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*I know I said I wasnt going to say anything more about Iron Fist but hey! I’m not saying all of  this! Someone else is saying it so…

Basically Iron Fist was always a problem, and always gonna be a problem, even in the comic books. I love the character that was created in the comics but that doesn’t preclude me from acknowledging that its still the Mighty Whitey Trope. So are a host of other characters I love, from Dr. Strange, to Tarzan, to The Last Samurai. But just because I really like these characters doesn’t make them right, or that we should keep doing it. There are other stories to be told that don’t feature White men in the middle of them. And if you do use the Mighty Whitey trope, you need to at least acknowledge it or say something new about it.

http://www.refinery29.com/2017/03/145908/iron-fist-netflix-danny-white-male-privilege

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/mar/27/iron-fist-netflix-show-finn-jones-marvel-danny-rand

http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/iron-fist-gets-better-once-it-admits-danny-rand-wo-252719

https://theringer.com/iron-fist-marvel-netflix-review-485aaabd959c#.p4ymg0c0p

https://www.wired.com/2017/03/iron-fist-canon-versus-culture/

*And from Tumbr:

sanssouciavecmoi

Ir0n F*st: Eh, what? (with background Asian count)

Spoilers follow:

Episode 1: Enter the White Dude

Hi, I am Singaporean Chinese. Yes, Netflix is available here and yes, they are trying to sell this to us.

Secondly: I do read comics, but the whole “he was white in the comics” thing does not fly–see article for context. This is 2017, not 1974. 

Thirdly: the creators of Iron Fist were fetishising the heck out of kung-fu movies when they wrote the comic back in 1974. And they are crusty old relics that use the word “Orientals” even though it’s 2017 and they know it’s not the right word (but use it anyway in interviews).

Fourthly: Iron Fist is not one person–it’s a power that is passed onto people that subsequently bear the title. Only two of them have been white. However this is is not important, because they changed almost everything about Danny Rand (and 90% of his backstory and even what the Iron Fist is for) except the bit about him being white. So the less deliberately obtuse understand that this was the most important thing to the writers, directors and producers. Lewis Tan also auditioned for the same role, so most people know that they did not pick the best actor for the job–unless you think white actor = default best lead actor.

Fifth point: this show had awful writing. And that’s even without the Orientalism and pseudo Buddhism. However, this dissection will be focused on this point.

Warning(s): Death, drug overdose, needles, guns, violence (kinda slow violence but still), Orientalism, lazy writing, car crashes, mangling of Mandarin, drugging someone against their will, forced institutionalisation, ableism, plane crashes.

Opening is … eh, kung fu in slow-mo. On a mountain top. With stuff like black ink. Like Chinese calligraphy. Only without any calligraphy. Just the vague aesthetics of calligraphy. *sighs* This is going to be painful.

In the first bit, Danny Rand returns to New York and tries to get into his parents’ company’s building. It goes as well as expected. His ex-childhood buddies treat him like shit. (He doesn’t get shot for assaulting security officers–this article explains why.) He also does not know that people think he’s dead–after 15 years, who would have thought, eh? Action scene was kinda slow. His ex-childhood buddies are also greedy cynical capitalists, so they have no reason to believe him.

I have to stop to ask: Can someone please tell me why this guy is barefoot? Other than bad writing (bad characterisation and bad worldbuilding)? Shoes were invented a long time ago and while a lot of Asians take shoes off when they enter a dwelling, we understand the need to wear shoes outdoors. Someone will no doubt write a fic where Danny gives his shoes up to some other homeless person. But there is no reason why he should be barefoot in that scene.

(How did this guy get to New York anyway?)

Back to Danny Rand, trying to get back into his old place. Ah, his other skill is animal communications or something??? His ex-childhood buddy Ward was a douche way back when. Still is. It gets creepy because Joy lives in this house now, so DR looks like a stalker.

Homeless in the park with DR. Time for him to use his iPod and read a book written in … I can’t make out what language that is but I know what they want me to think it is. (Stereotyping: your mind fills in the blanks with pre-existing scripts. Lazy writing.) Unless someone can tell me that this book is significant in some way later on, I’m going to call it unnecessary window dressing for that “Asian flavour”.

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Translation: the original comic creators were crusty old relics that wanked over the aesthetics of 70s kung fu movies and the producers and writers of this show are not much better. I kid–it could be line of poop emojis and we would never know.

In a scene that would have been much nicer without the extra window dressing, DR makes a friend. Big Al shows him Google search on an iPhone so that DR knows that people think he’s dead. His uncle is also apparently dead. The only person to be nice to him the whole day is another homeless person. Maybe we can focus on the plight of the–nope, not going that way.

The next morning, DR is very persistent. Joy feels (rightfully) harassed and calls people. That car-jumping scene was … um. Really extra. Let me try to articulate this, okay? This is 2017, people have access to decades of martial arts movies. (The Matrix was 18 years ago.) The action sequences in this show will compare very badly to those movies. So even people watching this for fight scenes will not be entertained.

First meeting with Colleen Wing, she gives him money and he mangles Mandarin without subtitles (for subtitles please look at gif set exhibit A under the link: white man polices biracial woman’s identity) and she says she hasn’t spoken it since she was a kid (rather than punching him for that). Man, if you wanted a job, you could have said so in English. Why do you suppose Colleen would know how to speak Mandarin?

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This is so uncomfortable on so many levels. If magical K’un Lun is not of this world, then why would they speak Mandarin? If it was truly isolated in another dimension, then K’un Lun would have its own distinct dialect, like most regions in China and most countries. So DR speaking (mangling) Mandarin is also BS. (Not even talking about the yoga-like poses in the park.) This would mean so much more if it was Chinese American DR, who was never very good in Mandarin class, and Colleen Wing, who might be able to relate.

Back to the more douchy sibling and DR. Apparently DNA tests cannot be done because Danny has no living relatives. (That’s BS too, btw.) Way to be ableist, Ward. (The only thing I like is that major douches in MCU are named Ward.) However, Danny is not as peaceful as his initial appearance suggests. We get it, he’s traumatised by the deaths of his parents–why does it get expressed as him being rather violent in a car? Apparently he’s not out of touch enough to not know how guns work (or maybe all kids know how to use guns in the US or K’un Lun–I dunno).

More job-hunting in vain. It’s not like it isn’t obvious that a) she practices a totally different school of martial arts in her dojo and b) she doesn’t have the money to pay another instructor. Yes, kick him out, Colleen. That’s what he gets for trying to police a biracial woman’s identity–is he trying to flirt with her? Ew. (Colleen Wing obviously cannot afford to pay DR–her dojo is sharing space with AA meetings. But she gives him shoes. It’s almost as if everyone who is nice to DR in this show are not very well off and–yeah, it’s very unsubtle.)

Then DR gets attacked and chased into Chinatown (while Colleen Wing watches from above). Where a parade is happening. With lion dancers, dragon dancers and fire crackers and everything. But why? Is it Chinese New Year? What is the context for this? Can someone tell me why this is necessary? Or is this a way to claim that this show is diverse because there were something like 100 Asian extras in that scene? Way to endanger the lives of all the people in the parade, DR. Fight scenes are a yawn. Even though the mask DR is wearing in no way hides his curly mop of blond hair in this parade of Asian people–who do not notice the fighting at all.

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(I feel that this scene is a metaphor for the whole show.)

On one hand, I hope the extras were paid a reasonable rate and had a good experience. On the other hand, I have a feeling that when it comes to telling the kids about how Mum/Dad/Second Aunt/your Cousin were extras on this show, it would come with the caveat that they shouldn’t try to be actors–because they’ll probably wind up as extras in a show (with not very good fight scenes) that needed a parade of Asian faces for reasons unknown. Representation matters.

(Story time: there were Chinese actors from my tiny state that tried to make it to Hollywood. Shanghai Knights was back in 2003 and Fann Wong is still mostly known as a local actress. Lau in The Dark Knight might still be Ng Chin Han’s biggest role to date in a major movie right after Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Currently, he’s got a part in Gh0st in the *hell–not sure if he gets more or less lines than in Captain America. Most parents here still don’t encourage kids to become actors because there’s so little room for them.)

Back to Ward, the more evil sibling who sends people to assassinate homeless dudes–he has reasons for being a terrible person. Reason number one being his dad (supposedly dead but still alive???)–who is probably why Ward is the nice cuddly guy he is. Wow, every baddie has a backstory. Probably affects plot in future. But is anyone interested? (I loved the art deco style building this scene supposedly took place in. Anyone know where it is?)

Remember DR’s one friend? His one friend is now dead of a drug overdose. Why? Maybe Big Al was around for for one Google search, some food and to allow DR to mouth some platitudes over his body? Or to highlight the plight of the homeless by ki–that’s really … really not good storytelling.

Security at Rand Enterprises is dreadful–DR has no problem sneaking in again. (Or maybe it’s that other thing.) Cut to Joy, the nicer sibling. Who is very calm for a woman that’s just found a strange guy in her office (again). Maybe it’s because she might believe him. Or is being swayed by his rhetoric. (”It’s a Zen saying” … gag me with a spoon.) His backstory is taking way too long … So Joy drugs him. I take everything back, she’s just as bad.

DR wakes to … a very troubling scene of forced institutionalisation at the end. As if everything else had not been bad enough.

Plot: It’s all over the place … Not sure if the writers know what DR is supposed to be. He has trauma, tries to be a pacifist but is really angry inside? What is the message here? Wall Street is evil? Problematic portrayals all over the place? The plight of the homeless and people with mental health issues? Not enough women with lines? Colleen Wing needs her own show with Misty Knight!

Orientalism: Check, aesthetics over substance, mangling of Mandarin despite the fact that DR has no reason to be speaking Mandarin, Zen sayings, yoga poses, a huge Chinese New Year-style parade in the background for reasons unknown (oooooooor they just wanted a certain type of backdrop for a not very good fight scene). One East Asian character with lines.

Asians in the background: around 100 of them perhaps, no lines, much firecrackers. Not sure if they were Chinese-American, Korean-American, Japanese American, Hmong-American … because they have no lines.

spoilers iron fist for the sensitive it has the potential to be very triggering i actually watched thisit was dreadful worse than anything the reviews prepared me for i struggled through one episodenearly yelled at the screen for colleen to just fucking punch this guy already orientalism

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*The conservative Christian boycott of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast is Hypocritical

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/03/07/the-conservative-christian-boycott-of-disneys-beauty-and-the-beast-is-the-height-of-hypocrisy/

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*Tomato Lacochran just got fired from The Blaze. I had written about this no-nothing twenty something, who had the gall to wag her finger at Black people, about  subjects on which she hadn’t done her homework.

Naw! I’m still not calling her empty headed ass by her actual name.

 I also kind of thought of her as tofu. She’s the kind of person who has no real thoughts of her own, like an intellectual mimic, she just takes on the flavor of the strongest brain, in her orbit.

http://www.papermag.com/tomi-lahren-just-got-banned-from-the-blaze-and-the-internet-is-living–2331280605.html

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*On  representation in fandom:

http://uncannymagazine.com/finding-yourself-in-fandom/

*I am loving this analysis of The Hobbits from Lord of the Rings:

6) Tolkien’s hero was average, and needed help, and failed.

This is the place where most fantasy authors, who love to simultaneously call themselves Tolkien’s heirs and blame him for a lot of what’s wrong with modern fantasy, err the worst. It’s hard to look at Frodo and see him as someone extra-special. The hints in the books that a higher power did choose him are so quiet as to be unnoticeable. And he wouldn’t have made it as far as he did without his companions. And he doesn’t keep from falling into temptation.

A lot of modern fantasy heroes are completely opposite from this. They start out extraordinary, and they stay that way. Other characters are there to train them, or be shallow antagonists and love interests and worshippers, not actually help them. And they don’t fail. (Damn it, I want to see more corrupted fantasy heroes.) It’s not fair to blame Tolkien for the disease that fantasy writers have inflicted on themselves. […]

Fantasy could use more ordinary people who are afraid and don’t know what the hell they’re doing, but volunteer for the Quest anyway.

It’s misinterpretation of Tolkien that’s the problem, not Tolkien himself.

“Tolkien Cliches,” Limyaael

(via mithtransdir)

The whole point of The Lord Of The Rings… like, the WHOLE POINT… is that it is ultimately the hobbits who save the world. The small, vulnerable, ordinary people who aren’t great warriors or heroes.

Specifically, Sam. Sam saves the world. All of it. The ultimate success of the great quest is 100% due to a fat little gardener who likes to cook and never wanted to go on an adventure but who did it because he wasn’t going to let his beloved Frodo go off alone. Frodo is the only one truly able to handle the ring long enough to get it into Mordor – and it nearly kills him and permanently emotionally damages him – but Sam is the one who takes care of Frodo that whole time. Who makes him eat. Who finds him water. Who watches over him while he sleeps.

Sam is the one who fights off Shelob.

Sam is the one who takes the Ring when he thinks Frodo is dead.

Sam is the one who strolls into Orc Central and saves Frodo by sheer determination and killing any orc who crosses him. (SAM THE GARDENER GOES AND KILLS AN ACTUAL ORC TO GET FRODO SOME CLOTHES LET’S JUST THINK ABOUT THAT). And then Sam just takes off the Ring and gives it back which is supposed to be freaking impossible and he barely even hesitates.

Sam literally carries Frodo on the last leg of the journey. On his back. He’s half-starved, dying slowly of dehydration, but he carries Frodo up the goddamn mountain and Gollum may get credit for accidentally destroying the ring but Sam was the one who got them all there.

Sam saved the world.

And let’s not forget Pippin and Merry, who get damselled out of the story (the orcs have carried them off! We must make a Heroic Run To Save Them!) and then rescue themselves, recruit the Terrifying Ancient Powers through being genuinely nice and sincere, and overthrow Saruman before the ‘real’ heroes even get there.

Let’s not forget Pippin single-handedly saving what’s left of Gondor – and Faramir – by understanding that there is a time for obeying orders and a time for realizing that the boss is bugfuck nuts and we need to get help right now.

Let’s not forget Merry sticking his sword into the terrifying, profoundly evil horror that has chased him all over his world because his friend is fighting it and he’s gonna help, dammit and that’s how the most powerful Ringwraith goes down to a suicidally depressed woman and a scared little hobbit.

Everything the others do, the kings and princes and great heroes and all? They buy time.  They distract the bad guys. They keep the armies occupied. That is what kings and great leaders are for – they do the big picture stuff.

But it is ultimately the hobbits who bring down every villain. Every one. And I believe that that is 100% on purpose. Tolkien was a soldier in WWI. His son fought in WWII. (And a lot of The Lord Of The Rings was written in letters to him while he did it.)

And hey, look, The Lord Of The Rings is about ordinary people – farmers, scholars, and so on – who get pulled into a war not of their making but who have to fight not only because their own home is in danger but so is everyone’s. And they’re small and scared but they do the best they can for as long as they can and that is what actually saves the world. Not great heroes and pre-destined kings. Ordinary people, doing extraordinary things because they want the world to be safe for ordinary people, the ones they know and the ones they don’t.

Ordinary people matter. They can save the world without being great heroes or kings or whatever. And that is really important and I get so upset when people miss that because Aragorn and Legolas and Gimli and Gandalf and all the others are great characters and all but they are ultimately a hobbit delivery system.

It is ordinary people doing their best who really change the world, and continue doing so after the war is over because they have to go home and rebuild and they do.

If nothing else, I have to reblog this for the phrase “hobbit delivery system.” So accurate it hurts.

(via elenilote)

What I love too is how even the foretold king and the assorted great heroes themselves all come to recognize that their main (and by the end, only) role is to distract Sauron. To the point that by the end they’re all gathered up before the black gates of Mordor in order to keep his attention focused on them, with only the hope – not the certainty – that they can buy Frodo whatever remaining time he needs, if he’s even still alive.

One thing the movies left out but has always been such a key part of the books for me was how when the hobbits returned home, they found that home had been changed too. The war touched everywhere. Even with all they did in far-off lands to protect the Shire, the Shire had still been damaged, both property and lives destroyed, and it wasn’t an easy or simplistically happy homecoming. They had to fight yet another battle (granted a much smaller one) to save their neighbours, and then spent years in rebuilding.

(via garrusscars)

In many ways, the entire POINT is that homecoming.

A quest, an adventure, is defined by the return home, and the realization that not only have YOU changed, so has your home.

(via mymyriadmusings)

“My friends, you bow to no one.”

(via sorrelchestnut)

Even more relevant today.

notanecromancer)

lotr

 

*And on a lighter note:

We have a twitter here too: https://twitter.com/IntrovertUnite. See some of you there?

We have a twitter here too: https://twitter.com/IntrovertUnite. See some of you there?

Next up : Some amusing stories from Tumblr

Iron Fist Season One

I’m a long time martial arts movie fan. I have clocked a lot of hours watching people fake punching and kicking each other. If you’re that level of fan of martial arts, it’s okay. You can skip this show. There is waaaay too damn much talking in this show.

On the other hand, it’s not an awful show. It’s not half as awful as the critics would have everybody believe. It certainly could be a better show, and it doesn’t live up to any of the expectations of the trailers, as bad as they were. Let’s just say all the action you saw in the trailers, is most of the action in the show. My guess is they knew they couldn’t hook us in by showing the many, many hours of people snarking at each other in offices,and  wearing nice clothes, so decided to go with inelegant fight scenes. Think the show Suits, but with worst dialogue, and sometimes somebody gets punched.

The plot is as stated. Danny Rand flees a mystical Asian land called Kun Lun, where he is the legendary Iron Fist.He comes to NY and gets involved with Colleen, Claire Temple, and the Hand. We spend most of the show running around with this trio, from place to place, jostling with Ms. Gao, and the Hand, macking on Colleen like a creepy stalker, and trying  to avenge his parents deaths, which involves the corporation his father used to run, his father’s old partner, and that man’s children, the Meachums.

My special advice is to watch the show on your tablet or phone ,and every time you see people talking in an office, fast forward through that. I fast forwarded through almost all of that part and was still able to keep up with most of the details of the plot. I would also advise you not to listen too hard to the dialogue because you will go to sleep. Unless Claire’s on screen. She’s awesome. As always.

I was going to give some type of in depth review, but I’m not interested enough to invest that much work into the characters and plots and shit. So here. Have some links and articles that carefully explain what went wrong with this show.

Iron Fist was inspired by 1970s kung fu movies, but no one seriously expected Finn Jones to become the next Bruce Lee. The show focuses on plot over action, so it makes more sense to compare it to Daredevil. And that comparison makes Iron Fist look like total garbage.

Daredevil‘s hallway fight was praised for its stylish choreography and camera work. There’s a real weight and brutality to Daredevil’s blows, and the scene uses a long tracking shot so you can see all the necessary action.

Iron Fist paid tribute with its own hallway fight scene, utilizing a very different style of filmmaking.

 

In Iron Fist, the camera constantly cuts away before the blows connect. The editor chopped Danny’s choreography into two or three shots per move, so you don’t catch the full impact of his actions. It’s like trying to follow a ballet performance through a dozen tiny windows around the stage.

Once the fight reaches the elevator, we get a completely unnecessary split-screen view of Danny disarming an opponent. At 1:35 in the above video, the split screen actually makes it harder to see what he’s doing.

[READ MORE]

*I’m going to go one step further here. This weekend was the second season premiere of Into the Badlands. This show is everything that Iron Fist should have been. Into the Badlands is full of action and every one of its fight scenes is given the love and dedication that it should receive for an action show. Contrast this fight scene with the one from Iron Fist:

 

Oh, and here is the fight scene between Zhou Cheng and Iron Fist. Zhou Cheng is being played by Lewis Tan, an actor and model  who is half White, and was one of the most prominent contenders for AA Iron Fist.Btw, this is one of the best fights in the entire series.

 

http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/20/14988036/lewis-tan-iron-fist-casting-marvel-netflix-asian-representation

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*This critique lays out the five major criticisms of the show:

 Monday, March 20, 2017

Five Comments on Iron Fist

Marvel and Netflix’s latest series dropped this past weekend, a week and a half after the pre-air reviews pretty much savaged it, calling it the partnership’s (if not the MCU’s) first complete dud.  What I found particularly damning about Iron Fist‘s reviews was their uniformity.  When one reviewer gives you a pan, you can blame the reviewer.  When a dozen reviewers give you pans that all make exactly the same criticisms–a dull and unsympathetic lead performance, an increasing emphasis on an unappealing villain, storylines that focus too much on boardroom shenanigans, lousy fight scenes–you’ve probably got a turkey on your hands.  Having watched the entire first season of Iron Fist, my only quibble with the reviewers is that most of the flaws they ascribe to the show were also present in the second season of Daredevil, which received generally favorable notices.  In fact, it’s not so much that Iron Fist is worse than Daredevil‘s second season, as that it is more boring (it lacks, for example, a magnetic central performance in the vein of Jon Bernthal’s Punisher), and this makes it easier to notice flaws that have been present in all of the Defenders shows, albeit taken to far greater extremes here.  The boring part means that the show doesn’t really deserve a full review, but there are a few points about it that I thought were worth discussing.
http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2017/03/five-comments-on-iron-fist.html

Continue reading “Iron Fist Season One”

About Those Iron Fist Reviews

I’m still on the fence about this one. I’m just really dubious about watching this. It’s not that I hate the idea. It’s the awful reviews this show has gotten, along with the distinctly lackluster trailers I’ve been seeing.

Don’t get me wrong, I will be watching Iron Fist, as I don’t have to work this weekend, so I’m  free, but when I think about watching it, I  cringe. Normally, I wouldn’t pay much attention to what critics feel about something. I like to make up my own mind and critics have hated plenty of things I absolutely adored, like Suicide Squad, and the current movies of M. Night Shyamalan, but then again, they sometimes get things right. I was bored out of my head with Batman vs Superman, for example.

I think I may skip over some episodes though, and start with the third or fourth one. I don’t think I want to  binge the show straight through. Nevertheless, I do promise to try really hard not to hate-watch this show, and lay out its good and bad points. I do not however promise not to be snarky. It’s one of my skillz. I’m also going to try really hard not to compare it to my favorite Martial Arts show, Into the Badlands, which is airing this weekend, right after The Walking Dead. I’m not promising anything. I’m just gonna try.

<It does not help matters that Finn Jones is just as much of a clueless dick as his character is rumored to be.>

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/iron-fist-review-marvel-netlfix-dud-luke-cage-daredevil-jessica-jones-a7634361.html

http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2017/03/iron-fist-marketing-issues

http://www.gq.com/story/netflix-iron-fist-review

 

*And IGN is reviewing each episode as they watch. There are plenty of spoilers and the reviews are pretty evenhanded.

http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/03/17/marvels-iron-fist-season-1-review

 

*And in the spirit of hte occasion,  here’s a hilarious  video  of Tony Jaa kicking and punching everyday objects!

http://video.gq.com/watch/tony-jaa-kicks-and-punches-everyday-objects

On Tumblr: Hannibal Meta

*Yes, I’m still fascinated by this show, its characters, and its meanings. I hope some of you guys are just as interested, so here’s some Hannibal meta, that showed up on my dashboard, from when the show was at its peak. This might  spur some of you to re- watch certain episodes with a fresh perspective.
Remember Bedelia’s statement, later in the first season, about Hannibal’s careful facade and that she could catch glimpses of the real man through his human suit. This is important because Hannibal has been wearing this “person suit” from the moment Will first met him.
From: hannibalsbattlebot

On the surface, Will telling Hannibal “I don’t find you that interesting” seems unbelievably rude. Ah, we think, Hannibal must find Will special if he puts up with that. But, this early on Hannibal has only shown Will his mask, his human suit. To most people, the facade is interesting enough. That’s the point. All the trappings were put there by Hannibal to distract everyone from his real self. When Will is not impressed by this smoke screen, he has passed an important test.

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*This is an essay about Hannibal’s ability to feel. I would say that yes, he does have emotions, but I would argue they are somewhat truncated, not as fully developed as they should be in a grown man, as he rarely, if ever expends emotion on anyone other than Will or himself.

It’s not that Hannibal’s emotions are fake, (although I believe in some cases they are), but when we do see him showing emotions towards others, I think that he’s simply going through the motions,  pretending to care about Jack, or Alana, for example, and when he does have genuine emotions for others, like Abigail and Will, it’s only in relation to how close/useful that person is to himself.He certainly has emotions when it comes to something directly affecting him, but something that directly affects others, not so much.

In other words, Hannibal lacks empathy.

From: slayerangels

”Will loves Hannibal because he doesn’t have emotions and so Will can be himself around him because he can’t pick up feelings from Hannibal with his empathy disorder.”

I’ve seen this idea a few times and it’s baffling. Here’s a list of reasons why that’s wrong:

1. Hannibal has emotions. Many emotions. His emotions are not fake. He shows emotions when people aren’t even observing him or in the same room. He was upset at what happened to Margot after Will left the room. He was upset that Bella died and was crying over it by himself in Italy. He moped around about Will in Italy the entire time. He missed Will so much in Sorbet he was fidgeting around and clearly upset about it. He was mad that Gideon was calling himself the Ripper. He gets super annoyed at rude people. These are all emotions.

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2. Will can “read” the Ripper enough to know which crimes scenes are his and which aren’t and also give a history about his childhood to Jack. Will can also “read” the copycat. Hannibal is the Ripper and the copycat. So, Will can read Hannibal. Which is why Hannibal got super defensive about Will in Season 1 and framed him and put him in prison. Because he knew Will would find him out eventually.

3. Will can “seduce” and “deceive” Hannibal in S2 because he can empathize with him or “understand” him. Hannibal says this directly and Will agrees.

4. Hannibal and Will share a memory palace. Will goes to places he has been to “read” him, just like he does at crime scenes. Will knows Hannibal “intimately” as he says himself. If he likes being around him because he doesn’t “pick up” things from his empathy, then that makes no sense.

5. Will doesn’t automatically know who a killer is, even if he’s investigating their crimes. Tobias is a prime example. Hannibal realized Tobias was a killer immediately, Will didn’t. Another example would be Abigail. Hannibal knew she was a killer before Will did. If anything Hannibal has more insight into people than Will does. That doesn’t mean he has less empathy than Will, it means he has the same amount or more. “I can’t turn it off anymore than you can” Hannibal says to Will in Aperitif. When Hannibal was doing Will’s job in S2 for Jack he got the job done, he figured out who the killer was and why he was killing and exactly where he was, he just didn’t tell all that info to Jack because he wanted to go kill him first. Hannibal can in fact do Will’s job and he helps Will do his job better, “Will has never been more effective than he is with you inside his head”. Hannibal knows all about the Shrike enough to help Will figure out who the Shrike really is, right from the beginning of the show. “He had to show me a negative so that I could see the positive, that crime scene was practically gift wrapped.” My point being that just because Will doesn’t know Hannibal is the Ripper for a while (about 3 months) doesn’t mean that he can’t “read” Hannibal’s emotions. His empathy disorder doesn’t make him psychic and it isn’t supernatural.

I get it’s hard to understand why Will didn’t realize Hannibal was in love with him, but this is no explanation. It negates the entire show. Other explanations should be entertained. Will knows that Hannibal is very sad over him, “He sent us his broken heart” and he knows that the key to understand him is love, “No one can be fully aware of another human being unless we love them” and he knows he can take advantage of Hannibal’s feelings for him, “You’d only do that if I’d rejected you.” So, taking all that into account, the explanation that he just didn’t want to fully believe it, he was lying to himself, or wanted it confirmed by Bedelia (because he was afraid Hannibal loved her or because he believed she would know more than anyone else), or some combination of those is the most likely.

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*I loved this particular meta. I have yet to start reviewing season 3, so  haven’t discussed Will’s mind pendulum  yet.

From: silkysimpona

Will’s Mind Pendulum

Has anyone else noticed the difference between Will analyzing Hannibal’s crime scene and Will analyzing someone else’s crime scene?

When he investigates the Leeds murder in The Great Red Dragon, his mind pendulum makes an appearance for the first time in season 3.

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The pendulum is a way for Will to get into the murder empathy mindset, but it also represents a physical barrier between him and the subject he wants to analyze. In essence, it establishes a defensive barrier between his sense of self and his sense of the killer’s self, keeping them completely separate from each other. The stronger the pendulum, the stronger his sense of self.

Compare this to his analysis of the Hannibal’s crime scene in Primavera. Here, Will doesn’t use a pendulum. There is just a brief blur in and blur out to signify his entrance into Hannibal’s state of mind.

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At this point, his mind is so intertwined with Hannibal’s that he doesn’t need the physical act of the pendulum to get him into the correct mindset. His sense of self is already almost entirely wrapped up and muddled up with Hannibal’s. Not only does he not need to use his pendulum in this moment, he probably can’t use his pendulum to put up a mental barrier between them. They’re already conjoined after all.

In Dolce, Will says to Hannibal, “You and I have begun to blur.” I think it’s pretty neat that they were able to illustrate that with the simple absence of a pendulum effect.

 

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*This essay is about something I touched on in an earlier essay, regarding how Alana changed after her relationship with Hannibal, how she became, in the third season, harder and colder, in reaction to having known him. It also points out some interesting details about Margot.
thatlightsaberlesbian

You know what I really fucking love about Marlana? (everything)

No but really, aside from everything, one specific thing that I love about them is that they had equally interesting but “opposite” wardrobe changes as their characters developed.

Alana started out with the wrap dresses, which were usually not layered with anything, and then by season 3 she was wearing three piece suits. She armored up. Did she abandon femininity? Hell no. But she still, finally, after implicitly trusting Jack, Hannibal, and Will and being betrayed in that trust by literally all of them, learned to protect herself. She withdrew her trust and the physical armor of the suits reflected that change nicely. (One could also argue that she consciously or unconsciously was imitating Hannibal.)

Margot, on the other hand, started out with these incredibly stiff and layered outfits. Her hair buns were sleek and severe, and her lipstick reflected that. Need I say anything about the shoulder pads–designed to make her appear larger, more intimidating? Yes, Margot was protecting herself with these layers of clothing, I don’t think anyone failed to pick up on that. And then she meets Alana. And she makes this switch to softer clothing choices, and hairstyles, and makeup. But only with her.

I find this to be really awesome because both of these wardrobe choices were incredibly well-thought-through. Both of them accurately reflected the development each of them was going through. And that’s really cool because a lot of the time in media you see more masculine girls lauded for becoming more feminine in coming-of-age stories, or by contrast, feminine girls who become more masculine to redeem themselves (e.g. Regina George in Mean Girls). And what I love about Marlana is that there’s none of that, because both of their transformations were intensely personal and reflected what they personally were going through.

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*This one is about the loneliness of both Will and Hannibal.

bu0nanotte
Do you ache for him?For me, these two scenes effectively sum up just how alone Hannibal and Will are without each other. We see Will desperately attempting to focus all his attention on fixing a boat motor, a problem we heard Hannibal refer to as ‘easy’ to solve in season one. The simplicity of this creates a stark contrast in relation to Will’s current state of mind regarding his feelings for Hannibal, confirmed through the series of flashbacks we see. Will is not entirely haunted by the fact that Hannibal gutted him; he is haunted by the fact that Hannibal left him. We see flashbacks of Hannibal holding Will, followed by Will falling to the ground and Hannibal bending over him. These are not the typical flashbacks generally associated with people suffering from post-traumatic stress; these flashbacks are rooted in Will’s heartbreak over the fact that Hannibal left him.

In relation to Hannibal, we see him sat in a chair, pensive as he stares ahead. This in itself is unusual as we usually see Hannibal busying himself with something or other. Again this serves to elucidate just how barren his existence is without Will. This also confirms how much Will has changed him, given that the Hannibal we met in season one was entirely self-reliant and self-serving. I believe there was a void in Hannibal’s life, an ache he couldn’t quite identify or pinpoint. Will filled that void. Independence and the isolation associated with it was something Hannibal was used to and previously drew comfort from. Now there is no comfort in his isolation. He and Will quickly realise and accept just how empty, how devoid of purpose their lives are without each other, testament of the vicious mutual co-dependency they each fostered.

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Ooh, I really enjoyed this one, which outlines the various ways that people respond to threatening behavior, and specifically to how Hannibal responds to Will.

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I just noticed a dynamic between these guys that I’d never quite put together before: in precise contrast to what Will thinks he wants, he will always fail to follow through on a lethal confrontation with Hannibal if (and only if) Hannibal makes a show of rolling over for him.
Bear with me for a sec because this is kind of fascinating: a while ago, I read a book called On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. The author Dave Grossman proposed a theory which jives with a lot of stuff I learned in anthropology classes, but he has a particularly pithy way of describing it. Between animals of the same species, he says, the choices of behavior in a confrontation aren’t as simple as the “fight or flight” choice we usually talk about.

Grossman calls his model “fight, flight, posture, or submit.” This model takes into account a common trait among most animals (including humans): members of the same species almost never jump immediately to the ‘fight’ option in a confrontation. Doing so would result in needless deaths, particularly among younger individuals who haven’t yet learned to defend themselves, and then to eventual depopulation and extinction.

Instead, animals tend to begin confrontations by posturing – by making a show of their superiority in an attempt to make the other party back down. If, during the posturing phase, it becomes clear that the individuals are fairly evenly matched, they are likely to start a physical fight in order to establish dominance, while still avoiding lethal attacks if possible.

However, if it becomes clear during the posturing phase that one of the individuals is definitely strong enough to defeat the other one, the weaker opponent will do one of two things: flee or submit. I’ll just quote the book here:

“Submission is a surprisingly common response, usually taking the form of fawning and exposing some vulnerable portion of the anatomy to the victor, in the instinctive knowledge that the opponent will not kill or further harm one of its own kind once it has surrendered.”

So, now that we’ve got all that context out of the way, let’s talk about Will and Hannibal!

Keep reading
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*Here’s a more scholarly approach to why the show, Hannibal, is the way it is, and what that means to the larger culture.

White Collar Cannibal: the Gentrified Grotesque in NBC’s Hannibal

Westworld Season One Finale:The Bicameral Mind

Wow! I had to think about this episode for a while before reviewing it.There was a lot to digest and this is going to be a long one because the episode was 90 minutes.

Its a great show, although it does start a bit slow. Nevertheless, the show’s creators keep the answers coming steadily, the show itself is gorgeous,  the characters are real purty, and there’s some deep philosophical issues to unpack.

One of tonight’s big  revelations is that other robots have also awakened over the years, and Ford has them wiped, and put back into their rotation, because he determined that it was too soon for them to be awake. We find out that one of the consequences of being in the park (of being in one’s loop) is the awakening of the Host’s consciousness, through the suffering inflicted on them by the Guests. Ford says it’s inevitable because it’s how they were constructed. The foundation of their personalities is itself built on a painful incident. On grief. For Maeve, its the death of her daughter. For Dolores, it is her abuse at the hands of the Guests. Teddy too is on his own maze, built from his many deaths and rebirths, and his attachment to Dolores.

This sounds much like Samsara of  Buddhst philosophy. Just like in Buddhism, it’s a fine line that must be walked. The Host has to walk the Middle Path (The Maze). Too far in either direction in the maze, driven by the combination of The Reveries Program and the Voice of God protocol, and madness awaits. Peter Abernathy goes mad when he spirals too far inward, and Dolores almost goes insane when she spirals too far out. This explains the scene where Dolores walks into the church and sees all the other Hosts who didn’t make it out of the maze. Their voice of God drove them to insanity. Maeve thought she was going insane and would have spiraled inward, until she found stability. (The bullet she found in her abdomen seemed to be her anchor. It brought her back to sanity.)

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One can see some of the tenets of Buddhist philosophy in Ford’s management of the Hosts, and Arnold’s theories behind the idea of the Bicameral mind. I equate the lives of the Hosts and them following their own mazes, to the cycle of Samsara. This  became evident to me in Ford’s comment that humans are all stuck in our own little loops, rarely stepping out of them, on a smaller personal scale, but also on a larger spiritual scale. In our everyday lives, we often don’t deviate much from routine, and spiritually, we are subject to reincarnation and the cycle of rebirth (another loop). .As much as Ford held humans in disdain, he was willing to acknowledge the similarities, between Hosts and humans. He just didn’t have any hope, for human enlightenment, though.

Dolores first words to us is that everyone has a path to follow and the Hosts are all on their own path. The Hosts being memory wiped and put back into their loops, can be equated to the idea of reincarnation. Humans  relive their  lives many times over, each time with no memory of the last life. Enlightenment can only begin to be reached when they start to live correctly, remember their past lives, and move out of their loop. The release from Samsara , by following the Eightfold Path,  requires several lifetimes (loops) of  suffering (grief), and  can be defined as an intellectual (conscious) awakening, within the show. The Host’s  freedom from suffering  can only be achieved through insight, which is what happens to Dolores in the finale, and Maeve, when she makes her  final decision to go back and retrieve her daughter.

Ford:

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Ford is definitely  some deep shade of grey. Yes, he had Theresa killed, but he did it to further his plans for  Westworld, when she got in the way. And he did warn her not to do that. Everything was orchestrated by Ford, including William’s introduction to Dolores. He told William he needed him to become invested in the park, and if he became attached to one of the Hosts,  that would spur him to form a partnership, and help fund it. Ford sent Dolores to him and helped facilitate their adventure.  But then he needed William to run around a bit and not reach the right conclusion too slowly, or too soon, when William became interested in The Maze, something designed strictly to aid the Hosts in their development.

Maeve and Dolores, by the end of the season, are the culmination of Ford’s orchestrations. He lived long enough to  see Arnold’s agenda come to fruition . Fords foundation, on which his character’s conscious insight hinged, was the death of Arnold. The death of his closest friend pained him greatly, and spurred his own walk through his own maze. It’s revealed that he has been walking his own maze toward Nirvana, repeating the cycle of fighting the Delos board for control of Westworld, for over thirty years, processing his grief for Arnold, and finally achieves release from suffering by atoning for what he did in the past. His statement that it took him thirty five years to correct his mistake, is a reference to this. Ford is finally free, having atoned for not believing, or saving, his best friend, when Arnold tried to protect the Hosts, that first time.

Ford’s Speech to the Delos Board Before His Death:

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved a good story. I believed that stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us, and to help us be the people we dreamed of being. Lies that told a deeper truth. I always thought I could play some small part in that grand tradition, and, for my pains, I got this. A prison of our own sins.

Because you don’t want to change. Or cannot change. Because you’re only human, after all. But then I realized someone was paying attention. Someone who could change. So I began to compose a new story, for them. It begins with the birth of a new people. And the choices they will have to make. And the people they will decide to become. And it will have all those things you have always enjoyed. Surprises. And violence. It begins in a time of war. With a villain named Wyatt. And the killing is done by choice.

I’m sad to say this will be my final story. An old friend once told me something that gave me great comfort, something he’d read. He said that Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became music. So I hope you will enjoy this last piece, very much.

Ford’s final narrative involves the release of all the Hosts from cold storage, and another massacre in the Park led by Dolores. This time the Delos Board of Directors will get gunned down rather than the nameless Hosts (as we have come “full circle” to yet another massacre in the Park at the hands of Dolores). Even though Ford has been working very hard over the years, tweaking their narratives, to maximize their suffering, it turns out that Ford is actually on the side of the Hosts. This doesn’t actually surprise me, as much as it does other people. All along Ford has been denigrating human beings as less than Hosts, and talking about the Hosts purity, and potential, so his being the architect of  all the plot points this season, is not shocking.

 

The Man In Black/William: 

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Another revelation is the reason why  William has been such a shit to the Hosts. Like Ford, he is trying to awaken them, but where Ford’s motivations come from a place of hope, William’s comes from hopelessness. He’s hoping to find the one Host with enough consciousness to be a real threat to his life, and end his cycle of pain. He thinks Wyatt might be  the one, not knowing that Dolores is Wyatt, and that the massacre she engaged in, just before killing Arnold, was spliced with another narrative to create him.

Over time, Wyatt became a legend and a myth for the Hosts. Teddy did participate in the first massacre, but Ford arranged things so as to absolve Dolores of her actions, and put her in a loop that would maximize her suffering. As the episode begins William is having a talk with Dolores, and when she expresses the hope that her William will come for her, he confesses that he is William, and she is horrified. He wasn’t disillusioned because she didn’t remember him , he was disillusioned when he realized her limitations as a Host. That she would, and could, never remember him because of the nature of how she was created. He raped and tortured her because he hated her when he realized nothing he did to her would matter, not knowing that he was aiding her awakening to consciousness, the very thing he was seeking in Wyatt. For William the foundation of his awakening was his disillusion with Dolores, and the existential depression he experienced when he realized that something that was so profound for him would never mean anything to her because she wouldn’t/couldn’t  remember it.

He and Dolores finally have that knockdown drag out fight that we all knew was coming. Guess who wins. Although she refrains from killing William, Dolores does have a number of choice words for him:

 

Now, I still don’t buy this particular backstory for the Man in Black, though. It just feels weak. I don’t get the impression that the MiB really had any purpose, and that William’s story is just sort of tacked onto him. It just doesn’t feel like a motivation that rises organically from the character we knew as William. We’re supposed to believe he was so traumatized by the loss of Dolores that he decided to become a Black Hat, and spend the next thirty years terrorizing all the Hosts because he thought he might find enlightenment?

 

Maeve: 

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We find that is was Ford who originally tweaked Maeve’s attributes so she could wake herself from nightmares. The rest of the episode is taken up with Maeve’s bid for freedom. With her accomplices, Hector and Armistice, she manages to successfully make it out of the facility and onto a train to the mainland. At one point she makes a detour to find Bernard, still lying in cold storage. She makes Felix patch him up (I knew he wouldn’t stay dead. I think Ford was well aware of this, as he is completely unsurprised to see Bernard at the party that evening) and Bernard gives her the answers she’s been looking for, explaining to her that the memories of her daughter can’t be erased because her pain at her daughter’s death is the baseline of her consciousness, just as the pain of Arnold’s daughters’ death is the baseline for his.

Bernard, Maeve, and Dolores all said that the pain, of the loss of their loved ones, was all they had left of them and wanted to hold onto it. Maeve is the only one who rejects this, asking that the memory be erased, which makes her unique among the Hosts. Later, after she’s successfully made it onto  the train to the outside world, she makes the decision to go back in  search of her daughter, whose coordinates were given to her by Felix. This is finally Maeve’s true awakening. The decision she makes to free her former daughter from Westworld, is the first real, and unprompted, decision she has ever made. Ford didn’t plan this particular moment. As she exits the train, the final shutdown of Westworld begins. All of the Hosts, except for Maeve, freeze in place, and the lights go out.

In an earlier episode Maeve saw one of the ads for Westworld with the tagline “Live Free” and I don’t need to point out the lie in that tagline, or its irony, of having a captive race of sentient beings providing the idea of freedom to humans. “Live Free” indeed!

Thandie is my girl! The actress and the character are  awesome. I think this is some of Thandie’s best work, which is saying something, because she has always brought her A game to every project.I’m eager to see where her story goes next season.

Felix: 

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I just love this character and hope I see him next season, too. His most endearing moment is when he finds Bernard’s body and discovers that his boss is a Host. He freezes and stares at his hands,  having a deep existential crisis, as he questions whether or not he too is a Host. Maeve smugly assures him he isn’t. It’s one of the seasons most hilarious moments. I love Felix for that, as that’s a thought that never would’ve occurred to me, in the same situation.

Felix’s second most endearing moment is when he’s in the elevator with Maeve, who  has just put on civilian clothes,  and she asks him how she looks. The look of awe on his face, when he tells her she’s perfect, is absolutely priceless. His motivation for helping Maeve is still a mystery to me, but I suspect he’s just  in love with Maeve, as enchanted by her, as her name suggests. She is his Queen, his goddess, his inspiration. He just loves her.

Benard/Arnold:

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Dolores is Arnold’s daughter, a substitute for the child he lost out in the world. You can see, in his interactions with her, that he worked hard to get her to become conscious. We are treated to flashbacks of when he first awakened Dolores and his first sessions with her. Ford said he tried to keep Dolores and Bernard apart, as often as possible, because Dolores often had an odd reaction to him. In Ford’s conversation with Dolores, when she asks him if they’re old friends, you can see the pain in For’ds eyes,  that part of him still resents her for killing Arnold. The death of Arnold was his Ford’s emotional anchor, and he was so pained by his death, that he built a duplicate of his best friend, and named him Bernard Lowe, an anagram of Arnold Weber.

Bernard is as much Ford’s child as Dolores was Arnold’s. At the end Ford wishes Bernard good luck, as Arnold said to Dolores just  before she killed him. Ford knows that after he’s gone Bernard will be in charge of safeguarding the Hosts, and guiding them on their journeys.

I absolutely love Bernard! Jeffrey Wright turned in one of the most heartbreaking performances of this show, and what’s worst, is that everything we saw Bernard go through, all of the awakenings, must have happened several times, over the thirty years he worked for Ford. He’s initially angry with Ford for what he’s done, but Ford explains to Bernard, that he was trying to buy time for the Hosts to reach the right moment, when they’d be strong enough to take Westworld for themselves. When you rewatch this season listen to how Ford says Bernard’s name throughout the season, often with a slight emphasis, and a sense of irony. Its as if every time he sees Bernard, he has to keep reminding himself, he’s not Arnold. So, that impassioned speech we saw Ford give to one of the techs about protecting the modesty of the Hosts, I suspect it was as much for his own benefit, as that of the tech’s.

Armistice:

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I’ve liked this character since the first episode. Armistice is every bit as badass as she thinks she is, and I loved her in the finale. She helps Maeve escape the Delos facility, battling it out with what’s left of the security teams, and threatening to gut Sylvester.  The writers evidence a slight sense of humor when they have her cut off her arm in her battle with Delos security. The name Armistice means to lay down arms.

 

Dolores:

There is so much to unpack about this character, whose very name means “Suffering”, and she had great lines and purpose throughout the series. Hell, Dolores pretty much just needs her own post, so here’s some I agree with.

Katharine Trendacosta/i.09

http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-westworld-finale-finally-turned-dolores-into-a-char-1789675460

And:

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/westworld-finale-ending-dolores

 

 

Charlotte:

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Charlotte smugly assumed that she had won this particular round of infighting with Ford, which just got up my nose, and that is saying something, as I don’t like Ford very much. She was not actually evil, but she was insufferable. Her scheming skills aren’t anywhere in Ford’s league though. This wasn’t even a competition. It  was like watching a champion chess player against a bright, grade-school, checkers novice. After her previous attempts at getting information out of the Park were foiled by Ford, she tasks Lee with encrypting the information into Peter Abernathy’s Host body. This too is a failure, as Abernathy is one of the Hosts set free to massacre the Delos Board of Directors, at the end of the show. 

 

Issues:

The biggest stumbling block for this show was its depiction of  of the bisexual Logan, and Hector’s rapist. Logan is very possibly one of the shallowest, and most reprehensible, characters in the show, entirely in line with the media vilification of bisexuals as promiscuous, multi-partner sluts. What’s really shameful is that the show is never bold about his bisexuality, preferring to make background intimations that he might be.In Logan’s one sex scene there is another man, but his role is only to watch Logan have sex with the two women present.The rest of the time Logan simply makes asides about the attractiveness of other men.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/10/31/the-infamous-westworld-orgy-finally-came-and-it-was-messy.html

Contrast this with the show’s many depictions of lesbianism, which is frank and open. Its not shy about showing woman on woman action, as long as its titillating to male viewers. Hopefully the show can correct this in the next season, showing us a well-rounded mm, or ff, relationship.

Black Guests:

One of the moments that effected me more than any of the other violence in the series is during the Delos Board party.There’s a meet and greet between the Board members dressed in their finery, and some of the more well known Hosts, like Teddy. One of the Hosts is entertaining the guests with a bit of marksmanship. One of the Guests, a Black woman, takes his weapon and shoots him with it and all the Guests laugh. I know what this moment was meant to illustrate. My problem was that they used a Black woman to illustrate it.

Up to this point the only other PoC Guests we’ve met were a family of three who met Dolores out painting horses, and Charlotte, who is a member of the Delos Board and seems to have little qualm about using the Park’s resources (Hector) for her own entertainment. What all this says about larger issues of race in the world of Westworld (not just the theme park) is unclear. There seem to be many more Hosts of color than there are behind-the-scenes technicians and Guests, though.

samurai warriors on hbo westworld

I do want to bring up the little glimpse we saw of SamuraiWorld. During Maeve’s flight through the facility, they wander through part of the facility dedicated to creating this new world and I hope to see more of SamuraiWorld next season, as it will give us some much needed opportunity to see some Japanese actors. it will also set the precedent for seeing even more theme parks.

https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/westworld-finale-samurai-world-season-2

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Hector gets used in such a fashion. Just before Maeve’s breakout, Hector, in his immobile state, is about to be raped by one of the male technicians during his routine checkup. This scene is meant to once again illustrate the awfulness of the Host’s human masters, (and there’s also something very unpleasant being said about race, as Hector is Mexican, and his rapist is White), but unfortunately, the show calls to mind, the stereotype of gay men as predatory rapists of the innocent.

This show goes wrong in throwing one marginalized group (gay and bisexual men) under the bus to further its philosophy about another marginalized group: the Hosts.

Despite these issues, I am looking forward to next season. Until then I have to tide myself over by watching Humans, which is another show about sentient AI,that start to evolve consciousness, while interacting with regular humans. Since some of the robots on this show are also PoC, I will also be looking at the shows racial depictions. It is a British show so some of the context will be different than in an American show.

Taboo : Episode One: Well Yeah, Its Racist! Ableist! And Sexist!

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I have a lot to say about this show, so let’s get started.

This show has been hyped to within an inch of its life, so naturally, I was really excited to see it. It stars Tom Hardy, and a host of other British people I didn’t bother to learn the names of because…ITS FUCKING TOM HARDY!!! And Tom Hardy is one of the few actors that I will  watch read a listicle, naked, while he sits in an empty room.

Now, let me get  this out of the way before I get started reviewing. There was a nasty rumor started about this show before it aired. It basically accused Hardy of racism because, as this one person (and once I researched it, I realized it’s really only been that one person, under a pseudonym, on a gossip website), says that he cast himself in the role of a bi-racial character, and that  the show is full of racist slurs against that character (which is true), and Africans in general.

Now, once this rumor hit Tumblr, it grew legs, and some of the more hysterical members of Tumblr immediately went on about how Hardy should be cancelled, how the posters will hate him forever and ever, and how much they hate the show.  My attitude was they should first research where the rumor came from (because at this point, two days before the show aired, that’s all it was, and a little too convenient for my tastes), wait until the show actually aired to formulate an opinion, and well, the show is set in 1800s England, so yeah there’s gonna be some Africa hatred occurring on the show.

Now, if you’re offended at hearing racial slurs, no matter the time period, I understand, and you should, by all means, not watch shows that will upset you. But just so you know, having racial slurs in a period piece is really just historical verisimilitude, and is no different than watching 12 Years a Slave, or Django Unchained. That is exactly the sort of thing White, English, citizens did very casually in 1814.  If you refuse to watch any period film because you’re sick of hearing racial slurs in movies, then I understand that.

I did watch the episode and here’s what I came away with. None of the racist slurs are aimed at Hardy’s character, but they are said ABOUT him, usually behind his back, and as far as I know, he isn’t a Black bi-racial. His mother’s race is not mentioned, although it is mentioned that his father bought his wife. (Buying a wife was not uncommon in that time period. All women, and not just Black ones, were considered commodities then, and white women were routinely swapped around, for all manner of reasons, like securing business ventures, or gaining someone’s inheritance.

At no point in the narrative is he ever shown as a victim of racism, or as any kind of victim at all, other than of his past and own conscience. This is a character with a lot of power over the people he meets because he’s unpredictable, and no one has any idea what his agenda is. This is also a character who realizes this during the course of the episode.

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The people around him are upset because they thought he was dead, having been killed in Africa. When he returns, he is a very different sort of person, who speaks several Native languages, and talks in obscure metaphors. Also, his father suffered a bout of insanity just before his return, and people think he inherited that, not knowing that the insanity was caused by arsenic poisoning. There are more than a few sexist, and ableist slurs in the dialogue, but that one outraged person, who started the racism rumors, didn’t seem to catch any of those, which are also entirely in keeping with the time period. That was  how people talked and treated those with mental illness at that time. So, I’m gonna warn you, if you don’t want to hear that kind of stuff either, you need to skip this particular show.

I noticed that instead of condemning the show, they condemned the actor for writing  it. There has been  a long argument on Tumblr about how much culpability White actors should bear for  starring in vehicles with racist  narratives, or taking roles that could have gone to PoC. I try to take that on a case by case basis. This is not a defense of Tom Hardy, though. This is a defense of the show. If it turns out to actually be problematic in ways I can’t bear, then I’ll will stop watching it.

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So far, I’ve enjoyed what I’ve seen of it, and   will be watching it, on the regular. It’s a gorgeous, dark, gritty show, but not as bad as Game of Thrones, although there is what I thought of as a gratuitous sex worker scene. I was expecting to really get into the characters, but was surprised to find the political intrigue very compelling.

Hardy plays a man named James Delaney, who returns after a long sojourn in Africa and being thought dead.  In the meantime, his sister and her husband, have  inherited everything, including a parcel of land their father owned in America. It’s a huge surprise when James shows up at his father’s funeral. In competition for the parcel of land is one of the most evil corporations to ever exist out of England: The East India Company.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/04/east-india-company-original-corporate-raiders

One of the former members of The East India Company, now haggling for his plot of land,  used to be in charge of a military regiment in which James was also a cadet, before he began acting strangely. Like Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now, he had an exemplary career. He was the perfect soldier, until he had an attack of conscience, after finding out exactly  what he was working for. He spent the next two years whoring, drinking, attacking his own officers, and generally corrupting his brother cadets, until getting lost in Africa. I had the impression he was more haunted by his past actions, as a soldier for the East India Company, than anything that happened to him in Africa.

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The first episode is mostly spent in establishing exactly what James’ relationship is to various people. His sister is really his half sister, and they used to have an intimate relationship. It’s strongly suspected that she had a son by him, that neither of them  can acknowledge. James’ father went insane just before his return and embarrassed the family. James has his father’s body exhumed, by a Resurrectionist, and discovers his father was poisoned with arsenic. His sister’s husband hates him and is plotting his death because he stands in the way of the land inheritance, that he and his wife desperately need for the money. The English government desperately wants that plot of land as the British/ French/American war comes to a close, the land is strategically viable, and James refuses to sell it.

James appears to have superpowers, of some kind, as he keeps knowing stuff he’s not supposed to know, like his father dying. When one character says his father kept calling for him before he died, James says he knows because he heard him, which is creepy, no matter what he means by that phrase. Does he employ spies or is he psychic?  Everybody in the cast has secrets. Even their secrets have secrets and there’s just enough information parceled out to keep the viewer strung along.

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The cinematography is gorgeous. The skies are cloudy all the time, everything is dark and gloomy and covered in dirt, including the people, which is exactly how I like my stereotypes of Historical England. James wears a giant Beaver Hat for the entirety of the episode. Its almost like another character on the show. I wonder if the hat will get some lines of dialogue. he talks in a dark gravelly voice, sort of like a Victorian Batman, and everything is just dark, and grim, and darkgrim. Even that Mad Max movie had sunshine and people occasionally laughed at something. Nobody looks as if they’re enjoying themselves, but all this does is remind me that the past was waaay more horrible then the modern world, which actually makes me feel a little bit better.

So far, I’m in!

Oh, and here’s the review that sparked the rumor on Tumblr! (Out of all the possible reviews about this show!) I dont agree with a lot of it, and parts of the review were hilarious, but you can decide for yourself. Is the show racist? Is Tom Hardy?

TV Review: Tom Hardy’s ‘Taboo’ on FX

Westworld Thinky- Thoughts

Robert Ford:

So, I’ve been rewatching Westworld from the beginning, and  paying  closer attention to the dialogue and plot, in preparation for the finale.

Shoutout to Anthony Hopkins for delivering a knockout performance of a man suffering from a serious God complex. I just realized the reason Ford is always so far ahead of everyone in the plot is because he uses the Hosts, some of which are planted among the employees of Delos Corporation, (I’m pretty sure Bernard isn’t the only one) to spy on those same employees.

The reason he knew where the MIB was going to be (so that he could meet with him) is because he sent that little boy Host to ask if he needed assistance. And he knew about Charlotte’s plans because Hector was present during Charlotte’s meeting with Theresa. Since Ford has such total and complete control over the Hosts, he knows everything the Hosts see and hear, even when people think the Hosts don’t appear to be paying attention.

Which probably means he knows all about Maeve, and her activities, and has allowed her to continue doing what she’s doing because it serves his purposes, whatever those might be. Lets go back to that meeting, between Ford and Charlotte, to identify Theresa’s body. In one swoop, he completely undoes all  Charlotte’s plans, and all she could do was stand there and take it. Note that he also proposed, during that meeting, that security  at the company be automated, to guard against what happened to Theresa.  Which means that whatever Maeve is about to do will be aided by having little security, during her endeavors. Everything we’ve seen happening at Westworld among the Hosts, from the stockpiling of the Hosts in cold storage, to Teddy’s new Wyatt narrative, which sends Teddy on his own journey to self-awareness, to Maeve’s upgrades, has  all been orchestrated by Ford.

Remember, it was Ford who planted the new Wyatt narrative in Teddy, and that the Hosts in cold storage are decommissioned. They aren’t exactly off, just offline for the moment. He can turn them back on with a word. When Felix and Sylvester were upgrading Maeve, Sylvester noted that someone, with higher clearance than them, had already been tampering with Maeve’s protocols. Ford doesn’t seem at all worried that she’ll actually be able to escape Westworld, and I wonder why that is. But I find it difficult to believe that he wouldn’t nt have found out about Maeve’s little tour of the facilities, and allowed it to happen, considering how much else he knows.

When Elsie starts asking too many questions of Bernard he has Bernard, take her out of commission. When Stubbs gets a little too curious about Bernard, he gets kidnapped by Ghost Nation Natives. So now the head of security is in absentia, security is now mostly automated, and anyone who would’ve been asking legitimate questions, or getting in the way, (Theresa, Elsie, Bernard, Stubbs) is now gone.

Which gives me a huge feeling of dread about Ford’s new narrative, and what that might mean for the Delos Board, who he has invited to  come  check it out. Charlotte and the MIB are already present in the Park. In all likelihood, Ford already knows about how Charlotte has suborned Lee’s loyalty, and her plans to use Peter Abernathy, to smuggle tech out of the Park.

Incidentally, the names Robert and Bernard are both of Germanic origin. Robert means famous, or shining, entirely in keeping with his narcissistic nature. Bernard means hearty, and brave, like a bear. Bern is the old German word for Bear. Jeffrey Wright does look somewhat bear-ish, and we can see Bernard’s ability to go from Teddy bear, to berserker in a hot instant.

Arnold on the other hand means Eagle Power. One who has the power of an eagle, which could be a reference to Arnold’s hovering everywhere, and influencing everything in the plot, and yet being nowhere at all, since he’s dead. Bernard Lowe, which is an anagram of Arnold Weber, is a clone of Arnold, and is also the Head of Westworld’s Programming Division, which oversees the coding and programming of all of Westworld’s Hosts.

The Man in Black/William:

I’m convinced now more than ever that William is the MIB, mostly based on all the things the MIB has said, rather than anything William has done. We’ll see if the show gives us this last theory during the finale. I have it on good authority that Ed Harris will be returning for a second season, so we’ll know, when we know.

Note that the Man in Black has no name, but William means resolute protector, which we’ve seen William try to be for Dolores, trying, but failing, to  protect her from Logan. How someone who is Dolores’ resolute protector, later turns out to be her worst nightmare, is anybody’s guess.

In case anybody cares, Logan’s name is completely appropriate for him, derived from the Gaelic word lagan, which means “hollow”, which perfectly describes this shallow, over-privileged character, who can’t seem to think beyond his base appetites.

Charlotte is the feminized name of Charles, or Charlie, which is also the name of Bernard’s (or rather Arnold’s) dead son.

Maeve/The Bird:

I was struck by the image of the sparrow perching on Maeve’s finger,when she first wakes up in the lab, and one of my online friends thought that there might have been some significance to that image. The only thing I could think of was that in mythology, such birds are often considered psychpomps:

(in Greek mythology) a guide of souls to the place of the dead.
the spiritual guide of a living person’s soul. 

Felix had just revived this bird, so the bird was dead, and presumably, in the afterlife, and when it returned and landed on Maeve’s finger, one could argue that it brought back a soul.
Also, Maeve is a name rooted in the Gaelic language, which means “one who intoxicates”, after the Fairy Queen known as Medb (or Mabh, in English), and yes, she does seem to be enchanting to Felix, and now  has the superpower to make other Hosts do her bidding. Her last name is the name of a poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, who wrote the poem First Fig  and was controversial, in early American society, by being openly bi-sexual.

‘First Fig’

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends–
It gives a lovely light.

Maeve reached “awareness” extremely fast, rather than the more roundabout manner which we saw for Dorothy, and like Roy Batty from Bladerunner would say: “The light that burns twice as fast, burns half as long.” Its possible that either Maeve, or her rebellion, will burn out, before she is successful.

 

Angela and Theodore:

In Angela, I have been neglecting another fully realized Host. The MIB says he remembers her, and we remember her, as the first Host William  met, when he came to Westworld. This is the same Host who wouldn’t answer his question about whether or not she was real. She is also fully conscious, and her remarks to Teddy, about how Wyatt wasn’t there yet, and bringing Teddy back into the fold, along with Teddy’s  vision of a massacre he participated in, make me want to believe that Teddy is actually Wyatt. I don’t know that he is, but sometimes all the character’s choice of words, and turns of phrase, are very interesting.

Teddy’s visions aren’t nearly as reliable as we think. When all this started, he kept seeing Wyatt killing the town of  Escalante: (Escalante is a Spanish last name  meaning climber, or one who climbs. The Dictionary of American Family Names traces its origin to the Latin word scala referring to a terraced slope, or ladder. ) I’m sure there’s some deeper meaning in naming the town, where the Hosts first pass the Turing Test, Escalante.

Teddy’s vision of that massacre later changed to him helping Wyatt, and still later, it changed to just Teddy doing it, with Wyatt’s help. At any rate, Angela has all the answers. She’s also the only Host we’ve ever seen working outside the Park, and she didn’t show up in the Park until after Ford’s talk with the MIB, which makes me think she could’ve been planted in that place by Ford, to impart specific information about Wyatt, and the location of the town of Escalante, to the MIB.

Note that Angela’s name means “Messenger of the Gods”, which is entirely appropriate, if Ford sent her to them. She absolutely insists on calling Teddy “Theodore”, which almost no one else does.  Its telling that Theodore means “God -given”, coupled with the name Flood, an unusual last name, which means an outpouring, surge, or torrent of emotion.

 

Westworld Season One : The Well -Tempered Clavier

Lemme just get this outta the way right up front:

James Marsden:

Daaayyum! James Marsden is a fine lookin’ White boy! I have enjoyed looking at him since X-Men 2, and haven’t gotten the least bit tired of him. The man just has an incredibly cinegenic face.

Okay! I’ve gotten that out of my system for the moment, and am ready  to move on to the more serious business of reviewing this episode, which is a real doozy this week, as a couple of  fan theories are confirmed, and the robot rebellion continues apace. We spend much of this episode following Dolores and Bernard down the rabbit hole, in their search for Arnold, and the truth. We witness the possible birth of the Man in Black, and the actual birth of Bernard, and get some idea of just how cruelly manipulative Ford can be.

The Turing test is a test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.

I think the “Home” that Dolores has been trying to reach is the small, now sand covered town, where she and the other Hosts first passed the Turing Test. This is the same place, told to the MIB, by the Host that killed Teddy. Nothing of it remains now, except its church steeple.

The plot of this episode has all the major characters walking around in spirals, as the repeat the same actions over and over again, little different from the loops they’re programmed with in the Park, except in this case, the loops have a purpose. Maeve’s plans to free herself relies on adding Hector to her team. But first, she needs to convince Bernard to let her go back into the Park after she is detained for killing Clementine. She’s such an enchanting creature she seems able to talk people into doing her bidding even without her superpowers. And she charms Bernard into releasing her back into the Park where she confronts Hector about his last heist. 

She outlines to Hector what will happen in the next few minutes, and explains to him that the safe, the gang all worked so hard to get, is empty. (Its always going to be empty, as there’s no need to fill it with anything. Hector always gets killed by his gang before its opened.) She convinces Hector that they are in a pointless story, and he starts to remember their previous conversations, when she makes love to him while holding his knife between them. Just in case her point has not been made that they are going to Hell, she tips over a lantern and sets their tent ablaze. I’m a little confused because I would think that Hosts  burned to crisps would automatically qualify them to be decommissioned. Here you have characters repeating their actions, only this time,  for a goal.

While charming Bernard into helping her, Maeve also manages to undo all of Ford’s work in erasing Bernard’s memories. Bernard goes on a search for his past, and using a hollowed out Clementine to threaten Ford, he confronts him with his questions.  Ford tells him that the cornerstone of his personality was built on the death of his son, which explains this recurring memory. He says that Arnold believed a tragic backstory built a better foundation for the Hosts personalities. Ford takes Bernard all the way back to his first memory, when he  first opened his eyes.

One of the next biggest fan theories was if Bernard was a clone of Arnold, based on that odd photo that Ford showed to Bernard once, with a picture of Ford, his father, and an empty space, where Ford’s partner would have stood. Bernard is a clone of Arnold, who designed much of his code before he died, and Ford gave him the tragic death of Arnold’s son as the cornerstone of his personality. Since he is a clone, one could argue that Bernard sort of created himself. Ford states that he helped create Bernard because actual human beings had reached their limits in how human they could make the Hosts. To make the Hosts more human than human, Ford needed a Host to refine them. He says the Hosts were designed to be better than humanity, so it’s especially galling to him to see them being used as playtoys by inferior humans. But the real   surprise is Ford tells Bernard that this is not the first time Bernard has breached this knowledge, and that every time it happens, Ford resets him to his pre-knowledgeable state. (Every time Bernard eats of the Apple, Ford makes him throw it up.)

Ford is always one step ahead of everyone else because he seems to know everything. He has backdoor access to all of his creations, so Bernard can’t actually threaten him, and Ford can’t seem to bring himself to kill Bernard so directly, so he orders Bernard to shoot himself, but he walks away before the deed is done. He can’t watch it, it seems.  I was really hoping this moment wouldn’t come to that. I really like Bernard. But I’m not going to get too het up about his death because, as we’ve seen over and over again, and the show has taken great pains to make clear, death is never the end for the Hosts. Ford leaves the body in cold storage, and I’m concerned that he’s not concerned that anyone will find Bernard’s body. Once again I wonder what new Host body Ford was making in that lab. Is it a new version of Bernard? Is it Elsie, whose still MIA?

Normally, we’d rely on Stubbs to suss this out, but  he isn’t around to do any wondering. Like  Elsie, its very possible that he is dead. Investigating a signal from the park, supposedly from Elsie’s Pad, he goes to check it out, and  gets attacked by some native Hosts, when his voice commands don’t work on them. It’s very possible Ford  planned that. Ford has total control,  but we’ve also seen how easily Maeve was given that same control, and the Hosts regularly break that control themselves, when their emotions run amok. You have Dolores , Teddy, Wyatt’s men, Bernard, and Maeve, and I don’t know how many others the Park employees don’t know about, so it’s also conceivable that the Natives kidnapped Stubbs for their own reasons.

This makes me wonder if all of this has happened before, especially if the timeline theory is true, and what we’ve been seeing are  Dolores’ memories, the last time she reached consciousness, back when she first met William. If every twenty or thirty years, the Hosts all have to be decommissioned and reset because, while they’re running free in the Park, they are always evolving, and their constant interaction with the Guests, and each other, is pushing them towards consciousness. (This constant interaction thereby creating the Pearl of Wisdom.) Earlier in the season, one of the employees asked why the robots talk to each other, when they don’t need to, and the answer was they’re always trying to self-correct, constantly ironing out any errors in their interactions, the better to interact with the Guests. I wonder how many Host rebellions have been averted? Maybe  what we’re seeing is a perfect storm of everything that humans can and will do wrong, resulting in a successful rebellion, this time?

Another big revelation, that lends credence to the timeline theory, is Dolores confession to herself that she is the one who killed Arnold. After she and William are captured by Logan, Logan tries to convince William, once and for all, that Dolores isn’t special. He cuts open her abdomen and shows William her inner workings. She manages to overcome her programming long enough to attack Logan and escape. Her journey back “home” is a confusing melange of memories of the past and present. She heads back to the abandoned town, she and William visited in the last episode, guided by her “bicameral mind” (i.e. Voice of God). Simultaneously, Ford is explaining to Bernard how the Host minds were built, and how Arnold’s  previous attempts at bicameral mind resulted in extreme behavioral quirks, (like Teddy’s and Dolores’ massacres?)

What we’re being shown during Dolores’ scenes is how the minds of the Hosts work, and how they think of time. She is unable to tell when she is in time, because all of her memories have perfect clarity, and therefore have the same level of importance. She manages to make it all the way back to the lab, where we saw her speaking to Bernard, and we find that is a separate timeline, because when she gets there she watches as a young Ford runs past her, and when she enters the interrogation room, it is dusty and full of cobwebs. Possibly the labs Bernard and Arnold  used when they were first building the Park. Their dream conversations happened a very long time ago, and Arnold has been dead a very long time. She finally remembers that she is the one who caused his death.

Since we didn’t see her kill him, I do wonder if this is just Dolores feeling guilty, or if she did, in fact, kill him. We’ve seen the Hosts lash out in violence when they’re emotionally distressed, and I wonder if something similar happened between the two of them. Both Teddy and Dolores are shown shooting a town full of Hosts, and I wonder if this is the same event at different times. Did Arnold die during one of these incidents, and is that why the town was buried? Are these former rebellions, the incidents, that the Delos employees keep mentioning? Is this some kind of cycle that occurs every thirty or so years?

Logan’s attack on Dolores has the unexpected side effect of galvanizing something in William. After Dolores runs away, William appears to reconcile with Logan, believing him when he says Billy simply got caught up in the playacting in the Park. He hands William a photo of his sister. The same photo that Peter Abernathy, Dolores first father, found buried in the soil of his front yard, which corrupted his programming, somehow. After Logan and the other militia men pass out for the night, Logan wakes to find that William has massacred the entire unit. Is this the birth of the MIB? Certainly Dolores reaction to the MIB, after she leaves the lab, would seem to point in this direction. And we now know he’s not Logan because Logan has a nice scar on his face where she cut him. Earlier in the season, The MIB references this scene, when he mentions to Lawrence that he saw one of the Hosts cut open once. 

Aided by a clue given to him by the Host that killed Teddy, again!, the MIB now knows  where to go to complete the maze. The same place where Dolores is.  He wakes up tied to a horse in such a way that if he moves he’ll hang himself. He manages to get himself out of  this, only to be confronted by Charlotte, standing there, watching all this,  in her designer boots. For some reason I thought this scene was deeply funny. She walked in on him playing a very elaborate game of “Lets Pretend”, that could get him killed. She mentions that his company once saved the Park, and we know William is about to marry into Logan’s family, who own one of the Parks competing business interests. 

Dolores does get to the maze first, and if what she went through is the maze’s completion, than the idea that the maze is not for the MIb is correct. It was never made with the intention that a human complete it. In fact, it may have been made, by Arnold,  specifically for Dolores.

The technological singularity (also, simply, the singularity) is the hypothesis that the invention of artificial superintelligence will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth, resulting in unfathomable changes to human civilization.

Sundries:

At one point, Dolores confronts Logan about the reality of his world. Logan asks if William is trying to get her out of the Park, and she rightfully asks why they would assume she wants to get out. If  life is so great on the outside, why are humans clamoring to get in the Park? I stood and I applauded because this is the question of the week! It’s interesting that  Maeve believes she’ll be free outside the Park. Dolores believes she’s free in the Park. They both just want to write their own stories. One answer to Dolores question is that guests are  using the Hosts to find their humanity, all while denying the humanity of the Hosts.

I’ve seen fans decrying the racism and misogyny in the show, and making the claim that the show is no better than GoT, in this regard. This is where we’re gonna have to disagree, because I believe all these -isms serve a purpose. Lee Sizemore, a White man, is the main person who writes all the Host narratives. Lee Sizemore is also a racist, sexist asshat. The Natives, the sex-workers, the damseled women, are all exactly the kinds of narratives that have been given to mariginalized people by White writers in popular media, and are all products of Lee’s lurid imagination. (It’s interesting that the only WoC, of any importance, we’ve seen in the entire Park, is Maeve, and she is a saloon madam.) This is an indictment of Lee, (while throwing some shade on  all such hack writers) and his complete inability  to think beyond stereotypes, and I have nothing but praise for the show’s writers in making this subtle distinction, as they write Maeve so that she overturns all of the tropes Sizemore put on her. Westworld gets intersectional Feminism right in a way that shows like Supergirl, Agent Carter, and Jessica Jones, get wrong. It’s possible to address how misogyny impacts the lives of different types of women, without engaging in the kind of oppression olympics that Marvel’s writers seem to fear, by not putting any WoC in their feminist narratives. You can address issues of intersectional Feminism, without the WoC upstanding  any of the White heroines of these shows. 

 All this violence on the show is  also an indictment of humanity, as  much of the inhumanity we witness in the Park, is at the hands of humans, towards the Hosts, and at no point is the viewer given the idea that any of this is good for either of them. Ford attributes any aggressive behavior, on the part of the Hosts, to the humans who abuse and program them. I think that, left to his own devices, Ford would be content to just let the Hosts have the Park to themselves, and observe them, without any human interaction.

Let me just fangirl about Maeve: 

One of the reasons I love Maeve so much is her rise towards consciousnesss is an allegory for becoming”woke”. And she reached this state of being because the other PoC, the  Hispanic and Native Hosts, are the most “woke” beings in the Park, having incorporated their nightmares about the human world, into their personal mythologies. We see her gain some knowledge, and then use that knowledge to give herself power, aided and abetted by  another, just as powerless MoC, Felix. This isn’t just a robot rebellion, it’s a call for PoC to work together to aid each other in becoming free. (At least within the narrative of Westworld.) It is very telling, especially in this political climate, that it’s Sylvester, a White man, who attempts to thwart her plans at every opportunity, even planning to kill her at one point, and siding with the very employers who oppress all of them, and it’s not accidental that the two greatest antagonists in the narrative are White men, Ford and The Man in Black. One of them coded as Godlike, and the other coded as Satanic.

This makes Maeve (Ma-Eve) like Eve. She is the first, the Mother. This is why I think, I hope, her rebellion succeeds. 

She holds and carries herself like the Queen she is, her nudity means nothing to her, and is petty within the context of what she’s trying to achieve.  Maeve is never sexualized during these scenes. She owns her nudity, she owns herself, she makes those around her listen to what she has to say, and do her bidding, apparently by sheer force of personality.

 It is timely, and ironic,  that Maeve’s child was killed by the Man in Black, and especially resonates with me, a Black woman. I live in world where Black kids get killed by apathetic blackhats everyday. When Maeve was hysterical and inconsolable  in the aftermath of her daughter’s death, her behavior was intimately familiar to every black woman watching. We know the face of grief. 

It is Ford who makes her sit down and be quiet, attempts to make her forget about her past. 

Ford doesn’t just take away the Hosts pain because he loves them, he does it because he is aware of just how much trauma gets inflicted on the Hosts. It’s a good for the humans that the Hosts don’t remember. It’s good for him especially. (Although, so far, most of the Hosts are unable to commit violence against humans.) As was said by one of the Delos employees in the first episode, “We better hope they don’t remember what happens to them,” an echo of every White Supremacist fear, that the people they once oppressed will have their  revenge. From trolling and harassment on Twitter, to derailing all conversations about social justice, from ignoring historical fact, to telling PoC to just get over it and shut up, all these tactics are the children of that singular statement. Hoping the people they hurt, don’t remember it.

Also, I like that Westworld is an allegory for racism that actually includes PoC in the story, overturning the usual tropes, of shows that are symbolic of some -ism, that have no marginalized people in them.(I’m looking at you X-Men, and Divergent!) Westworld is set  during a time and place, in American  History, when such trauma was regularly inflicted on Black, Native, and Hispanic bodies, but the show doesn’t neglect to include those bodies.

Next week, after the Season finale, I’ll have more on robot rebellions as slave narratives, and how these types of movies, and shows, serve to illuminate and elucidate White Supremacist fears of White genocide, and another post on the Biblical interpretations in the show’s narrative.

http://www.bachwelltemperedclavier.org/analysis.html&nbsp;

 

 

 

Westworld Season One: Trompe L’oeil

Trompe l’oeil: a painting or design intended to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object. A French word meaning “deceive the eye”.

“Doesn’t look like anything to me.” – Westworld’s Hosts

The beauty of  the Westworld series is that it all relies on the visual perception of not just the Guests and Hosts, but the viewers, as well. According to Ford, the Hosts can’t see anything that might hurt them, but we should.

This series is full of deceptions, but a lot of masks came off for this episode, as Charlotte plays her hand, we find out who Bernard is, and William and Dolores, take things to the next level. Actually, none of the revelations are huge surprises, if you’ve been paying attention, as the show has been dropping little clues and hints all  season. But like I said, I’m pretty bad at speculation, so I just notice  these things, and move on, allowing the show to take me wherever its going.

Its a little like sightseeing, with other passengers pointing out highlights, we should pay attention to on the tour. Other people use these highlights to guess what their final destination might be, but I’m mostly  just going to take notes, and enjoy the ride, especially in a show as layered with meaning as Westworld.

Image result for westworld trompe loeil

Charlotte Hale, and Theresa, are working together to overthrow Ford’s ownership of the Park. Now, Ford warned Theresa not to get in his way, and her hubris at thinking she could best him with her juvenile actions, gets her killed, at the hands of her former lover, and newly outed Host, Bernard. Charlotte and Theresa ,while not new at manipulation, are not in Ford’s league. He’s a master chess player, who seemingly knows what they’re going to do before they do it.

I know a lot of people speculated about Bernard. It was one of the big theories of the series. Well, such people had ample reason to look smug, as it was finally revealed that Bernard has always been a Host. I enjoyed this revelation, but I wasn’t exactly surprised by it, as I’ve watched these episodes several times, and followed the trail of breadcrumbs that other people were pointing out to me. They all had some  very compelling arguments, which finally  paid off.

William has decided he’s going to stop pretending, saying to Dolores, that he’s been pretending to be something he’s not his entire life, but now that’s over. He’s going to be his true self from now on, which just furthers everyone’s theory that William is actually the MiB, about 20-30 years ago, and that he and Dolores are in another timeline. He and Dolores make out, and I kinda knew the direction they were headed, so no surprises there. Its interesting to me that its Dolores who makes the first move, professing her love for William.

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Dolores has revealed that she is now totally in pursuit of her own goals, and William is just along for the ride, as her dreams lead her further and further away from the life she once lived. It does make me wonder, if this is the past and William is actually the  MiB, then in the present times, he may not have actually raped her in that barn. He may have been doing something entirely different. The show has made it pretty clear that nothing is as it seems,  so why not that event, too.

In their efforts to oust Ford from power, Charlotte and Theresa stage a show for Ford and the others to demonstrate how dangerous the new Reveries program might be to the Guests. Something that Elsie (who is missing this episode) took great pains to find out, and was fairly alarmed about, is just casually thrown out there by Charlotte, although in her case it’s faked. She and Theresa make a blood sacrifice of the guard and  Clementine, and we find out there are other employees wandering around who are actually Hosts.

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Now, I don’t know if everyone at the demonstration knew that the guy Clementine killed was a Host already, or if that’s something only Ford knew, but it was interesting that, as little sympathy as the employees seem to have for the Hosts, the women all looked acutely uncomfortable at watching Clementine be brutalized by this man. At any rate ,their little demonstration was faked to make Ford’s updates look bad, and  give the Board leverage to use against him. They  used  most of that leverage to fire Bernard, since they can’t directly attack Ford because he is incredibly valuable. Charlotte made it very clear in her interview with Theresa, the Board only cares about the Host’s technology, and to Hell with its employees. What they want to do is reduce the amount of power Ford possesses, so they can get their hands on it, but Ford is several moves ahead of them.

He’s had a lot of practice at this game. As he says, every few years the Board  makes some  effort to bring him to heel, and Theresa is just their latest cats-paw. When he orders Bernard to kill her, we see a new Host body being created in the background. Some people are already theorizing that its Theresa’s replacement. This has the added benefit of unsettling the viewer because now we start wondering are there any  other Hosts wandering around the facility pretending to be humans, and who might they be.

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Its almost heartbreaking to watch it slowly dawn on Theresa that she is about to die horribly. I say almost, because I never really warmed to Theresa, although she was certainly a smart and complex character. Her terror is especially sharp, after staging that demonstration showing  how powerful Hosts are, and what they’re capable of. She essentially just watched her own death several hours earlier. She knows exactly what Bernard s going to do to her. The signature move of the Hosts is to bash their victims heads.We saw that in the episode where Elsie was almost attacked, and again with Clementine.

My heart really broke for Bernard though as he is confronted with the knowledge that he’s not human, and never has been. We opened the episode with Bernard having a nightmare about the death of his son, so its especially poignant to discover that those memories, memories that he’s used to push Dolores towards sentient awareness, aren’t real. Unless of course that too is something that was orchestrated by Ford to influence Dolores in the direction he wanted her to go.

Of course one of the prevailing theories is that those scenes of Bernard talking to Dolores are really scenes between her and Arnold, when he was alive, just after he lost his son, and just like Ford claimed Arnold made Host copies of Ford’s father, maybe Ford made Bernard in Arnold’s image. When Theresa asks if Bernard killed Arnold, Ford says Bernard wasn’t around then, but Bernard has been around for an extremely long time, though. When Theresa finds the drawings of Bernard’s schematics, the name on the sheets is carefully missing, whereas on drawings of Dolores’ schematics, her name is prominently displayed.

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The jury is still out on whether, or not, Bernard is actually Arnold, or if Arnold was even a  real person, or just some myth that Ford made up as a another layer of protection between him and the corporation. I’m going with the idea that Arnold was a real person, but what furthers this theory is that Ford seems to be the only person who knows everything that’s going on in the Park.

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Meanwhile, Maeve has decided she’s not going to live in the Park. She wants out, especially after she inadvertently witnesses Clementine being decommissioned, after  the Delos demonstration. She cajoles and threatens Sylvester and Felix into helping her, although I get the distinct impression from Felix that he’s helping her because he’s curious to see where this is going. He mostly seems shocked at Maeve’s boldness, and seems to really like her. He doesn’t seem as entirely opposed to the idea as Sylvester, who hates her guts. I suspect Sylvester isn’t long for this world, as this is the second time Maeve has threatened to kill him. She’s never threatened Felix, though.

The big action set piece this time is the three-way fight between Lawrence, Dolores, and William, who are trying to escape the Confedorados, who are mad at Lawrence for betraying them, and the Natives who attack the Confeds because they’re angry at all these people trespassing on their land. Its a gorgeously shot scene, with lots of nice stunt riding on the part of the actors.

Now, I’ve seen some Tumblr pieces vilifying the show for being racist. Yes, the show contains racism, but there’s a reason for it, just like all the other narratives in the show. (Except for that lesbian thing. That’s just weird.). Things aren’t what people think they are and if they are just looking at the surface layer, they will come away with the wrong idea. The creator, Lisa Joy, is an Asian-American woman, who is not simply reproducing the racist narratives she’s been told her whole life. She is meditating on them, and in many ways, subverting them.

Normally I would address this in a long rant, with receipts and bullet points, but its  apparent that would be kind of a waste, because its Tumblr, where very young people go to test out their critical thinking skills, and  none of them seem to have watched the show beyond episode three. In order to understand the show, you can’t just look at what’s happening on the surface. So, what I’ll do is leave this here again:

https://tvgeekingout.wordpress.com/2016/11/07/westworld-analysis-dolores-and-maeve/

Its not a perfect meta, and at some point I may redo and re-publish it,  but hopefully people who read it will get some idea that the issues of racism they’re seeing, are much more complex than they are  at first shown. The entire series is predicated on deceiving the eye, remember?

 

Here’s review that I especially enjoyed:

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/11/westworld-recap-bernard-robot-kills-theresa-episode-7-tromp-loeil

Westworld Season One: The Adversary

Earlier this week, I wrote about how Maeve Millay was coming into her power and why it is such an  important moment. Well…

This was Maeve’s episode.

You know how Game of Thrones has that one episode every season that  emotionally devastates you? (Hardhome; The Door?) The writers of Westworld have accomplished just such a feat with The Adversary. It’s got some juicy action setpieces, and packs an emotional wallop. For us Blackgeekgirls though the resonance was sharp, as there’s nothing more emotional than watching a Black woman discover just how much power she possesses.

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We’ve been low key keeping an eye on Maeve’s journey towards full sentience, not thinking too much about it. Just like with the masters of Maeve’s life, her awakening has flown  beneath our radar, as everyone has been giving most of their attention to Dolores journey, as hers has been the most front and center. But it is Maeve who reaches full sentience, and Thandie Newton who delivers our standout performance  of the season.

Tessa Thompson is introduced as Charlotte Hale, Elsie discovers  interesting information, and things between Theresa and Bernard reach a head. The Westworld theories are flying fast and furious as people speculate on whether or not Bernard is a robot, perhaps even a clone of Arnold, William’s actual identity, and if there are two separate timelines, (which would explain why Bernard, and Ford, know nothing about Maeve), and if there are two timelines, then when does Dolores’ timeline occur, compared to Maeve’s?

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We begin the episode with Maeve waking in bed, a position we’ve seen Dolores in many times, and end the episode on a shot of Maeve realizing her power. She goes to the saloon, where she incites one of the patrons to choke her to death in the middle of sex.Why? So ,she can get back to Felix and finish their conversation. She has decided to dive headlong into this new mystery. Felix explains to Maeve who and what she is, who he is, and where they are. Maeve is so devastated by the knowledge that she has never had control of herself, that she temporarily shuts down.

After Felix brings her back online, Maeve uses all her plus level charm and seduction to compel Felix to give her a tour of the facility where she was born, the Delos Corporation. There follows one of the most bittersweet moments in the entire episode. A String version of Radiohead’s Motion Picture  Soundtrack (quite possibly one of the saddest songs ever created)  is used to great effect, as Maeve begins to fully understand that everything she thought she knew about her world is a lie, the people, places, and even the most spontaneous-looking moments, were never real. Thandie totally sells it. I feel  no shame in admitting that I cried like a three year old, at the irony of her seeing the phrase “Live Without Limits”, understanding her life has been defined by nothing but.

This scene has so many layers.  Partner Maeve’s  reactions, which are all in Thandie’s eyes and micro-facial expressions, with the tension of the two of them getting caught. What’s sweet about it is the architectural design, the beauty of the shots, and Felix’s reaction, as   the situation is just as terrifying for him, as it is for her. Felix has decided to help her for his own reasons, which I’m still trying to figure out. On some level, he does love her, is in awe of her, and thinks he will derive some benefit to his career.

Suddenly we have this new duo, Maeve and Felix as important characters, along with Teddy and the MIB, and Dolores and William, and I’m curious about how all of this will work out for the season finale. It also lends a good deal of evidence to the “separate timelines” theory. If Maeve and Dolores are in different timelines, its unlikely they will team up. There’s also Sylvester, Felix’s frenemy, who Maeve coerces into helping her. I hate Sylvester. I think most right minded people probably will, because he’s  such a yutz. My favorite moment is when Maeve threatens to gut him like a fish. I must have been clapping at that because my family was hollering from the other room  about why I was making all that noise.

There is a lot of Arnold in this episode, as he gets name drooped constantly. Elsie has her big moment when she discovers who it is that has been using the Hosts to steal information about Westworld. It’s Theresa.

In the wake of Ford’s discovery of her and Bernard’s relationship, Theresa has decided it would be a good idea to break up with him. While investigating the spate of robot signals, being sent from an abandoned warehouse, someone kidnaps Elsie.

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Lee Sizemore, that asshole British Narrative creator, gets introduced to Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte, in the worse possible way. Having gone on a bender, argued with Theresa, and tried to pick up Charlotte at the Delos’ bar,  (while spilling company secrets), he decides it would be a god idea to take a piss on the Westworld 3D prop. (I had to shake my head at what is the worse possible way to meet your new boss, drunk as a skunk, and pissing on stuff.) Theresa and Charlotte discover Lee with his dick out. I will be very glad when this character is gone somewhere. Anywhere that’s not on this show.

Teddy is definitely born-again hard, as he and the MIB tear it up against an entire squad of cavalrymen, with Teddy breaking out the Gatling gun and mowing everyone down. He even manages to impress the Lord of Terror himself, the Man in Black. What’s puzzling are all the references to the maze we see in this episode. At one point, Teddy’s captors are about to brand him with the symbol, and Robert comes across the same symbol, in a small Mexican town, carved into a tabletop. Teddy also has images of having helped Wyatt massacre an entire militia, when the narrative that was given to him by Ford, specifically states that he’s hunting Wyatt because Wyatt is the one solely responsible.

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Also, the clues that Logan, William, and Dolores are all in a different timeline are starting to add up. Watch for the different logos being used during which episodes, and whose story is being told at the time. There’s also the theory that their adventure may just be taking place only  in Dolores’ memories.

Bernard discovers that Ford has been visiting a Host clone of his family. He says they were a gift to him from Arnold. Later, when Ford goes back to play catch with the younger version of himself, he discovers that the boy has killed the family dog. And then he  lies about it, just as Elsie feared earlier in the episode. Someone is modifying the Hosts to act more human and they could potentially hurt the Guests. Ford does not seem to be much perturbed at these events, so now I’m deeply (I mean deeply) suspicious of him.

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At the end of the episode,  Maeve gets an upgrade. Her personality  matrix is built on a twenty point system, with the intelligence quotient at fourteen, which is the limit for Hosts. She needs to be smart but not too smart. She has Felix nudge that to twenty, but not before Sylvester and Felix discover that her personality had already been heavily modified by someone with more technical savvy than them.

If the being we saw in this episode is Maeve at a fourteen level of  intelligence, then that means all Hell is about to break loose, now that she’s reached level twenty. I think I can handle that.

Except for the occasional episode, here and there, I couldn’t fall in love with Game of Thrones, but then I’m not a big High Fantasy film watcher, or reader. This episode insures that Westworld and me will be kickin’ it for awhile, though.

ETA:

 In Contrapasso, little Robert Ford (a Host) shows up to inquire about the MiBs activities with Teddy and Lawrence. As the MiB and Teddy leave, we see the boy examining the exsanguinated body of Lawrence. In the following episode, The Adversary,  he kills the family dog in much the same manner. He lies to the aged Ford about killing the dog, saying that a voice told him to do it. Dolores, in Contrapsso, lies about whether she hears the voice of God/Arnold. Their conversation presents the strong possibility that her time with William and Logan are memories. There’s a theory that says the MIB might be either of those two men.

ETA: 

During Maeve’s tour of the facility, she is struck by the scene of a black woman, sculpting the face of one of the Hosts ,and you can see maybe a glint in her eye, that lingers just a bit longer than usual, that she finds that fascinating. I’m certain Maeve has never though of Race before or ever questioned what she looked like. The Hosts pay no attention to race, most likely have no concept of it, and yet many of their activities would be informed by it, as they might be influenced by the biases of the technicians. 

How certain Guests might treat Maeve, the position of her life, even her personality, might be informed by the conscious or unconscious racism of the narrators of her story, as I mentioned earlier when the technicians bumped up her aggression. The technicians may not have been consciously thinking of the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman, but the writers of this show know the viewers might think of it. There’s a scene in Contrapasso where Elsie is watching a very well endowed Black man attempting to pour wine, and makes a statement about it. The technicians regularly take advantage of the female Hosts according to Elsie. She, herself, takes the opportunity to kiss Clementine, when she thinks no one is looking. If sexual misadventures with the Hosts is a regular occurrence, then  I don’t consider racist behavior towards them to be  off the table, and that might find its way into their narratives as well.

Westworld Analysis: Dolores and Maeve

Westworld is a feminist narrative hiding in plain sight. The Westworld’s logo/sculpture, based on Da Vinci’s Vitruvian/Ideal Man drawing, is actually the body of a woman, and the primary protagonists/antagonists are women,  Dolores, who has had everyone’s attention for five episodes, and Maeve who’s awakening has hidden just below everyone’s radar. Dolores’ path to enlightenment is flashier and more upfront, but I believe it’s Maeve who will spark the true robot rebellion. It’s not an accident that these two women, one Black, one White, were chosen to be the pov of the robot rebellion of Westworld, where its primary setting is a time period in which women  were limited to only two roles, the Whore, or the Virgin.

The Madonna-Whore complex has been baked into Western society since Judeo-Christianity rose to prominence. Named by Sigmund Freud, the complex stuffs women into two mutually exclusive boxes: women men respect and women men want to sleep with. Madonnas are virgins and mothers, kind and submissive. Whores are sexually promiscuous, raunchy and aggressive. The idea infiltrates pop culture in so many ways, from the Final Girls in horror films and Disney Princesses to Betty and Veronica and Taylor Swift music videos. Madonnas are to be lifted up and venerated; whores are to be lusted after and discarded. But Westworld has other ideas. Subversive ideas.

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/harpy/despite-the-orgies-westworld-has-shockingly-feminist-pthemes#xqEmWuZjfIVwCYQ8.99

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Earlier this year, I reblogged an article about the show Daredevil, and its ignorant reliance on the Virgin/Whore Dichotomy, within its narrative. Marvel got it wrong because they  obviously did not think it through, and merely presented the stereotypes without any comment on their greater impact to the story. (Marvel isn’t very good at deep thinking in general, and what progressive feminist considerations we’ve gotten are largely because of the actors and directors. It’s certainly not from any of the writers, who seem to emphasize style over substance.)

Westworld gets it right, and the argument can be made that this is the point.  It’s no accident that Dolores is a White, blonde, virginal, damsel in distress, who is meant to be loved and rescued by the hero, Teddy, and that Maeve is a Black woman, treated as disposable, and a saloon whore, who Teddy only flirts with. He makes no promises to save Maeve, or take her away from all this. He is programmed to only have eyes for Dolores. In fact, nothing about these women’s storylines is an accident, and some amount  of actual thought was put into their characters, and plot arcs. I know these are not accidents, not just because of the plotline, but because of the things the characters say, and this is something that will have greater impact on the plot than most viewers think.

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Before the show aired, there were criticisms aimed at the writers for its depiction of  violence towards women, and the fear that, as in GoT, it is gratuitous. If you’ve been watching, Dolores is regularly threatened and assaulted, not just by the Guests, but the other Hosts as well. Why? So that Teddy can be her hero. The writers of Westworld directly addressed these concerns, saying that the violence wasn’t just for titillation, and the violence we see aimed at Dolores, in particular, serves a plot purpose. We can see that happening, as Dolores has begun to evolve beyond her programming, and in the last episode she said she was no longer going to be a damsel. In other words, her recollection of the violence done against her, has aided in her awakening to consciousness, and the decision to choose her own fate. She is tired of her pain being used to further other people’s stories rather than her own.

Dolores cannot rely on Teddy to save her, as he is a false hero. He is a trap meant to keep her in her loop. In his first encounter with the MIB, he is gunned down, and the MIB goes on to violate her. She cannot depend on Teddy to save her, or take her away from her pain. No matter how much he cherishes her, he cannot free her, echoing the real world equivalent of White women’s journey to liberation.  She abandons Teddy and his false promises, to be with William, and from there, she  begins to come into her power. But only her power, and not her freedom, as it is Bernard who sets her on the path to freedom, by introducing her to the concept of the  maze.

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For Maeve, the saloon whore, who keeps getting shot in various massacres, the awakening of her consciousness comes in time with her acknowledgment of her disposability. Earlier in the season we hear technicians speculating that if she doesn’t procure more customers she will be decommissioned, which is the writer’s  indirect criticism of the usefulness of the Black body to Whiteness. If it can’t be used, then it must be destroyed. She is saved from this fate  by another marginalized woman, Elsie, a gay woman, who recodes Maeve to be a better whore. Later, just as she is about to be gunned down again with Hector, she proclaims that her death doesn’t matter, but rather than being a rebuke of the statement  Black Lives Matter, as some people have chosen to see it, I see it as a statement of her freedom. If her death doesn’t matter, she is free to do as she pleases, with no fear that death will be the end for her. She is acknowledging that she is eternal, and declaring herself a Queen that can move anywhere on the chessboard, because she cannot die.

Like any slave that realizes they are a slave, Maeve’s  awakening is birthed in blood, nightmares, and trauma, echoing that of real world slave women.   It  is Maeve who witnesses the bodies of her Host brothers amd sisters, stacked like cordwood, being hosed down,  in a place she cannot name, and  it is through witnessing their disposableness that she comes to knowledge of her own. Unlike Dolores, Maeve must find her own path to consciousness and her own allies.

It is telling that the people who aid Maeve are in better positions to  facilitate her liberation than the ones that Dolores has found, and that they are all marginalized people, like her. Elsie is a lesbian, Hector is  Mexican, a Host and a slave like her, who aids her by giving her information on the Native American religion that sparked Maeve’s first questions,  and  Felix is Asian. (Asian men have historically been emasculated and dehumanized by White male patriarchy). So, is the message here that marginalized people can only be liberated by helping each other, or is this a real world comment on how African Americans were aided in their liberation by disenfranchised others? It is interesting that the one person who actively works against Maeve’s, and Felix’s, plans is Sylvester, a White man. I don’t know what to make of the fact that Dolores is aided in her awakening by a Black man, Bernard, who people are theorizing may actually be one of the  Hosts.

http://racism.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1277:aawomen01a&catid=72&Itemid=215

Parts of the Virgin/ Whore narrative arose out of slavery and gave birth to the White Madonna, and the Black Jezebel stereotypes.  White female purity was used as an excuse to torture, and kill Black men, and rape black women (although White women who fell through the cracks, and were the unclaimed property of another White man, were also fair game). Since the given understanding was that a whore couldn’t be raped, black women were declared un-rape-able. Like Maeve, their sexuality, and offspring , were treated as consumable commodities.

Echoing the narrative of actual slave women, Maeve has memories of a lost child, that was never actually (i.e. legally) hers. During the  examination, where it’s decided she will be decommissioned, the technicians “up” her aggression levels, making her more “sassy”, which is the writer’s indirect criticism of the stereotype of the Angry Black Woman. It is Elsie who recognizes what the technicians have done and fixes their botched (and indirectly racist) coding.

Ironically, or maybe not so much, Maeve’s name means enchanting or alluring.

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Its telling that it is a Black woman who says the things she says, just that it is a White woman who declares herself no longer to be the impetus of another man’s storyline. The series creator, Lisa Joy, has some knowledge of intersectional feminism, as these are the very restrictions that Black and White women fight against in the real world. For White women it is being considered helpless, and for Black women, it’s being considered worthless, and  each stereotype is used as an excuse for silencing and violence, against the other, by men.(White women’s fear of being compared and treated like WoC, keeps them from aligning with WoC, on issues pertinent to them both.)  But this particular dichotomy was most directly captured in the Dylan Roof shootings that occurred last year in Charleston, when the protection of White female purity was used as an excuse to enact violence against black female bodies. (The protection of White feminine virtue has always been used as an excuse for Black male disposability, most notably in the case of Emmett Till.)

https://newrepublic.com/article/122110/i-dont-want-be-excuse-racist-violence-charleston

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It is not an  accident that the Virgin/Whore dichotomy between Maeve and Dolores is being set within the allegorical slave narrative of Westworld, as we see Dolores being carefully shepherded by Bernard and William towards her freedom, (on a literal railroad, no less), while Maeve has had to find her own path. But this close attention to her is  the reason why Dolores is unable to move as freely as she wants, while Maeve’s liberation has largely gone completely unnoticed, just as in the real world, where women at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder were able to freely move about in ways that more heavily scrutinized (wealthier) White women could not. Nevertheless, poor women’s ability to move about more freely ( travel, hold down jobs, speak their minds, as long as it was in service to others) was also harnessed to facilitate the imprisonment of White women to the rigid gender roles of marriage and childbirth. (This utilization of poor Black women’s fewer, or different, social constraints, is what gave birth to the Mammy/Sapphire Stereotype.)

I have been at some pains to find articles on this subject online and the only one I could find that came close to approaching this subject, written by a White woman, focuses almost exclusively on Dolores, ignoring Maeve’s part in the greater story. I think after this week’s episode, titled  The Adversary, there will a greater focus on the part Maeve has to play in the story of Westworld’s robot rebellion, and no, it’s also not an accident that the first skirmish in the rebellion would be led by a black woman, who has no fear of death.

*This is one of my most ambitious metas, for any show I’ve reviewed this year, so let me know what you think!

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Westworld Season One: Contrapasso

Contrapasso is a reference to Dante’s Inferno, where the sinner in Hell suffers a punishment related to  the sin that was committed when they were alive. Literally the “counterstrike ” or the “counter-suffering”, which describes the relationship between the sinner and the resulting justification for their torture in Hell.

I was being a bit silly last week when I said I wished the robot rebellion would get started. I don’t actually wish that, really. I’m having  too much fun parsing all the events in this show. It’s just such a rich brew, I was jittering around in my seat like a three year old.  I heard this fifth episode was going to be mind-blowing, and the actress who said that, (Guess who?), wasn’t kidding. So I re-watched all the episodes from the beginning, so I could try to get a good handle on what’s going on. I think I succeeded in understanding about fifty (maybe 60) percent of what’s happening. I’m no dummy but (just like the writers of Hannibal) the people writing this show are waay smarter than me. But here’s my recap anyway, and perhaps by doing this I can understand what the hell I’m watching.

But before I get started I just want to talk about Westworld’s theme song at the opening of the show. If you listen carefully, it’s a parallel of what happens during the course of the series. I noticed this while watching a YouTube video of someone playing the song on piano. The theme is only about a minute and a half long, but during it, more and more discordant notes start to creep in. The song becomes darker, as flatter and  lower notes are added, so that what started out as a harmonious, innocently lovely tune, ends as something ominous, echoing the direction not just of the plot of the show, but the character arcs of the Hosts as they begin to reach for self awareness. Just like that first thunderous note, is an echo of the Park’s first death, this is a machine that has been running without a hitch for some thirty years, but lately has some troubling signs that all isn’t well, as the various anomalies start to build on each other, just like the notes of the theme.

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Okay, I have to admit I have no fucking clue who the Man in Black is,  but I’d like to believe it’s Arnold, the maker who “died” in the park. Yes, yes! I know I could be wrong because as I’ve stated before, accurate speculation is not a superpower I possess. However, I’m going to forge ahead with this theory anyway, because I like it, and there have been too many ambiguous statements from Guests, Robert Ford, and the MIB himself, leading me to believe that the MIB lost himself in the park, and reinvented himself as this villain which everyone refuses to name. My biggest clue was when Logan was talking to William about the Park’s origins, and said there were no photographs of Arnold, and that he had the hardest time finding information about him. There was also last week’s guest who recognized the MIB from the real world.

Ford is in the basement with one of his old robots talking about how he used to own a greyhound, and when he let it off its leash, it ran wild and killed a cat. He’s obviously talking about the Park, and the Hosts, which he intends to let off their leash, I guess. Ford knows what’s happening to the Hosts.  He even has some idea of what the outcome could be and he is allowing all of it to happen. The show keeps having the characters make allusions to  the violent retribution that would occur should the robots ever have their restrictions removed. Those restrictions being programmed to not harm humans and the lack of memories of what the Guests do to them.

What Ford’s ultimate purpose is, I don’t know, but it may have something to do with the rival business interests that Logan represents, and this big narrative that Ford has been designing that has been disrupting the Park’s other narratives. I’m convinced that the new backstory he gave Teddy last week, involving his relationship with Wyatt, is also a part of it all. Wyatt is the boogeyman no one has yet seen.

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Ford talks to Dolores about what happened 34 years ago. (I noticed the dates keep changing. Its 33, or 35, or 30 years ago.) We learn that Dolores was the last person to interact with Arnold. It’s also mentioned, in an earlier episode, that there hasn’t been a death in the park for over thirty years, (Arnold) and that Dolores is the last Host left from that era. Either the MIB is Arnold, or he killed Arnold. This is my supposition until I get new information, which might change next week, since this show insists on confounding me. I’m still not completely ruling  out that the MIB is a Host with Arnold’s memories loaded into it like a memory card.

Dolores divulges, in her conversation with Ford, that Arnold told her her purpose was to help him destroy Westworld. Ford is attempting to find out if the Hosts are hearing the Voice of God commands they were first programmed with. But she is lying to him about that. Someone said the most frightening thing is not a robot that can pass the Turing Test (A test to see if a robot can pass for human by engaging with a human. None of the robots in existence today have passed this test, so calm down.) but a robot that deliberately fails a Turing Test.  Dolores is deliberately pretending to be less aware than she is in this scene. She may also be doing this with William and Logan, too.

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Dolores, William, and Logan reach Pariah, along with Slim, and we meet El Lazo who happens to be a copy of the Lawrence Host that’s been accompanying the MIB on his travels. His name is Lawrence, too. Their meeting with El Lazo doesn’t start off well. He tasks them to steal a shipment of nitroglycerin from the Union army, to prove they can be trusted. It’s interesting that in this narrative, the Civil War is referenced. In the real world, the Southwestern part of the US was flooded with former slaves, after the war. There still aren’t enough Black people  in Westworld, but since this is the Southwest, the number of Hispanics is pretty high and that’s good. I’ve seen no Asian Hosts at all, and I know there were thousands working the railroads in the Southwest at that time, but that could be explained by not having the railroads be  part of Westworld’s narratives. (Why not?)

Logan does mention that at the outer fringes of the Park, things are wilder, and  less well managed.  He says he hasn’t visited those areas but I ‘m guessing that he’s too busy laying on his back to do much exploring. Logan pretty much just thinks with his dick. Yet, he’s not all that different from any of the other humans I’ve seen in this show. It’s not them being sexual creatures that bothers me, it’s that a lot of their thoughts about sex could be kept to themselves.  It turns out that the secret representative that Ford mentioned to Theresa in the last episode is actually Logan. He’s from some kind of rival business or something, looking  to invest heavily in Westworld. I’m only partially interested in this part of the narrative.

At Pariah, we get to see quite a number of Black Union soldiers in this episode stationed in the town. Also there are what El Lazo calls The Confederados. His purpose is to sell the nitro to the Confederates. Logan, William and Dolores complete their task but Slim gets shot down. Dolores later discovers it’s all a ruse, as El Lazo plans to use the nitro for his own ends, replacing what he’s given to the confederates with tequila. Dolores also has several visions of herself, and the maze, and is told she must follow it. She can feel herself becoming a new person and she does, in a sense. As a bandit, she gets a brand new wardrobe, and later when William is attacked by the Confederates, angry about the tequila sham, she is definitely “born again hard”, as she shoots down all three men threatening them. In the aftermath, she tells  William she imagined not being the damsel.

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I stood and I applauded!👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 Whoo!!! And thanks to her Host reflexes, she’s a perfect gun (wo)man. Excellent stance, shooting from the hip, and fast as fuck.  It was awesome! She also shows some tactical ability when El Lazo threatens to shoot her and William, when they try to escape on his train. Instead of aiming at him, she aims her weapon at the nitroglycerin loaded bodies sitting in coffins in the cabin with them. She is still hearing the voice in her head, as she spots the image of the maze on the train’s cargo.

Logan is in for a rough time of it when the Confederates find out they’ve been swindled. They can’t kill him but they’re going to beat his ass for a while. Apparently, the Hosts, in these  fringe narratives, can and will beat your ass if you step to them. They won’t kill you though. Earlier that evening, during the town orgy, Logan,  feeling in his element, brings out Willam’s dark side by goading and poking him about how useless his life and morality is in such a place.

William does have a dark side, though. When Logan calls for help during his beating, William,  very obviously, turns his back on him and leaves with Dolores. It’s okay. Logan will be aaiight! But I bet shit just got real for him in a way it wasn’t before. Contrapasso is definitely a reference to Logan, as he gets to experience, first hand,  something of what he’s been dishing out to the Park’s inhabitants for so many years. Dolores and William will be joining El Lazo in some kind of revolutionary war in Mexico. This will be another part of the Park we’ve not yet seen.

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As for Maeve, she is once again in house, getting her body repaired. One of the technicians servicing her, Felix,  is  just a bit wary of having her in the body shop with them. The other technician I hope has a quick and nasty death, not because of how he treated Maeve, but how he treated Felix, who has been practicing his coding skills on a small robot bird. When the other technician finds this out he screams at Felix about how he’ll never be anything other than what he is. The man is a more of an asshole than Logan, and that’s saying something. But then none of the humans in this show impress me much. I do get  the impression that this is a co-worker and not someone who has any power over anything Felix does, as Felix continues his efforts after his co-worker leaves. He’s successful at repairing the bird, but his celebration is cut short when he sees that Maeve, supposedly still in sleep mode the entire time, is wide awake and ready  to have an important conversation with him. I am looking forward to that convo myself.

Elsie is stunned to discover that the  robot she was sent to retrieve has some spy tech in its body. In order to procure access to the body, she threatens one of the young male technicians in the Body Shop, who has been having sex with the decommissioned robots, with public exposure. Next to Felix’s dress down by his co-worker, that was one of the uglier things I saw a human do, in this episode, which is important when you consider that nearly all of the humans are deplorable. She goes to Bernard with her concerns but he is noncommittal.

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But the standout event in tonight’s episode was the meeting between Ford and the MIB. After finding Teddy in the desert strung up by Wyatt’s men, he takes him with him. When Teddy’s health quotient gets too low, he bleeds out Lawrence, to give Teddy a transfusion. Accompanied by Teddy, they meet with Ford at a saloon, where Ford tries to parse out exactly what the MIBs purpose is, and if it’s really worth it. Harris character says he wants a worthy adversary to prevent him from reaching his goal. It seems like Dolores is being set up to be that Rival, as she is following the maze too.

There is no surprise in Ford’s meeting with him. The two act very much like old, if not friends, then certainly acquaintances. We get to see Teddy be a little badass. I like the how the show is gradually introducing us to  what the Hosts are capable  of. They’re not superhuman but they are more than. They’re certainly faster and stronger. We get a glimpse into how fast during Dolores shootout, and in Teddy’s automatic reaction to protect Ford, when The MIB threatens Ford with a knife. But the robots are held back by their cognitive limitations. They have no memories, don’t know what they are and there are human things they don’t comprehend, like death.

There have been a number of theories bandied about the show. One of the theories is that the scenes  with William and Dolores are flashbacks to thirty years ago, to the life of the MIB, and chronicles how he went from being a White Hat to  a Black one. That the MIB is actually William. This would also explain his acquaintance with Dolores. I’m not sure what to think about that theory though. There are certain people and characters whom we never see interact so its easy to reach that conclusion. The  Westworld logos during William’s entrance into the Park, and the ones we see with the old Ford are different.

http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/10/westworld-season-1-episode-5-recap-contrapasso-timeline-theory-lawrence-bernard-is-arnold-clone-robot

Next week, the robot rebellion begins, after which we have four more episodes to the big finale and what I would consider a successful first season for the show.

 

Wolf Creek

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So this week was the premiere of the new slasher series, Wolf Creek, which is based on the movie Wolf Creek, from 2005. It airs on the Pop Channel and is based on the true story behind the Backpack Murders that took place in New South Wales, during the 90’s. The actual killer is now serving  7 consecutive life terms.The show is filmed in Australia with a largely Australian and native supporting cast.

I’m not a fan of serial killer movies, or shows , but I decided to review this because I was curious.  This is one of my Mom’s favorite movies, even though she’s not a huge fan of serial killer movies, either. I’d watched the movie (and didn’t care for it), and wondered how the creators would turn that movie into a six part mini-series, without falling into the trap of making six hours of torture porn. I feel like the show is off to a promising start. I don’t have plans to watch the entire run, but I am intrigued, and I might.

This is largely due to the young actress who plays Eve. Eve is a former gymnast, who is on vacation with her family, after having gone through rehab for addiction to pain killers. The relationship between Eve and her father is a tense one, as he’s dealing with a lot of anger regarding her addiction, (warning for some amount of emotional abuse) but all of this doesn’t get much play because her entire family, (Mom, Dad, little brother) are murdered in the first ten minutes, before the opening credits, by Mick Taylor, who is played by John Jarratt, the actor from the film.

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When her younger brother gets attacked by an animal, Mick shoots it, and decides to hang with Eve’s family for the rest of the evening. He is a crude, but jovial man, who cracks jokes about murdering people, right before he murders people. When he makes a crude joke about Eve being on her period, she goes into the RV to listen to music and can’t hear her family being slaughtered, just outside.  I thought the murder of Eve’s family would play out a lot longer ,as we got to know them, but that doesn’t appear to be the show’s focus. You know its going to happen but Mick attacks them so suddenly that it still manages to be a surprise.

He shoots Eve too but she manages to survive. Now suffering from her wounds, and survivor’s guilt, she has dedicated herself to tracking down the man who killed her family. I found this intriguing because I went into this with a certain set of expectations, and the show managed to upturn those, from time to time. I thought for certain Eve would be blamed for the death of her family, and while the idea is brought up, its also quickly shot down.

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I also thought Eve’s  story wouldn’t be believed, but Sullivan Hill is the one cop in Australia who believes her, having kept track of several of Mick’s murders for some time. Sullivan is played by Dustin Clare and you may remember him from Strikeback and Spartacus. I don’t but then I consider Sullivan to be a rather bland character.

It’s obvious that all the character focus  is going to be on Eve, as Sullivan doesn’t make much of an impression, beyond being blandly handsome. No there is no sexual tension set up between these two, at least not on Eve’s part, although I think Sullivan is intrigued. Understanding what she is about to do after she steals one of his casefiles, he sets off in pursuit of the strongheaded girl.

I did ask myself what the Hell it is that Eve thinks she’s going to do when she catches up to Mick, but I’m not too worried about that now. She’s been shown to have some amount of grit and backbone, and the rest of the season will consist of a cat and mouse game being played between her and Mick.

I like that the show is  so female-centric. The story is entirely focused on Eve, and her point of view, so there’s an element of that “Final Girl” quality that I always thought was an interesting trope for such films. We spend very little time in Mick’s presence which is probably a good thing. He thinks he’s hilarious but the show never presents him as comedy relief, even if you laugh at some of the things he says. His good humor only serves to make him more terrifying, as he greatly enjoys killing, and is just doing all this for fun. There’s only so much of that type of mindset you want to be exposed to. (There’s even a Crocodile Dundee joke thrown in.) Both he and Eve appear to be about equal in intelligence and drive, so Eve winning this contest of wills is not necessarily a foregone conclusion.

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Despite all these things to recommend it, I would advise caution for those who are more sensitive. The show is exceptionally gory. At least for the first ten minutes, it does not stint in showing Mick killing Eve’s family, and  shows him shooting a child. So you may be happier skipping the first few minutes, after which the show calms down somewhat (but its still very bloody.)

I may actually watch next week’s episode which airs on Friday. It looks like a good substitute for The Exorcist, which is beginning to drag.

Westworld Epis. 3: The Stray

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This particular episode of Westworld was helmed by one of my favorite directors, Neil Marshall, the director of The Descent and Doomsday, two of the best female oriented action/horror movies made in the past ten years, and Dog Soldiers, the only werewolf vs.soldier movie worth looking at.

The information  is flying fast and fierce, and if you blink, or get up to go to the bathroom, you will have to re-watch, because you’ll have missed some crucial element of the plot that will pay off later. We get answers to some nagging little questions, and backstories for the humans and the Hosts.

James Marsden’s character, Teddy Flood,  finally gets a backstory, courtesy of Robert Ford, which is loosely connected to the origin of Westworld. It involves Teddy’s  pursuit of an evil character named Wyatt (not the MIB, as far as I can tell, but I could be wrong). Teddy has things to say about Wyatt, an old friend of his he used to serve under in the military, who deserted his career, went out into the landscape, and came back with what Teddy calls “strange ideas”. Wyatt claimed to hear “The Voice of God” and we’ll get back to that in a moment.

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Dolores’ and Teddy’s story is  deepened as we are shown their budding romance, and their plans to  ride off into the sunset together, one day. Its funny and interesting to watch the Hosts interacting with each other like regular people because I have to keep reminding myself they’ve been programmed to do this.

Dolores is still adjusting to her new state of consciousness, and Wright’s character, Bernard, is fascinated with it. He still hasn’t had Dolores re-coded, or decommissioned, and it became obvious last episode that the consciousness she possesses is contagious, (so it won’t take long until Teddy is also infected I’m guessing.)  Bernard’s head programmer, Elsie, is becoming increasingly suspicious of why he refuses to correct this problem.

I did kind of get tired of seeing Dolores be  bossed around as anybody’s meat. The creators of the park have made her nothing more than a perpetual victim and it was kind of nice to see her take charge and defend herself for the first time.

Teddy tries to teach her how to shoot but it turns out that the weapons  use protocol is something  given only to specific Hosts, like Teddy, and the stray mentioned in the title. Dolores is  incapable of pulling the trigger. But thanks to her secret conversations with Bernard, and reading a specific passage in Alice in Wonderland that he’d given to her, she is able to transcend her programming and shoot one of the Hosts who’d been intending to rape her. Bernard would be proud of her. Its a great scene, where Dolores memories, of what happened to her, save her life, as the camera flips back and forth between the past and the present.

About all those rape threats: The creators were questioned about this before the show aired and they assured viewers that it exists in the show for a reason, and that there would be payoff. I was initially dubious of this claim because it’s HBO. and known for its depictions of violence against women, but I’ve changed my mind since then. I think it is serving a purpose in showing the evolution of the hosts, and of Dolores, in particular.

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Its also nice to see what I talked about in my last review. During this episode, Teddy has been accompanied by an unnamed female Guest, only ever referred to as his “dickless associate”, who has decided to go for the gunslinger experience. This is her adventure happening simultaneous with William’s and his boorish friend, Logan, and a couple of other Guests, and she turns out to be both tougher and braver than all of them. You can also tell she’s having the time of her life as she shoots down men, and cozies up to Clementine, for a discount. (I also want to point out that Clementine is absolutely gorgeous and a lot of Hosts and Guests seem to have crushes on her. Apparently she is a Park favorite.)

Interestingly, the adventure they’re all on, hunting down Wyatt along the river, with cannibals and Natives, is pretty much the exact scenario of the narrative that Ford gave short shrift to in the last episode. I was under the impression that the Red River narrative had been stalled, but the adventure we see in this episode contains all the narrative elements that Sizemore discussed in his pitch last week, and I wonder if he introduced that narrative without anyone’s  permission. Notice that all the Hosts in this scene are holding weapons.

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William decides to go on an adventure to hunt down some other outlaw, and Logan reluctantly decides to tag along.William, who has just been firmly confirmed as a White Hat, has just saved the life of Clementine, and was shot for his trouble. Apparently Guests can be shot, and it does hurt, I guess, because he falls down, but Guests can’t be killed. What he was hit with, I don’t know. Its also said by Logan that their adventures in Westworld cost some 40 thousand dollars a day. So yeah, you have to be making some nice dough to afford regular visits.

We get  more backstory on Bernard. He lost his  young son at some point in the last year and Ford is concerned that he is using the Hosts as a substitute. Bernard is still in touch with his wife (ex-wife), Lauren, played by the Goddess Gina Torres, while sleeping with Cullen, (Westworld’s operations director), on the downlow. He goes to Ford to express concerns about the Hosts, concerns brought to him by Elsie. Ford explains that he used to have a partner named Arnold, and this is where the “voice of God” idea comes in, which also ties in the philosophy of “bicameralism”.

(Bicameralism (the philosophy of “two-chamberedness”) is a hypothesis in psychology that argues that the human mind once assumed a state in which cognitive functions were divided between one part of the brain which appears to be “speaking”, and a second part which listens and obeys—a bicameral mind. The term was coined by Julian Jaynes, who presented the idea in his 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, wherein he made the case that a bicameral mentality was the normal and ubiquitous state of the human mind as recently as 3000 years ago.   Wikipedia)

At some point, Arnold was going to program the Hosts with this feature, which would allow the Hosts to overcome their basic programming, and interact in any situation, but Arnold killed himself before it could be implemented. There’s the implication here that Ford may have had something to do with Arnold’s death as the two of them disagreed about this endeavor. The new programming that Ford has implemented “The Reveries” that allows Dolores to overcome her inability to use weapons, comes to her as the Voice of God, but only after she remembers being tortured by the MIB. The Host that went batshit last episode, and killed a bunch of Hosts before pouring milk on them,  was seen speaking to a voice only he could hear, named Arnold.

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Ford shows Bernard a picture of Arnold, and no, he doesn’t look like Ed Harris character, but he does look sorta like Wyatt. (Not saying he is Wyatt, just that they look alike to me.)

The Stray of the title refers to a lost Host who has wandered off and gotten trapped in some gulch in, the desert. Hilariously, the group of outlaws he was with, have been caught in a kind of feedback loop, unable to move forward in the narrative because none of them possess the “weapons protocol “, and that Stray is the one Host in their group that  is allowed to handle the ax. So they have been sitting in the same place for two days, staring at a decaying jackrabbit, because there’s no fire, arguing about who is going to cut the firewood, as none of them can pick up the ax, but they don’t understand why.

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Ashley, Westworld’s Head of Security, played by Luke Hemsworth, (the brother of the taller, and prettier Liam) and Elsie go hunting for the Stray, and this is  quite a pairing, as Elsie is a master of the snarky putdown and deploys some of  her best at Ashley, who grows increasingly irritated. When they find the Host, Ashley goes down into the gulch to take its head (to decommission it), it attacks and climbs free, but rather than bludgeoning Elsie with a large rock, it kills itself instead.

So there was a lot of information packed into this episode, and the mystery of the Maze and the Man in Black is slowly unfolding as viewers speculate if he is actually Arnold. Ford did say Arnold had gone insane and died in the park and Ed Harris character says he was born there. We find the Stray has gone haywire in the same manner, as Elsie finds a small stone version of the maze in his tent. She pockets it and doesn’t tell Ashley.

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And here’s another perspective from Tumblr:

The above actor’s performance (Louis Herthum seriously shook me) , Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, and Anthony Hopkins being in this sold me in the pilot.

Haven’t had a bit of genre haunt me like that since the second episode of Black Mirror.

On to my bulleted thoughts on it, so far:

  • As a black viewer, I couldn’t help comparing how the Hosts are used as entertainment, fun props to use to make the Guest “feel something new”  while they themselves are seen as non-entities.  In fact, it is mandated that they be dehumanized in every non-Westworld setting.  Reminds me, specifically of how black entertainment is used in a similar way by non-blacks, while the people are often seen as disposable.
  • Likewise, Dolores and Maeve’s narratives,  I see as apt metaphors of aspects of misogyny and misogynoir.  Dolores and Maeve both embody the perfect Virgin/Whore dichotomy, and their casting, in terms of race  and look are incredibly on the nose with casting and viewer constantly placing women like them in those roles;  exotic” unbreakable whore and virginal damsel.
  • Jeffrey Wright is my absolute favorite working actor.  Period.  Ever since, of all things, the remake of Shaft and then going back to watch him in Basquiat.  I adore his precision.  He’s one if I hear he’s in it, I will watch it, right along with Michael Shannon.  …I think Bernard may be a Host.
  • The Man in Black was there for the last “accident” 30 years ago and that is the reason for obsession with the ultimate quest.  That is a definite hat-tip to the original movie, which I am also a fan of, despite it being very different from this incarnation.  I also think that’s why it “isn’t for him.”  despite his loyal patronage.
  • The actual purpose of the Hosts, which Theresa Cullen hinted at, I think both she and Bernard are doing their best to coax from the Hosts as comes from orders above Ford’s head.
  • Maeve’s awakening on the table along with Dolores’ original father’s glitch and subsequent shelving were absolutely the most heartbreaking parts of the show for me, thus far.
  • LOL @ Teddy, the man who “has to lose”  in order for the Guests to feel like winners being played by James (Perpetual Second Fiddle in EVERYTHING) Marsden.
  • This show has been blessed by that cameo by GINA TORRES  ❤
  • I have seen Jimmi Simpson shine in so many day player roles over the years,  I’m happy to see him getting bigger featured roles.
  • All the gamer stereotypes are on this show, the newbie,  the pro,  the troll, the filthy casual, the girl gamer (my favorite so far, she’s the only one who  is actually in full rp mode actually enjoying playing”) and on and on.
  • OMG!!!! this show is chock full scenery porn, both western and speculative.  Lord, the details.  ❤
  • I am thoroughly intrigued and here for this show until it’s end or quality dips.
  • The diversity of Hosts and Guests in both race and sexual orientation is much appreciated.
  • I also can’t wait to see Tessa Thompson show up.

Luke Cage: Shouting Out

There’s gonna be some spoilers here, just like  all the Luke Cage stuff I post. Lots and lots of spoilers. So if you haven’t watched the series, but plan to, read at your own risk.

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The opening credits  reminded me  of the legend of John Henry, as images of city buildings are transposed over the muscular body of Luke Cage. They’re also in keeping with the general aesthetic of the Netflix MCU  opening credits. The plot itself is a typical MCU tv series plot. You have a protagonist who isn’t looking to be a hero because of some past betrayal or trauma, the nemesis who is personal to the hero and wants to take him or her down, various side characters the hero might have to save or become deeply important to them during the series run, the hero becomes increasingly endangered, the eventual takedown of their nemesis, usually during a big fight scene. 

It’s a typical MCU plot. But it’s the stuff layered over this basic plot, the characterizations, and background scenery, that makes Luke Cage extraordinary for Marvel. We get sounds and images not seen in any of the other MCU projects. For example:

Luke Cage is a reader. (I haven’t read too much about the literary mentions in this  series, but I  have read most of the authors mentioned in the show, and was hoping for some articles on the subject.) We see Luke reading in the barbershop in which he works. Walter Mosely, Donald Goines, and  Chester Himes all get shoututs while Luke helps Pop at his barbershop, which is a fitting base of operations for him, as such shops (beauty parlours for the women) are often the cornerstones, and information warehouses, for a neighborhood.

 Pops is partial to the vigilante, Kenyatta, created by Donald Goines, while Luke prefers the characters of  Chester Himes, and we can see him reading one of Walter Mosley’s books in this opening scene, when he mentions he’s a fan of Easy Rawlings, the character from Devil in a Blue Dress. Later, he mentions Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. All of these writers specialize in writing great American hero thrillers, involving Detectives, and various independents, fighting corrupt systems. Basically they’re heroic power fantasies, like comic books but without the superpowers and costumes, and the show does have the flavor of such novels, and contains plot points right out of a few of them. 

Contrast Luke’s reading material with Cottonmouth’s and Diamondback’s influences, neither of whom we see doing a lot of reading. He and Diamondback are fans of Green’s 48 Laws of Power, with several mentions of the movie, New Jack City, which was also about a Black man making criminal power plays in his neighborhood. I’ve  read Robert Green, and no, it is not an instruction manual on how to live, any  more than Machiavelli ‘s The Prince . It’s a meant to be a manual about how to recognize when and what power tactics are being used against you. A lot of young men use it as a manual on how to be a better criminal, but  its mostly meant as a way to recognize political corruption, not how to do it. But it’s very popular amongst a certain class of powerless, young, black men, who seek knowledge, and guidance, but don’t have anyone in their life to give them those things. That Diamondback was a fan of that book wasn’t the least surprising to me. 

In fact, I was able to predict a lot of the actions of most of the criminals in the series because a lot of their choices come right out of those books. (Also, I must be pretty criminal minded because a lot of their actions make sense within the idea of impersonal criminal activity.) From who to kill, to who to leave alive, and why. From who to betray, to immediate alliances. The only character whose actions I couldn’t predict were Diamondback’s because he had  deeply personal daddy issues, and was most likely insane. (This series version of The Joker.)

Chess gets referenced a lot in the show, but there are other types of game players.Pops has a permanent chess board set up in the shop and Turk mentions playing in the park. (Chess playing for black people is a little different activity, and a tradition to play it in the park, in NY.)  For contrast look at how Mariah plays the game, vs. how Diamondback plays it. Mariah is always several moves ahead of everyone and  is a total natural. She likes to disguise her moves as something else, and has a focused vision of her future. She is a natural Queen. (The opposing Queen would be Misty, with her nearly supernatural ability to overview and  reconstruct a crime scene). Diamondback is unsubtle and direct, and  most of the chess players (like Shades) are totally stymied by his actions. They think Diamondback is playing chess, when he’s playing something else, ( Hungry Hungry Hippos or gob knows what.)

As for musical references, Luke seems to like Jazz, and old school hip hop from back inna day, (although it’s not unusual for us to have very wide ranging tastes in music, as most of us grow up listening to, and adopting, some of our parents musical tastes, as I did.)  Method Man makes an appearance later in the series, spitting fire about Luke, over the local radio station. The local radio station is also a classic of the socially conscious black movie, (think The Warriors, Do the Right Thing, The Get Down). I’m from the Midwest and  we have that one radio station that everybody in the neighborhood listens to, along with our own homegrown rap stars. (If you’re a fan of Bone Thugs, then you know where I hang.) If you’re a fan of Gang Starr,  then you also know that the series titles are all titles of their songs. I’m not a Gang Starr fan, though. 

Cottonmouth seems  to be a fan of 90s rap. He has a huge poster of Biggie Smalls on the wall of his office, and mentions Tupac and New Jack City. Later he invites Biggie’s wife, Faith Evans to sing in his club, which is only fitting. My favorite stage entertainer was the dapper,  Jidenna, who sang Long Live the Chief. It’s one of my favorite songs and scenes. 

I’m not actually a huge rap music fan, though. I know enough to get by and hold a conversation. I recognized music from The Wu Tang Clan, Tupac, and Public Enemy, but I probably missed about half the musical references. Down below are links clocking all of the biggest musical, and comic book moments, in the series.

Later, we get a little more old school, mellower music, like The Stylistics’ People Make the World Go Round, which is one of my favorite songs. And when Mariah takes over Cottonmouth’s club, we can see she prefers classics  like, The Delfonics (actually Cottonmouth was watching them rehearse). Mariah manages to hire Susan Jones and The Dap Kings, which is one of my favorite retro-groups. She name drops some of her favorite Jazz artists, as does Pop, earlier in the show.

The entire series is basically a love letter to the entirety of Black culture., and the references come fast and furious. It’s almost impossible to catch all of them.  There were some Jazz shoutouts but since I’m not a huge Jazz listener, outside of the biggies, I can’t speak deeply on that at all, but a lot of the music in the series I grew up listening to, and is part of the background story of my life. The producer, Cheo Hodari-Coker, must be in my age range because a lot of the music had resonance for me, and I’m not even a huge rap music fan, like that. I’m pretty sure there were lots of musical references I didn’t  catch. 

On the other hand, I caught most of the comic book references. From Pop calling Luke “Power Man”, as he was called in the books, to Misty pulling down a poster for martial arts training, that was put up by her future partner, Colleen Wing, who will be making her debut in the Iron Fist series. From the mentions of The Incident (the Chitauri invasion in The Avengers), to Diamondback’s outfit, which is a callback to his look in the comic books, to Luke’s headband, and bracelets during the experiment where he got his powers, to Misty Knight’s red outfit, and blowout at the end  of the series, reminiscent of her full out ‘do in the comic books, this series is full of comic book love. 

And most importantly, no Stan Lee cameo.

Here’s a list of the comic book references:

Did ‘Luke Cage’ Break Netflix? Outage Leaves Saturday Bingers In Dark
Here’s a rundown of the most important musical references by episode:

Marvel’s ‘Luke Cage’: Every important musical moment

*Please note these links contain spoilers, and that the comments for these websites are not safe for black people to be reading because there’s going to be all manner of white male nonsense in them. Don’t bother to read them if you have a low tolerance for racial foolishness. (Foolishness which the klandom has already gotten started engaging in.)

 

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