English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #topic3

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

Shoot to kill (demons)

Wynonna Earp is by no means a cinematically impressive show – never have I ever watched it and actively thought that the shots were stunning or greatly transitioned. However, through looking carefully, it should be noted that it is presented much better than people give it credit for, allowing the viewer to watch the show with some level of satisfaction.

The show is shot mainly in short to medium length takes, alternating between close ups of character dialogues, sometimes with all characters involved in one shot and other times switching singular face shots between the characters in the conversation, and long distance shots, which can involved a shot of the characters with their dialogue as a voiceover (those typically are very short) or nature focused shots of the Calgary wilderness. And of course, as an action/supernatural/western show, Wynonna Earp includes its fair share of impressive strut shots, with demons blowing up or nature themed scenery in the background. By including a variation of shots, Wynonna Earp is able to really present their genre as a supernatural western, with the fancy fighting and disgusting demons, as well as give the viewers in depth perspectives on the relationships between the characters outside of the action.

No one thinks of happy, bright colors when they think of demon hunting, and the cinematographers of Wynonna Earp agree. Most of the lighting throughout the show comes in dark, blue – yellow – gray hues as opposed white or pink. The writers are great at manipulating or associating colors with individual characters. For example, Waverly Earp, the bubbly sweet younger sister of Wynonna, tends to be in vivid colors while Doc, the gun slinging immortal, tends to be in dark, underworld themed apparel. This use of color greatly adds to the ambiance of the show and often times sets the occasion for the viewers.

Action shot after killing a demon

The episode I am referencing for this blog post, Season 2 Episode 1: Steel Bars and Stone Walls, is not statistically different in cinematography or direction than any other episode. No one is at fault for this, but rather, Wynonna Earp does its best to conform to its genre, and I commend it for that.

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