our every surrender to acquisitiveness and “autonomy.” If heaven is a place on earth then it is only another mask worn to hide the ultimate shame of our mortality.
“San Junipero” is a curious cultural artefact. Part of a series that is currently the purest expression of technological angst in popular culture and the bleakest fictional diagnosis of the dystopian present since J.G. Ballard, it is beloved as an exception to this rule. It is aBlack Mirror episode that does not expose the horrors latent in our lives with our devices but instead reassures its progressive viewers, who might have received the distasteful impression that their belief in progress has unsurpassable limits, that despite all the scary possibilities lurking in the cultural imagination, they were right all along to say “Love Will Win.” Its failure as a work of science fiction and its unwitting success as a work of eschatological horror means it presents a particularly vivid image of a failure of morality and the terrible fate that necessarily accompanies it. It pictures a certain kind of curse. The Curse of San Junipero is that failure of moral imagination which makes us think tearing up our fig leaves is all that is required to transport us back to paradise.
Writer - Critic - Poet - Editor