The Waldo Moment is about a failed comedian, Jamie, who is suffering from insecurity and low self-esteem in spite of finding success with his character of Waldo. Jamie’s character, Waldo, is a vulgar blue bear that provides comedic relief and political satire while gaining enough popularity to launch a campaign in the one of the British by-elections. Waldo begins his campaign by slandering Liam Monroe, the conservative candidate, continuing to pick on him throughout the episode. Meanwhile, Jamie gets romantically involved with Gwendolyn Harris, the labor party candidate.
Gwendolyn’s campaign manager advises her to stay away from Jamie and after she rejects Jamie, he feels angry and like a failure once more. Jamie becomes spiteful when playing Waldo at a candidate debate, mercilessly exposing Gwendolyn as a career politician that was in the race just for publicity. After publicly degrading the other candidates, Jamie meets with Jeff Carter who propositions him a plan to make Waldo a symbol of global authority. Jamie resists this proposition but continues to mindlessly act as Waldo for the campaign.
Finally, Jamie breaks down under pressure during the campaign, leaving the Waldo van to beg the public not to vote for him. Jamie’s boss, Jack Napier, takes over as Waldo and encourages the crowd to cause harm to Jamie. He ends up in the hospital, watching Waldo lose to Monroe in the election announcement and a fight ensues at the announcement due to Waldo’s encouragement. The episode ends by flashing forward to a homeless Jamie in a dystopian world ruled by Waldo.
- Technology as a mask: The first major theme to note is how technology is used as a mask to promote speech and destruction. According to Google, a Waldo is defined as a remote manipulator that can be controlled electronically or mechanically. A blue bear also seems very trusting and reliable, rather than corrupt and intimidating. Black Mirror’s choices in the character of Waldo set him up to be the perfect technological mask to spread unrealistic views with. Technology gives humans the opportunity to speak freely and act on impulse. Trolling becomes a greater issue with technology and we see this idea embodied in this episode as Waldo bullies his opponents ruthlessly. Using technology as a mask, we see Waldo quick to attack his opponents with inappropriate insults. Jamie also uses technology as a mask, attacking Gwendolyn publicly and out of spite for his personal gain.
- Success has no correlation to happiness: Throughout the episode, Jamie battled with depression and low-self esteem despite his success with Waldo. Living in a culture that is driven by success, we are constantly faced with the struggle to work hard or be happy. It is sort of a cultural norm to believe that success will always lead to happiness, but there are many more factors to it. Jamie was constantly reminded to be happy and to focus on what was good but he constantly retreated to a negative state, ignoring his obvious success with Waldo. As his personal life turned into turmoil, his professional life soon followed, as his success was not enough to keep him from breaking down completely. The other characters also embodied this theme as Waldo’s team was not satisfied with their current success and the candidates were not seemingly satisfied with their progress in the election alone.
- Populism’s influence on society: Populism’s negative influence on society was effectively conveyed as a major theme throughout this episode as Waldo represented a far right party. He influenced the younger voters that supported him for his inappropriate humor and comedic relief among seemingly corrupt candidates. Waldo empathized with the public through unrealistic views of politicians and of the current government, positioning himself as anti-establishment. He also encouraged chaos and through this, he was able to take over on a global scale, finding power in destruction. Society often accuses politicians of corruption, slandering their campaigns and positioning parties on opposite spectrums. This episode showed a great example of populism dividing the supposedly corrupt entitled party from the freer Democratic Party. Although this episode is called a Waldo moment, it is a great example of how a moment can lead to something bigger such as populism through the Waldo movement.
JOUR 325 SAYS…
- How might we see Susan Blackmore’s theory of temes reflected in this episode?
- There has often been a great amount of comparison of the characters in this episode and the candidates in the past US election. How do you think these characters depict the candidates in our most recent presidential election?
- The episode jumps from a locally popular Waldo to a dystopian world with Waldo as a tyrannical leader. Why do you think Waldo was able to take over on a global scale?
- With the abundance of information circulation, how do you see technology furthering the idea of populism?
- Is the idea of irreplaceability a possibility with the abundance of technology and innovation nowadays?
- In what ways could Jamie have positioned himself as irreplaceable to the Waldo character?