Black Mirror Season 5 “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” review
Black Mirror is a show about technology, and this season 5 is no exception, it is about the impact of technology on people and relationships. Since the first season in 2011, the series has been a careful review of the horrors and wonders of our connected world touching on topics such as video gaming, virtual reality, online shaming, and internet dating. Some stories take place in the far future, others in the present or near present. Black Mirror first began to explore the idea of artificially recreating someone’s personality in the season 2 episode “Be Right Back,” in which a grieving widow replaced her husband with a living doll of him whose mind was crafted from her husband’s social media posts. In that episode, things ultimately fell apart when she realized that the AI could only ever simulate a public persona, and couldn’t truly be her husband. Since then, however, Black Mirror has repeatedly explored the idea of actually copying a person’s mind in its entirety – for example, in the season 4 episode “U.S.S. Callister,” where a tech genius was able to recreate his coworkers inside a game using nothing but their DNA.
Going back to Black mirror Season 5 “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too”, this season is about the images that celebrities are expected to project, and what their fans receive. Celebrities almost always focus on spreading emotions of happiness, spreading positivity – especially among pop musicians and social media celebrities who interact with young people. The problem of this is that when all this is taken to an extreme, without moderation, it can be damaging to vulnerable teenagers that may have mental health that has not been previously identified.
“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” is about a lonely girl and the musician she idolizes
“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” starts out as a teen movie. Rachel (Angourie Rice) sits alone at a table in her high school’s cafeteria, watching a music video from pop star Ashley O (Miley Cyrus).
Rachel’s sister Jack (Madison Davenport) hates Ashley O’s music, preferring angry punk from bands like the Pixies and Sonic Youth and Idles and Savages — all bands that Rachel and Jack’s late mother loved. And Jack hates Rachel’s obsession with Ashley O, partly because Jack is suspicious of what all this positive talk will do to her sister.
The episode soon starts to run along two tracks: There’s Rachel’s story, and there’s Ashley O’s. Ashley’s been raised by her aunt Catherine (Susan Pourfar) since childhood, and for years Catherine has been her manager too. Catherine’s special talent as a manager seems to be figuring out additional ways to monetize Ashley and her musical ability, one of which is a doll called “Ashley Too.”
But that’s only part of the story. During the day, the real Ashley goes on talk shows and promotes her work, Ashley Too, positivity, and empowerment. But at home, Ashley is having problems. She’s miserable. She’s exhausted. She can’t sleep. She’s losing the ability to write positive songs.
So when Rachel unwraps an Ashley Too on her birthday, she’s overjoyed. Now she can have Ashley O with her whenever she wants — her new best friend, who always has a kind and encouraging word at the ready.
Rachel goes through a “transformation”, directed by her Ashley Too doll so that she can enter the talent competition at school and dance to Ashley O’s “On a Roll” song, the one with the lines about “ridin’ so high” and “achievin’ my goals.”
They also go on tour to spread that message, lip-sync to songs live, and connect in person with their fans, who are mostly teenage girls. A few of those girls are briefly interviewed in Jawline. They talk about why they love Austyn and the other guys on tour with him, and the answers are a little sobering. For the most part, the girls are lonely and feel neglected or ugly
Watching Rachel, that she isn’t doing so great as a dancer and that she’s throwing herself into the way of public shame. But Ashley Too won’t quit telling Rachel that she’s a star, she’s perfect, and that if she dances at school, everyone will think she’s amazing. Therefore, when Rachel enters the talent show is clear that she is not going to do well and she will get depressed due to the shame she may get in front of all her classmates. This is the perfect example when positive talking without a touch or reality can be a dangerous thing, especially when you are talking about teenagers.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE END OF RACHEL, JACK AND ASHLEY TOO
Upon arriving at Ashley’s mansion, Rachel and Jack are able to drive through the gates before they close after Catherine leaves for the Ashley Eternal event. At the house, Jack pretends she’s been asked by Catherine to deal with a rodent problem to get herself and Rachel through the door, and then Ashley pretends she needs to use the bathroom in order to get away. Ashley Too asks Rachel to watch the stairs, and then pulls the plug on Ashley’s coma support machine, wanting to put her other self out of her misery. Instead of dying, however, Ashley wakes up – the machine was keeping her unconscious rather than keeping her alive. Ashley’s “doctor” tries to put her back into the coma, but Rachel and Jack attack him and then shoot him up with the syringe, putting him into a coma instead. The three girls then race to the venue to put a stop to Catherine’s plans. Ashley’s malicious aunt us using a motion-capture performer, a scan of Ashley’s body, and a synthesized version of her voice to create a version of Ashley that can be completely controlled. However, her plan crashes to an end when Jack drives their dad’s pest control truck straight into the venue, causing chaos. Police converge on the scene and demand that the girls exit the vehicle – and when Ashley does so, Catherine realizes that she’s lost. Ashley and Jack have formed a band and are playing to a crowd in an underground rock bar. Rachel and Ashley Too are watching the performance, with Ashley Too now decorated with punk rock accessories. Some of Ashley’s old fans are in the crowd, but they’re horrified by the new music and soon flee the venue.
THE REAL MEANING OF RACHEL, JACK AND ASHLEY TOO’S ENDING
“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” is about how the bright-eyed and ever-peppy ideal that pop stars are required to live up to is incompatible with being human. For Catherine, the fact that Ashley sometimes gets sad or angry or frustrated is a flaw, and one that she attempts to correct: first by creating Ashley Too, with a forced limitation on Ashley’s brain that only allows her to spew PR-friendly catchphrases, and then by creating Ashley Eternal, who can be made to do and say whatever Catherine wants.
Ashley’s humanity is what enables her to write the music that her fans love, and that’s the one thing that Catherine can’t fake. Instead, she takes the raw material of songs from Ashley’s brain and changes it to make it more marketable. Miley Cyrus is more or less perfect casting for the role since she came from being Disney’s pop princess Hannah Montana, and then as an adult went through a period of making her music and her image far more sexual and aggressive in a way that many people found abrasive. As is so often true of Black Mirror, “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” has a dose of reality in its fiction.
In the end, the learning you should get from this is that sometimes to be happy you first need to be unhappy, one emotion goes with the other, and at the end is just about the balance between both, and learning to manage the unhappy moments of your life knowing that there will be happy in the future too. It seeing the glass half empty vs half full. This is one of the big issues of Social media since all the so-called influencers create an illusion of positivity, happiness and authenticity that spreads to everybody’s life. Just check what you post, or friends post, chances are that it will probably be about happy and/or glamorous moments of your life, with friends/family. This can lead to problems because when you see that your friends are happier than you are, that they have a better social life that you have, more friends that you have.
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