Nosedive Cafe

Nosedive Cafe or Instant Karma: Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

“Lions and tigers used to be kings of the jungle & then one day they wound up in zoos – I suspect we’re on the same track.”
– Josh Harris, We Live in Public

 “Nosedive” is both dystopian fiction and acute social satire. The antagonist in this Black Mirror episode is Lacie (played brilliantly by Bryce Dallas Howard).  Lacie lives in a version of America where each miniscule interaction with anyone she encounters is categorically ranked by the people involved on an app that synchs in real-time (hmmm…yeah, kinda like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc). The nanosecond you see someone you can also see their ranking, meaning that America has morphed into a Stepford Wives-esque nightmare of passive-aggressive cheer, as people try to “out-nice” each other to improve their ratings.  

The episode is a co-project of many writers, including  Rashida Jones, and it aims squarely and unapologetically at the post-Clinton era, in which the internet is king and judgements fly fast.  For the Karens of the world who may have ever made conversation with a Lyft driver in the sole hope to upgrade a passenger rating, or wondered how come their Facebook post isn’t getting more likes, or even checked a credit score, “Nosedive” surely strikes a chord, all too familiar.  Directed by Joe Wright, it’s set in a “free to the public”  universe that seems designed for some of the Baby Boomer generation who may still believe Ward Cleaver was probably a stand up dude who had no moral issues whatsoever.  Everything in the episode looks staged and set, something like walking onto a Warner’s Brothers lot after coming up from the grimy subway ride that lasted 4 hours. .

Lacie, whose quantitative rating veers towards 4.2/4.3, spends the majority of her alone time smiling into the mirror, making content for her social media timeline, and “brandishing goodwill at people in the service industry, rating them five stars and then visibly crumpling in relief when they rate her back.” (The Atlantic). Does that feel familiar?  Even just a tad?

The name of the episode is a clear spoiler alert that all doesn’t go according to Lacie’s plan. Her brother , who hates how transparent and plastic-fake she has become, gives her a 1 star rating after an argument they have, as does a taxi driver whom she kept waiting for too long. Pssst.  Whoops, Lacie.  The world doesn’t revolve around you and while people may care what you think, a bit of “bad press” can send you soaring to hell.  When her rating continues to drop, it sets off a domino effect and she’s unable to get a flight due to her reputation.  Then she can’t rent a vehicle.  Or qualify to buy a new home.  Soon, she’s an official outcast, a social pariah, unaccepted by the masses because of a few bad “peer reviews.”  This is where Nosedive really has you questioning yourself, and others (Yelpers, I’m looking at you! haha)….it descends into a hell-scape, but it does so without cheap tricks, or gratuitous horror. “Rather, it’s the recognizable parts of Lacie’s story that sting: feeling excluded, feeling disliked, feeling downgraded and categorized as a second-class citizen.” (The Atlantic). The whole story is eerily recognizable and taken out of context, one may argue it’s pretty much the world we already live in.

Are you paranoid yet?  While this happens to all of us to some degree (word of mouth can be a blessing or a terror and no doubt our actions have consequences, especially in smaller communities or rural areas and for small businesses, as well), Nosedive runs with the idea that our karma is instant and that we all live in glass houses, if not behind screens that can manipulate us into purchasing a jacket we really didn’t need or a pill not yet approved by the FDA, just because you texted that “you had pills on your wool coat.”  

Privacy seems more of an illusion these days than anything, and some may say this is for the better while others fear it’s Minority Report-like consequences.  Does this make us question our own moral compass more or less?  I urge you to watch We Live in Public if this is something that has kept you up at night.

What do you think?  Is the constant judgement that social media begs from our peers a good thing?  Does it make us second guess our actions and thoughts?  Or is it a bad thing?  Does it violate our basic rights as humans?

Further reading:

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