“Joan Is Awful” Has Black Mirror Fans Running To Netflix’s Terms & Conditions

Plus, how you can visit Streamberry IRL.

Annie Murphy in "Joan Is Awful." Photo via Netflix

Spoilers ahead for Black Mirror Season 6, Episode 1. Between its star-studded cast and many meta twists, it's no wonder why “Joan Is Awful” has quickly become a Black Mirror favorite. The first episode in Season 6 (which dropped on June 15) follows Annie Murphy as Joan — or at least, a version of Joan. In the episode, fictional streaming platform Streamberry (yes, it’s a pretend Netflix) has taken an ordinary woman’s life and mined its every moment for a new, viral drama. Murphy plays Joan on one “fictive level,” while Salma Hayek plays Joan on another. And when Hayek’s Joan watches the show on her level, she’s played by Cate Blanchett.

As the Streamberry CEO explains in the episode, Joan is just the beginning: a “totally average, nobody person” the platform used to test its AI software. The end goal? Eight hundred million “X is Awful” shows, one for every Streamberry subscriber.

It might seem highly illegal to use someone’s private life in this way — but as Joan learns in the episode, she actually gave Streamberry the rights to do so when signing the site’s terms and conditions. And, well, she wouldn’t be the first person to do that without carefully reading every last word...

Nick Wall/Netflix

As Murphy recently told Today, the episode is a reminder of the “scary repercussions” of artificial intelligence in entertainment. “When we shot [this episode] in September, we were like ‘Oh, this is really timely.’ It’s not just [creator] Charlie Brooker imagining [things],” she explained. “It’s literally happening right now at a rate that is so terrifying.”

Viewers on Twitter felt the same way — with several running to check the terms and conditions they’ve signed IRL, lest they become the next “Joan.”

Others had fun meme-ing Joan’s realization when she sees herself on TV for the first time.

So, um, should you be worried? Obviously, there doesn’t seem to be an IRL equivalent of “Joan Is Awful” yet. However, Netflix has been having fun with the Streamberry comparisons. “They went away and came back quite quickly — weirdly quickly — and said, ‘Yeah, OK,’” Brooker told Empire of Netflix’s reaction to the fictional platform. “There wasn’t any resistance to it, that I could tell.”

And if you type “Streamberry” into Netflix, you’ll be taken to a page called “Streamberry’s Top Picks for You,” which is basically a collection of sci-fi and true crime content on Netflix.

Once you’ve read those terms and conditions, you can check out Netflix’s research page to learn more about the streamer’s actual machine-learning work. “As researchers, we innovate using machine learning in many areas where we prototype, design, implement, evaluate, and productionize models and algorithms through both offline experiments and online A/B testing,” the site reads.