Black Mirror: Nosedive

Towards the end of my time in secondary school, I distinctly remember the rise of an app called ‘Hot or Not’. Users of the app were elevated to omniscient status where they could purvey and judge the profiles of other local users; if an individual was deemed attractive, they were awarded a ‘hot’ label, and if not, then an adequately degrading label would be prescribed. Once they’d finished casting judgements over the lesser, the modern day Narcissus could then admire their own profile. On it, they’d find a score calculated by the ratio of ‘hot’ to ‘not’ votes they had received. Sound familiar? I am recounting this little tale as a warning to those who sat through Nosedive, the opening episode of Black Mirror’s third season, feeling comforted by the fact that it was only fiction. Nope. This has and is happening. That’s the genius of Charlie Brooker.

I was, at first, sceptical about Black Mirror’s transition to VOD. I was concerned that its exclusivity to Netflix would lead to an inevitable Americanisation of the series. But with the backing of a service like Netflix comes an incomprehensibly grand budget that works wonders for a vision like Brooker’s. From the very start, the budget is more than visible. The set of Nosedive reminds me of Chanel’s Autumn/Winter 2014 runway show that took place in a grandiose supermarket for Stepfords. Charlie Brooker’s palette is similar to Karl Lagerfeld’s in that year; pastels abound in a sea of artificial smiles worn for commercial purposes.

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Bryce Dallas Howard plays Lacie Pound, a gracious civilian of a world where politeness must be simulated in order to survive. Every human encounter is rated out of five stars so Lacie knows that she must adopt an obsequious attitude to maintain a high score. In this world, scores can be beneficial to the quality of life; they can allow access to buildings, permit queue-jumping or, in Lacie’s case, discount house prices. Living with her immature brother Ryan (James Norton), there is very little to show off on social media. This is detrimental to Lacie’s online persona. Lacie realises that to purchase the house of her dreams she must increase her score in order to access the discount. After a consultation with her social media analyst, she comes to the realisation that the best place to be rated is at her socialite friend’s (Alice Eve) wedding. Unfortunately for her, a series of futuristic disasters ruin Lacie’s chances of arriving on time; one such disaster sees Michaela Coel as a bitchy airline stewardess give Lacie her marching orders (a hilarious scene). When she does eventually arrive at her friend’s wedding looking dirty, cold and manic, she unleashes hell on the faultless bride and guests.

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As always with Black Mirror, the cast are incomparable. It is without doubt Bryce Dallas Howard’s best performance to date. The vacuous and disillusioned internet addict is at once both unnervingly calm yet understandingly vulnerable. The audience can, of course, empathise with her situation; we all know a social media addict (if you don’t, you are one). They are those desperate, strange little people who know enough about angles and lighting to make their lives seem desirable. James Norton’s character sums it up best when describing Lacie’s dream home – “fake smile jail cells”. He too is wonderful in his role and is strangely convincing as a boyish American. Alice Eve is perfectly detestable in her cunningly evil role – she reminds me of one of those vegan bloggers who simply love to preach about the power of chia seeds and the importance of ‘mindfulness’.

Nosedive really makes you think. More so perhaps than any other Black Mirror episode so far. Ten minutes in, I wanted to throw my phone in a river. The intelligence of the series is in its ability to make its audience look at itself and re-evaluate their lives. For many of us, Nosedive should be a wakeup call. Our own self-consciousness prohibits us from living a fruitful life. We can’t go anywhere without snapchatting it, eat anything without instagramming it, do anything without tweeting it. It is a desperate search for approval. So next time you spend a little too long arranging your brunch for a midday Facebook update, ask yourself: ‘who am I trying to impress?’ In Charlie Brooker’s eyes, we are all lunch architects – arranging and prettifying each edamame bean around our California rolls. Why? To get a couple of likes on Instagram.

The entire third season of Black Mirror is available to stream on Netflix now.