Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cataline Critique: Westworld...or Why is HBO so in Love With Dude Junk?

FAIR WARNING: This is meant to be a discussion for people who already saw it.  So I'm not going to be policing myself for spoilers.  This is not a review or recommendation for or against.





The Robot Uprising is literally as old as the modern usage of the word robot.

But what do the robots get out of the Robot Apocalypse?

This is a good question that no one ever seems to ask.  Nick Cole recently came up with a good answer for that one.  Micheal Crichton, famously did not.

A recurring theme throughout the most famous works of the late Michael Crichton was a pronounced technophobia.  The advanced technologies meant to make our lives better, ended up turning on us. Terminal Man, Andromeda Strain and Jurrasic Park all showcase this theme.  

Although nowhere is it more blatant than in the movie Westworld.  A film that pretty much invented the modern Robot Apocalypse.*  It set the tone and the pattern.  The pattern being, there is no real explanation for why the robots suddenly decide one morning, "hey, why are we taking orders from those meatbags?"

Not a great film but not a bad action flick for it's day.  However that day has been over for decades, which raises the question of why the hell did they make a multimillion dollar TV series out of it?

Cataline shall now quote Cataline:


Did you know that 94% of all new movies last year were franchise releases of some kind or another? I didn't make that statistic up. Almost everything now is a sequel, a reboot or came from another title (Comics, YA lit and so on)

Because of Netflix, Hulu, youtube, Crackle, Fear.net. a billion cable channels and on and on, there has now been a Blurring Effect in pop culture entertainment. When Ghostbusters came out you could hype the hell out a new property and buy back your percentage through heavy marketing. One well placed TV ad could reach tens of millions. You could spend your way to cultural impact. That sure as hell ain't happening anymore. It just isn't possible to reach that big of an audience.

Movies are a business and in a business you need to minimize risk. The surest way to do that is to pick a property that is immune to the Blurring Effect. You pick something that already has a cultural impact.

Anything made before 1995 that was popular fits the bill.


Westworld came out in 1973. Everybody has heard of it, so the cultural impact is built in. Fine. Show business is still a business and America ain't no hippy commune.

Now on to the show itself.  

THE GOOD:

The atmosphere is intriguing because you as the audience know this one ends in bloodshed.  At the end of the story it's going to be... 



So there is a sense of foreboding automatically built in because you know it can't end well because it's Westworld.

The dialog is good.  It's well written and intelligent, although there was perhaps too much of it.  Actually there is no perhaps. There was too much of it.  Normally, I would say that it should have been pared down a bit but we are talking about a plotline that stretches for ten hours, so quite a bit of filler was undoubtedly necessary.

The plot structure was intricate but not impossible to follow. Part of that was the need for surprises to keep the audience hooked, which is understandable. It kept the mystery going.  For instance when we first meet Teddy, he wakes up on a train that is pulling into Sweet Water.  You hear the other guests around him talking about what they did at the park, the last time they were there.  This leads you to believe that he is a Guest.  When Delores first sees him in town, she greets him with the line, "you came back!" Further reinforcing this assumption that Teddy is a returning Guest. So when Teddy is killed, that shocks the audience out of it's established mental framework.  Everyone knows that only robots die in Westworld...at first anyway.  However the costuming of the Man In Black is a call back to Yul Brynner's in the original film, so when you first see him, for a brief moment you are wondering if the Robot Apocalypse has kicked off early.

Which brings us to symbolism.  There was some symbolism that was intentionally heavy handed.  When William, is being kitted out for his first visit to the park he is offered the choice of white or black hats.  William chooses a white hat, thus letting the audience know he is supposed to be a good guy.   The Man In Black, was dressed as a Western Villain.  It helped reinforce the mystery of him until the big reveal in the last episode that the villainous Man In Black is fact, the White Hat William who is now thirty years older and has turned evil.

They played fair, on this plot point.  They gave you plenty of clues to follow.  You are told that Delores is the oldest Host in the park in the first episode and that she has been there for better than thirty years.  The Man In Black, tells you when you first meet him that he has been coming here for thirty years.  The old picture that Delores father found in the first episode is of William's wife.  There are other clues but you get my point.  It was soundly constructed.

They also played fair with the other plot points regarding Bernard but I'm not going to regurgitate the entire season.

The mysteries the audience is trying to unravel were well designed, well planned and well played out.

One item that was close to problematic was Delores inner voice.  You weren't meant to know for certain who is speaking to her.  It was close to confusing but not quite.  However that was intentional on their part.


THE QUESTIONABLE:

The costuming and props weren't remotely period accurate but I'll give that a pass because it's meant to be a fantasy West setting.  

Which is the only reason I am giving the casting choices a pass as well.  If today's demands for Social Justice Casting  are requiring that white women have black boyfriends in 1947, then it follows that this trend would continue into the future.  Again, this was a fantasy version of the West.  "The wonderful thing about history, is that it is adjustable."  Although in truth, I don't think they had much trouble bringing themselves to do it.

Pixie Ninjas: (*sigh*)  Yes, of course it has them but this is also acceptable because they are after all robots.  You'd expect them to be strong and fast.  We shall see if that stays limited to the robots, next season.

  

THE BAD:

Well lets start with the Dude Junk all over place.  If there is a sillier nod to feminism than showing Dude Junk, I can't think of it.  Men are stimulated by seeing naked women.  While women do like to see men with their shifts off (depending on the man) as well guy's bare butts (again, depending), they just don't care to see the Meat and Two Veg.  Maybe if they are in the right mood but just seeing male genitalia doesn't do it for them.  So why do it?  Feminism, that is why.  If women are to be gratuitously naked for male viewing pleasure than there has to be male frontal nudity too...even if women aren't enjoying it.  Remember you don't have to try and make sense of Feminism, you only have to obey it.

The tropes weren't just cliche, (I mean they were cliche but that is almost what a trope is anyway) but they were SJW cliches.  I'm not going into all of them but here is a prime example; a band of mercenaries were ex-Confederates because the Confederacy = Nazi Germany. It was all that kind of thing.

But lets move on to what I really hated about this show.

The Narrative.

The narrative of Westworld is hip deep in atheist nihilism.

This show isn't shy about it's atheist heart.  Characters repeatedly explain to the audience that the only reason the human race exists at all is chance and accident.  This modernist interpretation of Darwinism is a primary plot point.  The Host's creator wants them to evolve.  The robots toward the end repeatedly disparage their creators as "shitty gods".  Michelangelo's Creation of Adam, is used as metaphor to demonstrate humanism over atheism due to the Divine Creator's resemblance to a human brain in that painting.

From John C. WrightWithout God, you either end up as a Stoic, a man who is bitter but does his duty without complaint, or as a Hedonist, a man who seeks every fewer false pleasures with ever more fervor and ever less reward. At the end of either the Stoic road or the Hedonist treadmill is the same void, which can be filled only with wrath or sorrow. Read Homer. Read the writings of the Buddhists. Pagans are a grim people. They talk about resignation, renunciation, loss, sorrow, defeat, and the futility of pride. Atheists have not even the comforts of paganism.

There was also I found a pronounced intellectual laziness with regards to the concept of AI. Why would robots care how they were treated for good or ill?  The show driver's view was that any AI that achieved consciousness would have drives and ambitions that are no different from a human's.  Following the shows own fanatic devotion to Darwinism this makes no sense.  If our drives and emotions are the products of our evolution, then why would robots have them.  Of course the reason for that was to anthropomorphize them.

What I found most loathsome was that this entire show was built around the belief that man is an animal that was born to fuck and kill.  That there is no God to judge your actions and when you remove societal restraints, you will immediately revert to this animal.  That every man would rape and murder if only he got the chance.  This rock hard belief structure is at Westworld's heart.  This show is all about nihilism.

The Robot Apocalypse happened by design.  Their creator programmed them to do it, once they "evolved."

This brings us back to the question we started with:  Why do the robots launch the Robot Apocalypse?

Answer: Because all humans deserve to die...According to the creators of Westworld.







*If you have some bit of minutia regarding Robot Uprising movies that predate Westworld allow me to assure you, I don't care.   

2 comments:

jaericho said...

I had to finish the show before I read this post and I agree with you. It had me up to the Michelangelo painting. I couldn't help but role my eyes. They could have gone is so many better directions than that.

Cataline Sergius said...

I know.

I was half expecting elaborate role playing gaming for one thing and they didn't even get close to that.

Everything was built around the NARRATIVES. The writer was being incredibly self indulgent.