Black Mirror and SNL

I recently steamrolled through the 6 episodes of the new season of Black Mirror on Netflix. In case you’re not familiar with the show, each episode is its own story in its own alternate universe that is very similar to the real world, except with an interesting/disturbing twist on how people interact with technology.

There are lots of twists and turns throughout each episode that I don’t want to spoil, but there were a few episodes referenced on Saturday Night Live this week.

In a brilliant sketch, Bobby Moynihan plays an Uber driver with a 3.9 rating and Aziz Ansari plays an Uber passenger with a 3.9 rating. Both go to great lengths to get a perfect 5-star rating to bump themselves up to an overall rating of 4.0.

In parallel to this, the first episode of Black Mirror features a near-future world where a similar rating system is used by everyone all the time. Your rating determines your pay grade, how good of an apartment you can get, and even the level of service and options you get at car rental places. Every interaction you have with someone is a transaction of ratings.

I absolutely love this concept because its one of those things that seems great on the surface. Take Uber, for example, like in the SNL sketch. Of course it seems like a good idea to rate the drivers. It’s real-time data that allows Uber to retain the safest and best drivers. And of course it makes sense for the drivers to rate the passengers–it gives Uber drivers the opportunity to avoid terrible customers.

There are lots of downsides to this system, and I think my favorite is in Black Mirror, where the rating of the person you’re interacting with has a greater impact on your rating. For example, if someone has a 5-star rating, they’ll have more influence over my rating than someone with a 2-star rating. This leads to a disheartening social dynamic.

Interesting things also happen when the ratings you’ve made are public information, especially when your professional life crosses over into your personal life. For example, I rate games that I play on a website called BoardGameGeek. It’s mostly just a way for me to remember what I’ve played and to help me curate top 10 lists. I’m generally positive about the games I rate–I can usually find the fun or the cleverness in any game. But I have had a designer of one of the games I rated merely average reach out to accuse me of artificially lowering their game’s rating. It was surreal.

Have you ever had an odd interaction with rating systems on Uber, BoardGameGeek, Yelp, etc? And if you watch Black Mirror, what was your favorite episode this season?

Bonus points to anyone who can help me remember the name of the episode of Community where they had a rating system like this.

8 Responses to “Black Mirror and SNL”

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Bonus points!

      • Katy says:

        Yay! Can they be MeowMeowBeenz bonus points? 🙂

        I’m still working my way through the newest season of Black Mirror, but so far that first episode has been my favorite. Even though the rating system being that linked to everything is super extra creepy.

  1. Sean says:

    I haven’t had anyone reach out because of a ratings system that’s used, but I could see the problem with ratings on Boardgamegeek being public, and problems revolving around that with how well known you are in that area. As for Black Mirror is on my watch list for shows, but I haven’t gotten around to it. However I can help you on the community front. Season 5 episode 8.

  2. If I rate games (and Im a designer as well) I make sure to always give reasons for lower grades. I dont mind lower ratings from other authors myself.
    There are sometimes people rating “1” for games that are not yet released because they dislike theme, mechanism, publisher or the coffe they just drunk, normally these are annoying, but harmless. With new releases (and games with few raings) it is harmful.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I like that idea, Peer. And I’m with you–I simply cannot understand 1 ratings, particularly for unreleased games.

  3. aughey says:

    I loved the Black Mirror series. This was one series that really messed with my head. The thing is, these realities are closer than even the near future. In a real way, we are already living in that reality. “Men Against Fire” is one of the best.

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