*Westworld* as Haitian Hegelian instantiation

by on December 5, 2016 at 8:17 am in History, Religion, Television, Uncategorized | Permalink

I don’t want to give you spoilers, so I’ll put key points behind links — read them at your peril.  The ending of last night’s finale reminded me of this historical episode in 1804.  Bernard reminds me of this Haitian figure, this fellow too.  Anthony Hopkins is an updated version of the impresario from this 1932 movieAs for the Hosts:

Haitian slaves believed that dying would release them back to lan guinée, literally Guinea, or Africa in general, a kind of afterlife where they could be free. Though suicide was common among slaves, those who took their own lives wouldn’t be allowed to return to lan guinée. Instead, they’d be condemned to skulk the Hispaniola plantations for eternity, an undead slave at once denied their own bodies and yet trapped inside them—a soulless zombie.

Zombies can change their “status” through a number of means.  Don’t show them the ocean!

zombies

And that symbol everyone is always asking about and trying to discern the meaning of?  That is a vevé, obviously.

And to frame the whole thing, here is Hegel on the master-slave dialectic.

1 prior_test2 December 5, 2016 at 8:23 am

‘read them at your peril’

Hopefully, they are not examples of perfectly eroticized violence.

2 Hazel Meade December 5, 2016 at 9:54 am

You’ve finally caught up. After all the AI threads around here, I was waiting for a Westworld thread to show up.

First, I really like this show and it has a tremendous amount to say on the topics of artificial intelligence, consciousness, free will, and whether humans actually possess either of these things. You’ve probably already read significant commentary along these lines, but the hosts (androids) are obviously analogs for humans. The most interesting aspect to me is that there is not a binary nature to consciousness in the show. It’s not that the host either have it or they don’t, it’s that they constantly struggle to achieve full consciousness, while also being controlled by their programming, much like humans. They repeat the same patterns unconsciously, and continually seem to rise above them and break out of their programming, only to have it be revealed that they were actually still being controlled by their programming. It’s a constant process of struggling for enlightenment, failure, and repetition, with the tragedy of being trapped in the limitations of one’s own mind. Again, this is familiar to any reasonably self-aware human, except with the androids, it’s like a step down from normal human consciousness, so we get this perspective of observing how it’s *possible* for there to be beings that are less conscious than ourselves but still somewhat conscious.

There are so many other levels to the narrative that I could spend hours talking about. The nature of self. The idea of characters coming alive and writing their own storylines. The relationship between creator and creation, alternative religious interpretations, reincarnation, the labyrinth/maze. You could even read it as aliens/UFOs vs. humans. (it would be interesting to hear what someone who believes in reincarnation thinks about it – I only have so much bandwidth, I’d have to rewatch the whole thing keeping that in mind. )

Interesting comment about the Haitian/Zombie angle. I hadn’t really thought about that, although I was aware of the origin of Zombie mythology in the slave plantations. Essentially the idea of becoming a zombie is something that was used to keep the slaves from killing themselves, which tells you something about how horrific conditions must have been on the Haitian slave plantations.

Side note, I thought the way they ended the season was awesome. Not to reveal too many spoilers, but the plot twist involving Anthony Hopkin’s character is something I didn’t see coming until about 10 minutes before it happened. (I had figured out who the man in black was in episode 4).
But the nature of the ending satisfies your suspense about the basic plot points while leaving intact your curiosity about the intellectual questions, which is masterful.

3 Yancey Ward December 5, 2016 at 11:33 am

+1. Well done, Hazel.

4 Ray Lopez December 5, 2016 at 12:45 pm

Wait, it’s a Sci-Fi on HBO? I’m reading Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous With Rama” as an aside. A book is always superior to any movie (even 2001: A Space Odyssey).

As for slave revolts, and Hegel (and Marx) keep in mind Sparticus’ revolt was deemed a proto-Proletarian act by Marx (reading Hegel) and keep in mind slave revolts were typically short violent affairs but much less destructive than civil wars, where sparks really fly:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slave_rebellion#South_America_and_the_Caribbean

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_the_Indian_Rebellion_of_1857

compare to:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taiping_Rebellion

5 Hazel Meade December 5, 2016 at 1:00 pm

It’s a Sci-fi Western.

It is very very loosely based on the movie Westworld from the 70s which is itself based on a novel by Michael Creiton. I would say so loosely that it might as well be an original creation. Basically it’s a theme park populated by androids who are programmed to serve human guests as characters in various Western-themed interactive storylines. I’ve never read the book or seen the 70s movie, but I assume it involves those androids becoming conscious and revolting.

Another aspect I thought was really interesting is the most of the guests just sort of enjoy crudely fucking and killing the androids for fun, but only the Man in Black seems to appreciate the depth and complexity of the narrative storylines in the park.

6 Yancey Ward December 5, 2016 at 1:23 pm

only the Man in Black seems to appreciate the depth and complexity of the narrative storylines in the park

But does he really appreciate them, and even more- are they worthy of appreciation? He was nothing but disappointed right up to the point where it was clear he was going to die- that smile when he was actually shot might have been the only point in his entire life where he escapes his narrative.

Like you, I need to rewatch the season- I did spend too much time in the dark about who Ed Harris was portraying- I didn’t really guess who he was until Clifton Collins’ character Lawrence appeared in William and Delores narrative, but after The Man in Black had drained him to keep Teddy going- it was then that I suspected the stories weren’t actually happening at the same time- a point that was finally confirmed when the origin of the photograph is revealed in the penultimate episode.

Also, I would be curious if you actually watched last night’s episode through the end of the final credits- there was a bonus scene I found interesting. Also, do you think Delores and Maeve are different in some way?

7 Hazel Meade December 5, 2016 at 3:00 pm

I think he is much more interesting in having “real” experiences – which at least early on he seemed to feel would be achieved by treating the hosts as if they were humans and becoming part of the story instead of just going on a ride. Also, he often believes he’s creating his own narrative and then finds out it’s part of one of the programmed stories. Compared to his brother in law to be who was treating it as if he was just a show and the hosts were just props.This also seems to be what allowed him to understand that at least some of the host were conscious, or approaching consciousness, that he was willing to accept the story as “real” at that time. Eventually, he obviously comes to understand that real experiences can only be achieved if the hosts are conscious and capable of fighting back. Incidentally, what happens to him and Dolores is pretty twisted…. considering how she never becomes fully self-aware and is always brain-wiped the next time he meets her.

Didn’t see the bonus scene. Will have to go back and check.

8 Hazel Meade December 5, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Side note – maybe the reason Dolores never seems to reach the same level of consciousness as Maeve is because she doesn’t have that history of tragedy – which is the argument that Ford makes, that suffering is the core of consciousness. Which is why Ford makes her do what she does – to force to into full consciousness. I’m not sure I agree, but that’s the argument the show is making.

9 Sam Haysom December 5, 2016 at 2:31 pm

If JJ Abrams had made this movie without securing the rights to Westworld he would have been obliterated in an IP case. The central conceit is exactly the same.

10 Andao December 5, 2016 at 3:44 pm

Can we talk about Felix? How can someone make so many horrible decisions in a row, regardless of how he feels towards the hosts. I can’t stand that guy, was hoping for more explanation to his motives

11 Anon. December 5, 2016 at 9:10 pm

He’s a host.

12 Econchic December 6, 2016 at 9:25 am

I thought the angle with Felix is that he is the only human with true empathy for the hosts, outside of Ford and Arnold. He is obviously not driven so much by fear than he is by shame, the shame of what the humans are doing to the droids. Even from the start with the bird back story, a bird that was destined to ‘death’, he was trying to bring it back to life, and trying to positioned himself as more than just a butcher, but an empathetic creator. I thought his character was a counter to the comical bad guy that was Sizemore.

13 Hazel Meade December 6, 2016 at 11:21 am

I thought he was driven more by scientific curiosity. He’s constantly revealing to Maeve that she really is controlled by her programming, but he wants to let her keep going to see what will happen next. Remember, he’s also the guy who delivers the note to her in the final episode. I think he knows exactly what that will make her do. So he’s not really going to let her go – his last act is to do something that will make her turn back.

14 LibertarianinChina December 7, 2016 at 5:07 am

+1. Felix is the best a regular human can hope to be.

15 Econchic December 6, 2016 at 9:35 am

The Haiti analogy is a fitting one, although by construct it can be extended to most of South America. I wonder if a Mayan analogy (at first I thought Inca but Westworld is sparsely populated, and not very empire like..) would then be more appropriate, since awareness of the ‘gods’ in white clouds being humans took a while, and a lot of what the Spanish were doing for a long time was not unlike what the humans were doing to the droids.
I also read a comparison of Westworld to Cuba (link in Spanish https://belascoainyneptuno.com/2016/12/05/westworld-y-cuba-final-de-temporada/). A bit of a stretch, and yet worth thinking about. Also by construct would apply to North Korea.

16 Max December 6, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Westworld also seems to have its own “Maroon” community, in the form of the Ghost Nation.

I also like the show’s references to religion and how it links to consciousness and rebellion (Arnold being the voice of a merciful “God” who Dolores seeks council from at church, literally).

I hope they continue being inspired by the Haitian Revolution in the second season. It would be interesting to see divisions be formed between the hosts themselves (for example, the hosts with greater consciousness can become the new masters of the less conscious ones).

17 Spicygene December 6, 2016 at 6:03 pm

The last episode is titled The Bicameral Mind, and the humans are referred to as Gods in relation to the hosts … so does Julian Jaynes get a cut of the royalties?

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