Westworld Stages a Consciousness Raising

HBO’s new hit show riffs on one of Second Wave feminism’s signature tactics

At the start of the pilot it was Dolores.  At the start of this weekend’s episode, Maeve.

Images from Westworld via The Week

These shots of two of Westworld’s central characters waking up help visually underscore the narrative parallels of these two characters. As stereotypes of women they represent the Westworld poles of the madonna/whore dichotomy. Both are attractive to a number of the park’s visitors, though one for her romantic innocence as much as the other for her worldly knowing.

The similar shots of waking also provide us reminders that Westworld is a story in no small part about androids waking up to their circumstances as objects designed for entertainment that are also frequently objects of desire, sex, and violence.

The theme of awakening to the true structure of their reality is also echoed in the script followed by employees performing diagnostic interviews with “hosts” in the corporate laboratory.  In this set-piece, the host in question (often Dolores) answers the question, “Do you know where you are?” with, “Yes, I am in a dream.”

Thus the movement between the real world as dream and the “awake” world of the Westworld theme park takes on irony and existential weight for main characters Dolores and Maeve.

Viewers can expect that as these women awaken to their circumstances, something in the narrative world will change.


And that expectation feels like a pop cultural legacy of Second Wave feminism to me.   Continue reading Westworld Stages a Consciousness Raising

Westworld Needs Christian Fans

Christians Have Good Reasons Not to Watch Westworld. Maybe Some of Them Really Should Anyway.

Early this month HBO launched its newest Sunday night drama. Glittering with big screen stars on horizons as vast as any classic Western, Westworld delivers the sort of small screen spectacle only the most generous pay-cable budgets can provide.

As immediately obvious as the size of its budget, however, are the size of Westworld’s ethical questions about the relationship between humanity and technology. Debuting just a few weeks before Playstation4’s new virtual reality head-set, the series asks how later generations of virtual reality technology will force us to recalibrate our ethics. How will creations a few iterations beyond today’s digital entertainments, bioengineering feats, and artificial intelligence confound our moral compasses? Continue reading Westworld Needs Christian Fans

“Sometimes your worst self is your best self.” Or a one line diagnosis of why True Detective isn’t quite coming together

There is no shortage of attention being paid to True Detective season two. Nearly every media outlet that covers pop culture has run a piece lamenting that the show is not meeting expectations.  So I’ll make this brief.

Vince Vaughn was the actor I was most excited to see this season.  Like the two actors who anchored season one, his background as more of a likable, comedy guy gave him the most runway out in front of him, the greatest amount of raw potential to wring from his performance.  The trailers only confirmed this for me: images of Vaughn leaning into that caustic edge always present even in his comedic persona were cut together with Rachel McAdams seeming fine but unremarkable, Taylor Kitsch looking taut and vaguely crazy-eyed, and Colin Farrell apparently trying to prove that he can act his way out from behind the most ridiculous mustache and western wear combo anyone has been asked to sport outside a Cohen brothers movie.  Yup, I was going to be in it for Vaughn.

Which leads me back to the impetus for this post, as this past Sunday we finally got to see the scene in which perhaps the most memorable of HBO’s True Detective trailer tag-lines occurs: “Sometimes your worst self is your best self.”

Continue reading “Sometimes your worst self is your best self.” Or a one line diagnosis of why True Detective isn’t quite coming together