Black Mirror's Arkangel is a Warning For Parents

If you are a fan of Black Mirror and have not seen this episode or are planning to watch the Black Mirror series at any point and don't want spoilers, I suggest you stop reading now as this post will contain spoilers of the Arkangel episode. 
I honestly have not watched the Black Mirror series from start to finish, but my husband loves it. Unlike other series, each episode is a separate story with a separate plot line. They are basically mini-movies. I have only parts here and there of some episodes, but when my husband started this one while I was working on my blog, I had to stop what I was doing and pay attention.

From what I have heard from my husband and what scenes I have seen, you learn to expect the weird everytime something happens on this show. For example, there was one episode where these people were being blackmailed to do horrible things, like rob a bank, or their dirty secret will be shared with those they didn't want to know. In another episode, a guy recreated all his coworkers in a virtual video game where he could torment them, but the game characters make a plan to escape.

So when Arkangel starts out with a woman, Marie, getting a C-section, I'm already expecting something to be wrong with the baby, but no, the baby, Sara, is perfectly fine and handed to mom. I think this is one of the first shows I have actually seen a C-section birth on, usually, they like to over-dramatize natural birth, but this was very well done, so kudos to the director! I also think they start with this scene so we, as the viewer, experience the attachment between Marie and her daughter. Sara is her baby and she will do anything to protect her baby.

The show then skips to when Sara is a toddler. Her mom takes her to the park to play. My husband and I are both thinking something's going to happen now. Another mom with a boy shows up and starts talking to Sara's mom. The next thing we know, Sara is missing! Here we're thinking alien abduction due to the title of the show, but nope, Sara is found. She just ran after a cat and got lost (and this is why I can't watch these shows, the whole time I am an anxious wreck waiting for what goes wrong! Plus the foreboding background music does not help!).

The show skips to Marie taking Sara to the hospital to get a chip implanted in her daughter that can be synced to an iPad like device, allowing Marie to not only to see where her daughter is but allows her to see through daughter's eyes. This device is called Arkangel. The Arkangel also shows Marie her daughter's vitals so she can check up on Sara's health.

The doctor shows Marie how to work a setting that can shield her daughter from images and speech that may be uncomfortable or inappropriate for her daughter. Basically, it blurs out the image and makes the words sound like gibberish. Marie is uncomfortable with this at first, but when she arrives at the barking dog on their street (which scared Sara when they were on the way to the park), she turns on the feature and Sara is not bothered by the dog this time.

I'm going to skip ahead to when Sara is a little older (elementary age is my guess) and in school. This is when the trouble begins. She walks up to a group of kids who are looking at an older boy's iPad. From what we hear it sounds like they are watching a violent fight. Sara, of course, can't watch it, so the boy tries to explain it to her, but as he talks he becomes faded and his speech blurred. 

The next scene we see is Sara coloring while her mom is working on her computer. Sara is trying to draw a picture of someone bleeding like the boy described before the Arkangel blurred her vision. She begins to sharpen a pencil and this is when I look away. As the viewer, you just know she is going to cut herself and that's exactly what she does. Sara's vision is of course blurred, she can't see her bleeding finger. The device alerts her mom that something is wrong and when mom arrives Sara hits her.

The scene switches to Marie taking her daughter to therapy, where she discovers that she did this to her daughter (no surprise there), and the therapist recommends having the Arkangel removed. Instead, Marie takes the iPad and charging cord and stores it away in a box. As the viewer, we just know that is going to lead to trouble later on. I kept thinking someone was going to get ahold of it and control her daughter, but I guess that was a little too out there. Turns out mom just couldn't handle her daughter being a teenager.

We are lead to believe that Sara lives a pretty normal life up until she's 15 as it's not until one night when Marie can't get in touch with her daughter, that she digs up the iPad to see where her daughter is. Of course, she finds her daughter having sex!

This is where as a viewer we are kind of left to assume a lot of stuff, like that the mom and daughter relationship isn't that great as Marie had no idea that her daughter had a boyfriend. The boyfriend is older so maybe the daughter didn't think her mom would approve, but that just goes to show what kind of mom Marie is. To make matters worse, mom confronts the boyfriend, tells him to stay away from her daughter or she would show the videos to the police, so at this point, we know he must be at least 18. Boyfriend follows through and Sara ends up with a broken heart.

From the way her mom reacted to what she discovered using the Arkangel, I assume she must not be a very open-minded person. Also, why wouldn't she think to talk to her daughter first? She just helicopters in and tries to take control of the situation.

Her daughter, of course, ends up pregnant after her first time having sex so one can assume she didn't know about safe sex, another sign mom isn't open-minded. Marie learned this from the Arkangel as the device shows her daughter's health. Being the helicopter mom she is, Marie secretly inserts an emergency contraception pill into her daughter's morning smoothie (which isn't too far off from the parents that force their teens to get abortions).

Sara gets sick at school. The nurse explains that she was pregnant, but due to the pill, she's no longer pregnant. Sara, of course, is freaking out. She now knows her mom has been using the Arkangel, which she thought her mom had gotten rid of a long time ago.

Sara confronts her mom, which leads her to viciously beating her mom with the Arkangel iPad (in her defense the safety setting was on and she just wanted it to turn off so she couldn't really see what she was hitting). In the process the iPad is broken, her mom is left unconscious, and she leaves the house with packed bags. We later see her hitching a ride on a truck, running away. Marie eventually comes to, finds the iPad is broken, her daughter nowhere to be found, goes outside on the street and screams "Sara!" a few times. The very device that was supposed to protect her daughter, was the very device that caused her to lose her daughter.

The show left me wanting more! What happened in all those years when mom wasn't using the Arkangel? How good was her relationship with her daughter? It doesn't seem that great if she didn't know her daughter had a boyfriend. And of course was she able to find Sara again and repair the relationship?

Another thing my husband and I pondered was there was never any mention of a dad, nor was there a dad present. We concluded that it wasn't important to the storyline (not all kids have two parents in their lives)  and having another parent figure would have probably caused more conflict between mom and dad (unless they were both helicopter parents), rather than focus on mom and daughter. There was a grandpa at the beginning who mentioned he wasn't a fan of the device, but he dies before Sara gets to elementary school.

Arkangel is definitely a warning for parents, especially helicopter parents, about the dangers of trying to control your children. Marie is a classic helicopter parent. Yes, the show leaves out a lot of the in-between years when she wasn't using the Arkangel, but I'm guessing she controlled as much as she could without it, which is why Sara never told her mom about her boyfriend or even had the sex talk, as when she first has sex she does a lot of "dirty talk" because it is what she has seen in porn. This is stuff we have to assume in order for the mom's behavior to make sense.

Now I'm not saying we should give or children free-range and this episode is definitely on the extreme side, but being too controlling can definitely have negative effects on your children. There have even been studies done that show the consequences of helicopter parenting:

"College-aged students whose parents are overly involved in their academic lives, or whose parents created rigidly structured childhood environments, are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. They may also experience academic difficulties." (source)

The thing that really scares me about this episode is that if this technology did exist, there are parents out there that will use it, so I think it's great that Black Mirror is ahead of the game and showing us the potential harm something like this would have on the parent-child relationship.

If you haven't seen this episode, I highly recommend watching it! Black Mirror is currently available on Netflix. You can check out the preview for the Arkangel episode below. If you have seen this episode, let me know what your thoughts are in the comments!

For more info about the dangers of helicopter parenting check out these links:

Attribution: Image used in blog post photo does not belong to me and was found on Pexels.