Television: Westworld, "The Original" & "Chestnut"

Remember the Yul Brynner movie? Me neither, but that probably doesn't matter much.

I realize I'm behind on this show. I find that, whenever I'm thinking about watching it, I don't really want to. What does that say about me and/or Westworld? That we're not made for each other, I suppose.

I went through my Michael Crichton phase in middle and high school. Very fun, easy reads. And what I like about his work is what I also like about Westworld—the philosophy, the story. The characters are only so-so, but the acting is very good, and the production values are amazing. So why am I not compelled—dare I say I'm "reluctant"—to watch it?

The sex and violence. And before you call me a prude, it's not that I'm made uncomfortable by it, it's that I find it wildly gratuitous and unnecessary to what otherwise is a really interesting story. To me the sex and violence in this show is lowest common denominator programming. It's the bread and circuses of television. And television is spectacle, after all, so maybe deep down I really need to be reading a book rather than watching a TV show.

For the five people out there who don't know what this show is about, I'll give you the short version. The titular Westworld is a sort of theme park in which guests (who pay a lot to go there) get to go live a Wild West adventure. These guests can slake their desires for sex and violence (!) without consequence because all the "hosts" in the park are programmed entities that can be raped, killed, whatever, and then refurbished.

While I can really enjoy the idea of such an immersive experience, I also have to wonder at the kinds of people this park draws. Sadists. Psychopaths. And that does seem to be the underlying suggestion. When one also considers that these guests must have a lot of money, we're led to conclude that rich people are fucked up.

But that's assuming you put that much thought into the show. You could watch Westworld on the level of just watching, or you can watch it and really think about it. Your choice. I'm a thinker.

I also have to wonder why Michael Crichton hated amusement parks so much. Did he have a bad experience at Disneyland as a kid or something?

In Jurassic Park we have John Hammond. In Westworld it's Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). In JP we discover Dr. Wu might have designs beyond his station; in Westworld it's Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright). Note that this is only what I've gleaned from the first two episodes. Namely, there are a lot of politics involved in creating and maintaining a sophisticated amusement park.

I have an idea that Ed Harris' Man in Black is actually one of the hosts, and that when he says he's "not going back" he means cold storage or whatever. But I'm probably getting ahead of myself. After all, that wouldn't explain why he's unable to be harmed by other hosts. In any case, don't spoil it for me. I'll manage to wade through the episodes eventually. Or maybe I should just find copies of the scripts. As lovely as this show is, its attempts to shock and titillate me are actually big turn-offs.


Christine Rains said...

I had the same thought about rich people! *LOL* Putting the sex and violence aside, I'm enjoying the show. I like wondering who is real and how intertwined things are. I've never seen the original movie, nor heard anything about the story. I do think the player piano music is some secret code. And I agree about the Man in Black.

M said...

It certainly seems like the line from Romeo and Juliet is some kind of trigger, too.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I'm not a fan of torture porn be it GAME OF THRONES or the premiere episode for the latest season of THE WALKING DEAD. I've been writing a series of posts on sociopaths in our founding fathers. Like you, I am going back to reading. :-)