English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: David Veres

The Show Awakens Your Intentions

One of the biggest struggles of narrators in the movie industry today is when to reveal the hidden intentions of characters in order to catalyze a plot and reach the peak captivation of a crowd. Westworld writers Lisa Joy and Dominic Mitchell decided to go about this in a pretty intriguing way: Hunger-Games, you-versus-the-world, fend-for-yourself style when they decided to initiate the path for all of the potential revolutionaries in episode five: Contrapasso. Although, the format does take away from the importance of each character like androids Maeve and Dolores or park tourists William or The Man in Black having the separate field of gravity around their eureka moment, it does bring in an interesting dynamic of screenplay of creating suspense at peaks because it allows the three stories that are destined to meet to investigate the parks various aspects to reflect on mankind.

The arguably most important moment of plot development comes with the union of William and Dolores in their search for the release of the androids “at the center of the park”. William, being a loner in the real world, is able to sympathize with the helplessness of Dolores in the park. However, we must value Dolores’s struggle as something more than that of an object, but one which is supposed to destroy the park completely due to the immorality of maltreatment of psuedo-humans solely because of their difference in construction. The bonding which occurs between William and Dolores shows that the bonding between man and machine much like that between bonding between man and animal is true love, regardless of the appearance.

William kissing Dolores signifies the intersection of man’s need for machine to find purpose.

The journeys of Maeve and The Man in Black differ from the sentiment of love in the trade for the seeking of purpose and revenge. The complement of the love story allow the writers to develop a multifaceted turning point in the series by having all of these four revolutionaries confront their battles at the same time because someone like Maeve will figure out who she literally is and her purpose in the park in the same way and outsider like The Man in Black will learn and discover about himself on the path  driven by the greed for an answer to a “game”.  This juxtaposition of life as love versus greed and ambiguity versus clarity forces the viewers to hold all these theme in their mind at once while trying to force them to figure out which narrative has the most value. In the end, the story the viewer ends up choosing to follow the most attentively will speak more volumes about the viewer as a person than the plot lines of the show itself.

Camera Shots and Gun Shots: Shooting the Show

In this fourth installment of Westworld, I was able to notice at how the creators of the show created a major shift to focus in short, quick, snappy flashback shots. One of the main stress of the episode was to start to build tension by having the abused androids of the park be tormented while remembering their past. These interjecting snippets of film not only are able to show the confusion of androids Dolores and Maeve, but they also confuse the viewer by constantly inputting new, not seen before content of the cosmetic surgeries the androids are given once they are killed in the park.

Maeve remembering one of her traumatic surgeries.

One of the main effects of this filming behavior has caused the viewers, like myself, to view the actions which are occurring through the show in the perspective of the android. This confusion in the perspective therefore dehumanizes the human workers which are fixing the “working parts” of their business while sympathizing with the Maeve — who is struggling with a major identity crisis about what her existential purpose really is — as she transcends beyond her mental ability to simply function. Furthermore, we are also beginning to understand the deeper inner workings of the park in which the transition from machine to man takes place (ironically, the religion of the Native Americans in the show and also where Dolores’s painful  flashbacks are guiding her).

Finally, the effects of such intense flashbacks are contrasted with the long-retracting camera angles of talks between Dolores and Bernard — one of the managers of the park — to show how man is trying to understand how machine is developing the consciousness. These long scenes drag out for seemingly ages to make the viewer ponder about their own struggle with existence, something which many of mankind substitute with religion. The depth which these scenes provide almost touch into mankind’s early attempts to fathom their own existence.

Bringing the Dead “Back” To Life

As we continue on with the third episode of West World, we have come to find that the park is not only enveloping and immersing their customers, but it is also consuming the creators of the park with the possibility that a consciousness could evolve into the androids which exist in the park. Although the potential for the idea has been omnipresent throughout the series for some time now, it has been presented to us through the interaction of the two leaders of the park, Bernard and Dr.Ford. Dr.Ford reveals to Bernard that his co-creator of the park, Arnold, fantasized about bring the park to literal life, almost like a science experiment, instead of turning it into a capitalist moneymaking scheme.

In this episode, we see the power of Bernard’s expression of grief in plastering a human existence onto Dolores, an android in the park, in order to fill the hole left by the loss of his son. Through the mechanics implemented through memory,  humanistic mannerisms, and even improvised behaviors, the androids can come to life. This awakening, described by Dr.Ford, involves the pre-programmed thoughts of the androids to appear as an omnipotent presence in the mind of the machines, causing for them to believe that it belongs to a God-like figure. If we apply that concept to the future of artificial intelligence we have many ideas to unpack with such a notion.

Bernard having a secret talk with Dolores about his son and his plan to allow her to develop consciousness.

Considering such a predicament, we will have the independent evolution of a consciousnesses into machine assisted by man. While this theme is quite intriguing, I am far more fascinated in the similarity in which the once archaic lines of code will evolve around a similar concept that many, if not a majority of humankind, practices today with a belief in a more powerful figure such as a one or many God who bestows agency on each individual in mankind to sacrifice and do good for others. However, what the future of the episodes hold and the debate for us is whether or not something with the power and capability of artificial intelligence will be able to become a more evolved version of mankind, and if they are able to learn from their mistakes faster than humans and use their knowledge to manipulate us. On the other hand, we could live in a symbiotic society of coexistence where we use androids to supersede our human mortality.

Building a World of Female Power Out of Crumbling Masculinity

The scenes of the expansive west have been dominated by by the male gluttony for decades on televisions but in the futurist park of Westworld something is happening: the abusive male dominance is not only crumbling, but is forging strong, powerful, and rebellious women. In episode two of the series we feel a strong emergence of three women — two androids and one park quality assurance director —  who are in control of determining the park’s fate going forward.

Throughout the episodes we are exposed a fairly stereotypical view of the guests in this free roam park as males are portrayed as rich Caucasian daredevils releasing their excessive testosterone in adventures filled with blood and lust while female visitors to the park are depicted as very fragile and fearful housewives. While the show may seem very basic in choosing to represent only the two main genders types, it focuses expansively on the dynamic between the evolving androids who are led by an early twenties farmgirl, Dolores, and a female prostitute, Maeve, and the one of the park’s controllers, Theresa. As the show chooses to blurry out the repetitive male dominated story lines of the park as white noise in the background, we begin to understand how the masterful each woman is with their knowledge and how they can manipulate others around them.

Dolores manipulating Bernard in their private conversation.

Initially, the show directs us to focus on Dolores because her dad reaches an existential crisis about their existence as an android that he reveals to her. However, Dolores immediately becomes a character striving with her duplicity. For example, when she is  talking another one of the park’s directors, Bernard, after being recalled, the viewer cannot distinguish who is in control of the situation. Bernard seems to be bluffing his confidence in his control as he does not know that Dolores is memorizing everything to manipulate him and help her fellow androids in her grassroots movement.

Dolores warning Maeve that they are being controlled with the famous Shakespeare, “These violent delights have violent ends.”

Dolores actually ends up leading us to our next face of the rebellion: Maeve. Maeve’s carefully structured character as a lower class African-American citizen in the fictional society of Westworld allows her to takes her trauma she has experienced to fight back more relentlessly as she has been exploited. Furthermore, the symbolic image of Maeve being completely nude, gushing blood, with scalpel in hand when she escapes during repair two park technicians conjures a sentiment not too distant from the emancipating escape of slaves and shows her determination and desperation for liberation in the most vulnerable form one can be.

Finally, we are exposed to Theresa. Theresa is an extremely dangerous wildcard because of how potent she is when left to her own devices. Not only does she seem to have a grasp of what the problem may be with the “sudden” evolution with the park’s androids but she may as well be controlling them.  She flexes her ambiguity in personal relationships with Bernard to wins conversations firmly and confidently.

Theresa has no fear of calling out her superiors and flaunting her intellect when she feels necessary.

Fantasy or Future?

West. World. Here we are again traversing through mankind’s Manifest Destiny of any possible pleasure imaginable — in front of a Utah desert backdrop with thousands of humanoid robots and hundreds of interlaced scripted stories. This wild-west glutton buffet is the brain child of co-writers and husband and wife Lisa Joy and Johnathan Nolan. In the first episode, we see the dynamic of Johnathan Nolan’s previous works in Dark Knight Batman movies, Terminator Genesis, and Interstellar as well as Lisa Joy experimentation with her works Burn Notice (a spy termination narrative) and Pushing Daisies (a reincarnation-concept based show) battling with an affectionate humanistic narrative that rises from their relationship as a family and the parents of two young kids. SPOILER, the androids start to realize they are merciless victims of the customers in the park when one of the android’s scripted priorities is to protect the android daughter at all costs.

Westworld makes us ponder our very own existence by putting viewers in the androids’ shoes.

Westworld is a matrimonial tightrope walk in between Elon Musk’s belief that we are living in a simulation and his warnings about the power of artificial intelligence to become smart enough to manipulate people to satisfy their own interests. The dialogue structure in the episode and the series blend the power struggle perfectly. The makers interact with their work like they are one of their own. One of the stand out lines comes from a creative director of the robots, Lee, when he questions, “Do you really want to think that your husband is [having sex] with that girl?” These heated debates among the creators of Westworld and their invention brings a humanity to their supposed omnipotence because they themselves can’t figure out the borders to what is morally acceptable in their park. What if fulfilling your desires involves getting emotionally attached to something that is just supposed to be an object? The inventors are no longer in complete control of their own work.

A Westworld prostitute developing a enticing lip stroke after remembering her sexual experience.

The last resort that the creator’s of the park do have are “pausing” the androids. This is the only effective way the writers of the show are able to detach you from how human-like and independent the robots are. These periods of silence are not only haunting in the instances of when the father of the daughter android, Peter,  tries to attack the creator of Westworld, but also the only layer to prevent you as a viewer from getting attached to the androids and rooting for them just like another customer of the park.  Physically, the creators of  Westworld still may have power but their is no omniscience in the realm of speech. Everything is a fair game. The down-to-earth style dialogues in the show leaves yourself thinking yourself if your own consciousnesses is just a figment of imagination and whether or not we are supposed to replace ourselves with a more — not so artificially — intelligent being as a simple demand of evolution.

“Scared to face the world, complacent career student, some people graduate, but be still stupid” -Kanye West

Aight ATL, what’s happenin’? I am David Veres and I came here from the far-reaches of Charlotte suburbs from a town by the name of Weddington in North Carolina to study Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. I anticipate to graduate with the class of 2022, but if my interests in foreign studies dragged that out by a semester or two, I wouldn’t mind it because I would always be coming back to my long admired city of Atlanta.

I am really looking forward to this English 1102 section of Television and Feminism because I am eager to delve into and understand a new form of media and art. I always found most of my experiences with English courses to be pretty dry because it was always the same recycled format of reading a book and writing a paper since my earliest days in elementary. Actually, I hated English classes for many years. I somehow reluctantly pulled myself through the AIG Reading program for about five years until I had my breakthrough in grades eight through ten. I had began to take rap more seriously in it’s lyrical dimensions and the poetry unit I loathed in previous years was something I yearned for — just not haiku’s and sonnets. It was the dissecting of hip-hop and rap verses that really helped me build up my analytical arsenal. In my last two years, College Board has once again managed to absolutely kill the joy I once had by making me write timed essays about article segments and read books that frankly had more incest than I could have ever asked for in Song of Solomon and Invisible Man.

Me trying to sneak in a Kanye reference for the ten millionth time.

Moving in a different direction, even though I said I think I would struggle most with the visual component of the class during my introduction video, I think I will still struggle more with the written component. Watching the novela Jane the Virgin has eased my nerves a bit and even made me excited to binge the whole season! However, even as I sat down to write this blog post, I still had to overcome this insane prewriting-phobia that I have every assignment. Seeing that the content of this course is significantly different and will be my last English class ever, I hope to overcome my fears of writing and even develop a desire to immediately put my thoughts into a body of work rather than procrastinate until the last day. Furthermore, I hope to become proficient in translating my thoughts and feelings into sentences that actually make sense (a longstanding Achilles heel of mine).

Finally, I am the farthest thing from “well-versed” in television. My only experience comes with Donald Glover’s show Atlanta FX which depicts a much more realistic struggle of daily life as an African American in modern America. Also, I have not had entrenched myself in the topic of feminism because I never had any social issues with the movement due to my very progressive and liberal ideology. I am more of a reserved person so I never had any friends that were girls, but over the summer I started my first serious relationship and I would not trade the knowledge I have gained and the way I view love for anything. It has been exceptionally exciting because my girlfriend is from a completely different country so getting to know her culture has been an endless supply for my curiosity. My curiosity is what is also leading me to chose to watch Orange Is the New Black as my show to review for this class. I am always gripped by highly provocative and polarizing figures because I enjoy how deeply they make me think about living a life from a different perspective and I feel like the radically lifestyle inside a women’s prison is exactly the fresh content my analytical mind needs.

Me to all my previous English teachers who never wanted to watch the movies for the books but that’s all I am doing this semester.

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