[Sort of spoiler-y stuff below…]
Would be my question to possible haters of Westworld. Even fans are fine admitting that it “might in fact be a terrible TV show.” It breezed past Logic a long time ago and hasn’t even bothered to look back with a nod. And…I don’t care.
Does the show have scenes that are absurd and unnecessary on top of its general gratuitous buffoonery? Of course. But I’ll let a few scenes go to waste if I’m intrigued by the whole of the show. And, like Lost, which it’s most often compared to, I’m into it. I don’t need it to give me answers; I don’t need it to solve its own internal inconsistencies; I just need it to be there, with all its unearned gravitas flooding my senses. When Anthony Hopkins speaks, I can hear Truth (thanks to vestigial admiration of the British accent and its affiliation with imperialism), which is way more important to me than the feeble truths other viewers might want the show to serve them.
As the show argues, mostly as a convenient means to absolve itself of being such utter nonsense, the center of the maze – i.e. the Answer/Purpose/Truth to this here game (LIFE) – is YOU. Kung Fu Panda said the same shit in a much more buoyant fashion that didn’t involve such a United Nations of dick flying, but hey, almost all stories restate the same themes, much to the despair and chagrin of writers like David Foster Wallace, who produced a 1200 page novel that fundamentally laments how cliches are actually, like, profound wisdom. Quite the infinite jest, no?
So yeah, Westworld isn’t breaking new thematic ground. Or any new ground really. But I enjoy the territory on which it treads. Namely, that of cursory consciousness exploration. (And then labelling it in a needlessly complicated way afterward, e.g. the bicameral mind.)
Every character is on their little hero’s journey toward self-discovery, and what they have to realize is that freedom means listening to YOUR voice. When you reach that epiphany, your life is finally yours. What will you do with it? Every story thrusts its characters into the exact same existential “crisis.” You know who you are, and it’s fucking terrifying, because you’re YOU. You’ve always been YOU. And you’re in control of continuing to create an ever-becoming form of YOU. Now what? Or you can say, “fuck that,” and return to your loop, your routine, your comfortable script, aka the Cypher route.
We all basically live like Westworld’s hosts anyway, and we’re free to choose to stay that way, which…is that so bad? The show offers us time to consider it as it traps us in its own microcosmic playground. Westworld is alluring because life in general is alluring (if we’re free, which…okay, the question of freedom gets stupid and complicated and yet stupidly simple at the same time); we discover new ways of playing the same game, except too often, we’re playing it according to someone else’s rules, or following someone else’s voice without realizing it. But is that so bad? Especially if the game is so damn fun.
Except life isn’t fun (so I’m told). Or at least we don’t let it be, driven as we are by poorly evolved self-concepts. The Man in Black, aka William (hooray fan theories!), underscores our obsession with humanity – and all forms of “higher” consciousness, if we read Dolores’ return to her “essence” in the same way – being “evil.” That is, giving into our baser instincts, e.g. fucking and fighting. But we start so often from that bias that we shouldn’t be surprised that it’s so easy to confirm it. Of course we’re bad when that’s primarily the way we’re choosing to understand our existence. If I “know” I’m bad from the beginning of my life, when I assess where I fall on the ethical spectrum (which, why do we need such a thing?), I’m going to privilege all the bad shit I’ve done, therefore allowing me to draw the conclusion that I was right all along about “who I really am.” What a silly reward for my initial (confused with right) way of thinking.
That’s where the show frustrates me, but it also amuses me. “Dark and gritty” keeps getting mistranslated in entertainment as “real and authentic.” Again, there’s ample proof of humanity’s evil, but we privilege that evidence too exclusively as we examine ourselves. That doesn’t make it True. Think about the bounty of characters and hosts in Westworld alone that are…decent. We only follow the exceptional assholes. Because that’s the most entertaining thing to do? Or because we learn most from the “shadow” side of ourselves, which those characters are enacting safely for us? I mean, I’m certainly entertained by these idiots, but I don’t identify with them. I get that I have some “darkness” in me somewhere, but I prefer to privilege my joy and wonder above my supposedly more instinctual power thirst.
I crave beauty more than anything…so I guess I’m Dolores…which means that my beauty desire is a cover for me really wanting to slaughter everything in sight…except that that desire comes from some Arnold figure, aka someone who isn’t me, aka but that’s kind of always the case when we “decide” to act: we’re channeling someone else. WWJD, that type of shit. Because we never really know what we’re doing, and we deal in retrospective rationalization.
Which all this is just a fancy way of me saying, “I liked Westworld.” White people be indulging, yo.