It’s probably not a surprise to anyone that I watch the Netflix dystopian anthology series Black Mirror regularly, although not frequently, because, seriously, who can stand to binge that much plausible dystopia*? Not me, man. Not me. *shudder*
Anyway, recently I was watching one of the more acclaimed episodes of Black Mirror, “Nosedive”, which is about a woman named Lacie, played by Bryce Dallas Howard (yes, Richie Cunningham’s daughter), who is obsessed with improving her social media ranking. Because, you know, if you don’t have a good enough ranking, you might not be able to get into the apartment complex you want. Or into an exclusive restaurant. Or into the office building where you work. Or … well, you get the idea.
Now, normally I watch Black Mirror when my wife is doing something else**, but in this case, she happened to be both awake and in the room, and the episode drew her attention because of some incessant and highly annoying giggling that Lacie and her former best friend Naomi were doing while on a video call to discuss Naomi’s upcoming wedding.
Wife: “What’s with all the giggling? I’m not liking the representations of women in these shows tonight.”
Now, I should mention that immediately prior to Black Mirror, I had watched an episode of the anime Death Note, which features―as anime so often does―a rather vapid young female character who spends all her time either giggling, screeching, or mooning over a handsome male character. (In Death Note, the character often does all three at the same time.) Take a listen:
In the English dub it’s not quite so bad, but of course I insist on watching anime in Japanese and reading the subtitles. Which sort of tells you where I am on the geek hierarchy.
So anyway, my wife was already kind of tired of the whole giggly-female thing when “Nosedive” started up, so I had to explain what was going on and why grown women were acting that way.
Me: “This is Black Mirror, and what’s happening is that she [Lacie] is trying to raise her social media ranking by going to her higher-ranked friend’s wedding and giving a speech as her Maid of Honor.”
Me: ” Yes, see, the premise of this episode is that everyone is rating each other all the time. She [still Lacie] only has a rating of 4.2 so she can’t get into the apartment complex where she wants to live.”
Wife (looks appalled): “That sounds horrible. Even worse than Facebook.”
Me: “Right? They’re already doing something like that in China.”
Wife: “You could just go read the news.Why are you even watching it?”
Me: “So I know what not to do in the future.”
A little while later, my wife had another observation:
Wife: “You know what this reminds me of?” (looks at me expectantly)
Me: “Ummm …”
Wife: “Come on, read my mind.” (beat) “You really can’t figure it out?”
Me: “No, but I’m sure that after you tell me I’ll be like, ‘Oh, of course’.”
Wife: “That show? With the guy from ‘Cheers’ and–”
Me: “Oh, ‘The Good Place’.”
Wife: “Yes! That! And she’s Eleanor who’s always trying to get everyone to approve of her so she can stay in the good place.”
Me: “Of course. But you never pay attention to ‘The Good Place’.”
Wife: “I pay enough attention to know she’s Eleanor.”
“Nosedive” was really too short to put my wife to sleep, so I can’t give it a rating according to my usual method. I did catch her sort of watching it, but have no current plans to subject her to future episodes.
After all, if she wants to see a dystopia, she can always just read the news …