Black Mirror conjured up one of its scariest premises yet: think ‘Alexa’ re-designed as a robot doll for teens, and with the personality of Miley Cyrus.
Truly, the stuff of nightmares…
Ashley Too had Miley’s speaking and singing voice - unsurprisingly considering the talking toy was primarily a marketing tool created by the type of evil people in the music-business who made Rob Lowe in ‘Wayne’s World’ look subtle.
Candid: Miley Cyrus playing a manufactured, pernicious, pop star wasn’t a stretch, the robot should have been a modern version of Chucky in the brilliant Black Mirror, by Jim Shelley
All pretty sinister nonetheless as the basic concept was not one of writer Charlie Brooker’s feverish visions of the future but surely due any day.
Miley Cyrus’ promotional interviews showed she certainly regarded ‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’ as a cautionary tale about the record industry, familiar from her own experiences. Practically a documentary…
And if Simon Cowell isn’t already planning pernicious, manipulative, robot dolls for his next boy band, he soon will be after he sees Miley Cyrus in Black Mirror.
The future? If Simon Cowell isn’t already planning pernicious, manipulative, robot dolls for his next boy band, he soon will be after he sees Miley Cyrus in Black Mirror
Brooker and Annabel Jones had released three new hi-tech/horror/sci-fi stories on Netflix – like an EP.
‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’ of course was the ‘A’ side, the pop-song.
Andrew Scott’s grim Government Health Warning about using a mobile phone at the wheel of your car, ‘Smithereen’, was less radio-friendly.
It’s a shame it wasn’t the other way round – particularly as, at first Miley and Charlie seemed to flirt with the idea of messing with her image in more subversive fashion.
Darker: Andrew Scott’s grim Government Health Warning about using a mobile phone at the wheel of your car, ‘Smithereen’, was less radio-friendly
But although the former Hannah Montana star thinks ‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’ will make waves and ‘upset people’, besides a couple of ‘f-words’, a middle finger, and a grungy sub-Courtney Love finale, Cyrus ultimately stays on the side of the angels: the victim and then the victor.
This is slightly surprising given that (as the story reflects) Cyrus is at that stage of her career when you’d think she’d be avoiding playing any kind of manufactured pop singer. No doubt she considers ‘Black Mirror’ dark enough. But although it did satirise the whole process/product, ultimately it became a harmless, ridiculous, romp. It would have been fun to see Cyrus as some kind of evil female update of Chucky.
As for Charlie Brooker, he seemed almost star-struck. Rather than relishing the chance of corrupting Miley’s brand (like, say, Michael Hutchence and Nick Cave did with Kylie Minogue), he allowed Cyrus to gradually take over until it became one long promo video.
Scathing: Rather than relishing the chance of corrupting Miley’s brand, he allowed Cyrus to gradually take over until it became one long promo video
Certainly at the halfway stage ‘Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too’ looked promisingly ominous.
Ashley Too was the robot/toy/marketing persona of Ashley O, a calculatingly contemporary pop star with songs about ‘achieving my goals’ and purple satin-looking hair like a human ‘Bratz’ doll, played – you guessed it – by Miley Cyrus. (Very well too, although she should really.)
‘Now you can be best friends with your favourite pop star!’ cheered the advert for ‘an intelligent companion based on Ashley O’s actual personality.’
Angst-ridden Ashley O fan Rachel Goggins requested (and duly received) an ‘Ashley Too’ for her 15th birthday.
Robotic friend: Angst-ridden Ashley O fan Rachel Goggins requested (and duly received) an ‘Ashley Too’ for her 15th birthday
So the scene was set for a toy/doll/pet gone wrong tale in the twisted tradition of characters such as ventriloquist dummy Corky (in the 1978 movie ‘Magic’), Chucky (from ‘Child’s Play’), ‘Gremlins’, ‘Ted’, and more recently ‘Humans.’
‘You’re a special person,’ the robot encouraged Rachel. ‘We could try a make over. Or I could read motivational quotes from inspiring women.’
Brooker’s knowledge of the genre is on a par with Spielberg’s and ‘Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too’ was littered with classic elements like the token zany car (Mr Goggins’ furry mouse-catcher-mobile), a High School talent show, and Rachel’s mother being dead.