Westworld has dominated our screens since the release of the very first episode in 2016 hit our screens and fascinated our minds, fixing itself inextricably in our consciousness making us reconsider everything we thought we knew and understood about the world and the grandiose of philosophical wonder. Upon embarking on watching the series, there was crazed excitement, the trailer itself had me unreasonably excited. One thing i adored is that no matter how high your hopes or expectations were, it was literally impossible to not become entirely enamoured by it, immediately. Undoubtedly one of the most bewitching parts of it is the philosophical and at time, psychological genius gems that are a continual presence throughout the entire series.
Similar to the reaction that series one of True Detective brought, which blew away countless people all over the world by its brilliance. (This sentence lays absolutely no relevance to the second ill-thought out and terribly constructed season.) The philosophy running throughout the series is a good chunk of what made it such a success, and came out to such incredible critical review. Along with this, Westworld raised itself up in the ranks through script, cast, endlessly enticing intellect, cinematography and every other facet of it. Personally, one of the things that grabbed my attention and incited adoration and awe, was the metaphors and captivating conversations that ocurred. Nearly every sentence out of Anthony Hopkins mouth is a topic one could write essays on, or even following that, a whole thesis exploring the meanings, allusions, and allegories discussed between the words.
Beneath is the first of, a potential series of posts that will discuss, analyze, explain and examine all the different meanings and interpretations that can be taken and deduced from the scintillating conversations that take place across its several seasons.
Episode 1 – Ford and Bernard discussing how they’ve slipped evolutions noose.
Bernard to Ford: “I suppose self-delusion is a gift of natural selection.” This is commenting on the ability of homo-sapiens to maintain delusions of grandeur. The idea of the ‘mistake’ being what created human life as we know it, and that we have convinced ourselves as a species that our creation had a unique aspect, that we, separate from other mammals were born with a purpose, a meaning. Inherently, all human beings go about their lives from an anthropocentric point of view, without ever stopping to question why that is their default setting. [Anthropocentic/ Annthropocentrism is the belief that the world is human-centric; believing that human beings are the superior species and that all others are less-than.] Right now in 2019 there is the budding beginning of the potential to breakdown the worldwide accepted anthropocentric standpoint. For centuries we have delusionally deemed ourselves above mammals and any living thing that isn’t human – and now the ehtics of this are being questioned. In the words of Jane Goodall “Here we are, the most ‘clever’ species ever to have lived. How is it that we can destroy the only planet we have.”
Episode 5 – Ford tells ‘old Bill’ one of the first hosts, this tale:
Ford: “Want to know the saddest thing I ever saw? When I was a boy my brother and I wanted a dog. So, our father took in an old greyhound. A greyhound is a racing dog, it spends it life running in circles, chasing a bit of felt made up like a rabbit. One day we took it to the park, my dad had warned us how fast that dog was but, we couldn’t resist. So, my brother took off the leash, and in that instance, the dog spotted a cat. I imagine it must have looked just like that piece of felt. He ran, I never saw a thing as beautiful, as that old dog. Running. Until at last, he finally caught it. And to the horror of everyone, he killed that little cat. Tore it to pieces. Then he just sat there. Confused. That dog had spent his whole life, trying to catch that… thing. Now it had no idea what to do.”.
This is representative of the hosts, literally living in narrative loops, always wanting subconsciously to break free but being brought back to the beginning of their narratives again with their memories adjusted. Also commenting on what they are to do when they do actually become free sentient beings. This could, arguably, also be seen as a representation of the existential crisis’ that happens to people in their middle ages or whenever a crisis or intellectual ennui arrives. When they achieve the goal that they’ve been working towards all their life, the job promotion, wealth, status, accomplishment etc.. For those who have finely honed their cornerstone of an identifier being the elusive thing they chase, once they actually capture it, achieve it. They’re at a loss for what to do with themselves.
Check out the full scene here:
Episode 5 – Ford, William and Teddy converse.
This is a discussion between William (The Man in Black) and Robert Ford (Hopkins) and Teddy (Marsden), William asks Ford about finding the center of the maze.
Ford responds, “What is it you’re hoping to find there?”
William then turns to Teddy and asks him, “Do you know why you exist Teddy? There’s a world out there, one you’ll never see, that’ one of plenty. Fat, soft teat people cling to their entire life. Every need taken care of, except one…. Purpose. Meaning. So, they come here, and they can be a little scared, a little thrilled, enjoy some sweetly affirmative bullshit and then they take a fucking picture and they go back home. But, I think there’s a deeper meaning, hiding under all that. Something, the person who created it, wanted to.. express. Something true.”
This is another comment on the futility of life, the result of an existentialist viewpoint integrated into life. But also an examination of the possibility of a future that would exist if it got to a point where all of life was taken care of, things lost their purpose, people lost any meaning for life. Indulging in a constant hedonistic lifestyle, removing any trace of substance and authenticity to their lives. There’s also an exploration of the idea that as we as a society and species become more ‘free’ with innovations, technological advancements, your freedom and free-will ironically become, leashed.
Full scene here:
Episode 2 – William & El Lazo
In this scene, William (the Man in Black) meets the circle of potential antagonists or allies (depending on how they’re received) waiting to ambush him, and their leader ‘El Lazo’ tells him this story:
‘Before the revolution, when I was just a little boy, my parents took me to the circus. I wanted to see the elephants, these mighty creatures; they held them in place… with a stake. They could tear a tree right out of the ground, and yet.. a simple stake kept them in place. I, didn’t understand. Then my father told me, he said, the stake’s were used when the elephants were just young, too small to pull them up, and that the animals.. never tried to pull them up again.’
This story can be broken down and deconstructed in a number of ways. It’s alluding to a myriad of societal structures, authoritarian regimes, etc.. It’s essentially commenting that when something is integrated or indoctrinated into the young, it deceptively traps them later in life. It can be considered as a metaphor for society, school systems, government, people not wanting anyone to think for themselves, to question structures and institutions, societal ‘norms’… etc. – A potential metaphor also for how the human race is the ‘smartest species’ yet to exist and yet we destroy ourselves and our planet with impressive apathy.
Full scene here: