After two seasons and a feature-length Christmas special, you thought Black Mirror will no longer have any more ideas on how to paint our future with its dark-themed elements. You wish. Because Black Mirror is back, darker than ever, even when the episode is filled with smiles and stars.
Rank it all
Season 3 opener stars the beautiful Bryce Dallas Howard as Lacie, a young and enthusiastic woman, in a world where everyone rates everyone, all the time. Take Instagram and multiply it million times over, except, now it’s no longer only relevant to pictures and videos, but to every aspect of live. You’ve got a coffee and a cookie from the barista? Great, rate him. You slammed into someone on the sidewalk? Rate him. Someone bypassed you on the freeway? Rate him. You had a phone call with a friend? Rate her. Rate every interaction, every deed, every aspect of your surroundings, all the time. The swiping finger will become the center of your world. It becomes available thanks to a special layer on your eye, that can identify every person and display his profile on your cell phone.
Since it’s 0 to 5 stars, statistics will prove most people will be somewhere in the middle. If you wanna be higher, you have to work hard, very hard. But there are benefits: Better work places, discounts on apartments, being VIP in events, etc. Lacie wishes to be higher than the 4.2 she is now, in order to leave her shared apartment with her brother and go to a more prestigious place. She even hires a PR consultant (or something equivalent to that). When she is invited to her past’s best friend’s wedding, in which she might get good ratings from Primes (people with high rankings), she does her best, even though she knows this friend was evil, and even though her brother suggests her not to go.
On the way to the wedding, everything that can go wrong, goes wrong. The cancelling cab, the woman with the coffee, the airport incident, and rented car, the car’s charging, the truck ride, the comic-con ride, and getting all dirty bypassing the wedding’s security. Now that she already got to a 1.x ranking, entering the wedding, and doing the speech, drunk, sleepless, angry and all-crazy, was the worst idea of all. No wonder she ended up in prison.
Now, kids, what do we learn from Lacie’s adventure? No, the right answer is not “listen to the bus driver lady”. Even though she is right, and all that ranking business is a deep pit with no bottom, there is something even deeper than that. Being obsessed with how other people might see us, how they might judge us, is one of the top reasons when we make decisions.
Instagram and Facebook are a small reflection of a possible future in which we might be able to like/dislike everything around us. That leads to people doing things to impress others, to be liked, to be nice, and to hide all ugly aspects of life. Lacie thought she is happy, but was she? I mean, her job didn’t seem interesting, she didn’t enjoy her coffee and the cookies (it was all for the picture), and her brother mentioned they didn’t talk at all anymore. She even practices her giggles in the mirror. A bright mirror.
The truck lady said that when she stopped caring about her ranking, she stated living. In the prison, without her cellphone and without consequences, Lacie could say everything she wanted to her fellow prisoner. And it was real. It felt real.
That’s what I’m taking from this episode. Let’s all be nice to each other, but still, be real. Let’s do what we want to do, because we want to, not because other people will expect us to do so. Let’s say the truth to people we care about, even though it hurts sometimes, because it might be their only way to learn what’s right and what’s wrong.
Bryce Dallas Howard was a great lead, and this episode was fantastic. Dramatic, light, but still very thought provoking.