Why Nerve is the selfie generation’s Desperately Seeking Susan

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 19.28.03

Discussing Nerve and immersive gaming in film with Naomi Alderman on BBC Front Row on Radio 4 on August 11th and iplayer after. 

The Green Dress. I knew I’d seen it somewhere before in New York the moment it appeared on screen. It helped that I”d avoided the trailer and any prior reviews or images of the film. Nerve works its power best if you don’t watch the trailer which is full of spoilers. This post avoids big ones but assumes you’ve seen it.

Then suddenly it came to me: the green dress is a tribute (subconscious or deliberate?) to Rosanna Arquette’s in Desperately Seeking Susan. And then the parallels wouldn’t stop coming:


  1. Emma Roberts has the same gangly, toothy beauty and charm. Like Rosanna’s New Jersey housewife, this Staten Island Venus is a shy, uncool suburbanite who commutes into the city and dreams of escape.NERVE GREEN DRESS MOTORBIKE
  2. That green dress: With its sparkles and its shortness the green dress is in both films a Wizard of Oz like Emerald metaphor for transformation and new powers. Our heroines discover their elegant sexiness (legs bare, everything else covered) and inhibitions are lowered ready for:DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN MOTORBIKE
  3. The motorbike hero: Aidan Quinn takes Rosanna on a tour of the neon city and into its flamboyant underworld. It’s less high octane and rather more twee than the high speed dare of Nerve and its equally charming and handsome hero, Dave Franco, but the vehicle of transformation and the impact is the same.Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 19.13.39
  4. The personal ad versus the online game. Roberta/Rosanna starts out as a watcher through the personal ads – the 80s precursor to Tinder and all the rest of today’s social media apps, but is sucked into the Game just like Venus in Nerve. Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 19.15.35   Only her secret diary reveals how boring and frustrating her life is. In one of the great scenes of the film Susan/Madonna can’t believe it’s real. “No one’s life can be this boring!” It must be a cover for something.  Perhaps the big change is whether Venus, like other teenagers and 20somethings would even keep a private as opposed to online journal anymore?

About samiraahmed

Journalist. Writer. Broadcaster.
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