The third season of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror premiered last Friday, and while the show is very explicitly a television show, the episodes function as their own films that are very much contained in their own cinematic worlds. Today, we’re taking a look at the first episode of the new series, “Nosedive.” This episode is an especially strong start to the season, but it’s not necessarily my favorite episode of the show. Nonetheless, it has gotten me excited for the next five episodes left to watch.
“Nosedive” is a biting social commentary on the superficiality of our modern social world, especially in regards with how we share our social lives and how we rate, praise, or dismiss others. In the world of the episode, everyone has a social rating that’s apparent the second you look at his or her face, and every action and decision you make or share can be judged by literally everyone around you.
The ratings aren’t just superficial popularity points but have real life consequences and benefits. Your employment and housing status, as well as your overall social capital, are determined by your average, and its ruination could change your life in an instant. I first scoffed at the ridiculousness of this concept, but five minutes into the episode, my friend and I had totally bought into it. The rating system had been successfully been established.
“Nosedive” follows Lacie, a mildly successful 4.3, played by a refreshingly warm Jessica Chastain, trying to ingratiate herself more into the upper echelons of society. She hopes to achieve a 4.5 rating in order to move into a new fancier apartment complex. After posting a “lovably” nostalgic social post of a doll she made with her childhood friend Naomi (a stunning 4.8), Lacie is invited to be Naomi’s impromptu maid of honor. She readily agrees to this proposition, as it will allow her to score high marks with Naomi’s high-ranking friends.
While the episode’s rating system seems very close to our Tinder and Instagram lives, the show touches on something in our own world that seems straight from a dystopian fantasy. At the present moment, the Chinese government is gearing up to releasing an online “social credit” system that will be used to rate and rank its citizens. This system, much like the one in the show, will affect the daily lives of its users, altering their credit scores and giving them more accessible dating profiles. The episode brings this systematic conformity to the forefront through an aesthetic emphasis with a pristine, almost unreal cleanliness of the world in its muted pastel friendliness. Everyone is dressed in either fifties style chic or New England college town prep in a fake, reserved, bland fashion.
I don’t want to divulge too much of the plot, though, because it will genuinely surprise and shock you. Halfway through the episode, we do finally meet someone who refuses to conform to the rating system and talks to our main character in a refreshing break from the superficiality of the universe. I won’t lie, this plot point is a bit predictable, and I wouldn’t say that this serves as a hope spot in the narrative where we can believe that this whole system can be brought to its knees. It serves as a reminder to the audience, however, to “ be secure in yourself,” as Frank Ocean’s mom would say, to not forget the importance of expressing how you feel and to resist assimilation.
How to resist being subsumed by the onslaught of modes of assimilation by technology is one of the Black Mirror’s most powerful themes and, at the moment, it’s a powerful question, especially during an election season where individuals are treated as voting blocks. This episode is a strong first step for the newest season and I, for one, can’t wait to see more.