HBO’s latest breakout series, Westworld, is based on the 1973 film with the same title. With huge names attached to the series, such as Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris its no wonder that Westworld is HBO’s most watched first season ever. The series is being produced by J.J. Abrams, who is known for his work on the recent Star Trek and Star Wars reboots, and Jonathan Nolan, who is known for the Batman trilogy. Despite all this stardom, research has shown that only about 30% of the audience is female and only 17% of the total audience is between ages 18-24. (Check out these stats and more here.) These statistics mean that very few of our audience is checking out this show—and you should! It’s awesome and here is why…
Before we begin here’s a quick plot summary (without any spoilers):
The series is set at the fiction futuristic amusement park Westworld where guests can do whatever they want to the android residents of Westworld called hosts. The park is run by Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) and Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). The series follows the guests and the hosts of Westworld interactions and experiences. The official series synopsis is “a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin.”
1. It’s Empowering for Women
The series exemplifies some of Sigmund Freud’s most notorious theories. Freud famously said, “Where such men love they have no desire and where they desire they cannot love.” We see this in Westworld as the two main characters are two women that represent the madonna and the whore complex. Dolores is the Madonna, seemingly virtuous and sweet, universally desired as the park’s damsel in distress, while Maeve is the whore: she is a madam. As a sex worker, she is desired but never rescued by any men, as opposed to Dolores. Maeve must figure out the truth of her reality on her own, without any hand holding. While at the beginning of the series it seems as if we will be following a male centric cast, these two quickly steal the show as the only robotic “hosts” able to uncover the truth about their reality and outsmart their human captors. The two are as different as night and day, but they parallel each other as the search for consciousness.
2. Dolores is a Bad ASS
Dolores breaks out of her mindless life as a damsel in distress to become a crazy bad ass. There is no better moment in the series than when she said, “I imagine a world where I wasn’t a damsel.” MIC DROP. She goes from being a pawn in her white knight Teddy’s storyline to being the catalyst of the entire series. Dolores evolves from the hapless victim of incredible and senseless violence in the first episode to slowly realizing her own capabilities by the finale.
3. A Woman Of Colour is Outsmarting the Patriarchy
Parallel to Dolores coming out of her damsel characteristics is Maeve, another resident badass on the show. She is a black woman working as a madam in the town of Sweetwater. Her sly and cunning nature show her to be the smartest character on the show, even outwitting her own creators. She manages to play the entire series to her advantage while going through the realization of her traumatizing history.
4. The Show Is An Allegory for the Female Objectification We All Deal With
The series is based on a futuristic world where women are objectified into literal sexual objects that are produced and sold. By actually making the women in the show objects that they could do whatever they desire with, the series shows the literal ways our own reality objectifies women. The show takes the metaphorical objectification women deal with in modern society and applies it to a terrifying future where men can build women as sex objects. This terrifying reality of commodifying people begs the question of this decadent future being a utopia or a dystopia—depending who you ask.
5. It Makes Us Ask What it Means to Be Human
Westworld hinges on a trippy storyline that questions the meaning of consciousness and humanity. The visitors use the robotic hosts to act out their darkest and most depraved desires. The obvious focus on human indecency makes the viewer question what it means to be truly human as the robots show compassion and kindness, even love. This arc forces the viewer to look at the humans in the show disdainfully while cheering for the robots. The treatment of the robots makes the viewer sympathize with them immediately; this is a reversal of the original film where the audience prayed for the survival of the humans when their creations rose up against them.
Both Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Dolores, and Thandie Newton, who plays Maeve, were nominated for a golden globe for their work on Westworld. If their nominations, coupled with the fact that it’s HBO’s most successful pilot series ever, aren’t enough to tempt you, the psychological and ethical questions it poses should. What does it mean to be human? And what is consciousness?
Westworld will be coming back to HBO in Spring 2018, check out the trailer for season two here.
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