SPOILER ALERT. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE NEW HBO SERIES ‘WESTWORLD’, UNDERSTAND I’M GOING TO BE TALKING ABOUT IT. I MEAN, THAT SHOULD BE PRETTY CLEAR FROM THE TITLE.
Westworld is a new series on HBO. The intellectual property, on the other hand, is a couple decades old. Westworld was originally a movie written and directed by the late Michael Crichton, and it premiered in 1973. In the movie, Westworld is one of three amusements parks that sits alongside Medieval world and Roman world in the near future of 1983. Tourists pay the astronomical price of one thousand dollars to spend a day in the park. The parks are filled with androids, and you can indulge in sexual encounters or a fight to the death. The androids are programmed to be incapable of violence against the tourists. Until, of course, something goes wrong. A computer virus begins to affect the androids, who are now able to maim and kill people.
HBOs series follows roughly the same plot, except there’s a lot more focus on the engineers building and maintaining the world. There’s only Westworld here, and again, the price of admission makes the park available to only the incredibly wealthy. There’s a pretty drastic change in tone, though. Michael Crichton’s Westworld was an amusement park. It was a place where you’d sleep with an android, get into a fake bar room brawl, drink a pile of whisky, and get into a shootout with the park’s antagonist, ‘The Gunslinger’ played by Yul Brynner. The HBO’s version is a lot… darker.
I like dark. I’m a huge fan of black humour. But Westworld in 2066, where the show takes place, doesn’t really seem like an amusement park. First off, the androids are made from flesh and bones. They bleed. They feel pain. And tourists can do whatever they please to these more-human-than-machine androids. Always wanted to scalp a person? Knock yourself out. Want to mow down a large swath of people? We’ve got a storyline just for you. Feel like killing children? Come to Westworld to experience the realest child killing you can do without actually killing a child. It seems more like a place where sociopaths go to live out their wildest desire. At the same time, as monstrous as some of the tourists seem to be, if Westworld was real, it would probably play out more similarly to the online games we have today.
The problem isn’t Westworld. It’s the fact that I can’t rent out the place, by myself, and have an adventure, by myself. This is how I would imagine the scenarios would actually be played out.
Scenario #1: The mysterious Salesperson at the Tack and Trade.
I’ve just gotten to Westworld. I’m wearing a sleek duster, and some killer cowboy boots. My hat is on point. I’m getting a horse at the Tack and Trade, the local store. A burly man with a mean mustache is running the joint. We start to talk, shooting the breeze. He takes me outside and shows me my new horse. It’s a majestic white stallion. We go back inside to square up. He leans over the counter and begins to tell me a story, a story of buried treasure and a map he has in his possession. I’m intrigued, the plot thickens. All of sudden, another tourist starts shooting. He’s not shooting any of the people, mind you. He’s shooting the horses. He shoots my horse. I go outside, to find my beautiful animal full of holes. The perpetrator, dressed in green neon leather chaps and a pink fuzzy cowboy hat, looks me right in the eyes, and proceeds to teabag the dead horse. He screams “***BLAZE420*** representing 2Short Clan!” He then flips me off and walks away. I have lost the immersion.
Scenario #2: My Hired Gun.
I’ve gone to the next town over, walking there because all the horses in the previous town were shot. On the way over, I met a strange man. He is out in the desert, dying of thirst. I give him a long pull from my canteen. He’s grateful, saying he was left out to die here. I tell him I’m headed to the town close by, but I’m new to these parts and could use a guide. He says hell to that, he won’t be my guide, but my bodyguard. I’ve given him his life back, and now he has a life debt to pay to me. We start walking to the town, only to have a man on a horse chase us down. His horse is silver and has rockets on the side. He screams “They said you’d be dying in the desert!” He hops off his horse, and begins walking toward my new companion. This new threat is not very tall. Instead of running, my bodyguard pulls down his pants, turns around and presents himself to this new man. They proceed to copulate, with the small man screaming “How do you like this, Brian Treverson? How does it feel to be fucked by the great Anthony Sung?”. My bodyguard continues to thank Anthony repeatedly. It’s only later that I find out billionaire Tony Sung paid extra for the privilege of having an android modeled after a bully he dealt with in college. That android just happened to be the one I rescued. I have lost the immersion.
Scenario #3: The Beautiful Bar Room Stranger.
I make it to town. I decide a stiff drink is in order, so I head to the saloon. Piano music plays a ragtime ditty, and I stand at the bar. A coin is slapped on the bar, and soon I’ve procured a bottle of whiskey. I pour myself a drink, when a lovely young thing saunters up to me. “Mind if I have a taste, Mr…” I once again nod at the bartender, and he brings another glass. “Mr. Charlton,” I say. “The Illustrious Mr. Charlton”. We both take a sip. Her eyes dart around the room. “Mr. Charlton, we’ve found you at last. I’m a United States Marshal, and we’re in desperate need of men like…” she’s interrupted by an incredibly intoxicated man who bursts into the saloon. He belches uncontrollably. He gets up on top of a card table and exclaims to the bar “I’ve been eating nothing but HoHos and packaged noodles for three weeks. Let me show you my collection.” He then drops his drawers and defecates all over the card table. “No Rules!” he says in a singsong voice “NOOOOOO RUUUUULLLLES.” He’s not an android, and the stench is real. I begin to vomit, the smell is too much. I have lost the immersion.
When I first started watching Westworld, I couldn’t imagine what kind of person would go there. When I thought about it for a minute, I realized exactly what kind of person would go there, and that group is not being represented in the show. To anyone with the vision of a future theme park with no rules, just remember one thing; People will take you up on that, and they might start breaking the rules in ways you never imagined.
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. Tell me, Anthony Hopkins. You’ve built an incredible world, but how would you keep the trolls out?
p.s.s. You remember Martin Shkreli? Tell me he wouldn’t spend a week in Westworld ruining everyone else’s time.