In the season five episode of Netflix's Black Mirror "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" Miley Cyrus plays Ashley O, a pop music megastar with pink hair, a wildly popular public persona, legions of fans and unfortunately, a darker reality behind the scenes that touches on issues of mental health, the pressures of stardom, and a clash between what she wants for her career and what those around want for her instead. Other than some of the unsettling future technology elements of the story, it's one that feels pretty realistic -- so much so that real-life pop star Halsey had a little bit of an existential crisis over the resemblance between Ashley O and herself.
On Twitter, Halsey posted about the Black Mirror episode with a pretty direct comment.
Black Mirror episode about a popstar named Ashley with colorful hair. Existential crisis: Engage.— h (@halsey) June 16, 2019
"Black Mirror episode about a popstar named Ashley with colorful hair. Existential crisis: Engage," she wrote.
Now, this is Twitter we're talking about. It's a platform where people often have over-the-top or hyperbolic reactions to things so one probably shouldn't read too much into Halsey's "crisis", but at the same time, it had to be unnerving to see Cyrus' Ashley O as Halsey herself is not only known for her colorful hair -- and she's also had a hairstyle that is very similar to Ashley O's -- and is also a music megastar, but her real name? It's Ashley. Halsey's real name is Ashley Frangipane.
Creepy? Yes, but not quite as creepy as what Ashley O experiences in "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too." The episode ultimately sees Ashley put into a coma by her controlling aunt (Susan Pourfar), who then creates a digital copy of her to continue performing music. When two of Ashley's fans realize what's happened, they go on an intense adventure to save the real Ashley and, ultimately, she's able to break away from her aunt and be herself, performing the music she truly wants to.
The episode has become one of the most controversial Black Mirror episodes yet with viewers split on their reaction to the episode -- they either love it or hate it -- but according to series creator Charlie Brooker, that's intentional and somewhat influenced by Cyrus' own career.
"Most of it was already there in the script and then we sent this to her, thinking it was a gamble — like dropping a coin in that thing where the coin bounces off the pegs, and then you lose!" Charlie Brooker said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "We thought we just wouldn't hear back. But we had nothing to lose because she would be so perfect for the part. And it turned out she did know the show and likes the show, and she was really excited because the script resonated with her. We had a Skype chat with her early on, and it was immediately apparent that she's very smart and just funny. She takes her job very, very seriously but she's also aware of the absurdity of that whole world."
"Obviously, "Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too" is very heightened and it's a very unusual tone for us, because it all starts out like it's going in one direction." Brooker continued. "It's more traditionally Black Mirror for the first half, and then it starts accelerating into craziness. But there were several things Miley said that ended up being reflected in the script that were to do with the music industry. Certainly, she doesn't have an evil aunt who controls her. But there were aspects and things she was saying about live performance and the general sense of the responsibility you have to fans. The general sense of how you move on as a performer if you want to express yourself differently than the box people have put you in. I think all of that stuff resonated with her."
All five seasons of Black Mirror are now available to stream on Netflix.