The episode Arkangel laid bare the problems young people face when parents slip from caring, into controlling their children.
Article contains spoilers.
Arkangel felt like peak Black Mirror. The episode started out innocently enough only to turn into a sinister story rapidly. A mother loved her child and wanted to protect her, so she did what any parent would do and stuck a control chip in her daughter’s head.
The chip could do anything from checking vitals, pixelate any problematic images, act as a GPS, and even allow her mother, Marie (Rosemarie DeWitt), to see what her daughter, Sara (Brenna Harding), was seeing. It was a nice middle class solution to parenting. Instead of actually spending time with her daughter and talking through all of the bad stuff in life and having those important conversations, just block them out and pretend life is fine. No need to worry about what influence the neighbours are having on your child when you can just pixelate their faces at the touch of a button.
“It was a nice middle class solution to parenting”
It was inevitably a catastrophic plan. Sara ended up rebelling (in a relatively minor way) having had no experience of anything less innocent than cartoons in life. She didn’t know about porn and when she watched it, that was the only place she got her sex education from once her mother stopped monitoring her. Sara too was curious about drugs. Everything was new and overwhelming, but the real issue was never Sara’s actions but Marie’s. When Sara did what all children do and lied about staying with someone they were in a relationship with, Marie checked up on the monitor and saw her teenage daughter having sex.
It was a gross violation of privacy, but to make it worse, Marie then blackmailed Sara’s boyfriend into breaking up with her and slipped birth control into Sara’s morning drink to terminate her pregnancy (although it must be pointed out that the show drew huge criticism for conflating ‘Plan B’ contraceptives with abortion). Every single act exposed how abusive Marie was. It was hugely symbolic that Sara ended up beating her own mother with the monitor that had stalked her throughout her life, but it also felt inevitable. No matter what Marie promised, she just refused to stop trying to control every aspect of her daughter’s life.
Marie exposed her daughter to far more harm than life ever offered and she denied her daughter’s right to autonomy. Too often parents see children as theirs to do as they please. This is not the case. Children should be allowed autonomy, they should be guided through life and given information, not controlled or told stories that keep them ignorant. Children’s autonomy is regularly denied though, as the whims of the parents triumph. Parents are often happy to limit children’s access to technology, but often think little about how they utilise it themselves, whether that’s imposing certain blocks or reading through private messages.
Older generations simply distrust younger ones. Instead of a balanced and collective relationship, one asserts power at all times over the other. When younger people begin to push back and understand what is going on with greater insight, tension is at its worst. Arkangel was a warning about how young people are treated, and what they deserve. Throughout it all, it was Marie who caused the pain when simply allowing her daughter to enjoy life would have avoided all of it. Children are supposed to see bad things. They’re supposed to ask questions -it’s how they grow. It is also their right to life. Parents just need to be around to offer support.