Here we are again: Placed in the middle of a bustling nouveau-modern world of constant social media access and paranoia. It’s classic Black Mirror style — a world almost the same as we know now, just slightly modified with shiny pastel overtones, like clear coat on a shabby nail polish. There’s no point reviewing the series as a whole, as each episode carries a different message, a different world to learn and different characters to love. Without worry of generalization, I’ll go through episode-by-episode.
Let’s start with "Nosedive."
Everything starts off idyllic: a pale neighborhood with a pale lady doing pale activities, all while hooked up to a Facebook-like system. It’s familiar to most people, the idea of going for a morning jog with your 4G turned on, scrolling through your newsfeed silently cursing everyone who appears to have a better life than you. Her eyes are distant, glazed with a contact lens displaying the stats and info of everyone she sees while on her nice jog in her nice, middle-class neighborhood. It’s all so painfully —plain. Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) is plain.
She delicately bites the corner of her cookie, careful not to mess up her lipstick, before spitting the crumbs back out so she can take the perfect photo of a half-eaten cookie and coffee to post to her feed. Cringe, I know. We follow Lacie through her routine — her very average struggles of dealing with a subpar sibling (James Norton), making friends in the workplace and finding a place to live on a millennial budget. It’s only when she’s invited to an old friend’s wedding that everything starts to go south. After a series of unfortunate events (don’t sue me, Lemony) our pink lady is having her pleasant face rubbed into the dirt (hence the name "Nosedive," I suppose).
The World Of 'Black Mirror'
Without spoiling anything, I’ll explain the basic premise of the world: social media, but in real life. Every person you see and every interaction you have online, you can rate them. The rating works on a star basis, five stars being the best. You, the individual, get an average overall score displayed to everyone. People with higher ratings get better privileges — better rental cars, better discounts on housing, better treatment. The concept is simple.
"So in terms of quality, you could use a punch up right there. Ideally, that's up votes from quality people... High fours. Impress those up-scale folks."
It’s not the concept that I have a problem with, it’s the message. I love a bit of social commentary, a bit of stick-it-to-the-man realism that crushes everything we thought we knew about everyone. Sometimes, though, #BlackMirror has a tendency to take it a little too far. On occasion, their messages move past realism and enter the treacherous world of post-existentialism. Characters begin to make decisions no rational person would, making it harder to relate to them (although on a para-social level) in a way that builds a strong fanbase. Suddenly, we find ourselves shaking our heads rather than being overcome with powerful understanding of a deeper meaning.
The Problem With 'Nosedive'
This episode in particular bothered me. It really went hard on that classic baby-boomer POV that all millennials are mindless idiots following the social trends and modifying themselves according to such values. Charlie Brooker, creator of the series, is generally a very intelligent and funny guy, but I can’t help the sneaking suspicion that he holds that same prejudices as seemingly every over-40-year-old against anyone younger.
"It’s not a technological problem we have, it’s a human one." — Charlie Brooker, Telegraph 2014
I recognize that it’s fiction, don’t get me wrong. Fiction can be as crazy as it wants because it’s not real. You’d never catch me complaining about the physical impossibilities of Quidditch or the unlikeliness of a friendship between Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander, but the issues occur when the fiction is rooted in reality and perceptions of the honest world around us.
The idea of giving monetary discounts to those with higher social media scores seems far-fetched and somewhat paradoxical, considering that all the elite 4.5+ star-ers seem to be the kind of rich, white people that currently frequent Beverly Hills. The idea that one can be locked out of their workplace if their rating drops below a certain point — regardless of their job performance — is laughable. But maybe that’s just me.
To be taken for what it is (fiction), it was an enjoyable episode. There were laughs and feels, twists and turns, it’s good entertainment. It, however, is not good at conveying the hard-hitting message it seems to be striving so hard to hammer home.
I felt this was probably the weakest episode of the series in terms of the message. As always, the production quality was excellent and the acting was fantastic — it was quality entertainment, but maybe take the social commentary in this one with a pinch of salt. Or, an entire bag, depending on your personal views of social networking.
Brooker, calm down with the Millenial-bashing; it’s not that clever.
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What do you think of the social commentary in Black Mirror?