English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #westworld

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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?

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.

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)

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