It's been a few days since I first watchedMiley Cyrus's episode ofBlack Mirror,but my mind is still spinning.The story is simultaneously fresh and familiar: We're introduced to a pop star named Ashley O.(Cyrus),whose songs are as bright and whimsical as her neon-purple wig.But underneath the smiley press appearances and sleek bops is a young woman deeply unsatisfied with her life.She desperately wants to shake up her image and sound but feels pressure from her manager-slash-aunt,Catherine,to stay the same.So Ashley's team gives her pills—illegal ones—to balance her mood and,essentially,control her.Eventually she realizes what they're doing,but her efforts to break free end in horror.
I can't say much else without revealing major spoilers.Watch it for yourself to see what I mean.And when you finish,I wonder if you'll be thinking what I am right now: that Cyrus's episode feels very similar to the #FreeBritney movement on social media.
For those who don't know what I'm talking about,#FreeBritneywas started in April by fans who wanted to advocate for pop singerBritney Spears.At the time they werewidely speculatingthat Spears was being held without her permission in a mental institution after refusing to take medication requested by her father,Jamie,who's also her conservator.Spears has sincegone on the recorddenying the claims and telling fans "all is well."
That may be,but it's still hard not to think of #FreeBritney while watching Cyrus'sBlack Mirrorepisode.
At the center of the #FreeBritney narrative—I'm calling it a narrative because nothing's been verified—is a pop superstar very similar to Ashley O.We don't know how Britney Spears feels about her music or image,but wedoknow from past interviews that she finds the parameters of her conservatorship constraining."I don't feel like [my life] is out of control.I feel like it's tooincontrol," she said during her 2008 MTV documentaryBritney: For the Record."There's no excitement.There's no passion.It's likeGroundhog Dayevery day." My mind immediately recalled this sound bite while watching Cyrus inBlack Mirror,specifically when her character looks out the car window at a grungy dive bar she wants to perform in.Instead she's selling out stadiums.