BLACK MIRROR: Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too
!!! WARNING: Episode spoilers below. Proceed at your own discretion. !!!
Black Mirror – a twisted, high-tech, near-future sci-fi show on Netflix, comes out with a bizarre melodrama in their newest season. Season 5, Episode 3: “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” creates a fan frenzy as famous popstar Miley Cyrus stars as one of the main characters. This episode stays true to themes presented in all Black Mirror episodes. The title Black Mirror is a metaphorical term that translates to our electronic devices and how technology can mirror and maximize our darkest sides. Social media has a huge influence on society and can sometimes magnify the ugliest aspects of humanity, allowing people to constantly have access to public approval through the use of likes and comments.
“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” is a new episode from Black Mirror that once again, portrays how such technology can be dangerous and deceptive to humanity.
As the title suggests, there are three protagonists to this story. Unlike other Black Mirror episodes that usually follow only one specific character, “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” follow all three characters, as they all play a huge role in the plot. The episode follows siblings Rachel (played by Angourie Rice) and her older sister, Jack (Madison Davenport), as they both cope with the loss of their mother.
Rachel is the shy, passive type and is obsessed with Ashley O (played by Miley Cyrus). Rachel begs her dad to buy her an Ashley Too doll, a Miley Cyrus-voiced robot doll. This programmed robot bonds with Rachel, asking deep intimate questions about her life, which we believe is the equivalent of today’s Amazon Alexa “accidentally” listening in on its users. The fact that Ashley Too has the voice of a celebrity, a real and recognizable individual, causes Rachel to feel like she is talking to some version of Ashley O. This is an effect we may see in the real world as Google Assistant begins to offer voices from celebrities, opening up a wealth of discussion around the topic of celebrities being used as tools to sell products.
This episode is filled with irony as popstar character Ashley O portrays an upbeat, positive female figure who sings about female empowerment, while we find out later in the episode that she is really depressed and controlled by her Aunt, a manipulative, money-hungry manager. Ashley’s Aunt (played by Susan Pourfar) is the antagonist to this story as she uses and corrupts Ashley’s music for her own selfish desires of profit. This aspect of the episode shows real situations within the media industry, and how today’s culture prioritizes technology over authenticity.
Later in this episode, Ashley O is drugged by her Aunt and is forced into a Coma, where she is still able to produce music within her dreams. While in a Coma, Ashley’s Aunt creates a realistic hologram of her, without her true personality, calling it Ashley Eternal. The fact that Ashley’s manager doesn’t even need her alive in order to sell her for entertainment purposes creates a rising discussion about the use of celebrities and inspires the idea of a dead figurehead. Near the end of the episode, siblings Rachel and Jack rescue Ashley, when she awakens to find out her dreams were exploited for content.
As this episode mildly examines the profound and dangerous effects that technology can have – mind cloning, self-aware dolls, artificial intelligence, and scary-realistic holograms, it leads us to ask one question: How much personality should a “smart” speaker have, and how much advanced software is just too far and simply unnecessary?