Dethroning the King of Space: Toxic White Masculinity and the Revised Adventure Narrative in “USS Callister”

  • Steffen Hantke


The opening episode of Black Mirror’s (2011–) fourth season, “USS Callister,” follows the show’s commitment to topical relevance by taking on toxic white masculinity. To this end, the episode uses an adventure narrative typical of the classic TV show Star Trek but recontextualizes it in the interplay between the embedded reality of a digital game and the framing device of the gaming company where “real” characters interact. This two-tiered ontological structure allows the episode to address the role that adventure plays within the bourgeois normality of white-collar work within a neoliberal economy—as a form of escape for some, as a confining narrative that must be rewritten for others in order to attain self-determination. In its indictment of escapism as an elitist prerogative, and its embrace of autonomy for subjects outside the specific white male bracket, “USS Callister” struggles with the ideological implications of the adventure narrative as it veers back toward the confirmation of neoliberalism. To the extent that “USS Callister” itself relies on the thrills and pleasures derived from classic adventure as a form of commercial entertainment, the episode provides a valuable insight into the possibilities and limitations of digital culture to analyze and critique itself.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steffen Hantke
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishSogang UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

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