Aside from impeccable writing and directing, one of the reasons “Black Mirror” still reigns supreme is the prescient way the series renders some of the most pressing issues of our time. In one of the series’ more high profile episodes, “Nosedive,” Bryce Dallas Howard plays a woman obsessed with gaming a personality ratings system, similar to China’s soon-to-be-implemented Social Credit System. The episode premiered on Netflix just before Donald Trump’s election in October 2016. It was directed by “Atonement” filmmaker Joe Wright and featured a script by co-written by “The Office” creator Michael Schur and Rashida Jones. In a recent talk at the Tribeca Film Festival, Jones spoke about her work on the iconic episode.
“[‘Black Mirror’ creator] Charlie Brooker is like some kind of weird prophet, everything he’s ever done has come true,” she told moderator Hasan Minhaj, who praised the episode as one of his favorites of the series. “Even while we were working on ‘Nosedive’ he sent us an article about what was going on in China, where there was like a full personality rating system that could impact your ability to travel on public transportation, to get a job, and get housing, really, really intense things that should not be real — and now they’re real.”
In “Nosedive,” Dallas Howard’s character eventually gives up on her rating after a series of mishaps negatively affects her standing. “She stops caring, which for me is the most interesting part, because I love the idea of not caring what people think,” said Jones.
Jones explained that Brooker and fellow executive producer Annabel Jones gave them the freedom to make the character unlikeable, speculating that American producers would not have been open to such an idea.
“Charlie and Annabel [are] British, and there’s something about, they have a little more flexibility with likability of protagonists in film and television. Whereas I think as Americans we’re obsessed with it. Like — ‘How likable do you think the character is? Would we wanna hang out with them?” …So we proposed this idea, their version of her was a bit more mercenary, she knew the ratings system really well, she wanted to get a high rating. Our version was she’s co-dependent and she just wants everybody to like her.”
Minhaj asked how Jones navigates her own social media presence, and she gave a very “Black Mirror”-writer response. She said she quit Twitter after the 2016 election, likening it to “going into a dark alley.”
“These are not platforms. The idea that these are sold to us as platforms as conduits to connect is, to me, a lie,” she said. “It’s not that. It’s like a fantasy. It’s like a video game. You have your avatar, you go see other people’s avatars, and it’s all a game. It’s not real life. So I have to brace myself when I do go on, like, ‘remember, these are not your friends, these are your friends’ avatars, these are not real people, these are real people pretending to be other people.'”