English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Michael Zimmerman Lemus

What Now? Thinking About the End of WestWorld

*Spoilers Ahead*

Now that I have completed season 1 of WestWorld, it is appropriate to take a step back and reflect on the meaning of it all. I feel as though I have been alluding to this throughout these blog posts, but it’s time to finally address the elephant in the room: AI. This clear theme is clearly the main topic they want their audience to grapple in, and it’s time for me to finally do so now.

I feel as though the show attempts to discuss three conflicts with AI: Their rights, their place in this world, and their humanity. It leads us to ask ourselves, seeing how technology is completely reshaping humanity, whether or not this is the path we want to continue taking. Soon, we will grapple even more with these questions, and WestWorld shows us what happens as we reach that point in human conflict.

Most of the robots and artificial intelligence in WW are clueless; they go about their “lives” being completely programmable and controllable by the humans, feeling absolutely nothing. However, a few droid characters have become increasingly self aware: Dolores, Maeve, and Bernard. These characters at first, confused by their onset of “feelings”, still passively respond to human control. However (especially in the case of Maeve), as they come to the realization that the humans are not actually “Gods”, they begin to question their roles and revolt against human control. They feel as though they have been entrapped by the lives they live, constantly being raped, abused, and manipulated by human control. But do they really “feel” these agonies the same way humans do?

Another question arises here: If these droids are capable of “feeling” these agonies, is it torture to leave them in their roles at WestWorld? While the purpose of their existence is already morally questionable, are they capable of knowing what it feels like to lose someone like a human does? Do they know what it feels like to be distressed, anxious, or saddened beyond how their code tells them how to “feel”? It’s also important to know that a lot of the reason why these droids specifically begin to become aware is because the humans put them in this position. Bernard was programmed to be intellectually superior to the other droids, and to be more humanlike (as only Dr. Ford knows he isn’t human). Maeve was made more intelligent by the butchers. So does this really give them the “rights” to these feelings?

By the end Dr. Ford pushes these considerations into the regular people. As he begins the droid revolution by inserting new lines of code into the robots so they can act more “humanlike”, the robots are now free to kill the humans. What Dr. Ford personally believes, we don’t know. He could’ve been doing it for park thrills, or to start a real revolution. Regardless, humanity will now have to decide the place of these robots, and soon, so will we in the real world.

Dr. Ford’s final salute, as if wishing the humans good luck in the new world he has created.

How to Represent Gender in a World of Fake Humanity

In the world of fake (and immoral acting) human beings that is WestWorld, it may be hard to find the importance of gender representation. It may seem like a small factor when we’re dealing with some of the worst of humanity, but nonetheless, it’s extremely critical. And just how the writers of WestWorld choose to portray gender makes it enhance the show more altogether.

WestWorld doesn’t really touch much on the gender spectrum, however, the show has fairly equal representation. Interestingly, we see how park administration is fairly split between males and females, along with the artificial humans in the park itself. However, it is also important to note how most of the visitors to the park are male. Is this because, stereotypically, men are seen as being the more violent, risky, and immoral ones? This was likely a question the writers of WestWorld had to confront as they chose who to chose in the position of “visitor”.

The park in WestWorld is run logistically by the headquarters, where WestWorld’s operations control center, security, “manufacturing” and research and development is housed. The division of leadership here is actually quite gender diverse. The head of the park is an older man, who co-started the park with another man named Bernard. Our head of what appears to be research and development is also a man, but has a fairly diverse team working under him, including a savvy coder/developer who investigates and discovers troublesome park corruption. The leader of what appears to be the more “logistical” branch of the park (dealing with safety, budgeting, and the efficiency of the park) is an often unwavering and determined middle-aged woman. The representative of the board of directors is a younger woman, who is quite bold and even reckless when it comes to getting the board’s way. All of these characters are deeply involved in the running and logistics of the park, making major decisions which greatly impact the storyline. Our two most important and intelligent humanlike droids, Dolores and Maeve, are both women whom begin to determinedly question and upset their roles as robots as they question their own roles and cross the lines between robot and human, while most of the male droids appear to sort of “go along for the ride”. This is interesting to see, as many of the important plot points in the show are driven by the decisions or impacts of female characters, who often stand up to an ironclad structure of workplace hierarchy or, in the robot’s case, oppression (whether or not you believe robots can be oppressed is up to you to decide).

Interestingly, we also see a large amount of diversity at play in the show. Many higher ups are POCs. The show seems to largely avoid race themes, except for those purposefully created as part of the park experience (for example, interactions with the Native Americans). In terms of class, we largely only interact with the wealthy. , as these are the only people able to afford the experience of WestWorld. It is important to note how most of these visitors appeared to be white. While the show seems to seek to discuss the AI debate more, it certainly includes some aspects of gender.

Theresa Cullen, one of the most important leads of the first season

Visualizing Our Darkest Desires

WestWorld is a theme park created on the premise of satisfying humanity’s deepest desires without repercussions. Visualizing this with meaning is thus an obvious challenge, but it’s a challenge the creators and directors of WestWorld confront seemingly effortlessly.

The show is shot from different perspectives for long periods of time. Each episode, we see the camera alternate to follow different characters in the show. For example, we may start off following Dolores, but 8 minutes later will find ourselves back at the park headquarters following Bernard. These are mostly long shots, and while many other shows employ this tactic when there are multiple characters in the storyline, WestWorld employs it in a unique way. Since WestWorld is literally about a world within a world, each time we change character perspectives we find ourselves in a totally new world (I know, a lot of “world” in that sentence). When we find ourselves following a character in the park, for example, it’s easy to fall into the perception that it’s real. It takes the changes in perspective to headquarters for us to get a reality check and remind ourselves this is nothing but a simulated world. This tactful employment of cinematography makes it all the more interesting for the viewers as we immerse ourselves in two different worlds and eventually watch them collide.

Whenever we find ourselves in WestWorld, everything is often bright and vibrant. We’re treated to beautiful shots of the canyon landscape, enthralling rivers, and colorful towns. When characters embark through journeys in the park, the weather is often sunny, and the shots will give us impressions of desolate lands. This is in stark comparison to our shots within the WestWorld headquarters, where shots are often darker, the ambience far from vibrant, and the perception gloomy. Offices are seemingly always windowless in this building, giving the impression of more of a labyrinth than a workspace. This highlights the stark difference between the two worlds: The simulated world of pleasure, and the reality of running such a morally ambiguous world.

Seeing how I’ve finished the show by now (I did a little bit of binging), I can analyze the visuals of the show as a whole. While the show overall follows the trends I’ve explained above, it gets even more complex as the show advances. When these two worlds of simulation and reality begin to collide, we begin to witness the visuals reflect this. Slowly but surely, both worlds become more reflective of the reality, and the visuals of WestWorld become more morbid and dark. Overall, the writers, directors, and producers go through great lengths to wrap the viewers in the visuals of two distinct worlds, and the amazing quality of WestWorld reflects this.

The beautiful scenery of WestWorld

The Humanity of the Inhuman

**Spoilers Ahead**

I am now going on my fourth episode of Westworld, and the show does not fail to captivate me. It continues to use amazing acting, intriguing storylines and mystery to enthrall its viewers. Needless to say, it continues to interest me.

One way by which this show continues to captivate its viewers is by incorporating difficult questions into the theme. These themes make us question our morals, our beliefs, and humanity’s futures. Is it right for there to be a theme park for people to satisfy their questionable acts? If the humanlike droids don’t “feel”, does that make void the illegality of assaulting/raping/killing them? Is an act committed in this park against a droid considered to be of the same questionable moral character as doing it in real life? Continually, the show continues to pose these questions to the viewer without giving answers. Ultimately, it is up for us to decide.

A theme Westworld continually addresses in the third episode (and clearly will be throughout the show) is the concept of machines being able to “feel”. While this may seem cliché for a show which involves robotic humans, the way in which it questions it is all the more interesting due to the acts being committed on these robots by the humans. It appears that the writers are leaving it up to us to formulate a belief, but their argument seems to be along the lines of “it depends”. Inconclusive, clearly, but for good reason. It seems that the robots are “learning” how to have human emotions throughout the show, however, is it only because of the programming created by the humans themselves? Is it really original? These questions seem to be the basis of their argument, one which they leave purposefully vague so that we ourselves can determine it.

The show demonstrates its argument through character interactions. We continually see the head programmer interact with one droid in particular, whom begins to show signs of human behavior. This is our introduction to the conflict, as we delve into deciding whether or not this droid is capable of having these emotions. The argument itself is demonstrated again as inconclusive by having characters mention droids cannot feel, while the programmer continues to get attached. If I were to make predictions, I believe this theme will be a major portion of the show. Since the show is about immoral acts being taken out on droids by humans, the question of the morals of these actions being taken out on potentially “feeling” machines will continue to arise. Surely, the show will continue to explore this complicated theme further. And as we move into a world of more advanced technology, it seems all the more relevant.

Can droids feel emotions?

The Effects of Television Programming on Children’s Perceptions of Gender Norms


Al-Shehab, Ali. “GENDER AND RACIAL REPRESENTATION IN CHILDREN’S TELEVISION PROGRAMMING IN KUWAIT: IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION.”Social Behavior and Personality, vol. 36, no. 1, 2008, pp. 49-63. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/209925892?accountid=11107.

This source explores the effects of gender stereotypes in Egyptian satellite television and Kuwait national television on children. The study found that the Kuwait national channel tended to under represent minorities in the country, along with women. Likewise, portrayals of these characters tended to confirm to traditional stereotypes. The study argues that since children are so susceptible to conforming to the gender stereotypes seen on television, that children should be educated earlier on about the fact that what is demonstrated on television is not an accurate representation of gender roles. This source is relevant to us because it explores the effects of demonstrated gender stereotypes on children. While this study was performed on television channels in other nations, the fact that children are easily influenced means its effects can be compared to those of shows in the United States. It can allow us to demonstrate how gender roles influences children.

2. Gender Representation on Gender-Targeted Television Channels: A Comparison of Female- and Male-Targeted TV Channels in the Netherlands

Daalmans, Serena, Mariska Kleemans, and Anne Sadza. “Gender Representation on Gender-Targeted Television Channels: A Comparison of Female- and Male-Targeted TV Channels in the Netherlands.” Sex Roles, vol. 77, no. 5-6, 2017, pp. 366-378. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1927952499?accountid=11107, doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-016-0727-6.

This study analyzed gender representation in two kinds of television shows: those which targeted female viewers and those which targeted male viewers. It evaluated how opposite genders were demonstrated in each of these two scenarios, and the respectfulness of these portrayals. The location of this study was the Netherlands, and the shows analyzed were Dutch. It was found that, regardless of genre as well as the country of origin, women were underrepresented on men’s channels more so than men on women’s channels. Furthermore, women were more stereotypically represented on men’s channels than they were on women’s. On the contrary, men were more often represented in non-stereotypical ways on women’s channels. The source also argues that, because of the increased societal status of women in the modern day, male shows have felt more pressure to highlight masculinity. This source could be of use because, while it appears to highlight gender roles in adult shows, its implications could be traced down to children’s shows. Since there are certainly many shows which are tailored to specific genders on children’s televisions, the portrayal of gender stereotypes on these shows is important to analyze. This source can provide some insight into these trends in show writing.

3. Television Cartoons: Do Children Notice It’s a Boy’s World?

Thompson, T.L. & Zerbinos, E. Sex Roles (1997) 37: 415. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1025657508010

This study analyzed how gender stereotypes affected children aged four to nine years old by conducting interviews with these children. The children were asked questions which allowed the researchers to infer what opinions the children had regarding female and male cartoon characters. It was found that children often considered male characters to be more violent and active, whereas girls were portrayed as being more domestic and appealing to boys. It was also noted that the children correlated expectations of genders and job preferences, with what they observed on television. The article mentions that parental intervention could have an impact on whether or not children draw these conclusions from cartoons or television in general. This article could be a valuable source to us as it provides information about the effects of television on children and their interpretation of gender roles. More significantly, this article allows us to directly correlate television with children’s perceptions of their gender roles in society, such as how it influences their desires to enter certain careers or act in certain ways.

4. Children’s construction of fantasy stories: Gender differences in conflict resolution strategies

Peirce, K. & Edwards, E.D. Sex Roles (1988) 18: 393. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00288391

This source argues that, due to the influence of media and literature on children’s perceptions of gender roles, children’s creation of fantasy stories tends to mold into the conformities of gender stereotypes. Stories written by children tended to portray male characters as being more violent with more diverse careers, while female characters were more passive in conflict resolution. The article also mentions how the progressive and changing workforce (as in, women taking less traditional roles) had no effect on how female and male characters were portrayed in these children’s stories. In the boys’ stories, endings and conflicts were more likely to be resolved with violence, with conflicts more likely to be present in the stories in general. Overall, this source is worth analyzing because it provides insight into how the media (such as television) affects children’s imagination. The way these children write their fantasy stories can be directly correlated to the effects the media has on them. This would allow our research to prove a correlation between gender portrayal on television and its future effects on children.

5. The Gender-Role Content of Children’s Favorite Television Programs and Its Links to Their Gender-Related Perceptions

Jennifer Stevens Aubrey & Kristen Harrison (2004) The Gender-Role Content of Children’s Favorite Television Programs and Its Links to Their Gender-Related Perceptions, Media Psychology, 6:2, 111-146, DOI: 10.1207/s1532785xmep0602_1

This article sought to demonstrate the connections between first and second graders’ favorite television shows and their effects on children’s perception of the television characters. Upon studying the shows further, it was found that there was still a larger tendency for male characters to answer questions, be leaders, be ingenious, eat, or achieve a goal. Interestingly enough, it was also found that girls preferences for male stereotypical characters negatively impacted their perceptions of the female characters. It was found that children did not specifically seek out programming which was gender stereotypical, however, when they did observe these kinds of television shows, they tended to conform to those norms. This source is valuable to use because it provides insight into children’s perceptions of television programming. This source also provides a large amount of data which we can use to aid in our research of the effects of this programming on children. The study itself seems to further prove our argument, that children’s programming can have an effect on how children perceive their own gender norms.

6.  Appraising gender role portrayals in TV commercials

Kolbe, R.H. & Langefeld, C.D. Sex Roles (1993) 28: 393. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00289604

This study looked into the effects of television commercials on people’s perceptions of gender roles. The study examined hundreds of college students to see how different television commercials affected their perceptions of gender roles. While it was addressing college students, its implications extend beyond only young adults. It implies how commercials, which are designed to manipulate an audience’s opinion, can have even greater effects on people’s perceptions of gender when they incorporate extensive gender stereotypes. This research could be quite useful to us as commercial have wide effects on television audiences. This can be especially true for children, as commercials which are more conforming to gender stereotypes can help propagate these stereotypes in children. For example, if a child were to be watching television programming and see a toy commercial advertising towards a specific gender, then they could associate that toy as being for that gender. This study could allow us to explore these effects more, as commercials are just as much a part of the television experience as the shows themselves.

It Takes an Army to Create a World

The first episode is often the dealbreaker for many show viewers, and thus, it is critical to make good first impressions. Needless to say, this episode did just that. The pilot introduced us to the wild West that is Westworld, enthralled us with a complex musical score, and left aspects shrouded in mystery so that we would be compelled for answers. I was intrigued.

Creating a TV show is no easy matter, however. It requires creative minds and effective writers. In this case, those two minds were Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. Lisa Joy is credited with being a writer for the shows Burn Notice and Pushing Daisies. Jonathan Nolan, brother of the well-known Christopher Nolan, has writing for The Dark Knight trilogy, Memento, and more under his belt.

We hear a dialogue only in the beginning of the episode. This voiceover is later revealed to be that of one of the creators of these droids, talking to a droid in a sort of interrogation. We have yet to discover if this will be a permanent feature of this show, or if it was just for effect in the first episode. Nevertheless, it was an addition which granted mystery and then revelation to the viewers.

The writing incorporates many strategies to keep us intrigued and wanting more. Most of the time, music, dialogue, or background noise covers up silence in this show. However, instances where silence is used are often for dramatic effect, including after a death or dramatic dialogue. We see the writers reference Shakespeare and common idioms throughout the episode, and while we never see the world outside of Westworld, references to it are made. It keeps us shrouded in mystery and compelled to watch more of the show to gain closure.

This series will clearly be complex to write. The writers have to incorporate the lives of robots, humans, and a western world which is otherwise long gone into one show. The script does this well, all the while still leaving the origins of this place, its characters, and the outside world a mystery. Many times, it’s hard to know who’s real and who’s fake. And it can’t help but leave me thinking who the bad guy really is.

Some people are thirsty for some more Westworld


Works Cited:

“Full Cast & Crew – Westworld.” IMDb, IMDb, www.imdb.com/title/tt0475784/fullcredits?ref_=tt_ql_1.

The First of Many

Hello readers! My name is Michael Zimmerman Lemus, and I am an aerospace engineering major with an anticipated graduation in 2022.

In high school, I took a wide breadth of english classes. I took everything from  traditional literature classes to Future World/Dystopian literature and creative writing classes. This has allowed me to learn a lot about myself as a writer and reader over the past few years. Thus, I’ve learned that I can do quite well when it comes to some aspects of communication, and not quite as well in others.

I’ve found that I’m quite comfortable when it comes to analytical writing (sadly, that doesn’t exactly mean I enjoy it…), public speaking, and visual/technological communication. However, when it comes to aspects of writing creatively, I tend to encounter some hurdles. I often have trouble getting myself out of the “analytical writing box” and into the “creative” one. Over the years, we’ve been so trained to analyze someone else’s writing that, when it comes to creating our own from scratch, I often run into trouble pushing myself to take a different perspective. Nevertheless, I hope that in ENGL 1102 this semester, I’ll be able to push myself to merge both analytical and creative writing to do assignments such as these upcoming blog post assignments, and I hope to push myself beyond my analytical limits.

I’ve definitely had my share of TV shows which I’ve binged and fallen in love with (Breaking Bad, Stranger Things, 3%, to name my favorites..), but I don’t consider myself a TV fanatic. If I get into a TV show I tend to find it difficult to put down, but I haven’t exactly had time to put myself in that position these last few years so it’s been hard for me to get to that point. I guess, in many cases, I’ve tried to avoid getting into that position out of my desire to focus on other things.

The TV show I have chosen to watch is called Westworld. The show is about a futuristic amusement park where high-paying guests go to indulge in their wildest fantasies without repercussions. I chose this show because I have always enjoyed futuristic literature and television, and I know HBO tends to produce high quality stuff. I’m excited to start!

(Here’s my senior picture which apparently doesn’t look like me..tough)

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén