Review of Shut Up and Dance

Here is a review of the Black Mirror episode Shut Up and Dance, in which hackers film a young guy masturbating through his webcam, and then force him to, ultimately, engage in a death match with another man. It turns out that the guy was masturbating to CP, and the hackers were pedo-hunters. In light of that, it’s hard to know what to make of the episode. The review suggests that we are meant to be cheering the hackers on, but I feel that it’s more ambiguous than that, and that part of the discomfort of the episode is that regardless of what you know, the hackers have still gone too far in their brutality. What do you think?

  1. If I remember correctly–isn’t the young guy possibly a minor? I haven’t seen the episode yet, but I’ve read the synopsis while trying to parse out a discussion; I remember reading that he was like, 17. Either way, his youth, I think, is meant to make it even more ambiguous in morality (because I mean… he’s so young, he could be reformed easier than others might be, especially if he’s only masturbated, which is supported even in our shitty pro-torture legal system generally coming down softer the younger and ‘least offending’ you are); I wouldn’t think the narrative wants you to fully support the pedo hunters, even if that’s your immediate reaction.

Plus, like, contextually:

  1. I think Black Mirror overall comes down on the side of “sometimes major survelliance-centric activities have Pros to the Cons, but are those Pros really worth Everything Else?” So: even though ‘has/is masturbating to CSEM’ is ultimately something to be prevented, did that Game he was subjected to do anything? Does it actually prevent or fundamentally stop anything? Or was it a case of a group of “pedo hunters” relishing in sadism from the perspective of “uh, well, we’re doing a public good, so”?

  2. Also, I feel like the fact he was in possession of CSEM instead of being a distributor or creator is a key from the writers that these so-called hunters are just LARPing the CIA. In my experience, it’s pretty widely known that the people who ‘have CSEM’ are not… really the people law enforcement go after–it’s those supplying the demand in some form.


Pedo hunters protect kids. Yeah, they may not focus on the highest risk sickos out there, but they still help. The only people against pedo hunters are people with questionable moral compasses.

Pedo hunters want internet fame, or to feel like heroes above all else, they do it for themselves, not anyone else. The “evidence” they gather can rarely be used and they often hinder legitimate investigations.


I don’t think that’s the case. Many who were trying to get with a 12 year old were arrested on the spot. And yes the evidence can be used. Furthermore, some hunters do sometimes kill the ones they hunt which keeps our children safe.

Good to know where you stand. Personally I don’t support murder.


Vigilantism is a crime. Vigilantes are the criminals, who should have bounties on their heads. FYI, bounty hunting isn’t a crime. Your Hunters should end up being the legally hunted.


A former coworker of mine was pulled over for a traffic citation and later arrested for possession of a controlled substance after they found marijuana residue in his car. They later on found a plastic bottle full of urine in his car and added charges related to that.

That’s a lot.

He couldn’t afford a good lawyer, so the best his court-appointed defense attorney could do was muster up a plea deal where he would receive no prison time in exchange for community service and being put on the sex offenders registry for urinating in a bottle while in his car.

He took it and now isn’t allowed to be within a certain distance of a school and has to explain to people why.
Anytime he moves, a letter with his name, face, and address is sent to his neighbors.
When you look him up on the registry, it simply reads “CRIMES AGAINST NATURE/PUBLIC INDECENCY”.
I would post it here, but I don’t want to draw attention to him and he politely asked that I respect his decision to keep a low profile.

When I see these vigilantes, going around assaulting people, I immediately think of my coworker and those like him. The law is tricky. The courts are basically modern-day coliseums, depending on the case, and like the gladiators of old, prosecutors will spill an ocean of blood to get where they need to go. That’s not to say that those who prosecute crimes aren’t good people or don’t do good work, violent sexual predators do need to be held accountable for their crimes. But just because you’re accused, doesn’t mean you’re guilty. This fear and anxiety has clouded the better judgement of an otherwise impartial and objective community of jurists and allowed the sword of justice to be swung far more indiscriminately than before.

It’s safe to assume that the average person is blind to this fact, either by sheer ignorance or deliberately. From what I’ve gathered, these “pedo hunters” are generally less intelligent than that. So I don’t expect them to be very reasonable when picking out listings of people to assault.


There is a fair share of reasonable pedo hunters, who either deal with ethical hacking of sites on the darknet, or investigate cases people send them with their suspicions, trying to get some informations and either notifying the authorities or talking to the person who displayed suspicious behaviour if they found no proofs of them participating in anything illegal, in hopes of convincing them “to seek help”.

But I doubt they will ever come in here, the ones I’ve talked to are fine with artificial alternatives, they propose them to the people they’ve talked to as a substitute to real CSEM.

It’s just that some individuals, especially those with low IQ, are completely unable to understand the complexity and problems that come with the concept of justice, and instead, pursue blind vendettas driven by their own personal benefit, and not the wellbeing of real children. Especially when they have some sort of platform on which they praise themselves as saviours of children. Such fame can become addictive I suspect.

And then you also have the child predators who became pedo hunters, to disguise their own actions against children, create distractions and take any suspicions away from themselves, because most people don’t even consider the possibility that world isn’t only black and white, and that a person who claims to be against pedophilia, might also be a predator. Usually, they have extremely exaggerated opinions about pedophilia, since they don’t understand why people hate it and instead rely on how they imagine other people think of them.


This episode really fucks with your head. They don’t outright reveal what Kenny actually did until the very end. So the entire time, you think Kenny is a 100% innocent victim. Which is especially easy to do since he’s a handsome 19yo young man, not some stereotypical balding nonce. Regardless, there’re clues to Kenny’s true nature throughout the entire episode:

-He doesn’t share his coworkers interest in grown women, something they mock him for.

-Kenny’s shown to be rather socially awkward, but his people skills improve dramatically when talking to children. When he returns a toy to the little girl who left it behind, he never once looks at her mum: he kneels down and maintains total eye contact with the kid. As she walks away, time slows down as Kenny watches while the song “That’s the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it, uh huh uh huh” plays in the background, indicating a sexual interest.

-Speaking of that kid, Kenny mindlessly admires and touches a drawing she left behind, snapping out of it when his boss gets his attention by asking if he drew it.

-When his sister Lindsey uses his laptop, Kenny freaks out a bit. She specifically mentions that it froze while she was watching some movie thing, to which Kenny asks “WHAT movie thing?” It’s Lindsey accidentally installing malware that leads to the episode’s events, as Kenny downloads a cleanup software that allows the hackers to access his hard drive and webcam. The software’s name? Shrive:





  1. (of a priest) hear the confession of, assign penance to, and absolve (someone).

“none of her chaplains knew English or French enough to shrive the king”

  • present oneself to a priest for confession, penance, and absolution.

-While he and Lindsey are watching something with scantily-clad women, Kenny suddenly gets up and leaves to go masturbate to something on his laptop. Initially, you could say he got excited and needed to take care of business. After the twist, it’s more likely he got bored and went to go look for something else.

-When the hackers send him the email with the vid of him masturbating, we can see the rest of his inbox. Of interest are a man selling a camera (which Kenny might’ve wanted to make his own CSAM) and a friend named Nick who sent three emails: one labeled “check this out”, another simply labeled “pics”, the third asking for a gaming link. That last one indicates that Nick is indeed a friend and not just some random supplier.

-The hackers have copied Kenny’s hard drive and recorded a video of him masturbating. They threaten to send it to all his contacts if he doesn’t comply with their demands. If all Kenny did was masturbate to legal porn, why does he obey the hackers increasingly dangerous commands? Sure, a fap vid would be embarrassing, but not worth stealing and killing over. But then the twist is revealed and we now understand why Kenny was so desperate to keep his secret safe.

-When fellow hacking victim Hector (the adulterer) learns that Kenny was recorded masturbating, Hector’s surprised that’s all they had on him. Hector attempts to console and reassure Kenny that “even the Pope probably does it”. Given the numerous controversies surrounding the Catholic Church and child molestation, no wonder this comment seems to make Kenny more upset.

-When Kenny is handed Hector’s wallet, he drops it and it opens up to a picture of Hector’s two young daughters, alongside some condoms. The moment goes by quickly, but Kenny is noticeably flustered. I also imagine the hackers deliberately paired Kenny with Hector (a man who makes it clear how much he loves his kids) just to make Kenny feel even worse about his CSAM habit.

-Finally, when Kenny is ordered to take the money from the robbery to a remote location in the woods, he finds a drunk man waiting at the drop point. The drunk man asks what Kenny did, to which Kenny stammers “All I did was look at photos, just one or two photos!” The man asks “How young? In the pictures, how young were they?” Kenny breaks down crying, his horrified and sobbing expression says it all. The man responds “Yeah? Yeah, me too…”

-It’s at this point that the hackers order the two to fight to the death. Whoever wins keeps the money. A drone flies overhead to record the battle. The man approaches Kenny, who pulls the robbery gun on the man. Kenny, at his wits’ end, puts the gun to the bottom of his chin and pulls the trigger. Turns out the gun was empty. The man pounces on Kenny as the drone watches ominously… (Some fans have taken Kenny’s breakdown and attempted suicide as further evidence that he feels immense guilt over his CSAM habit).

-We cut to later. It’s dark, and Kenny has somehow won the fight against the larger man. Presumably, the man being drunk played a part in Kenny’s victory (not to mention Kenny probably bashed the man’s skull in with the pistol). Kenny, bloody, broken, traumatized, slowly limps home with the bag of money. And then he gets a call from Mum:

What did you do, Kenny?! They’re saying it’s kids! That you’ve been looking at kids! And Lindsey saw it, there’s a video of you, all of her friends have got it! KIDS, Kenny! Tell me it’s not…

Tears roll down Kenny’s face as he wordlessly listens to his mother screaming at him and begging him to tell her that it’s not true. The hackers send one final message to Kenny: a trollface (the trollface is likely directed at not just Kenny, but the audience as well for believing Kenny was a purely innocent victim). The hackers never intended on letting him off the hook. Kenny chose to rob a bank and kill a man instead of going to the police all to protect his secret. The hackers likely didn’t do all this just because of moral convictions. They forced people to Shut Up and Dance, like puppets on a string. They used Kenny for their own sick pleasure just like he used children by masturbating to CSAM. They manipulated him into threatening, robbing, and murdering people. They made a snuff film of Kenny and the drunk man fighting to the death. They downloaded Kenny’s CSAM and distributed it to all his contacts. They could’ve just sent it to the police, or threatened Kenny into quitting and going to therapy. But the hackers chose the more sadistic option of using and breaking Kenny and the others like toys.

The episode ends on haunting imagery: his phone drops from 5% to 4%, symbolizing that his life is already basically over at 19. The blue lights of police cars shine over Kenny’s face, his eyes wide as saucers. As a 19yo, he will be charged as an adult for his crimes (and considering that this episode is shown to take place in the same universe as the episode White Bear (an episode that many consider Shut Up and Dance to be a follow-up to), that’s really horrifying to think about). In shock, he feebly attempts to hobble away, only to be arrested to the wistful tune of Radiohead’s Exit Music (For a Film), which was originally composed for Romeo + Juliet - Wikipedia. Roll credits:

Shut Up and Dance asks some interesting questions. Are the hackers justified in doing what they do? Did Kenny deserve to be put through all this? Does Kenny still deserve sympathy after his crime is revealed?

I’d argue that this episode also features the moral of always assume your webcam is on. If you don’t want people watching you, cover up or disable your webcam when not in use. I now cover my phone cameras with bits of masking tape when not using them because of this episode. Even if what I look at is legal, I don’t like the idea of people watching me masturbating to lolicon on my phone.

Also, don’t download any weird software to clean malware. The episode wouldn’t have happened if Kenny just never picked the first cleaner app he saw.

Side note: shortly after the episode came out, a news story circulated about a scam involving people being sent an email claiming that they were recorded masturbating. The email demanded huge sums of money or else the hacking victim would be exposed. The episode’s writer commented on how surreal it was to read about this. Goes to show that we’re all basically living in a Black Mirror episode…

government is the worst tool for any job - including providing justice