How Jodie Foster Turned Black Mirror’s Terrifying Gaze Toward Motherhood

This post contains spoilers for Black Mirror Season 4, Episode 2, “ArkAngel.”

In some ways, the Jodie Foster-directed episode of Black Mirror’s fourth season is typical of this modernized Twilight Zone. In essence, it asks the series’ favorite question: “What if society took a technological innovation too far?” But even if the premise inspires glib “what if baby monitors, but too much?” jokes, the episode itself deftly navigates a uniquely powerful, often intense relationship—the one that forms between a single mother and her daughter.

“ArkAngel” focuses on a woman named Marie who decides to try out software called ArkAngel, which essentially acts as a built-in baby monitor. Doctors install an implant in a child’s brain that allows parents not only to track their children’s location on a tablet but also to see things from their children’s perspectives and even block frightening and inappropriate images from view through a blurring censor feature. (Each feature is optional, but naturally, by the end, Marie has become an addicted user of all of them.) As Marie’s daughter, Sarah, gets older, she finds herself ostracized by other children whose parents do not use the software. Eventually, Sarah snaps after finding out her mother has used ArkAngel to obsessively pore over her relationship with a boy from her school—and that her mother told the boy to break up with Sarah. She beats her mother with the very tablet used to track her every move, then hitchhikes away on a passing semi-truck. As the screen cuts to black, Sarah’s fate is unknown.

As Marie, Rosemarie DeWitt conveys both a protective streak and something more sinister. In classic Black Mirror fashion, she’s soon drawn into a self-perpetuating and deeply dysfunctional cycle, which only ends when Marie realizes that by tracking Sarah, she’s brought her very worst fear to life.

Foster had directed episodes of Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards for Black Mirror’s home network, Netflix, but she had never seen an episode of the dystopian anthology when she first received the script for “ArkAngel.” So, as she recently told V.F., “I had to read the scripts, and then binge watch a whole bunch of Black Mirror.” (Her favorite episodes include “Shut Up and Dance” and “The Waldo Moment.”) She had a vision for “ArkAngel” that would set it apart from the rest of the series: “I really saw it as a small indie film. You know, it felt grounded, and it was going to be not terribly sci-fi . . . I really see this as a [Ingmar] Bergman movie that has technology elements to it.”

The story itself was particularly relatable for Foster, who was raised by a single mother and considers that relationship to be the most significant in her life—as well as the most complicated. “It’s the one that’s foundational for everything that I’ve done,” Foster said. “And it was beautiful, but it was also a really hard struggle.”

DeWitt, who has children of her own, also noted in an interview how “primal” the protective instinct mothers feel toward their children can be—the desire to keep kids safe, and the fear that comes with imagining them in danger. To DeWitt, one of Foster’s greatest accomplishments in “ArkAngel” is how completely she conveys that dynamic in a short period of time, while also providing “whiffs” of what Marie went through in her own life before she had Sarah.

Like most Black Mirror episodes—including “The Entire History of You,” which also explored the dire implications of brain- implant technologies—“ArkAngel” ends on a very dark note as Sarah boards that semi-truck, basically bringing all of her mother’s worst fears to fruition. To Foster, the scene in which Sarah beats her mother is meaningful on two levels: “One is the way that this child would have experienced emotion when she was young, scrambled, without real effect,” Foster said. “And then the other way, when you step back and you see the reality of what that violence is.”

The ending itself—when Sarah boards the truck—also allows the audience to experience the same unnerving feeling Marie must have felt, DeWitt said. “Will she be O.K. having this experience and being on her own, or is she about to befall some horrific experience?” the actress wondered. “That is the sort of paradox that the mother brain operates in all the time.”

For Foster, the implications go a shade further: in being so relentlessly protective, Marie ultimately brought this turn of events upon herself. “Her worst fear was that she was going to lose her daughter, and her daughter was not going to be safe, right?” Foster said. “Her worst fear is what she created.” When the screen cuts to black, Foster said, “You’re thinking, ‘Is she going to be in the side of a ditch? Is she going to be raped and thrown out a window?’ Whatever it is, this unknown is going to be the rest of her life as a singular independent human being.”

Get Vanity Fair’s HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.PreviousNext

HOLIDAY

Jennifer LawrencePhotograph by Peter Lindbergh. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

HOLIDAY

HOLIDAY

Jennifer LawrencePhotograph by Peter Lindbergh. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

HOLIDAY

HOLIDAY

Brian CheskyPhotograph by Art Streiber.

FEBRUARY

FEBRUARY

Chris PrattPhotograph by Mark Seliger.

HOLLYWOOD

HOLLYWOOD

Emma Stone, Lupita Nyong'o, Amy Adams, Natalie Portman, Ruth Negga, Dakota Fanning, Elle Fanning, Aja Naomi King, Dakota Johnson, Greta Gerwig, and Janelle Monáe.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

HOLLYWOOD

HOLLYWOOD

Emma StonePhotograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

HOLLYWOOD

HOLLYWOOD

Natalie PortmanPhotograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

HOLLYWOOD

HOLLYWOOD

Janelle MonáePhotograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

HOLLYWOOD

HOLLYWOOD

John LeguizamoPhotograph by Annie Leibovitz.

HOLLYWOOD

HOLLYWOOD

Laura Dern, Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole Kidman.Photograph by Mark Seliger.

MARCH

MARCH

Photograph by Tim Walker. Styled by Jessica Diehl.Photograph by Tim Walker. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

MARCH

MARCH

Emma WatsonPhotograph by Tim Walker. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

MARCH

MARCH

Kevin Feige, John Lasseter, Kathleen Kennedy, and Bob Iger.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

MARCH

MARCH

Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit Portrait StudioPhotograph by Annie Leibovitz.

MARCH

MARCH

Kirsten DunstPhotograph by Patrick Demarchelier. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

MARCH

MARCH

Jaden SmithPhotograph by Patrick Demarchelier. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

APRIL

APRIL

Alec BaldwinPhotograph by Mark Seliger.

APRIL

APRIL

Alec BaldwinPhotograph by Mark Seliger.

APRIL

APRIL

Mahershala AliPhotograph by Mark Seliger.

APRIL

APRIL

Ruth NeggaPhotograph by Mark Seliger.

APRIL

APRIL

Casey AffleckPhotograph by Mark Seliger.

APRIL

APRIL

Suki WaterhousePhotograph By Miguel Reveriego.

MAY

MAY

Brie LarsonPhotograph by Inez and Vinoodh. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

MAY

MAY

Brie LarsonPhotograph by Inez and Vinoodh. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

MAY

MAY

Paris JacksonPhotograph by Jean-Baptiste Mondino.

MAY

MAY

Alexei Ratmansky, Stella Abrera, and Mark Ryden.Photograph by Ruven Afanador.

SUMMER

SUMMER

Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaa, John Boyega, and Kelly Marie TranPhotograph by Annie Leibovitz.

SUMMER

SUMMER

Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

SUMMER

SUMMER

Adam DriverPhotograph by Annie Leibovitz.

SUMMER

SUMMER

Billie Lourd and Carrie Fisher.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

AUGUST

AUGUST

Serena WilliamsPhotograph by Annie Leibovitz.

AUGUST

AUGUST

Serena WilliamsPhotograph by Annie Leibovitz.

SEPTEMBER

SEPTEMBER

Angelina JoliePhotograph by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

SEPTEMBER

SEPTEMBER

Angelina JoliePhotograph by Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

SEPTEMBER

SEPTEMBER

Armie HammerPhotograph by Craig McDean. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

SEPTEMBER

SEPTEMBER

Katherine WaterstonPhotograph by Craig McDean. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

SEPTEMBER

SEPTEMBER

Scott Kelly.Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

OCTOBER

OCTOBER

Meghan MarklePhotograph by Peter Lindbergh. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

OCTOBER

OCTOBER

Meghan MarklePhotograph by Peter Lindbergh. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

OCTOBER

OCTOBER

Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Bush.Photograph by Claiborne Swanson Frank.

OCTOBER

OCTOBER

Sara MearnsPhotograph by Pari Dukovic.

OCTOBER

OCTOBER

Jeremy IronsPhotograph by Simon Upton.

OCTOBER

OCTOBER

Jeremy Irons' Kilcoe Castle.Photograph by Simon Upton.

NOVEMBER

NOVEMBER

Kate McKinnonPhotograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

NOVEMBER

NOVEMBER

Kate McKinnonPhotograph by Annie Leibovitz. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

NOVEMBER

NOVEMBER

Chadwick BosemanPhotograph by Art Streiber.

DECEMBER

DECEMBER

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez.Photograph by Mario Testino. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

DECEMBER

DECEMBER

Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez.Photograph by Mario Testino. Styled by Jessica Diehl.

DECEMBER

DECEMBER

Photograph by Erik Madigan Heck.

DECEMBER

DECEMBER

Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Laura BradleyLaura Bradley is a Hollywood writer for VanityFair.com. She was formerly an editorial assistant at Slate and lives in Brooklyn.

The post How Jodie Foster Turned Black Mirror’s Terrifying Gaze Toward Motherhood appeared first on News Wire Now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *