We’re living in a social media world, 3.5 readers, and Bryce Dallas Howard plays a social media girl.
This is by far the best episode of Black Mirror, such that if they had added a half hour, they could have released it as a feature length film. It’s dark, yet also funny and sadly, given the direction we are headed in, the one I would dare say is most likely to happen.
Bryce plays Lacie, a hard working, cheerful young woman who lives in a world where society ranks everyone based on a social media app. People have an implant that allows them to look at anyone and see their ranking number next to their head and they can add or delete stars on that person with their phone. Ultimately, every interaction you have with another human is a chance to move up or down in the world.
Lacie is a respectable 4.2 but she dreams of becoming a 4.5. You see, the higher your ranking, the more access you have to life’s perks – i.e. promotions, opportunities, open doors and so on. If she can be a 4.5, she can secure a loan needed to move into a luxury condo complex, one where she’d be able to go to fancy parties, meet trendy people, perhaps even meet a fantastic mate and better yet, she won’t have to be room mates with her dopey 3.7 brother anymore.
When Lacie is asked to be the maid of honor at her highly ranked childhood friend Naomi (Alice Eve), her reputation consultant (yes, people pay big money for advice on how to move up their rankings) advises this is her chance to send her numbers sky high. She immediately goes to work on her speech, hoping to dazzle the wedding party into throwing plenty of stars her way. Her brother reminds her that Naomi was a terrible friend but Lacie doesn’t care. She wants that damn condo and who can blame her. It does look like a fabulous condo.
And so, Lacie sets out on what inevitably becomes the cross country trip from hell, one that makes “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” look like “Roman Holiday.”
When her flight is cancelled, she makes the mistake of shouting at the airline clerk, a move that causes the police to attach the ultimate punishment – no, not jailtime. She is put on “double damage” meaning for the next 24 hours, any rating she receives, good or bad, counts as half.
As she attempts to make the long drive, one mishap after another happens, causing her mood to worsen and of course, this leads to one star sapping encounter after another with multiple jerkwads with itchy rating fingers.
Worse, as her social rep plummets, she is afforded less opportunities and thus, her travel amenities become crappier and crappier. The great irony is that the less stars she gets, the less craps Lacie gives, and her ability to tell people to eff off becomes her superpower in a world where everyone is going out of their way to impress everyone.
You might laugh and think this is impossible, but aren’t we all ranked in a way by social media? Don’t we dream of building that idyllic life, the one we can snap photos of and rub in our friends’ faces online? Hell, in some businesses, the number of followers you have is a bankable commodity.
Not to give it away, but while it is standard for all Black Mirror episodes to have a bad, depressing ending (and this follows suit) this is the closest this series gets to having a happy ending…or perhaps a humorous ending. It is still, when you think about it, unhappy.