Lookit we're in the current season of Black Mirror and EVERYTHING! Yay us! The first of season four was a frothy concoction with an evil underbelly, let's see what S4:E02 Arkangel has in store for us!
We open in an operating room with a curtain swathing a woman's belly, that can only mean one thing: she's giving birth by caesarean section! Okay, it could also mean any number of downstairs ailments, but in this case Marie (Rebecca DeWitt whom I know from Mad Men and Olive Kitteridge!) is indeed having a baby all by herself and it gets a little tricky towards the end.
There's a pause before the baby breathes, that was all of us holding our breath, most of all Marie who is greatly relieved when she gets her totally adorable daughter covered in schmutz handed to her.
Ohmergerd that girl is GORGEOUS! Sara (Aniya Hodge) is about 3 and well cared for by her mama and grandpa Russ (Nicholas Campbell!! From DaVinci's Inquest! Here's your Canadian content for the show, thank you very much) but apparently not allowed to walk to the park, only to sit in a stroller that is clearly too small for her.
My god she's cute, she's just a sprite and also a fast mover as she runs off within the blink of an eye while her mom is within 4 feet of her.
Then the screaming and everyone looking and whew, there she is! She followed a cat down a slope and couldn't get back up. All the love for that mama.
Now we're at the company Arkangel, which is totally not using Sara as a guinea pig but rather they're fine-tuning their model before launch. In case you were wondering, that sounds like potato vs. pahtahto.
Sara gets to watch cartoons while they stick a needle in her adorable head to place the implant. It's not just for tracking, this is like Zed Eyes and eleventy thousand other Black Mirror inventions: Marie can even see through Sara's eyes now! No way having that kind of technology contravenes Sara's human rights or would be hackable by outsiders! This is a great idea!
Side note: my mom refused to have us kids fingerprinted as part of the police neighbourhood watch program because she thought it was an unfair advantage for them if we turned out to be criminals. Or something about human rights, but I prefer my version better.
They can even filter what Sara sees and hears using the Parental Unit, changing how things look and sound. Hey, who's seen Black Mirror S3:E05 Men Against Fire? Who thinks it's a good idea to alter other people's perceptions based on your value system? Let's see some hands!
Marie balks at the filter initially but later uses it for protecting Sara from being scared by dogs. I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's GOOD to be scared of aggressive dogs, the barking and lunging shouldn't be muted, maybe just cross the street, mom.
You know another thing that's good to experience and not filter? Your grandpa having a heart attack in front of you and asking for the phone. Unfortunately, Sara can only see and hear friendly pixels, so I'm afraid we've probably seen the last of Russ (and our CanCon).
Side note: (this is gonna be fun, right? So many side notes already! Maybe you should go make a snack and a cuppa, I'll wait. Ping me when you're back) I have a dear friend that will not allow her children to watch anything upsetting on TV. Now, these kids don't get real TV, they get carefully vetted movies and by that I mean the most inoffensive Disney pap you can find. But they still don't get to watch the scary parts or even those with scary music because it might scare them. If you never let them see bad guys, how can good triumph over evil? It's not like any of these films were in the running for a Palme D'Or, we already know what's gonna happen. That just seems confusing for the kids.
Anyway, back to the show. Russ lived because the system alerted Dr. Marie that her daughter had elevated cortisol levels.
Sara ages, her life completely controlled by something she didn't agree to have placed in her body. She's about 9 (Sarah Abbot) now and Russ has passed. She sits at the grave with Marie, whose face she can't see because Sad Filter blocks out Sad.
HOW CAN YOU NOT PROTECT YOUR DAUGHTER FROM SEEING DANGER?? AND HOW CAN YOU PROTECT HER FROM EXPERIENCING EMOTIONS??
Sara gets to school where she's considered a snitch because of her parental controls, one kid tries to explain the gross video game she can't see but even the explanation is blocked. At home she tries to draw blood on a picture and she can't even do that ahhhhh but she can stab her fingers with a freshly sharpened pencil....which I am totally not watching.
The alert comes to Marie but not before Sara is in full fury, blood all over and she slaps her mom when approached.
Marie watches through Sara's eyes because she's like that, but it's the talk after with the therapist that is the most illuminating. Arkangel has some serious glitches and it's about to be pulled off the shelves. They can't remove the implant, but she could get rid of the Parental Controls unit.
Marie does, she turns off the filter and turns off the unit.
Sara isn't relieved to hear she's untethered because she's not a teenager yet. She's used to only seeing good and unscary things and this world is going to be a revelation.
First problem: the aggressive dogs lunging at her face. She leaps into the road to avoid and is almost hit by a truck, but then CROSSES THE ROAD. See? Problem solved. That poor dog, too, needs to be taken for a long walk and not be stuck in that tiny yard.
Marie lasts a whole 30 seconds before she turns the tablet on again, girl is addicted. She doesn't turn the filter back on so Sara isn't aware that she's being monitored.
Sara has a little friend at school, Trick (Nicky Torchia) and he's is very excited that her parental controls have been turned off.
Followed by all the violence her tiny lovely eyes can handle. Jaysus. I think Marie tucks away the Parental Control Unit.
Now she's almost grown, late teen years (Brenna Harding) and she and the dog have made friends.
She still has her friend Meryl (Abby Quinn) but she and Trick (Owen Teague) seem estranged. They're probably gonna hang out anyway. Totally are, after Sara lies to her mom they're smoking a jay by the fire with friends and cuddling. Sara is an EXCELLENT liar.
Marie has her own plans, sleeping with her patient Anthony (Paul Braunstein) who can get together weekly for sex, provided his girlfriend is out of town.
Sara must have lost track of time, because her mom calls and calls and then rushes home to dig out the tablet.
Oh Marie. Marie, you do not want to do that.
Nobody needs to see Trick's sweaty coitus face and their offspring saying "fck me harder", nope nope nah.
It's not just Marie and I grossed out by Sara's vocal stylings, Trick wants Sara to know A) he doesn't believe that was her first time (the YOU'RE TOO GOOD AT SEX TO BE PURE argument, see also: Jerry Lee Lewis) and B) she doesn't have to talk like that for him.
What if SHE likes to talk like that? Huh?
Meryl bursts in, they're busted, time to go home and face the music. Trick drives her home and they laugh and laugh about how gross the idea is that her mom got laid and now I must switch alliances to Marie.
We all knew this was going to be about control during the teenage years, right?
Sara lies and lies and lies some more, she's amazing at it! She should do that for a living!
So. Remember how Trick couldn't wait to show Sara everything she couldn't see? Now he doesn't want to share his tiny drug dealer stash with her, because that's not for "her". Just like the dirty talk wasn't "her".
We could probably write a whole piece on the Madonna/whore complex some people (okay men) are obsessed with but what with all my side notes you're probably asleep already. Allow me this: exposing a person to masses of sex and or violence and then insisting they're too good for same are two sides of the same coin. Don't manage someone else's experiences, it's like everyone wants a Parental Control Unit!
Sara talks her way into "seeing what the coke looks like"; is he sure it's not sugar? She talks him into letting her try it, just a little and just once.
That sets off a heart rate monitor alert on the parental monitor so Marie gets to see her only offspring blowing rails while a concerned Trick looks on.
Who wants to bet me $10 that Marie blames Trick for everything Sara is trying?
Okay all four of you lost, Marie's next move is to do a facial recognition search on her computer to go find him where he works.
Ah jaysus, Sara is only 15 so now I have to change some text above, be right back. Okay, no harm no foul and Trick is warned away from Sara by Marie. Ah keerist, she kept the video of them humping, what is wrong with her?????
Trick stops answering Sara's calls immediately, I hope he at least warns her about her psychotic mom.
Sara tracks Trick down at work but he doesn't tell her the truth, just that he doesn't want her. It's brutal. That was her very first sexual experience and first experimentation with drugs and then this hard crash. An alert goes off on the PCU but we don't see what it is.
Marie knows just what to do, talk to Sara openly and honestly about her unconscionable crossing of boundaries into her daughter's life once again. Hahaha, just kidding, Marie doubles down and drugs her unknowing daughter because hey... when you're used to controlling someone's whole life, why would you stop now?
The drugs make Sara very sick, but ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh that's because it was an Emergency Contraceptive pill that Marie slipped into Sara's smoothie, she's no longer pregnant before she knew she was.
Jaysus fcking wept, Marie, you just decided to terminate your daughter's pregnancy without her knowledge or consent? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??
Sara is starting to realise what her mom has been up to.
She sorts through her life, finding the drug taking and finally the memory of when she lost her virginity. It's been starred as a Favourite so Marie can find it easily.
Marie gets home just as Sara finishes packing, I can't be the only one hoping Sara made it out the door but alas, she did not.
She didn't even make it out with the PCU, because Marie finds it on her bed, looking through Sara's eyes to see herself. It gets ugly fast but the filter is turned on while Sara tries to turn it off and suddenly she's bludgeoning her mother to death with it, but she can't SEE anything. The filter turns off just as Sara strikes the fatal blow and she runs.
Oh but not fatal, and the PCU isn't quite broken, so a beaten and bloody Marie stands and screams for her daughter in the middle of the street and tries to make it work.
Sara is in the wind and we're out to "I'm A Mother" by The Pretenders.
Hey, Jodie Foster directed this!
So what can we say about this that I didn't cover above? I went over civil and human rights, bodily autonomy, did we talk about self-fulfilling prophecies?
If Marie hadn't installed that implant so she could not lose her daughter, would she have lost her daughter?
What about the abortion Marie gave her daughter with her probiotics in her morning smoothie? What about that act of illegal extreme boundary-crossing regardless of parental affiliation? Is that different from not providing access to reproductive services? I'm in Canada and we don't have much sturm und drang about it currently but boy would a certain political group here like to drag it back into the dark ages.
As always, Black Mirror is about what's happening now and you can absolutely see this extrapolated from reality. Parents can track their children's phones, monitor their content, Facebook / Instagram creep-stalk for hours a day, but to what end? Is the risk of danger that high, or is it that it's too easy to do and produces dopamines or some such excitement? Or is it ownership we feel over our kiddos; my child, my right to know whatever they're doing at all times? MY phone, so I can monitor every single experience they have with a screen? I wonder where that line will end up, because it is so very easy to never ever disengage.
There's almost even a battle these days over who can be the most overprotective, I have to admit to being one of those in the ranks back in the day but that was due to some poor modeling and unrelated issues. It felt as though wrapping my kids in bubblewrap was a great way to prove how much I cared, what a great mom I was but hey: not a lot of fun for the kiddos. Turns out they learn a lot faster by experiencing than by mom explaining in exhaustive detail. It's still difficult to let go, but I'm not the only one riding the struggle bus, society is very interested in keeping women focused on overparenting their children, it's another way to keep their minds busy so they can't work on the wage gap or overthrowing the patriarchy or stuff. Back in the kitchen, ye harlots!
Until next time!