Black Mirror's Miley Cyrus Episode Really Made Me Want an Ashley Too Doll
When a smart home assistant is mixed with a virtual pet/friend in a new Black Mirror Season 5 episode starring Miley Cyrus, you expect the Ashley Too doll that simulates the personality of pop star Ashley O (Cyrus) to be pretty lame. And for a long stretch, it is — up until one of the episode’s big twists. Now, an unlocked Ashley Too is the hottest gadget that I desperately need in my life.
Warning: Spoilers follow for Black Mirror Season 5, Episode 3: “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too.”
In “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too,” a young girl named Rachel has recently moved to a new school with her sister and father, and she has trouble fitting in. Rachel and her sister Jack cope with the recent death of their mother in different ways. Jack goes grunge and obsesses over their mom’s favorite songs. Rachel becomes lonely and instead focuses on bubblegum pop star Ashley O, whose saccharine sweet hits are so sickeningly positive that you’ll be happy to learn she’s a bit miserable behind closed doors.
We see this right after the unveiling of Ashley Too, a cute little robot that uses Ashely O’s public persona to provide its owner with makeover tips, dance lessons, and a friend who never complains.
At first, Ashley Too doesn’t seem all that impressive. It’s very cute dancing around with its tiny arms and positive can-do attitude, but it doesn’t feel like Black Mirror. It genuinely feels like something Taylor Swift is about to drop leading up to this holiday season. (Swift’s cloying “ME!” feels like something Ashley O might sing.)
But as the episode evolves, we learn that Ashley O’s aunt has been drugging her and using advanced brain- and body-scanning technologies to digitize and cyberize the Ashley O brand. This horrifying manifestation of the commercial machine delivers a more jarring musician biopic than Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman combined, depicting a manager who cares more about money and less about the people involved. Fans of these movies, or A Star Is Born, this is the Black Mirror episode for you.
Months later, after Ashley Too’s are recalled for battery issues, Rachel’s dormant Ashley Too accidentally hears an extended news report of the real Ashley O. She’s been comatose for months, and her aunt’s team developed a technology that can hack into her brain and extract new songs. At this, Ashley Too freaks out, and the sisters use their father’s rodent brain-scanning software (it makes no sense) to reboot, an accidentally unlock, their Ashley Too.
Here’s where the episode transforms from a dour commentary on the evils of commercialism to an outrageous, hilarious example of transhumanism. To make Ashley Too, they scanned Ashley O’s entire brain and copied it into the A.I. software as a “synaptic snapshot.” They put a “limiter” in place that only allowed her to use the 4 percent of her brain that was nice and adept at press junkets.
“AAAAAAAH!” Ashley Too screams as her first real worlds once the limited is dissolved. “Get this fucking cable out of my ass! Holy shit.”
The back-half of the episode has Rachel and Jack escort Ashley Too to the real Ashley’s house to save her, all while Miley Cyrus screams and swears through the speaker on this tiny little robot. The unlocked Ashley Too is a shock when it first happens, and she gets more fun every second as a furious, foul-mouthed smart home device on a mission to team up with her organic self so they can destroy their evil aunt. “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” starts out wanting you to think this will end in disaster, but the happy ending we get is a welcome one when so much of Black Mirror is bleak.
Not only does this story make you wish Alexa had a more adult setting with no filter, but because Ashley Too has limited mobility with an expressive face and arms, she feels that much more real. How far are we really from digitizing famous personalities in tiny little robots? Is this how we’ll achieve immortality?
All I know is that if I don’t get an unlocked Ashley Too for my birthday, I’m going to riot. And the same goes for if Miley Cyrus doesn’t get an Emmy for her Black Mirror episode.
Black Mirror Season 5 is now available to stream on Netflix.