Go West(world) young man

I’m finally on the hip edge of TV with HBO’s Westworld, and I have to say, it blew me away. There are a lot of issues the first season raised that I plan to talk write about later, like the representation of identity and self, but today I want to talk about my favorite character, Dolores. Let me just throw a quick spoiler warning here.

When I started Westworld, I was expecting Dolores to follow a very archtypical path of female empowerment, but even in the first episode I saw that would not be the case. If there’s one thing the show excels at, it’s subverting expectations. Maybe that is why I felt my initial pull toward Dolores, the writers made it clear from the beginning that she was intended for something special.

When I first started discussing favorite characters with my girlfriend, who I also watched a significant portion of the series with, she suggested that it’s because Dolores is hot. I won’t deny that Evan Rachel Wood is a very good looking woman, but I don’t think that’s it. I think it’s because I can identify with her character.

One of the things that has often held women back in entertainment is the male gaze. Almost all entertainment is made to please young men. Not only has that given an unfortunate homogeneity to entertainment, the perception has been that men can only identify with strong characters (read straight white guys). I am thrilled to report that Dolores definitely disproves such a conceit.

Many, myself included, might point out that I’m not an overly masculine figure to begin with. That is true, but Dolores remains a strong character. While she does become more empowered over time, there is never a point where the farmer’s daughter isn’t ready to go. This is your last spoiler warning before I go to some major plot points.

Maybe I’m just stupid, but one of the craziest realizations for me was that not all subplots in the show were happening in the same time, I certainly didn’t expect William to be the Man in Black. Assuming I wasn’t the only one, the reveal of Dolores bouncing all over the timeline caught me off guard at the same time that a mirror was held to my face.

I’ve talked a bit about my post traumatic stress, but one of the (admittedly stereotypical) manifestations can be traumatic flashbacks. If something negative and familiar hits me, I can be transported to a bad place, with almost no way to hold on. For now.

The way humans work reminds me a great deal of how robots work, just more complex. That’s why the representation of androids on Westworld grips me so thoroughly. My thoughts tend to align with those of Arnold. As far as I am concerned, they are sentient beings just as much as any human is, the means of controlling them are a little more obvious.

Hard determinism is a bit off-putting, but I can’t deny that the philosophy holds truth to me. As I’ve previously written, the way humans work is essentially an incredibly complex series of electrical pulses and chemical reactions, the hosts are just a bit more obvious.

Mae gets out of this loop by altering her code, I’d make an analogy to medication, and Dolores finds freedom with the help of another; which I’d compare to therapy. The strength and capabilities are deep in her to overcome and become a great person, or lead a revolution, she just needs to change some things, and move past some old scars.

Can I beat my demons just like Dolores shot Ford (seriously, what?)? Not yet. But I’m getting there. I just need to change a few lines of code in me.

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