Neither Jodie Foster nor Rosemarie DeWitt had ever seen Black Mirror before they signed on for season 4 of the Netflix anthology series. But once they became familiar with the series, they were thrilled.
What did they learn?
“That it was f–king awesome,” Foster told Rotten Tomatoes at a press day for the new season.
DeWitt stars as the mother of a young daughter in the season 4 premiere episode directed by Foster, “Arkangel,” about a sophisticated parental surveillance tool.
As the mother of two young daughters, DeWitt said she completely understands the urge her character has to take advantage of advanced technology that would make sure her kids are safe.
“I can understand the impulse as a mom,” she said. “I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, so I’m just starting. I’m a little bit like, ‘OK, don’t watch so many cartoons,’ but we’re not into crazyville yet. What I loved about not only the piece, but also Jodie’s take on it was that she was really curious about the psychology of the mother; who she had been, what she needed, what she needed from her daughter, and how this relationship was serving her.
“So it’s not just about a mother’s love and a mother’s need to protect a child,” DeWitt continued. “She was also messed up in ways by her parents and so the technology comes and hyper-filters all your own neurosis and fears and stuff in a way that I think men would relate to too because it’s how we use technology today.”
Explained Foster, “That’s what Black Mirror is: It’s not really a condemnation of technology and what it’s done to our culture. It’s just the opposite, which is: We have invented this thing that is emotionless, and it is a reflection, and it enhances our own psychological issues. To me what was interesting was that it highlighted all these foundational feminist problems that we have as women and who we are. …This story is specific to mothers and daughters and about female individuation from mothers. That process has been around since the cows can moo — that’s been around forever.”
The central issue “Arkangel” addresses is that there’s a line between protecting your children and controlling their lives.
“We do have to remember that they’re not ours. They’re people that we live with, that we get to create a safe container for, but we don’t get to control the experiences of their lives or who they become or who they’re gonna become,” DeWitt said. “There is a lot of parenting that’s completely out of your control, but I think we live in an era right now where we think if, God forbid, you couldn’t talk to someone you would flip out, you know what I mean? We want what we want, and we want to be in complete [communication].”
That impulse to protect can be triggered by simply reading the newspaper or going online, because the horrors of the world are so easily accessible.
“It’s dove-tailing the heightened fear and heightened need for control. Those two things are becoming more and more prevalent in our culture. The more fears that we’re exposed to, the more fears that we are handling every single day, asks us to exert more and more control over our lives,” DeWitt said.
“I think that’s the progression of culture, but what the reflection of it is in our technology is like, it’s just doing what we asked it to. We created it. We created this monster to do what we asked it to do,” she said. “It doesn’t have feeling. It’s not a sensing being — it’s a reflection of what we wanted, and I think that’s fascinating, actually. I think what’s so brilliant about Black Mirror is that it is a mirror into our own messed-up psyches.”
Black Mirror season 4 will be available to stream on Netflix on Friday, December 29.