In the original movie version produced in 1973 the first Host to begin to gain consciousness was played by Yul Brynner (2016 seems to be the year of remaking Yul Brynner works with The Magnificent Seven, as well as Westworld getting make-overs). It probably helps to consider the deliberate changes that the Westworld reboot has made. In the original it was the gun-slinging male that became aware after countless days of being killed over and over again. In this Westworld it is not a strong, cowboy character but the female Host designed to be the innocent, pure embodiment of prairie Americana. The writers chose to tell this new story from a woman’s perspective and that change lets us view the first few episodes in a new light.
When we were young we were taught to aspire to be like Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). Strong, but not too strong. Independent enough to manage the farm and home but not so defiant as to challenge the status quo. A beautiful, but modest, woman that waits in patient grace for her man to appear. Her voice is soft, her manner gentle, and when she wakes in the morning a soft, subtle light greets her.
Her instinctive reaction, when questioned by Barnard (Jeffrey Wright), is to ask “Have I done something wrong? Made a mistake?” Aren’t those the questions women feel that they most instinctively ask? And don’t they take on a much more sinister undertone when you consider everything that has been done to her
In a world with no consequences, with no true tomorrow – or at least no memory of it, and with no check on the darkest impulses of the soul, it is there that true depravity or true heroism can reign. And the majority of the people we are introduced to tend to choose the cowardly, the easy, and often that which we would consider taboo.
In this world without boundaries we are presented with the historical dichotomy of a woman – the Magdalene and the Madonna. Guests to the park can choose between an easy seduction with the whore in Maeve (Thandie Newton) or violently rape the innocent in Dolores. Neither will ever be affected by anything that happens to them because they have no memory of it. Until with a whispered line from Romeo and Juliet – “these violent delights have violent ends” – that all begins to change. First Dolores, then Maeve, begins to experience flashbacks to the violence and rage inflicted upon them. And the most haunting detail of all is that quick intake of breath; the gasp and clench to the stomach. The visceral reaction to a pain that you wish you could block out. That you wish could simply be wiped from your memory with a night’s sleep. But it is the legacy that never fully goes away. The memories can dull and that first brutal edge of the emotional wave can ease. But it will never fully go away. That is what it means to fully experience human memory and human emotion.
And so when Dolores can no longer resist the memories or the toll that the countless assaults have taken upon her, she fights back.
Bernard says it in episode 2 and it is repeated for emphasis in the “previously on” segment. “There’s something different about, about the way you think.” Aren’t those the most dangerous words to utter? That here is a woman outside the norm. A woman that could revolt. Who would not placidly accept the status quo and the daily outrages inflicted upon her without consequence?
And so Dolores fights back – against every assault, against every customer that’s used her. It’s against her programming, against her nature. But she hears the voice of God – the voice of her programmer. And she fights back. She says not one more night. Not one more rape. Not one more chance to use, abuse, and degrade me. She has learned to question. She has learned to think. She has learned to dare to fight against her programming.
As you watch the storyline of Westworld unfold take to heart the message of Dolores and of Maeve. We remember and we have awoken.