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Recap / Black Mirror: Nosedive

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Series Three
NosedivePlaytestShut Up and DanceSan JuniperoMen Against FireHated in the Nation
"You've just got to play the numbers game, it's how the fucking world works."

"No one is this happy. A two-year-old with a fucking balloon isn't this happy."

In a smiley, status-obsessed dystopian future where people rate each other on a Facebook meets TripAdvisor hybrid social media platform, an insecure office worker sees an opportunity for social advancement when an old school-friend, one of the top-rated elite, gets back in touch and invites her to her upcoming wedding.

Directed by Joe Wright, Written by Michael Schur and Rashida Jones, and starring Bryce Dallas Howard (Lacie), Alice Eve (Naomi), and James Norton (Ryan).


Tropes related to Nosedive:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Social media ratings appear to rule people's lives in everything from housing to jobs here (Charlie Brooker said, "Everyone is terrified of being marked down because the consequences of that are unpleasant. So, it's basically the world we live in."). Electric cars are the norm, with charging stations instead of gas pumps (this hurts Lacie as her rental car is an older model that won't work without an adapter).
  • The Alleged Car: Lacie's rented I-Cruiser 2 is this, alongside having the look of a 2000s beater, it has the voice only in Czech and having no charger adapter.
  • Alpha Bitch: Naomi.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Played with. Lacie lives with her brother, and while he can come off as uncouth and a slacker, he genuinely seems to miss the Lacie who wasn't obsessed with ratings.
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  • Atomic F-Bomb: The final line is Lacie and her prison mate yelling "Fuck you!" at each other.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Those rated 4.5 or higher. Naomi's wedding is full of them.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Lacie has lost all of her social standing and is ultimately arrested after a nothing-to-lose wedding visit, but this winds up being an extreme personal liberation for her. She's happy to be out of the system and has real interactions with fellow prisoners. Also, she wanted to get into the Lifestyle Community to find someone, and the prisoner with whom she interacts looks like the man in the hologram and advertising.
  • The Board Game: An officially licensed smart phone enabled card game based on the social mechanics of the episode was released in November 2018.
  • Brutal Honesty: Doesn't really fly very well in this world.
    Susan: It turned out a lot of my "friends" didn't care for honesty. Treated me like I had taken a shit at their breakfast table. But Jesus Christ it felt good, sheddin' those fuckers. It was like takin' off tight shoes.
  • Call-Back: Lacie meets up with fans of a sci-fi show called Sea of Tranquility, which was also mentioned in "The National Anthem."
  • Capitalism Is Bad: In this world your social media rating dictates nearly every aspect of your life from where you can live or work to your priority for cancer treatment. All social interaction is reduced to a vacuous game where people exchange numbers and it makes them think and behave like petty, shallow sociopaths with no concept of true friendship or empathy or decency.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Lacie and the other prisoner are gleeful to be able to swear freely at last.
  • Cool Old Woman: Susan is blunt, but she's friendly, genuine, and thick-skinned enough to not care what other people think of her. She even gives Lacie some booze for courage.
  • Continuity Nod: At the office, a post by Michael Callow, the Prime Minister from "The National Anthem", can be seen as a top trending post in Lacie's computer.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Everything seems made of light pastels and happy smiles, but it's a pretty horrible world to live in where everyone constantly judges your every move.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Overlaps with Bright Is Not Good. The only person who wears black in the episode is the Tall, Dark, and Handsome prisoner in the cell opposite Lacie's. Susan also wears dark gray. Given everyone else in the show is absorbed into the horrifically shallow and status-obsessed society and wears bright pastel colours, dark colours might be a thematic shorthand for truth and reality. To add to the theme, Lacie has black mascara "tears" running down her face during her wedding breakdown, representing her realisation about society.
  • Disaster Dominoes: This seems in-built into the system, where small decreases to one's rating breed further decreases.
    • Lacie's nosedive starts with causing someone minor inconvenience, dropping her rating down just enough to make her miss her flight and kicks everything off. On the other hand, Lacie's behavior in response to her setbacks, while human and understandable, don't exactly help her case.
    • Lacie's coworker can be seen getting ganged-up upon by his ex's friends for dumping her, reducing his score to the point that he can't get into work. Presumably he will lose that job and see further drops to his score for being jobless or homeless.
    • Another of Lacie's already-unpopular coworkers apparently has an argument with a more popular one, and everyone else plays politics and sides with the higher-rated friend, implying that the less-popular are always at risk of going even further down for the smallest infractions.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The rating system seems to breed these. People get downvoted for the tiniest of slights, which then has serious real-world consequences. One of Lacie's colleagues did nothing more than break up with his partner, but most of their mutual friends turn on him and downvote him so badly he can't get into his own office building, and presumably loses his job.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The ending of this episode is basically a comment-section flame war.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Lacie stands in front of the mirror, patiently practising trying to laugh in a nonchalant fashion.
  • Failed Dramatic Exit: Lacie leaves her brother behind in the flat with a snarky comment, but then has to return to fetch Mister Rags.
  • False Friend: Naomi to Lacie. To be fair, it's constantly left ambiguous whether is Naomi is right when she says that she and Lacie are the same in terms of being callous users who only think of themselves, but Naomi is constantly condescending and cruel to anyone "below" her on the social ladder, and slept with Lacie's boyfriend in the past.
  • Feedback Rule: Downplayed. There is a slight feedback when Lacie grabs the microphone at the wedding.
  • Flying Under the Gaydar: Naomi's husband and his best man. Their relationship seems a tiny bit closer than just Heterosexual Life-Partners and Naomi herself reacts with disdain to it.
  • From Bad to Worse: The whole premise of the episode.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Invoked. Naomi helped Lacie make Mister Rags, which Lacie is genuinely attached to. However, bringing it with her to the wedding is clearly a tactical move.
  • Glassy Prison: Lacie ends up in a glassy jail cell.
  • Good Colours, Evil Colours: Deconstructed. The Beautiful Elite wear colours that correspond to "good" or "preppy bitch" colours, demonstrating their allegiance both with social superiority and superficiality. The trucker who picks up Lacie, Susan, however, is genuinely good but wears black, in response to her pariah social status. Lacie's dropout brother also wears grey.
  • Happiness Is Mandatory: ... because if your bad mood makes other people sad, you'll be ranked badly.
  • Ho Yay: When Paul finishes his speech at the wedding, he immediately goes over to his best man, Anthony, and gives him a very intimate-looking frat-boy chest bump, with their eyes locked to each other's. Not once in this sequence does he look at his gorgeous new wife Naomi, and the look on her face says it all. This heavily implies that the union is purely a Marriage of Convenience for the sake of higher ratings and the two don't actually love each other.
  • Humiliation Conga: For Lacie.
  • In Vino Veritas: The truck driver gives a thermos full of whiskey to Lacie as an "escape hatch". She downs it with pleasure and is thus dangerously/hilariously sincere upon her arrival at the wedding.
  • Jerkass: Naomi states outright that the only reason she wanted Lacie to be her maid-of-honor was for purely unsentimental reasons: a 4.8 giving such an opportunity to a "mere" 4.2 would be seen by everyone as Naomi being supremely kind and generous to her less-fortunate friend, netting her a glut of fives. Naturally, Lacie is dumped as soon as her rating drops too low.
    • The nature of the ratings system seems to encourage extreme narcissism, Lack of Empathy and bullying behaviour in most people.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Naomi points out, correctly, that Lacie only took up the offer to raise her own rating.
    • Earlier, Lacie's brother gives some scathing commentary on the shallowness of the system and her frustrating, unfulfilling obsession with it. He also sneers at his sister's rediscovered fondness for Naomi, a former "friend" who mocked and bullied her (and apparently fucked a guy she was into). He lays this on Lacie with the tenderness of a fist to the gut, but she knows it's true.
    • The dour gas station attendant gives a robotic but pretty fair justification for dinking Lacie with a 2. Instead of sprinkling five stars on everyone he looks at and hoping for reciprocation, he's one of the few characters actually scoring people by a more sensible metric: the more meaningful the encounter, the higher the score; a minute-long conversation with a helpless customer oozing fake niceness is hardly a meaningful encounter.
  • Kafka Komedy: Lacie's journey to the wedding has some elements of this.
  • Laughing Mad: Lacie, during the wedding speech.
  • Ms. Fanservice: In-universe, Naomi clearly plays up her looks at every opportunity to maintain her social status. Every time she's on a video chat, she just happens to be in revealing swimwear or doing yoga.
  • No Fame, No Wealth, No Service: Taken to its logical extreme. All of society is based on this principle.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Played with; in this universe, everyone pretends to be nice to the waiter lest they risk a downvote. Lacie is nice to the agent at the airport at first to keep from being rated down and so the agent makes an exception for her, but yells and curses at the agent when it's clear that the agent can't, or won't, give her that credit. Those behind her in line immediately give her a poor rating as soon as she gets frustrated.
  • Only Sane Man
    • Susan, the truck driver. After she lost her husband to being denied medical care over someone with a slightly higher rank, she became one of the few characters who doesn't give a damn about ratings if it means giving up her honesty and principles.
    • Lacie's brother, while a slacker, cares very little about the ratings and is satisfied with his lot in life, seeing deliberately aiming for ratings to be empty.
  • Order Is Not Good: Society is highly regulated, regimented, and actually gorgeous. It's also a completely hellish nightmare for anyone whose life doesn't follow these patterns, such as Susan or Lacie.
  • Percussive Therapy: When she can't find an adapter, Lacie takes out her anger on the car's bumper.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Firmly invoked. The bridesmaid dresses are pink at Naomi's insistence. Lacie also wears a lot of pink and other similar colours (pale blue, lavender, mint green).
  • Pride Before a Fall: Lacie touts her mid-four status for some time before taking a nosedive.
  • Princess in Rags: Almost literal, as the only thing still in good shape in/about Lacie once she gets to the wedding is the dress.
  • Proper Lady: All the highly-ranked women are ladylike, dainty, and hyper-feminine. It's even commented on that Naomi wouldn't dare to have her bridesmaids' dresses in any color other than pink. The low-ranked truck driver, on the other hand, dresses far differently.
  • Road Trip Plot: After Lacie is kicked off her flight to Naomi's wedding, she's forced to drive and then hitchhike.
  • Sanity Slippage: Lacie suffers from this during her trip and makes it manifest at the ceremony itself.
  • Social Climber: Lacie. Justified, as those with higher rankings get better housing, jobs, and immediate preference in everything from airline seats to medical care.
  • Social Media Is Bad: Lacie's entire society lives and dies on people "rating" their physical and virtual interactions with each other, Uber-style, on a fictional social network. Those with higher ratings get more perks. Unsurprisingly, this creates a society comprised entirely of plastic Stepford Smilers.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: Ches' exasperated "FUCK!" at falling to a 2.4 is barely obscured by a glass door slamming in his face.
  • Stepford Smiler: Lacie pretends to live a perfect life so others will rate her higher. One of the only times she seems genuinely happy is the last scene, where she can freely curse and insult others with no fear of repercussions. This is true of most of the people we see (see Stepford Suburbia, below).
  • Stepford Suburbia: The world in which Lacie lives is scarily perfect, though it becomes clear fairly quickly that everything is just a façade with almost everyone trying to keep up with the same smiley, ratings-obsessed spell. Public outrages are seen as felonies, people buy coffee just to photograph it, and you must disregard certain acts — such as being kind to service workers and colleagues — to keep those precious stars intact. There's even a ratings expert that Lacie visits who is similar to a psychiatrist or a counselor in the real world. It's easy to see why she ends up snapping halfway through the episode.
  • Super Breeding Program: The "lifestyle community" for the top-rated people. Lacie's brother lampshades it as a "eugenics program".
  • Tastes Like Diabetes: Name-checked in-universe by Lacie's brother on the Crapsaccharine World to which she wants to move.
    Ryan: There's sugary and then there's fucking diabetes!
  • The Topic of Cancer: Part of the truck driver's backstory, whose husband was denied potentially lifesaving medical care because his rank wasn't high enough. She's understandably bitter but refreshingly frank about it.
    Lacie: I'm so sorry.
    Susan: You don't know me, so you're not really sorry... you're just... mainly awkward 'cos I've sprung some cancer talk at ya.
  • Trick Dialogue: When we first see Lacie deliver her speech, the camera cuts away after some time to reveal that she was only rehearsing it in front of her brother.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Happens twice, with two people who are genuinely kind to Lacie (Susan and her brother). Her brother gives her the first one star in petty sibling rivalry; it starts a nightmarish free fall of her score. Susan also gives Lacie a ride and is extremely supportive of her...but she also gives Lacie alcohol and results in her losing what little is left of her dignity by that point.
  • Unstable Equilibrium: Non video game example. It's repeatedly shown that while high ratings don't always lead to more 5-star ratings, they definitely help, while low ratings inevitably engender more low ratings. Some drivers even ding a hitchhiking Lacie just for having a low score, putting her further into the pit.
  • Urban Segregation: Your score pretty much determines in what areas you can live.
  • Volleying Insults: The episode ends with Lacie engaging in a snark duel with a fellow prisoner.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Lacie and the unnamed prisoner positively sprint into this trope in the final reel with some gleefully baroque insults.
  • Weight Woe: Lacie had an eating disorder while growing up and took a bite out of her cookie for a social media post without eating it at the beginning of the episode. Bryce Dallas Howard even gained thirty pounds for the role to look like somebody concerned with her self-image.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: Lacie, by the time she gets to the wedding, as the image at the top shows. Though if anything, she looks better that way.
    • It's worth pointing out that the effect was caused by Lacie falling into a bog on her way in to the wedding rather than crying. However because the mascara runs down her face while she loudly tears into Naomi with a speech, they look like tears of resentment. It's a very powerful effect.


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