Unreal City: Nostalgia, Authenticity, and Posthumanity in “San Junipero”

  • Isra Daraiseh
  • M. Keith Booker


Daraiseh and Booker present a critical overview of the key issues that drive the Emmy-winning “San Junipero,” the fourth episode of the third series of Black Mirror (2011–). Widely regarded as the most optimistic and utopian episode in all of Black Mirror, “San Junipero” deals with a future in which the infirm and dying can have their consciousnesses uploaded to computer-simulated worlds, where they can happily live on in virtual reality, free of the maladies that had struck them down in the physical world. The episode focuses on a simulated California seaside town in 1987, though it implies that other times and places are also available within this system, which is operated by a large corporate entity known as TIKR systems. This chapter focuses particularly on the way popular culture from 1987 is used to enrich the virtual-reality environment of San Junipero, noting the way in which this aspect of the episode participates in a recent wave of nostalgic representations of 1980s popular culture. In addition, it discusses the way this episode participates in the phenomenon of postmodernism, especially as theorized by Fredric Jameson. Finally, it addresses the utopian orientation of this episode’s treatment of technology, but notes that it contains important dystopian aspects as well.


  1. Badham, J. (Director), & Schneider, H. (1983). WarGames [Motion Picture] USA: MGM/UA Entertainment Company.Google Scholar
  2. Baudrillard, J. (2014). Simulacra and Simulation, trans. S. F. Glaser, original work published in French in 1981. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  3. Booker, M. K. (1994). Technology, History, and the Postmodern Imagination: The Cyberpunk Fiction of William Gibson. Arizona Quarterly, 50(4), 63–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brooker, C. (Writer), & Harris, O. (Director). (2013). Be Right Back. [Television series episode] In B. Reisz (Producer). Black Mirror. London: Channel 4.Google Scholar
  5. Brooker, C. (Writer), & Harris, O. (Director). (2016). San Junipero. [Television series episode] In L. Borg (Producer). Black Mirror. Los Gatos: Netflix.Google Scholar
  6. Brooker, C. (Writer), & McCarthy, C. (Director). (2017). Black Museum. [Television series episode] In I. Hogan (Producer). Black Mirror. Los Gatos: Netflix.Google Scholar
  7. Brooker, C. (Writer), & Tibbetts, C. (Director). (2014). White Christmas. [Television series episode] In B. Reisz (Producer). Black Mirror. London: Channel 4.Google Scholar
  8. Cline, E. (2011). Ready Player One. London: Century Random House.Google Scholar
  9. Crary, R. (2013). 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  10. Duffer, M., & Duffer, R. (Writers & Directors). (2016–). Stranger Things. [Television Series] Los Gatos: Netflix.Google Scholar
  11. Eliot, T. S. (1922). The Waste Land. New York: Boni and Liverlight.Google Scholar
  12. Fisher, M. (2009). Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? London: Zero Books.Google Scholar
  13. Formo, B. (2016, October 27). Black Mirror: Charlie Brooker and Gugu Mbatha-Raw Talk ‘San Junipero’ in Our Spoiler Interview. Collider.
  14. Gibson, W. (1984). Neuromancer. New York: Ace Books.Google Scholar
  15. Gilliam, T. (Director), & Cassavetti, P., & Milchan, A. (Producers). (1985). Brazil [Motion Picture]. USA: Universal Pictures.Google Scholar
  16. Hibberd, J. (2016, October 23). Black Mirror Showrunner Explains Season 3 Endings. Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved from
  17. Hughes, J. (Director), & Hughes, J., Friesen, G., Manning, M., Meyer, A., & Tanen, N. (Producers). (1985). The Breakfast Club [Motion Picture]. USA: Universal Pictures.Google Scholar
  18. Jameson, F. (1991). Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Jankel, A., & Morton, R. (Directors), & Wagg, P. (Producer). (1985). Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. [Television Movie] London: Channel 4.Google Scholar
  20. Kerman, J. B. (1992). Virtual Space and Its Boundaries in Science Fiction Film and Television: Tron, ‘Max Headroom’ and WarGames. In D. E. Morse, M. B. Tymn, & C. Bertha (Eds.), The Celebration of the Fantastic: Selected Papers from the Tenth Anniversary International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts (pp. 191–203). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  21. Lisberger, S. (Director), & Kushner, D. (Producer). (1982). Tron [Motion Picture]. USA: Walt Disney Company.Google Scholar
  22. Namco. (1980). Pac-Man [Video Game]. Namco.Google Scholar
  23. Nordstrom, J. (2016). “A Pleasant Place for the World to Hide”: Exploring Themes of Utopian Play in Ready Player One. Interdisciplinary Literary Studies: A Journal of Criticism and Theory, 18(2), 238–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rogin, M. (1987). Ronald Reagan, the Movie and Other Episodes in Political Demonology. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  25. Ross, A. (1991). Strange Weather: Culture, Science, and Technology in the Age of Limits. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  26. Schumacher, J. (Director), & Bernhard, H. (Producer) (1987). The Lost Boys. [Motion Picture] USA: Warner Bros.Google Scholar
  27. Scott, R. (Director), & Deeley, M. (Producer). (1982). Blade Runner [Motion Picture]. USA: Warner Bros.Google Scholar
  28. Staiger, J. (1999). Future Noir: Contemporary Representations of Visionary Cities. In A. Kuhn (Ed.), Alien Zone II: The Spaces of Science Fiction Cinema (pp. 97–122). London: Verso.Google Scholar
  29. Stone, O. (Director), & Pressman, E. R. (Producer). (1987). Wall Street [Motion Picture]. USA: 20th Century Fox.Google Scholar
  30. Taito Corporation. (1986). Bubble Bobble [Video Game]. Taito.Google Scholar
  31. Taito Corporation. (1987). Top Speed [Video Game]. Taito.Google Scholar
  32. Welsh, B. (Writer), & Armstrong, J. (Director). (2011). The Entire History of You. [Television series episode] In B. Reisz (Producer). Black Mirror. London: Channel 4.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isra Daraiseh
    • 1
  • M. Keith Booker
    • 2
  1. 1.Arab Open UniversityAl-ArdiyaKuwait
  2. 2.University of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA

Personalised recommendations