When I was 8 years old, I had a rather vacuous talking doll. My Diva Starz Interactive Doll couldn’t respond directly to my voice, but she was semi-conversational, commenting enthusiastically when I changed her outfits, asking me yes/no questions, and offering girly platitudes that could have come straight from Malibu Stacy. Her name, funnily enough, was Alexa.
Ashley Too, the Miley Cyrus–voiced robo-doll in the third episode of Black Mirror’s fifth season (“Rachel, Jack & Ashley Too”), sits somewhere between my Alexa and Amazon’s Alexa—somewhere between toy and smart speaker, merchandise and friend. The smart device is sold in a fictional world dominated by a perky pop star named Ashley O (played by Cyrus), and has Ashley’s voice and personality programmed into it, allowing fans to feel closer to her. The episode follows Rachel, a lonely teenager who adores Ashley O and quickly comes to see Ashley Too as her real-life friend.