Why Nosedive is My Favourite Black Mirror

Black Mirror returns soon, though Netflix hasn’t yet given us a release date. Over the last few months, I’ve been going through all of the episodes. Having now watched most of them at least twice, I feel that Nosedive – the third season opener, is my favourite story.

This is despite feeling that White Christmas is the most thorough, well-constructed and best written. That view does not seem to be shared by everyone surprisingly. It appears quite a divisive story judging by the Facebook page.

The premise of Black Mirror is that it forces us to look at our world by providing satire, social commentary and extreme examples of what’s happening today. But anyway, this is why I love Nosedive.

Bryce Dallas Howard

She is an incredible actress with a natural screen presence. Howard is always a pleasure to watch in everything she’s in. Here, she’s perfectly cast as the sometimes-sympathetic-but-sometimes-frustrating protagonist. She is as much a victim of the system as a perpetrator. We see her apparently perfect life, going to work, buying coffee (and photographing it) complete with fake smile and aspiring to better things – especially the exclusive housing estate where she wants to live. She is a people pleaser in a world where everyone feels entitled to the pleasure of others (with social rewards for those who do and penalties for those who don’t). But soon the veneer of this idealised world breaks and we feel it as she does, even when she annoys us as she does during several frustrating conversations with her co-habiting brother.

Alice Eve

For want of a better word, “oldest friend” Naomi (or Nay-Nay as Lacey calls her affectionately) is the antagonist here although like Lacey she is every bit as much of a victim of this world as a perpetrator. We’ve all had a friend like that – somebody who tells us how much we mean to them but they never show it in their action. These are friends who desert you in times of crisis and forget you exist until they want something. Eve is perfectly cast and plays up to the character tropes well – too well. The story is that Lacey is trying to get to Naomi’s wedding where she will meet lots of “High 4s” – the highest social media class people who she hopes will love her speech and give her the boost she wants to improve her lifestyle. But due to a series of unfortunate events, things don’t go according to plan.

The Subtle Touches

This is not a particularly subtle episode. It is not so much a clear critique of our obsession with social media as a sledgehammer of blatancy to beat us over the head with repeatedly. Yet Lacey’s nosedive from aspiring high four to the pits of sub-3 is filled with subtleties that it’s easy to miss on the first viewing.

  • The fake smiles of everyone around her as people try to put on a show to reach or maintain a higher status. The most noticeable fake smile is the woman at the airline check-in desk whose fake smile betrays her lack of empathy for the cancelled flight
  • Watch the video conversation between Lacey (Howard) and Naomi (Eve). Pay particular attention to what Naomi as she shows off her cleavage, legs and other parts of her well-toned body. Every shot, every angle that Eve shows us is a common Fishing-for-comments-on-Facebook pose. The sort of thing a narcissist posts on her feed every day for the sole purpose of getting comments like “u iz well sexy babez” and “omg, luv this! my bestie is well gorge!”
  • The episode’s bright colouring is there for a reason – to reflect the thin veneer over which the problems with our social media personas lie. This is a superficial offline world based on the superficial online world. It’s completely unsubtle and brutal in its saccharin
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2 thoughts on “Why Nosedive is My Favourite Black Mirror

  1. I love the colour palette of this episode. Notice how it is themed very similarly to the colours usually used for macaroons that are so popular on trendy visually focussed social sites like Insta and Pinterest. It’s classical sugar frosting pastels, invoking the taste of sugared almonds in my mind’s tastebuds, and with that there come connotations of Niceness, old fashioned wholesomeness that always seemed a little two dimensional. It harkens to a Stepford type of world yet it blends seamlessly with the technology of a not too distant future. It’s somehow quite easy to reconcile the 1950s-60s style with the iphone generation (and on that topic, did you catch the nod to charging points becoming obsolete? Very knowingly, the cars are all white and it’s heavily implied that these are produced by a certain company) Then the titular nosedive is where we bite through the overly sweet sugar frosting to the hard nut beneath.
    I think it’s interesting that the cast was dominantly white – very noticeable in the large wedding crowd scene – and that several non-white characters were portrayed in less prestigious roles – the gay man who was socially cast out and then literally excluded from his own workplace; the fellow prisoner who seemed to have had a similar fall from grace as Lacey. Even the airport steward and the security officer, though portrayed more favourably, were in typically socially lower ranking positions and seemed to be gaining acceptability by their own way of conforming.
    Colour is a very strong theme running through the episode in several ways, and I think the casting of a red-headed actress is part of this too, with the social connotations that westerners tend to have about red hair (though of course Bryce Dallas Howard brings excellent acting chops and celebrity to this better-funded incarnation of Black Mirror)

    1. It’s classical sugar frosting pastels, invoking the taste of sugared almonds in my mind’s tastebuds, and with that there come connotations of Niceness, old fashioned wholesomeness that always seemed a little two dimensional

      Oh yes, it’s easy on the eye but visually striking at the same time. I’m certain they chose this colour scheme for the reasons you state.

      (and on that topic, did you catch the nod to charging points becoming obsolete?

      Yes, though I wondered whether something as simply as a charging point becoming obsolete was just another way of keeping the underclasses as an underclass. She wasn’t permitted to hire a better vehicle, after all.

      the fellow prisoner who seemed to have had a similar fall from grace as Lacey

      I also noticed his very well-cut suit and immaculately kept appearance. To me, this came across as one that showed that social divisions of old really were gone. Yes, he was black. Yes, he was clearly now a low social class but the suit suggested he may have, until recently, been an important person. Also, was it possible this was an ironic twist on the story from earlier where Lacey was looking for a new home? Her dream hologram man was black. I wondered whether that was a nod – she found her companion, who was also black, but in a way she didn’t expect.

      though of course Bryce Dallas Howard brings excellent acting chops and celebrity to this better-funded incarnation of Black Mirror)

      Great bit of casting from an acting perspective and from the appeal to prestige too. I don’t think any actor or actress who has appeared on Black Mirror so far has been quite the household name to the extent that Howard is.

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