Charlie Brooker takes to Netflix with what he calls a ‘little movie festival’ in the newest season of Black Mirror. The hotly anticipated third season was released in full on Friday, but on first viewing it has bought nothing new to the format.
The first episode, Nosedive, examines our obsession with social media, and the effect it has on our lives. It poses questions about what is important in life: our genuine relationships, or what online strangers think of us? For the people in this future, ratings are everything; they determine your employment, your relationships, your friendships. Lacie Pound (Bryce Dallas Howard) struggles to increase her ratings so she can buy her dream flat, but things rapidly begin to go very badly wrong.
Howard’s portrayal of the social media-obsessed Pound is frighteningly unnatural, creating a character whose entire life has been dedicated to improving her rating, while ending up with nothing. It is unbearably obvious that she has been duped into thinking she will be happy when she has a higher rating, that her life will be ‘enough’. As a result, her character is bland and purposefully dull, as if her personality purely exists online.
Whilst the acting is generally solid, there are several completely under-developed characters who do the actors a discredit. Lacie’s brother, for example, who – happily for him – seems to have risen above the whole ratings system, has taken to playing video games in his sister’s house. Nonetheless, he still retains an above-average rating, while in comparison a work colleague of Lacie’s is locked out of the office because everyone turns against him after his break up. And Lacie’s oldest friend is just a stereotypical high-school bully who has taken their cattiness into the adult world: a character neither original not interesting.
The point of the first series was that it was close enough to our world that it scares us into wanting to change whilst we still can But this feels like it was made a few years ago.
We already rate people at first sight, Tinder being the most prevalent example of this. A lot of people’s elf-esteem is already substantially based on their social media following and likeage. Most people would eat half a biscuit for the perfectly composed photo. Most people stage candid snaps because they want their newsfeed to have the right aesthetic – usually a healthy concoction of narcissism and low self-esteem.
Nosedive is not bringing anything new to this conversation, especially with the increase in movements and campaigns – ironically almost always on social media – to demonstrate the inauthenticity of it all.
Although big Netlix releases are associated with a heavy binge weekend, I am not hooked yet. After the unpromising first episode, things are not looking good for Black Mirror season three.
Image: Bykst @ Pixabay