Updated: Mar 30
Comparing Your Behind the Scenes Footage with Their Highlight Reels
The 2017 film Ingrid Goes West, co-written and directed by Matt Spicer, and Nosedive, (episode one of Netflix’s season three of series Black Mirror), directed by Joe Wright and co-written by Michael Schur and Rashida Jones, both satirize and reflect on how modern American society consumes social media. The two features explore how social media can greatly influence a person’s behavior, and how it can warp people into making terrible decisions if it means it will “make them look good on the internet,” chasing the dopamine rush of a “liked” photo instead of giving them that same feeling in the real world. Both features have an unstable protagonist, desperately yearning to be accepted and loved by someone they look up to – whether it be an old childhood friend who has become more successful, or an Instagram celebrity they obsess over. While both features tackle the subject matter of the dangerous implications of social media, as well as the themes of obsession and living a facade, they are quite different tonally. They operate under different genres: speculative science fiction with Nosedive, and dark comedy with Ingrid Goes West. But which piece of fiction says something more meaningful about our current times, being governed by our social statuses on the Internet when taken to its extreme? Let’s explore.
Nosedive is set in the not too distant future: a glossy and shiny America made to resemble the idealistic look of suburbia on a real estate billboard ad. Like many episodes of Black Mirror, this seemingly clean suburbia is dictated by a piece of technology. This particular episode deals with an unnamed social media app, in which its 1-5 star rating system, (similar to apps like Uber), applies to literally EVERY social interaction. The app actually affects the user’s real life social status, thus limiting what the user can and cannot do depending on their rating: such as buying a home, booking a flight, or even how other people view them. Ingrid Goes West, however, takes place in present-day California, using Instagram instead of a fictional social media platform. The protagonist of Nosedive, Lacie, portrayed by Jurassic World’s Bryce Dallas Howard, is constantly expressing a fake cheerful (and occasionally obnoxious) persona to help keep her numbers at a stable high number, complimenting every small facet of her co-workers and neighbors in order to retain her high social status. Lacie wants to buy a house, but in order to do so, she must have a higher rating, and as luck would have it, her childhood friend Naomi, (Star Trek Into Darkness’ Alice Eve), is getting married. Naomi’s guest list is full of swanky people that would instantly boost Lacie’s credibility, enough for her to get her house.
The titular character of Ingrid in Ingrid Goes West, portrayed by Parks and Recreation and Legion’s Aubrey Plaza, is a mentally unstable and lonely woman addicted to Instagram, as though the dopamine rush of a “liked” photograph feels like a heroin rush. She comes across an Instagram celebrity Taylor, portrayed by Avengers’ Elizabeth Olsen, and becomes obsessed with her to the point where she takes her savings, moving all the way out to California, and uses the rest of her money to lie, cheat, and steal her way into creating a fake persona in order to become best friends with Taylor. Both Lacie and Ingrid create false lives and personas through social media that crumble as their falsehoods lead them to make increasingly irrational and embarrassing decisions, (which I won’t spoil because I highly recommend that you watch both of these features). Eventually, they both realize that lying to others, and more importantly, lying to themselves, is not what is going to bring them happiness, and retaining honesty can be more personally fulfilling than how many people “like” them via social media.
While both features are great stories created by talented filmmakers and actors, Ingrid Goes West’s satire on the obsessive culture of social media is more biting than Nosedive’s portrayal because it is grounded in real life present-day, using real and familiar social media. Nosedive, set in the future, with an app that draws parallels to real life platforms and gross behavior, creates a sense of slight disconnection to its message. The viewer can easily deny its plausibility and exclaim, “Oh, that would never happen to us. We would never get there! We’re smarter than that!” and maybe they would be right. Maybe on that day we will realize when we’ve taken social media too far and stop before we get to the point where our status can make us literally homeless. Nosedive, like many episodes of the Black Mirror series, serves more as a cautionary tale, where our obsession can lead us into a bitter world where humans are more controlled by numbers than they are now. Ingrid Goes West is a much harder pill of a movie to swallow. Its present-day setting presents horrible people committing embarrassing acts that many viewers themselves can rationally connect to on a, "Oh, this is a probable, realistic scenario!" The film’s sense of humor is pitch black, and it is much more difficult to watch than Nosedive, because it exposes harder truths of how the Internet can shape a person for the worst. Nosedive also ends on a much more cathartic note, almost uncharacteristic of Black Mirror’s nature, exclaiming a literal “Fuck You” to the obsession with social media, while Ingrid Goes West ends with a much more bittersweet and morally grey tone. It’s almost as if Ingrid Goes West is a better Black Mirror episode than one of its own! I still recommend both features, as their messages and themes complement each other, and it’s always fascinating watching two different filmmakers apply their different world views and artistry to the same subject.
Jeremy is younger than he looks, and has passionately studied the art and craft of filmmaking for as long as he can remember. He is currently a freelance wedding videographer, and is also heavily involved in Competitive Fighting Games. IG: jeremyko95