Black Mirror has returned for a third season. This time, the show has brought its reflections on the dark side of technology to our side of the pond. Like many previous ones, the first episode of the new season, “Nosedive”, tackles addiction to social media. However, while “National Anthem” addressed society-wide consequences of the addiction and “Be Right Back” used it as a starting point for a discussion of other issues, “Nosedive” brings it to the fore in an intensely personal account of what happens when someone allows the Internet to rule their life.
The new episode’s world will look similar to returning viewers. The pervasiveness of futuristic technology distances us from the lives of the characters, something that the show’s Britishness did as well. This distance is part of what made the show so unsettling. Their world looked and sounded so different from ours, but at the same time, we could immediately recognize our future selves there. The new American season makes this distance difficult to recreate, as now the show’s world and our own seem ever more closely aligned; however, this new episode is just as unsettling as the previous ones.
At first glance, the episode’s camp was off-putting. The exaggerated emotions of the characters, the bright colors of their clothing, and their perfectly-manicured surroundings seemed to signal a departure from the previous two seasons’ sober, more dramatic storylines. The personable main characters from previous episodes made it easy for a viewer to like the characters, to identify with them, and ultimately, to see the character’s problems as the their own. This is the goal of social criticism, and this is what Black Mirror traditionally accomplishes very well.
The episode’s over-the-top acting makes the show’s tried-and-true approach to characterization near impossible. I could not like, let alone find similarities with, a main character whose only character trait was repulsive inauthenticity. However, Lacie, the episode’s protagonist, realizes over the course of the show what the viewer knows from the beginning: no one is genuine, and no human relationship is sincere. With this realization, the show’s exaggerated style takes on new meaning as a symptom of overarching concern with one’s own popularity.
This leads to perhaps the weakest part of the episode: the ending. If the episode had ended when Lacie looks up into the distance, noticing life for the first time without her eye implant and the ranking system it enabled, the episode would have ended like many others in the season- a resolution in which the viewer is slightly uneasy about what comes next. However, by ending with the complete liberation from the ranking system and its subsequent fallout, the episode erases any sense of ambiguity that characterized the previous episodes and also leaves the viewer with a strange, if not outright foolish, conclusion: that the only thing stopping us from constantly shouting expletives at one another is our need for societal approval.
Nevertheless, the episode continues Black Mirror’s critiques of modern technology and is relevant to anyone who has ever fretted over the number of likes on a Facebook profile picture or the number of retweets on their most recent hot take. “Nosedive” continues to do what Black Mirror is famous for–showing us what our not-so-distant future might hold.