“Arkangel” was interesting because, like “Nosedive”, the writers took something that people do online and applied it in the real world. The story follows Marie, an overprotective single mother, and her daughter, Sara. At a young age, Sara had a chip implanted into her head that gave her mother the power to track her location, see through her eyes and review her memories, and censor what she heard and saw. Marie did all of this by use of a tablet, and because of this, Sara grew up sheltered, unable to experience stress, and unaware of many things like fighting and sex which hinders her social-emotional development.
This episode opened my eyes to the side effects of parental controls, especially in the hands of helicopter parents like Marie. Children are getting access to devices with an internet connection at increasingly young ages, and these devices come with safety features that the parents can use to filter apps, websites, and search results. Parents like to check their child’s search history and restrict content to protect them from things that they deem harmful to the child. However, Sara’s behavior throughout the episode exemplifies how children and youth need a certain degree of freedom to explore the world, see the good and the bad, experiment, make mistakes and learn from them. After reading “searching for a public of their own” by Danah Boyd, I realized just how important online freedom is to teenagers who are navigating adolescence, trying to connect with peers, and developing a self-identity. Cyberspace is a place where people can express themselves without restraint, engage in dialogue with other people, and learn about things that they don’t at school or home. As such, technology-assisted adult surveillance can actually cause more harm than good because it inhibits all of these actions.
I didn’t like Marie, but I did feel bad for her. The more she tries to shield Sara from the ugliness in the world, the more she smothers her and inadvertently pushes her away. I understand that she had good intentions; she loved her daughter and only wanted to keep her safe. However, she made life-altering decisions irrespective of Sara’s wants and needs, and that is unacceptable. Her overbearing and invasive behavior remains consistent throughout the episode, and that’s all we really see from her. Sara grew up emotionally stunted and socially awkward because of her mother. Thus, I found it difficult to fault Sara for her behavior later in the episode because she was simply a curious teenager going through puberty who just wanted to be like others her age. Without the filter on, Sara could finally see and experience everything — things like anger, so she didn’t know how to act or healthily express herself.
The writers did a good job at portraying the effects of parental controls on children’s growth and development. The fact that Sara couldn’t see and hear certain things only made her want them more, which led her to rebel and behave dangerously. Marie’s actions also demonstrate the addictive qualities of technology and its power. Every time Marie tries to distance herself from the tablet and let Sara be independent, she inevitably reaches for it again. It’s more convenient to spy on Sara’s location and violate her mind than to communicate with her. Almost everything leading up to the ending was well thought out, but I didn’t particularly care for the ending because it felt rushed and open-ended.
Although it was interesting to watch Sara grow and adapt, I found the episode boring at times, and at other times deeply unsettling. I do not enjoy watching mother-daughter relationships implode so I won’t be watching this again. After taking all of these factors into consideration, I rate “Arkangel” 3/5 stars.
After reading this review, consider the following: is technology a problem in and of itself, or is it the people who design and use it, or is it both? Leave a comment below!
What do you think of “Arkangel”? Leave a comment below!
Boyd, Danah. 2014 “Searching for a public of their own.” It’s Complicated. pp 213-227
Cover Photo: screencap of “Arkangel”