Okay, I’ll admit it, I’m a WestWorld fan. The writing is fresh if not frightening. The locations and production spectacular, then there’s the acting. We’re talking A-Listers with the likes of Sir Anthony Hopkins and Thandie Newton.
So, what’s my issue?
A few years back I sat in my sisters’ kitchen drinking tea with her and talking. In the living room, I could see her husband and then teenage son, playing some First-Person Shooter video game. Now it’s not like I’ve never played before but something about having experienced the real thing taints the fantasy.
What struck me about last night’s episode was not Akecheta’s evolution, but the background action. In one of his experiences attacking the wagon train, while he and his men savagely dispatch the host Cowboys, two visitors, cowgirls, are seen in the background. They are not watching the carnage enacted for their pleasure. They’re busy chatting and trying to spin their six-shooters on their fingers. Later in the story, when Akecheta realizes the only way to the other world is through death, he abandons the host cowboys he’s killed a thousand times and walks straight for the visitors: This time, two middle-aged men. They look like bankers or maybe stock brokers decked out as wealthy ranchers. When one pulls his six-shooter, his cohort, seeing Akecheta put away his knife, smiles and offers with glee in his eyes to kill him. While Akecheta stands before him, no threat to either man, the second pulls a ridiculous little knife and gives him a quick gut poke sending him to the other world.
It’s not Akecheta’s journey or even Maeve’s education that caught me, although both are unfathomably beautiful in their humanity. It’s the lack thereof among the humans, both those visiting the park and those operating it.
We watch movies and TV shows and must realize the level of inhumanity we witness has increased over time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For most suburbanite’s, this window to the world may be their only opportunity to acquire an understanding or empathy for all humanity has and still does suffers. The video games too, can be a learning tool, but when we remove the consequences for our actions what’s to stop us from just repeating them? Are we training better and better killers? Lots would argue it’s just fantasy; they know the difference. Do they? Is a game park like WestWorld the next evolution in our pay to play entertainment?
In some ways, I would welcome the day. The chance to test the narrative, from a cultural, ethnographic, or anthropologic standpoint would be extraordinary. The opportunity to kill and fuck without remorse or consequence, not so much. Still, I can’t help but believe the day is not as far off as we imagine. At least no farther than communicators (cell phones) were when we first heard Captain Kirk call for the Enterprise to beam him up in 1964, or when Captain Pickard began reading progress reports and Star Fleet communique’s from his PADD (tablet) in 1984.
To me, the real clash here is not the developing technology but the battle for a continuance of human empathy against inhumanity. Are we a species in transformation on the verge of something great or… or a great downfall? Oh, I’m not saying the sky is falling, I mean we could be more. We all could.
In the meanwhile, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for Maeve’s survival. And I’ll keep writing on all I witnessed in spirit world back during my near-death experience. Yup. That’s where my head is. That and getting Dawn to mow the lawn, pushing myself to weed the garden, and finishing my presentation for a convention in Vegas in a few weeks. Yep, we’re headed to the capitol of pay to play.