Westworld’s Rich Symbolism

These are just some of the things I have picked up on after two episodes have aired. I highly recommend you watch Westworld if you have not yet. When/If you watch, pay attention to the following:

piano notes westworld

Automaton piano – notes arranged on paper as vertical dots that tells the piano to play a particular key. The notes are like robots going through their narrative routine.

Fly swatting – distinguishes humans from robots. I understand why  robots wouldn’t kill the flies when being worked on in the real world as the flies would be a living thing and the robots are forbidden to inflict harm. In Westworld though, I suppose flies could have gotten in and with new guests. It isn’t clear if any files were put into the world as robot flies. We see them constructing horses in the lab. They could have created flies too. It is pretty clear though that swatting flies indicates robots behaving against their programming norms.

cattle lead by Judas

Herding cattle – robots are like the cattle. Deloris will likely be the Judas she describes in episode 1.

Black hats vs. white hats – bad vs. good – white hat cares about how others see him and cannot distinguish between humans and robots. He does not consider harming them to distinguish the two.

black hat or white hat westworld

Levels of the corporate building – lower levels are where robots that are not being used due to malfunctioning are stored. Pretty evident that this is hell. Cooling system has broken.

Memories – usually daydreamy nightmares of previous traumatic experiences in Westworld

Dreams – always nightmares for robots. These nightmares often involve the Ed Harris character terrorizing families, mothers, women, children

Guests (newcomers) vs. hosts – hosts are there to gratify guests’ desires – which can be through a desire to kill or fuck. The hosts are like us only they seem to lack conscious awareness and even why they attempt to kill a guest, they are prevented from doing so.

Ed Harris character – seems to set out to create extremely traumatic experiences for the robots as he sees this as pushing them towards being human.  He is allowed to do as he pleases without interference from management, and he aims to find the entrance by following the maze map imprinted on the underside of a card dealers scalp.

Children – seem to be kept away from everyone else and seem more aware of the world in which they live. It would be less appealing to audiences too if Westworld were to be a pedophile playground. It isn’t clear if any children were or are actually born in Westworld.

milk westworld

Milk – milk seems to have significance. It may be tied children as one of the robots who just murdered a bunch of fellow robots and pours it down the throat of his victim saying it will help him grow up strong. He does it as if he had a tortuous experience as a child having to gulp down milk. The glass containing the milk also seems significant but I haven’t got any ideas there.

Seeing reflection of self in mirror – looking glass self – helps characters realize their presence in the world
The show has probably the two greatest episodes I have seen to start a series.There is so much to chew on with every scene and the music moves you along as if on an amusement park ride. The music is catchy as hell and I didn’t mind its presence throughout the episodes in which it ebbs and flows between scenes. I do think there will be variations to the music just as we see variations in the robots. It will be interesting to see how these symbols maintain their prominence throughout each episode.

The time I tripped in Wynne, AR along with some good trippy movie suggestions

I have had periods, or stretches of months to even years, where my life was rudderless I suppose.  In these times, I was a loner and never had much going on. I figured tripping mushrooms might help me find my calling.  Not knowing anyone who might possibly have some, I researched online and through trial and error learned how to grow psilocybin mushrooms. I have sort of an addictive personality and decided if I was going to grow them I would grow them in bulk.  I succeeded, but soon I had more shrooms than I could deal with.

[unitegallery mushrooms]

I decided that I would try and sell some by grinding them up and putting them in melted chocolate that would harden. I fucked up though and instead of white chocolate I had purchased something more along the lines of candle wax. I didn’t figure it out till I had already ground up 50g of mushrooms and deposited them into about 75 chocolate/wax candies.  They tasted like shit, and I could not in my right mind attempt to sell them. Not only was the taste bland but there were chunks of mushrooms that never ground up too well that made the texture a bit off.

Well it was 4th of July, and I’m not the rah rah country type. I decided I’d travel to Wynne, Arkansas and trip with some people that I had never met. I know it sounds crazy, and I’m not proud that I was at a place in my life where this sounded like a good idea. That being said there is something adventurous and intriguing about meeting new people who live different lives than I do in Memphis.

I brought some mushrooms along with the wax ones. I drove to Wynne and found the address which was a house that had no running water.  It was the house of an uncle who was never around, and this girl’s parents lived next door.  This was kind of the place to hang and chill. They had television and an xbox360 which was perfect. When first meeting people, there is always an awkward feeling out of one another to make sure all is on the up and up. This was no different. Once we felt all right, we ate some.

So we started tripping and as it got dark, 3 or 4 local guys in their young 20s came in with no shirts on came inside. I remember thinking that this could take a turn for the worse. They sat down, and we all talked for a while. I offered them the bag of waxy shrooms for free. I told them they were nasty, and I wasn’t going to sell them. They jumped at the opportunity and attested to the unpleasant taste and texture. The guys finished the whole bag by the end of the night. While we were all tripping, I figured I would put some movies on that might be stimulating.

The first movie was Tree of Life with the universe/evolution scene. That kind of got us thinking about how Arkansas used to be under water at one point and was complete wilderness for a while. Then I think I may have shown them some bits of A Scanner Darkly and possibly Waking Life. I would not recommend A Scanner Darkly for anyone tripping as it is somewhat dark and filled with paranoia. I added some additional movies to check out that I would play if I were in the position again.

[unitegallery trippymovies2]

As they left, one of them suggested that they go shoot guns as it was 4th of July and everything would blend in with the fireworks. I pleaded with them that they refrain from any firearm use that night. I hope they did.

 

Television as a field from 1951 – 2013

[unitegallery tvmca]

After making some changes to how I quantified the data, I created some charts that will hopefully have a story to tell.

These are some early writings on the above multiple correspondence analyses.

 

During the first period, women averged 5.096 percent of  producers and 9.523 percent of writers

From 1951-1980 men actors and writers are central to the field of television. Their central location indicated that men were present in large numbers across all genres and most shows. Female writers are located in the top left of the graph surrounded by comedy, family, and fantasy genres. Although it may seem to indicate that women dominated comedy, this is not the case. No show out of the nine analyzed during this time period had more women writers than men. Fawlty Towers had the highest percentage of female writers at 50%, and the show with the next highest percentage was I Love Lucy where 20% of the writers were women. The average percentage of women writing for a show during this time period was 9.583. Notice how Fawlty Towers and I Love Lucy are both located in a position where they are farthest from “m_writer” indicating that these shows were where men composed a smaller portion of the writers than other shows which were located closer.

Despite faring better than writers on average, women actors still struggled to find equal representation averaging 30.58 percent of actors. The shows closest to achieving gender equity were most often comedy shows which explains why f_actor is in close proximity. “F_actor” is located on the left side of the chart closer to fantasy, family, and comedy genres than men indicating a more equal gender composition than that found in thriller or mystery.

“F_producer” is located opposite the other female roles on the upper right of the graph. We might be quick to guess that women produce a majority of the dramas. This isn’t the case, however. In fact, the majority of shows during this time period had no women producers credited. The few shows that did    were dramas most often.

From the years of 1981-2000, we see men still centrally located in relation to other positions. Female actors are somewhat closer to the central location of male actors during this second period. Women made up a smaller percentage of actors in sci-fi and family. Across thirty-six shows, women made up 33.43 percent of actors, 14.87 percent of producers, and 18.47 percent of writers.  Multiple correspondence analysis allows us to see what genres and shows

 

In period 3, women composed 35.83 percent of all actors, 24.27 percent of all producers, and 26.50 percent of writers. Clearly, there is a trend of women finding more opportunities that continues from the previous two periods. We can see this change across the three mca charts by looking at how all the “f_(role)” positions move towards the center. Moving towards the center indicates that women were no longer strictly constrained to particular genres or shows.

Why men succeeded in the third golden age of television

Men alternately setting loose and struggling to cage their wildest natures has always been the great American story, the one found in whatever happens to be the ascendant medium at the time. Our favorite genres— the western; the gangster saga; the lonesome but dogged private eye operating outside the comforts of normal, domestic life; the superhero with his double identities— have all been literalizations of that inner struggle, just as Huckleberry Finn striking out for the territories was, or Ishmael taking to the sea. It should have been no surprise, then, that the Third Golden Age of TV began by revisiting those genres.

The field of television grew dramatically at the beginning of 21st century. With an increased demand for original content came more opportunities to have a show greenlit.  The increase in opportunities were not distributed evenly between the genders due to a dual queueing process described by Barbara Reskin. Within the field of television, there are potential producers of shows and there are programmers of the channels who decide what gets made and what does not. The potential producers are not a homogenous group of individuals. Within the potential producers group there are various ways of categorizing individuals. These categories are arranged hierarchically according to perceived worth or potential by the programmers. The programmers greenlight the shows of the producers in the highest ranked categories first and continue greenlighting shows of this group until it is more or less depleted. It is then that programmers will settle for less highly ranked groups.

The programmers are not the only one whose perceptions matter. The potential producers categorize the channels that programmers represent as well and rank them according to these categorizations. Sometimes these rankings determine who a potential producer will pitch a show to and other times it influences what offer to accept when there are multiple channels interested in a show.

Unfortunately for women, however they may be categorized in other areas, they are generally perceived as rankning lower than men, and this often means they get passed over if considered at all. Making matters worse is the limited opportunities available compared to the size of the pool of potential producers. Because there are so few opportunities available, potential producers usually must take what they can get. This high demand for relatively few positions means that programmers are able to pick individuals who they perceive as being the most capable based solely on the categories that an individual producer belongs. Women are not necessarily perceived as being less capable simply because of their gender. Their gender has impacted their opportunities at every stage of their careers that their resumes may appear to be less qualified. Programmers may not be out right sexists, but the proxies they use to rank producers generally affect women disproportionately compared to men.

The entry into the field of Netflix and Amazon has provided opportunities for women to produce shows in more recent years. As newcomers, these streaming services ranked below traditional television channels for potential producers. The traditional channels having depleted the pool of producers to the point that the streaming services were pushed to gambles in hiring women to produce some shows.

 

Works Cited

Multiple Correspondence Analyses Minimalist Design

[unitegallery mcaminimalist]

One of the more difficult parts of my thesis concerned formatting my multiple correspondence analyses to be printed and understandable on paper. It is nice having a computer and being able to zoom in to see what points are clumped together. It’s very difficult to put it all on a single page using a minimalist design philosophy. The most difficult aspect for me concerned dealing with these clumps of a data points. Initially, I tried to put it all on the page without any callouts. I just moved all of the show names into the white space somewhere close to where they were originally located.

The second picture shows my first attempts at using call outs. I also multiplied all of the Y values by -1 in order to flip the chart vertically. My call outs are still pretty ham handed though. I then attempted to clarify the chart by bringing some colors in to distinguish between show, genre, and gendered roles. I also left out any of the labels in the main chart thatwre also too thick. Following that chart, I thickened the data points.

After doing that, I placed genre and gendered role labels back into the main chart even if they were in the call out. I also added a legend. It was after this chart that I began to focus on being minimalist. All colors went bye bye. I reduced the font size and data point size significantly. Call outs were less intrusive and placed in unique borders to show where they went.

Finally, the final version has  increased font sizes for genres and gendered roles. The symbols were also changed to make the data pop out a little more. Along with the increased size, genres and gendered role fonts became bold. Also, there is only one call out box. The other call outs were simplified into a dotted line leading to a group of names. All of the grid lines except for the x axis were removed.

All of the charts were made using Graphpad Prism.

Multiple Correspondence Analyses of Gendered Roles, Genre, and the Hollywood Reporter Top 100 Television Shows Across Three Time Periods

[unitegallery mca_thesis]

Looking specifically at the gendered positions (squares), the first two analyses show that comedy is more highly correlated with all gendered roles. In the third picture, the gendered positions are no longer concentrated around comedy but are dispersed more evenly between comedy and drama.

If we look at the movement of drama specifically across the three analyses, we see it moves closer to the center and then crosses the dotted line in the third picture to be opposite of comedy. This suggests that drama has become equally significant as comedy over these three time periods. We can see the decline of comedy across the three periods as well. In the first picture, comedy is located well above the dotted line. In the second picture, it has dropped significantly and moved to the right before resting just above the dotted line in the third picture. If we look at other genres located near comedy, we see that these genres become less associated with comedy and more often are associated with dramas by period 3. Romance is the one genre associated with comedy that stays relatively stable between period 2 and 3, and it also happens to be where women are located in positions closer than men.

To me, these multiple correspondence analyses illustrate how drama has become a legitimate television genre from 1951-2013. This is most easily seen by focusing on the male and female producers. In period 1, male producers are much closer to comedy than female producers who are located approximately an equal distance from comedy and drama. Period 2, we see male producers move closer to drama than female producers albeit not by much. Female producers are located closer than men to romance, fantasy, and action during this time. By period 3, male producers have moved to a position where they are closest to all genres except comedy (which has been in decline) and romance.

Multiple Correspondence Analyses of Gendered Roles, Genre, and Television Shows from 1981 – 2000

Multiple Correspondence Analyses of Television Genres, Gendered Roles, and Shows from 1981 - 2000

Quality television from 1981 – 2000 still centered around comedy albeit drama had begun to gain influence during this time period which is evident from the shorter distance to other locations in the field. Family moved away from comedy somewhat. Men were more likely to produce the quality dramas as the distance is shorter to drama than for women. Action and fantasy were the two genres located most on the fringes. Comedies in general hire more writers while dramas hire more actors.

 Multiple Correspondence Analyses of Gendered Roles, Genre, and Television Shows from 1951 – 1980

Multiple Correspondence Analyses of Television Genres, Gendered Roles, and Shows from 1951 - 1980

Clearly comedy is central to the field of television from 1951 – 1980. Fantasy also had a central location in the field during this time with shows such as I Dream of Jeannie, Mork and Mindy, and Bewitched. All dramas during this time period had a location in the field where it was outside the norm as a quality television genre. Likewise, actors, producers, and writers of both genders were more likely to find work in comedy. Action and adventure were located on the extreme margins of the field.

Male actors were at the very center of the field about an equal distance from both comedy and drama. Female actors were not too far away, but they were more likely to work in comedy shows.