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The National Anthem is the first episode of Black Mirror. It was written by Charlie Brooker and originally aired on 4 December 2011.

PlotEdit

Prime Minister Michael Callow (Rory Kinnear) is woken up one morning to be told that Princess Susannah, Duchess of Beaumont (Lydia Wilson), a much-loved member of the Royal Family, has been kidnapped. A video of Susannah is shown to the Prime Minister where she states that she will be killed if Callow does not follow through with the ransom demand. The demand itself is a shocking one; he must have live sexual intercourse with a pig broadcast on national television at 4pm that afternoon on every network, with a list of technical specifications designed to make it impossible to fake. The kidnappers leaves no details nor any channel for communication, making negotiation impossible. Callow adamantly opposes fulfilling the demand, and orders everything possible to catch the kidnapper before the deadline. Callow also demands the news not reach the public, at which point he is told the final crucial detail; the ransom video came from YouTube and, despite having only been up for nine minutes, has already been viewed, downloaded and copied by many thousand members of the British public. Although the UK's media initially agrees via a D-Notice not to report the story, it soon reaches foreign news networks, which immediately report. After this, the UK media follow suit, and although they sanitise certain details everyone already knows the bizarre ransom demand. The public's response is initially one of sympathy towards Callow, and the majority do not expect him to go through with the demand. However at the same Twitter wags jokingly discuss the story, mocking Callow and his wife Jane (Anna Wilson-Jones).

When the British government first receives the video, the Home Secretary, Alex Cairns (Lindsay Duncan) secretly attempts to manufacture fake footage to broadcast (via using highly sophisticated technology to superimpose the PM's head onto porn star Rod Senseless, who would perform in his stead). The kidnapper discovers the ploy (due to someone recognising Senseless and posting a picture on Twitter), and sends Princess Susannah's finger to a UK news station as a response. The story is outed, and public opinion turns sharply against Callow; a majority now demand he follows through with the kidnapper's ransom. Jane tearfully begs him not to go through with it. This drives Callow to order an immediate rescue operation on the building where they believe Susannah is being held, forgoing the recommended observation period. The building is revealed to be a decoy and a reporter is injured during the operation. Callow loses even more support.

With the time near 4:00pm and with no leads or indication as to where Susannah is, preparations for the broadcast are made. Callow tries to refuse to go through with it regardless of what happens to Susannah, only to be told by his staff that he has no choice as his party, the public, and the royal family are ordering him to fulfil the ransom demand. Alex subtly threatens Callow making it clear that if he refuses, neither he nor his family will have protection from repercussions. Callow is forced to capitulate, despite his desperation not to. Many crowds gather to watch the event in workplaces and pubs, as an announcement is made on TV stating what is about to happen, and a noise designed to induce nausea is played in a futile attempt to discourage viewing. Callow is given potency drugs and advice before entering the room. He sees the pig and asks for forgiveness for what he is about to do. Callow has sex with the pig in front of a live global audience, who, despite their empathy and disgust, compel themselves to 'witness history'. The events lasts over an hour, and Callow suffers horribly as he attempts to force himself to climax. The Princess is discovered unharmed in the streets, the finger having belonged to the kidnapper. It is revealed that she was released before the deadline, unnoticed, as everyone was distracted by the broadcast. It emerges that Turner Prize winner Carlton Bloom planned the events, intending to make an artistic point by showing events of significance slipped under the noses of the public and the government as they were "elsewhere, watching screens" and not paying attention to the real world. Bloom commits suicide as the broadcast airs, and it is decided that the early release will not be revealed to anyone, including Callow. Cairns tells Callow, who is vomiting after his ordeal, that the princess is safe.

A year after the broadcast, Callow's political image is better than intact, having gained greater public approval due to his willingness to sacrifice his dignity (or the public's forgetfulness). Princess Susannah has recovered from the kidnapping and is expecting a child, while the public at large knows of Bloom's organising of the affair and have for the most part moved on from the incident. While Callow's reputation has been raised in the eyes of the public, it is implied that his relationship with Jane has not survived the ordeal—a year after the incident, although she makes public appearances with him, she is entirely cold to him in private.

CastEdit

Trivia Edit

  • Charlie Brooker stated in an interview that he went "all through the farmyard" deciding what animal Callow would have sex with and even briefly considered a block of cheese.
  • This episode became the subject of discussion when, in September 2015, then-current Prime Minister David Cameron was alleged to have placed his penis into the mouth of a dead pig as part of a university initiation rite (with even some of the hashtags seen in this episode being used).
  • Deleted scenes from this episode included one where Callow has a brief conversation with Rod Senseless while on his way to fulfill the ransom (which was removed from an early draft of the script) and one where Malaika was in hospital unable to see the broadcast as her bed was not near a TV and everyone was too busy watching to help her (Charlie Brooker noted he was unsure if this was ever filmed).
  • The list of rules at the end of the ransom demand video, which are briefly seen on UKN, are as follows (italicised segments were censored on-screen):
    • 1. The act will be broadcast live, uninterrupted and entirely uncensored on all terrestrial network commencing at 16.00 Hrs.
    • 2. The act will be relayed via a single camera in constant 'roving' motion. The camera must be a hand-held camera. Cutaways to other cameras are not permitted.
    • 3. During the act, camera will continually pass around the participants to take in a full 360 degree view, moving closer at regular periods to permit close-ups of intercourse. Approximately 25% of the broadcast must consist of close-up penetration.
    • 4. The act will take place between Prime Minister Michael Callow and one live female pig (sow). Intercourse may be vaginal or anal or combination of the two. No other individuals are permitted to assist Prime Minister Michael Callow (no fluffers, stand-ins, etc.).
    • 5. In the event of Prime Minister Michael Callow failing to achieve and maintain erection, transmission will continue (unbroken and uncensored) until such a time as he does achieve and maintain erection.
    • 6. The soundtrack will be relayed via a single boom microphone. Musical soundtrack, commentary or muting is forbidden.
    • 7. The broadcast will terminate upon fruition (ejaculation). Fruition (ejaculation) must be transmitted in full.
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