Throughout the new interactive Black Mirror Netflix movie, Bandersnatch, viewers will see the same symbol – the White Bear glyph – over and over in different settings and circumstances. It’s not unusual for Black Mirror episodes to reference other episodes in strange or confusing ways. But is there more to what we’re seeing? What does the glyph mean? Read on for explanations and theories. This post will have major spoilers for Bandersnatch.
First, let’s clear up one question. That symbol that you see over and over during Bandersnatch is, indeed, the White Bear symbol. It has a different meaning in the interactive episode itself, however, so we’ll explore that meaning first.
The Symbol Represents Stefan’s Creative Process, But Also Seems to Reference a Higher Power in Bandersnatch
The symbol as it appears in Bandersnatch has a dual meaning. During one of the alternate endings, we learn that Stefan basically comes to realize that the symbol represents the branching narratives that he’s creating while coding his game. Each branch in Stefan’s Bandersnatch game (and in the episode itself on Netflix) has one of two choices that a person can take, and this is symbolized in the White Bear symbol.
However, the symbol also represents Stefan’s growing paranoia that he is losing control and no longer has autonomy over his own choices, but someone else is beginning to control him.
In fact, this is exactly the same “delusion” that Jerome F. Davies begins to believe when he too goes crazy. He begins drawing the symbol everywhere, even in his wife’s blood after he kills her.
In a documentary called JFD that Colin gives to Stefan in one of the alternate endings, we learn that Davies became obsessed with a “bizarre glyph” that he sketched over and over, representing his belief that he no longer controlled his own actions.
Later in the episode, when Stefan asks for a sign of who is controlling him, we can either choose PAC or the White Bear symbol (or, in a different ending, we can choose Netflix or the White Bear symbol.)
In one of the alternate endings, when Colin’s daughter Pearl decides to recreate Bandersnatch, we see the symbol again on her computer.
The History of the White Bear Symbol in Black Mirror
But this is only the latest of multiple times that we have seen the White Bear symbol in Black Mirror. We first see the symbol in the second episode of Black Mirror in the second season (in the episode aptly called White Bear.) (Spoilers for the White Bear episode are next.) In this episode, a woman named Victoria wakes up with no memory of who she is, but she sees the White Bear symbol on TV screens in the home she’s in. People ignore her and just record her on their phones. A person she meets named Jem says that the when the signal appeared on TV and phone screens, people became passive recorders. Now there are people like Jem and Victoria, and hunters who pursue them, and then everyone else who is tainted by the symbol/signal. They need to reach the transmitter at White Bear and destroy it.
After being pursued and fleeing, we eventually learn that Victoria was actually being subjected to a punishment for a heinous crime. She and her fiance, Iain, abducted a girl. Iain killed her while Victoria recorded him. Iain also had a tattoo of the symbol, which was why it was shown everywhere. Victoria is in the White Bear Justice Park.
What makes the White Bear symbol confusing is that within the context of the White Bear episode only, the symbol doesn’t actually appear to represent White Bear Justice Park or any particular company. It’s simply a part of Victoria’s punishment to see the symbol that her fiance had tattooed on his neck everywhere she goes.
But this isn’t the only time we’ve seen the White Bear symbol. We see it again in Playtest. When Cooper is in the white room and takes a picture of the discs, we see the symbol. It’s one of the QR-code-looking icons that turn into gopher holes. So that could hint to the symbol having deeper meaning or being connected to a higher power (or company) of some sort.
Theories About Bandersnatch & White Bear
One theory is that the symbol does have deeper meaning, we just don’t know what it is. Her fiance had the symbol for a reason, and it must represent something bigger within the Black Mirror universe. Perhaps something connected to that symbol does cause people to go crazy, and whatever caused Iain to commit his murder is also what caused Jerome Davies to go crazy and kill his wife, and is also what ultimately caused Stefan to lose his mind (if you’re going to believe that particular ending of Bandersnatch.)
Another theory is that the symbol is a hint that Stefan is actually in a White Bear Justice Park himself for the murder of his dad. Everything we’re seeing is Stefan’s punishment, that he must relive in different forms over and over. But he also has amnesia, just like Victoria, so he doesn’t realize this is happening. His punishment is being forced to adhere to other people’s choices within a choose-your-own-adventure game just like what he was creating when he killed his dad.
In fact, this theory goes one step further and assumes that the people watching the episode on Netflix (we the viewers) are just like the crowds who visited the White Bear Justice Park to watch Victoria. We are controlling Stefan and contributing to his punishment, just like the people who were recording Victoria at White Bear were contributing to her punishment.
This is the theory I’m currently leaning toward believing, but there’s one problem. The White Bear Justice Park didn’t exist in the 1980s, so unless that part of the story is made up, how would Stefan be punished in that way?
However, the symbol might actually be connected to a government project or a company that dates back even before Stefan’s time and is involved in the White Bear Justice Park. Major spoilers below for one of the Bandersnatch endings.
I believe this is the case because of the path in Bandersnatch that leads to Stefan finding files his dad has on him, along with videos throughout his life. Those files are ALL marked with the White Bear symbol. It looks like this:
White Bear indicates a company or agency that experiments on people, separate from TCKR. It’s behind the White Bear Justice Park and it’s been monitoring Stefan and experimenting on him since he was a boy (if you believe that particular ending is the “real” one.) Perhaps Victoria’s fiance in White Bear had the tattoo because he was a present-day test subject of White Bear’s, indicating that their human experiments are still ongoing.
What do you think? How do you think White Bear and Bandersnatch are connected?