Pastel Hell: Nosedive and SurveilMe

P!nK- Family Portrait

The bleak dystopia of this video doesn’t come until the end when P!nk sings about her family portrait, where her family looked “pretty happy and pretty normal.” She wishes that they “could go back to that,” but of course it’s a lie. The portrait was a lie. This is something that I don’t think people really understand and something that “Nosedive” examines in an excellent manner. We think that other people are “living their best lives” and have “perfect families.” Lies. Life is hard. Life can be depressing. Of course, I learned a lot of this just through the process of growing up.

“Family Portrait” and “Nosedive” are commentaries that we should not be judging proverbial books by their covers. You don’t know a person’s life unless you have walked around in his or her shoes (Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird). There is too much envy out there, too much comparing yourself to another. Let’s not judge people. And if people are truly happy and stable and doing well, let’s be genuinely happy for them. It irks me to no end when people are envious of other’s successes. Stop. You have no idea what it took for them to get there, the sacrifices they made, the hard work they put in, etc. Let’s be kind and happy for others and not nervous, judging wrecks. It will make our own lives much more peaceful. I don’t know about you, but I’ve fought hard to retain my peace and I treasure it. Yes, I hear the criticism coming: Why do assholes get a pretty good deal in life without putting in much effort? Life isn’t fair. However, we need not stand idly by while assholery propagates. It is toxic and we need to cut it out of our lives, even if means deleting people from your phone. Again, they say it’s all about the namaste. More importantly, we need to act like responsible digital citizens when we see people being jerks. We need to find a sense of community in order to do that. I find art to be a powerful medium for change. I want to learn about more ways in which I can be held accountable.

“Nosedive” is absolutely stunning. The insane thing is that it is in practice today. It goes beyond judging people based on credit scores. We are quick to label someone as being weird for not being popular. Popular is boring. I was an outcast and I felt it. I did not have the wisdom that I have now. What do I see now? People “friending” me on FB who were awful to me in grammar school and high school. Do you think I forgot? I have certainly forgiven others for my own peace of mind, but that does not mean I want to welcome you into my digital space. I think that is why Naomi kept Lacie around. Just so that her yoga contortionist, puppy-loving self could look better (nothing against yoga or puppies). It’s all about the optics, isn’t that what her wedding planner told Naomi when the latter told Lacie not to bother coming to her wedding?

Now that I am older, I’m ok with the fact that I don’t fit in and that you can’t categorize me into a neat little box. Honestly, people don’t know what do with me and this used to bother me so much more when I’m younger. Now, I’m more free. I’m an independent-minded person with a strong personality; I am also very traditional, family-oriented, overly silly and loyal. I’m a lot of things. Is that so bad? All of the people I admire are outliers. I’m having a John Perry Barlow moment. He made a bold Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace in 1996. https://www.eff.org/cyberspace-independence

Oh look how far we’ve come! The Internet used to be a place for the rebels, the cool geeks and awesome innovators. These are the people who made the Internet great. What do we have now? Well, if we don’t shape it up we will end up in Lacie’s Pastel Hell (who threw up inside the film, the Easter Bunny?). We are always rating each other on Facebook, on Twitter and presumably on Snap (I don’t have the latter so I may be wrong on that, someone correct me if I am). I’m sick of reading ratings. I’m a book lover, if someone recommends something to me and it has awful ratings, I will read it anyway. I still do this crazy little thing called relying on word of mouth.

I think Nosedive is so brilliant at criticizing how we are surveilled through the ratings systems of life. Look at dating. There has to be a better way. Whatever happened to talking to people? I’m an East Coast Italian girl all the way; however, whatever happened to offering someone a pleasant heart-felt greeting rather than staring into your phone? The phone becomes a type of pacifier as we have discussed in class. If you are going to use your devices constantly, be creative: make art and capture memories. Now, I urge you to enjoy being out without taking a picture. Don’t feel validated by your number of likes or super likes (I don’t even know what the latter is, but it is supposed to be a thing, like being a Top Fan in Facebook).

Lady Gaga has this great line in “Bad Romance.” I want your ugly, I want your disease, I want your everything as long as it’s free, I want your love, love, love, I want your love.” Ok, this is hyperbolic language. No! I do not seek dysfunction in my personal life. But I seek realness in every aspect of my life. If you can’t be real what the hell is the point of being human? Eric Clapton has a great song, “Pretending” about a woman who fools him with her false ways. I like pretending in virtual spaces but when it comes to being myself, what you see is pretty much what you get. I can be misjudged because sometimes I am too much of a jokester. I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I’m working on being more serious and empathetic to other’s unspoken needs.

We often pretend to be something we are not in order to reach some illusory and fake concept of what is “the best.” It doesn’t exist, just like the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz was an utter illusion (or delusion shall I say). I’ve been told many a time to be less assertive. Does this take away from me being a kind person? No. I’m expressive and my voice carries. Be yourself. There’s only one of you in this world. Don’t be a tired copy of someone else or aspire to some level of greatness that doesn’t even exist. That’s the Big Lie, isn’t it? “Nosedive” shows us this in all our pastel glory.

Several years ago, as an experiment, I tried to act like a ditzy girl to get an extension on a project that I needed for work. I asked opposing counsel in a baby-doll voice that my boss would get mad at me if we couldn’t get an extension. Everyone in this class knows me. That is not my voice. Back to the story, I knew I was going to get the extension because I knew the man on the other hand liked stereotypical females. I did it on a dare, because the partners in the firm said there was no way in hell I’d get the extension. Had I not been dared, I wouldn’t have lowered myself to acting like a “Barbie girl” (throwback to my #Selfie presentation). I’ve got my dignity.

Did the pastel-perfect people in “Nosedive” really care about others? No. It was all about five-starring it up. It was really dystopic to see her chewing on a smiley-faced cookie artfully and taking a staged selfie to prove that she was having a great time. My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, put down thy phones and set yourselves free. Try it. “Freedom, gotta have some faith in the sound” (George Michael, “Freedom ’90”). Or if you are using the phone turn it outward to capture your surroundings and art. I do not need to see that you are eating a taco for dinner. Nothing against tacos, but unless you milled the corn yourself, I’m not going to be that impressed. If you did mill the corn, that would be something awesome to see! I joke a lot, but I’m serious. If you made the pie, damn it, I do want to see that. Cooking is great. But gratuitous pictures at a restaurant? Unless it is something unusual, I will yawn.

The absolute best part of this film was its ending. She gets her retinal scanners sucked out and we can see her beautiful, albeit mascara-smeared blue eyes. Before that, she tells Naomi the real deal and she gets arrested. Brilliant. I wonder what was in that beat up thermos that the trucker gave her. Was it alcohol? Coffee? Truth serum? I need to know!

Ironically, Lacie had to go to jail to be free. I love the ending scene when they are both screaming “Fuck” to each other. “I fucking hate your whole head.” “I fucking hate your bra.” It works on the level of serious social commentary and it is comedy gold. They trade insults like fast lobbing tennis balls. Genius.

SurveilMe

And now we come to that part of the program where I am intensely uncomfortable, so be it. I used to feel so smug just because I had my location services turned off on all of my devices. But we are here to learn, so let me take a good look at my life as framed by surveillance technology.

Well, pre-pandemia, I used to go to New York City quite often and you guessed it there are surveillance cameras everywhere! I think if someone really wanted to, they could piece together my day in the City, who I visited, what plays I watch, etc. It honestly does not bother me that much, but I am sure I will feel differently after class ( I usually do). I believe the author of Surveillance Capitalism talked about how facial recognition can be utilized to target advertising towards us. Scary. But unrealistic? No.

If my phone is on, one can find out where I am; this is true even if I am not using it. It usually requires a subpoena to get cell phone records, so again, I will say that I am not worried, yet. Cell phone tower data is incredibly useful. I have used it in the past (obtained through a proper subpoena) to determine if a person really could have been in a certain area if they allege that something happened to him or her there.

I thank God my house and appliances are dumb and Siri and I are not on good terms because she refuses to give me information because my Location Services are turned off.

Facebook and Twitter. I see potential problems with this because people may judge me for those with whom I am affiliated. I follow certain groups and people may come to wrongful, distcriminatory conclusions about me. AdTech, that is where I am really susceptible. Have I seen something that I browsed and then I am reminded of the ad for the item on FB a few minutes later? Yes. Have I bought the item that has been re-shown to me. Yes. There is a danger here because I don’t want to consume the same things. Diversity is needed in order to grow and so is intellectual risk.

Google. Google! She has rightfully gotten into trouble in the mid-2000s for reading the messages of others. But what else is she tracking?

Amazon. Here is where I am really sacrificing privacy for convenience. You can’t know who I am just because I purchase certain items on there. I am so much more than I consume. I refuse to be put in the box. Ok, I know I’m in the box, but someone lend me a hand and get me the hell out of there.

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By medea

Creative writing is my passion. Coffee, books and music are a hallowed trinity for me. I am pursuing an M.A. in English Writing Studies and am a Graduate Assistant. I am eager to learn the intricacies of the NetMirror! Follow me on twitter @medeathewriter!

4 replies on “Pastel Hell: Nosedive and SurveilMe”

This is a thesis! It’s fantastic. And I am so happy you picked Nosedive, it’s one of my favorite Black Mirror episodes. She was a bit of a vapid character until she nosedived. She had to crash and shatter to be free.

I loved that trick driver character, I loved that she was a she. I think what was in that thermos was nothing more than a taste of reality, she was maybe the first genuine human Lacie met (until her pal in jail).

FYI there is a fabulous collection of Black Mirror episodes rendered as comic book covers https://imgur.com/gallery/RJyui

Great truck driver! Yes! I loved her story too. Used to be a 4. somethin until her husband got sick. We shy away from uncomfortable truths, we shy away from real stories b/c they are too raw. Open your non-retinal scanned eyes. This is more than a call if action to others, it is a mantra I myself need to follow

Wait a minute P!nk and her child self eat from the Pretty Normal cereal box throughout the piece and then the box goes into the tv. Excellent overlooked detail.

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