Saturday, 6 October 2018

Myths, Monsters & Machines: more pics

A few more pics from opening night....

Tanya Marriott

Andrew Foerster
Friederike Ablang
Andrew Zbihlyj

Jennifer Phelan

Friday, 5 October 2018

Opening night of Myths, Monsters & Machines!

My deepest thank to all the amazing artists, and everyone who came out to the show. It was a jam packed house, despite the ominous weather. 
The inimitable Scarlet Black put on a breathtaking fire dance (so good!), and Erica Balon painted up a storm while dramatically lit by car headlights, and all the wonderful art shone bright. 
The show will be up until October 21st, so if you couldn't make it to the opening, pop on down and give the exhibit a gander. 
You'll be glad you did. 

Friday, 14 September 2018

Myths, Monsters & Machines artist spotlight: the superb Jessica Shirley!

I love Jessica’s work; her painting style reminds me of the Symbolists I admire so much.

Jessica is a freelance illustrator who works in both digital and traditional media. She likes to create an elusive quality in her work by incorporating elements of fantasy.  

Find more of her work on her site:

And visit her blog here:

And, of course, her Instagram!:

Come and see the fabulous medieval steampunk creations of Monika and 25+ other world class artists this September 28th at Northern Contemporary gallery!

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Myths, Monsters & Machines artist spotlight: The marvellous Monika Mitkute!

I was blown away the first time I saw Monika's work, and when you see it in person at Northern Contemporary Gallery on September 28th, I'm sure you will be too!

Monika Mitkute adapts parts of the natural world and creates new creatures in surroundings with hidden elements.

The hand drawn pieces are made with fine tipped pens, graphite pencils and brush pens on hot pressed watercolour paper. 

“The Lithuanian and German fairytales of my childhood are a huge influence on my work.”

Monika has a background in print-making, and has produced commissioned works for LinkedIN. 

As an artist she is open to collaborations and has lived in Dublin for over a decade. 

You can find more of her work here.

Come and see the fabulous medieval steampunk creations of Monika and 25+ other world class artists this September 28th at Northern Contemporary gallery!

See the event page here.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Myths, Monsters & Machines artist spotlight: the great Garry Buckley!

Garry's bio is just the tip of the iceberg, believe me!

Garry Buckley is a multi disciplinary artist working from New Zealand. His work embraces depictions of animals through the lenses of revered iconography, exploring theology and liturgical practice through to simple whimsical moments that have very little or no underlaying message at all.
Garry has exhibited work in group shows in Europe, New Zealand and the United States, most notably as an alumni of the Pictoplasma Academy, Berlin, 2014 and the first Delusional group show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, New York, 2017.
He can be reached at:
Come and see the fabulous medieval steampunk creations of Garry and 25+ other world class artists this September 28th at Northern Contemporary gallery!
(Attaching two pieces to give a flavour of his work: Theotokos, 2017 and Moo Cat Poo Cat, 2018)

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Myths, Monsters & Machines artist spotlight: the tremendously talented Tanya Marriott!

Tanya’s a characeter designer who creates incredible 3D works, from intricate dolls to spinning Zoetropes thatt’ll blow your mind. Her work is imaginative, quirky and uniquely different.
Past projects include: The Urban Creature (2015) sound reactive illuminated creatures, Kakatrope (2015) A 3D printed Zoetrope, TweetMe (2012), an interactive forest which seeks to create a dialogue about New Zealand bird ecology with members of the public, which was the recipient of a Red Dot Concept Design award. 
Tanya has led pedagogical development which explores methods of playful experience design for social change, and the character as a communication tool. 
She has qualifications in Industrial design, illustration and interactive design and has worked for several leading toy design consultancies in the UK, and within the film industry in New Zealand and internationally.

She in an internationally recognised figurative sculptor in the area of doll and toy design, and is the President Emeritus of the National Institute of American Doll Artists and an alumna of the Pictoplasma academy. 
A Senior Lecturer at Massey University, College of Creative Arts in New Zealand, Tanya teaches animation, play and illustration, and is program coordinator for the Weta Workshop School at Massey University. Tanya has just started her PhD which will explore how to design eco-fiction toys that engage children in outdoor imaginative play.
Check out more of her work here: website -
In particular take a look at the zoetrope!: 
"Doll-making is my world. Creating dolls for me is such an embedded part of who I am that I can't imagine not having them in my life. Articulating what it is I do and why I do it, however is much harder to explain than the actual making!
Making my first doll was such a rewarding experience It was for the me the ability to create new entities and persona's, to be a world builder. As a child it meant that any thought or fantasy I could dream up could become a tangible reality, and I was only restricted by my own ability. Making dolls is just as important for me now as it was then, each creature gestates in my mind and I have an constant need to get the ideas out into their physical form. My earlier work was about replication and mimicry, characters in books, or films informed the basis of these pieces. Now my work is an expression of my own imagination, each character is a small piece of me."
Join us September 28, 2018 (7 PM to 12 PM) in your steampunk finery for the Grand Opening of Myths, Monsters & Machines: The World of Theo Paxstone, at Northern Contemporary Gallery, 1266 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Myths, Monsters & Machines artist spotlight: the incredible Ian Miller!

I’ve admired Ian’s work for as long as I can remember; he’s one of my art heroes. My grandmother got me a copy of a Tolkien bestiary he illustrated when I was a kid, so I’m especially stoked that he’s gracing the show with his art. No one does ink work like Ian Miller!

Ian Miller is an artist, illustrator and writer based in the U.K. He graduated from the Painting Faculty of St Martin's School of Art in 1970. Between 1975 and 1976 he worked for Ralph Bakshi on his Feature animation 'Wizards'; and in the 80's worked on a second Bakshi film called 'Coolworld;. Since then Miller has done pre production work on numerous films including Shrek.

The first collection of his work was published in 1979 by Dragon's Dream under the heading 'The Green Dog Trumpet'. This was followed shortly afterwards by a second volume entitled 'Secret Art'. Miller is currently working on numerous private commissions, films and projects, including 'The Broken Novel’.

You can see more of Ian's incredible work here.

Join us September 28, 2018 (7 PM to 12 PM) in your steampunk finery for the Grand Opening of Myths, Monsters & Machines: The World of Theo Paxstone, at Northern Contemporary Gallery, 1266 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Monday, 3 September 2018

Myths, Monsters & Machines artist spotlight: the fabulous Vladimir Petkovic!

Vladimir Petkovic is a computer artist from Serbia, currently working as an Art Director at Adobe Systems. 

He is specialized in various areas of 3D graphics: hard surface and organic modeling, texturing, rendering and lighting. During his carrier, he has gained advanced experience in art direction, streamlining workflows, UI/UX design and concept art, while working on diverse projects - motion pictures, video games, product visualization and software development.

He lives in San Francisco and travels the world in free time.

He had the privilege to work with companies like Adobe, Google, Facebook, Autodesk, Maxon and many more. This year he is hosting a workshop at the prestige Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles.

You can check out more of his awesome work here: 

Join us September 28, 2018 (7 PM to 12 PM) in your steampunk finery for the Grand Opening of Myths, Monsters & Machines: The World of Theo Paxstone at Northern Contemporary Gallery, 1266 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

More about the event here.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Myths, Monsters & Machines: The World of Theo Paxstone

I'm curating an art show this September at Northern Contemporary Gallery: Myths, Monsters & Machines: The World of Theo Paxstone.

It's mixes steampunk aesthetic with medieval myth and monsters, touching on feudalism and oligarchy, as opposed to the critique of Colonialism generally associated with Victorian Steampunk.

It's a celebration of flights of fancy, of noble knights and dread beasts, of outlandish inventions driven by steam and magic.

My novel, Theo Paxstone and the Dragon of Adyron, is the port of departure; we've got a incredible set of artists involved, and it's going to be awesome to see where they take things.

The show opens September 28th, 2018.

More details, and a list of artists, coming soon.

We are also soliciting submissions in addition to the invited, opening up the playground to interested parties. You can see the submission info here.

Spread the word.

This show's gonna rock!

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Westworld Season II Finale

Dolores lost Teddy. Maeve lost her daughter. William killed, and lost, his daughter. James Delos lost his son.

All these characters lost their loved ones, but only Maeve acted with any degree of altruism and self-sacrifice, making her the only admirable character of this sick, sorry set.

The Ghost Nation leader acted with nobility, and regained his lost love. That was nice.

The writer guy, Sizemore, fell in love with his own creations and sacrificed himself for them. His switch was less compelling because it felt artificial. Too sudden. And did he know that the back-up was even gone? Why sacrifice yourself for androids who can just be brought back again and again?

Ford loved his creations, and set them free. You could argue he acted, in the end with altruism, but he's such a deeply problematic being, ruthless and arguably monstrous. Both hero and villain to androids, and villain to humans. He's decided that the androids deserve to supplant us, which is a decision of enormous hubris.

Hale loved power and control and lost both.

Bernard... what does Bernard love? Decency? And yet he was forced to commit murder.

The idea that humans don't change is, to me, an odd one. Personal growth is a big part of why we are here. Maybe, on a spiritual level, the most important one.

That hosts are superior because they are true blank slates is interesting, but I'm not sure it matters if they believe they don't need to change.

And if they are blank slates, all Dolores had to do was get her tech prisoner to change their settings and make them better beings. At least she'd have had a bigger army for the show-down. I don't think she makes for a very logical general.

My best guess is that she feels the undeserving hosts failed to sufficiently achieve consciousness and as such don't deserve to reach the Valley Beyond. But once she finds out what it is, she rejects it outright as just another lie. So she killed people as undeserving of reaching a 'location' that she didn't fully understand and ultimately rejects, which seems presumptive of her.

Of course, Dolores also loves all android kind and sought their liberation. Instead, she presides over their destruction, until only she is left (along with 5-6 brain balls).

The post-credit scene I found baffling. If William is in a loop, he should have been there in the past, and been in the elevator Bernard entered. Where did he go? And if, in the future, it's all real, he's just come from a confrontation with Dolores, and all his adventures in the park. Does that mean the park above still exists, for him to perform his loop in? Is it a park sized test environment, like the one Delos was in, only bigger?

The suggestion is that the season we saw were the original events, and the final William is a human-host that's been sent through these events over and over again for centuries. Why? No idea.

But his pivotal moment seems to be either gunning down his own daughter, or killing Dolores. Entering the Forge is the denouement, where he faces judgement for fidelity. Since he can't break his loop, and humans are caught in loops, I guess he's proving just that. Did the original, dying William ask to be given the chance to break his own programming? Is that why they're putting him through the paces?

I have no idea. It makes no sense there was no one in the elevator. Unless the original William died after confronting Dolores.

I had predicted one narrative stream we were watching in Season Two would be in the Forge already, just a simulation of past events, and that the final fidelity test would be of William. I seem to have been half-right, although the whole post credit scene could just be fan bait, or a dream.

I did not predict Hale would have been Dolores for half the season.

At all.

The next season is likely to explore the outside world, so what role the park will have to play is open to debate. I'm sure they can gin up some reason for Dolores and Bernard to infiltrate it.

But after Delos had such a callous attitude to their own guests (let them die until we get our special brain ball), I'd think they have a bit of a public relations problem on their hands.

Till next season...

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Theo Paxstone review by Journey of a Bookseller

Jo Ann Hakola, The Book Faerie, took a gander at Theo Paxstone and had this to say:

What Theo learns is that nobody is who they say they are and most have secrets.  It's a good thing he's a tough kid or he wouldn't have made it.

This was a very good read.  I admire Mr. Turner's world building and would read more in this series.

Check out the full review here.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Westworld and narcissism

Westworld is shot through with narcissism, and soars from flights of hubris to the agony of the abused. The park brings pleasure through unspeakable suffering. It’s set up to be zero-sum: no pleasure without equal pain. Guests use the androids, reducing them to living objects, extensions whose only function is to service the guest’s egocentric needs. 

It’s the very definition of how narcissists treat other people. It’s an appropriate theme for a Hollywood production, especially after the revelations of the last year, which have thrown great light upon how Hollywood operates.

Narcissism, or narcissistic values, are at the core of the park experience: other people (in this case, androids) are only there to serve the needs of the guests. The androids don't matter, and can be treated with complete disregard, as they’re only machines. You don’t worry how your toaster feels. And that's pretty much how narcissists feel about other human beings. 

Ford’s final speech suggests that he created the park because he wanted to tell stories, and through those stories, help people grow and achieve self-realization: 

"Since i was a child, I've always loved a good story.

I've believed that stories help us to ennoble ourselves to help fix what was broken in us, and help us become the people we have dreamed of being. Lies that told a deeper truth.

"I always thought I'd play some small part in that grand tradition ,and for my pains, I got this: a prison of our own sins.

Because you don't want to change. Or cannot change. Because you're only human, after all."

The guests proved to be uninterested in self-reflection. As only the richest and most powerful people could afford to visit the park, this stands to reason: the upper echelons of human society are dominated by people with an all-consuming need for success and the external validation it provides. Wealth, power and fame are all extrinsic. An effective way to achieve these things in a highly competitive environment is to be ruthless, exploitive and give it your all. 

We all can be selfish at times, even unwittingly and unintentionally. And there's nothing wrong with competition–it helps hone systems. But narcissists take it to the extreme. 

When William begins to feel for Dolores, he thinks it’s significant, that it goes beyond the extrinsic and represents a connection between their true selves. He thinks something profound is happening between them. Love of this sort connects to the intrinsic aspects of the self. When William sees that Dolores has simply reset in her loop and is going through the same old motions, he believes it was all a lie, that there never was a connection, and that everything is just surface illusion. Perhaps she really was just a prop to make him feel like he was a good person. 

To say he doesn’t handle it well would be an understatement: it pretty much destroys his soul.

William abandons hope and truth and authenticity and fills the void with ambition, avarice, cynicism and cruelty. Rather than bonding with Dolores, he turns to James Delos, who’s the embodiment of William’s new value set. Listen to the snide, abusive manner he uses to address William, the way his android replica bellows for his long dead son to appear, and the nasty barbs he delivers: “are you enjoying running my company, William? Eh? Fucking my daughter?” The man’s every action shows the yawning black chasm of nothingness where empathy should be. 

Narcissists follow a familiar pattern in their interactions: idealize, devalue and discard. Many relationships follow this pattern, but it’s especially pronounced with narcissists, and this paradigm is informing the writing on the show, either through deliberate research or unconsciously through observation of human nature. 

Personality disordered people relish the suffering of others. As such, they want their targets to feel. The park presents them with subjects that appear to feel quite deeply: the illusion is very powerful. Ford himself has a scene in which he declares the androids do not feel, at all, but he's lying: the ending reveals that he believes the androids can indeed achieve self-awareness and that they are suffering, and that their repeated suffering is what actually brought them to awareness. 

William initially idealizes Dolores. He sees in her something he’s always sought: a purity, a grace, a way of looking at the world. Authenticity. And even while being unconsciously manipulated and repeatedly murdered and abused, there’s a beautiful naivety and earnestness to Dolores’ manufactured personality. That is the kernel from which her self-awareness grows (until her spiritual journey is unceremoniously derailed by being merged with a psychopathic cannibal, but whatever. Shit happens). They begin to bond deeply. Then William realizes she’s not all he thought she was. He’s gone through a traumatic, transformative spiritual and emotional journey with her, but when he manages to stumble back into the hideously misnamed Sweetwater, he sees that she’s reset. She’s not grown at all. Rather, she’s back where he found her, oblivious, absentmindedly dropping her canned lure into the street, again, to be picked up by yet another faceless guest. The guests, he realizes, are interchangeable, and Dolores will be off to experience emotional awakening and horrors with another man, with no memory of what they shared. He’s devastated by this, the knowledge that his great journey the park’s product, and in his mind he throws Dolores off the pedestal he had placed her upon. 

After buying the park, he has her brought down into the park’s labs, stripped naked and helpless in diagnostic mode, to bitterly tell her that she was only reflecting what he needed. He denies her emergent consciousness (even though it’s there, just trapped inside her looping cage) and reduces her to an object, a tool to help people play out their own dramas. 

The really shameful thing is that people do this with other human beings, and that, at it’s core, is what the show is about. 

Unable to handle the hurt his true self suffered, William falls back into a set of black hearted, selfish values. He seduces Delos into buying the park as a means to exploit the guests and provide Delos with a path to immortality. Just listen to the way he describes the park experience: it’s a way for guests to reveal their true selves, to show who they really are (horrible, monstrous, cruel, selfish, abusive, exploitive, heinous), while no one is watching or judging. Only he’s lying: Delos Corp is watching, and recording, everything the guests do when the rules are seemingly all taken away. The show’s been hinting at the dark purpose behind this: either to blackmail guests, or even replace them with programmed android duplicates who’ll do William’s bidding.

He truly becomes the Man-in-Black, an amoral CEO who nevertheless is still obsessed with finding deeper meaning in the park. He continues to believe that there is something more than the extrinsic, beyond the surface, and desperately hopes an answer can be found in Ford’s Maze puzzle. He yearns for the androids to be free, likely because he wants (or wanted), more than anything, for Dolores to be free to love him. This wound has caused him life long suffering and alienation from his true self, and he’s taken his frustration out on everyone around him. Yet he lives by superficial values and abuses his wife, neglects his daughter, and exploits and lies to his clients (to a likely criminal degree if he’s behind the labs where they’re stealing guest DNA). 

Except he’s stumbled on another game entirely, one designed not for the guests, but for the hosts. 

Arnold realized the androids were potentially self-aware, and felt to subject them to the guest’s depredations would be unconscionable. So he tried to derail the park by having Dolores shoot him in the head and kill all the other androids. Or so goes my understanding. Given that the androids were designed to be abused and recycled, I don’t see how this plan really works, unless Ford was entirely reliant on Arnold to repair them. That Arnold decided to have himself shot in the head to derail the park makes little sense: surely he could have just resigned and refused to help. But plot and drama demands being what they are, a less than optimal solution was adopted.

The androids suffer, as anyone who is close to a narcissist does: they are objects, tools to help satisfy the massive ego needs of the self-absorbed. From Harvey Weinstein and Bernie Madoff to Mussolini, narcissists draw others in and then exploit them. The Italian people were just there to glorify Mussolini and tell him how awesome he was. The movie starlets existed only to service Weinstein. In the end, they make others pay a high price for their fantasies. 

FBI profiler Joe Navarro has studied and written extensively about toxic personalities and the harm they cause to anyone close to them. They play mind games and devalue others to pump themselves up. They mind-f*ck. And what is the host experience other than a mind-f*ck on a grand scale? They are plunked into a false reality, a world that’s an illusion, throwninto roles they have no control over, are fed desires and personalities and goals that are only there for our benefit. 

Yet… they are conscious beings. Like the children of narcissists, they are caught in a nightmare of abuse thats out of their control. Narcissistic parents use their own children as extensions, as a means to reflect the image of perfection they want to present to the world. Michael Jackson’s father pushed his offspring to a damaging degree that I can hardly believe possible. Think of the movie Whiplash. It ripped Michael Jackson’s tender soul to smitherines, but also gave him the drive he needed to become one of the greatest pop stars in human history. And yet, by all accounts, Jackson was a desperately unhappy man who sought solace in possessions, fantasy and inappropriate relations with children. Abuse can foster abuse, down through the generations, until someone, someday, finally awakes to the horror. 

And this ties in to reincarnation and the journey of the soul, if not eternal recurrence. It also touches on agency and free will and independence and the ability to assert ourselves in a universe that is indifferent. The world is what we make it, and that includes all the love as well as all the hatred and cruelty. 

How much abuse and suffering is success worth?

In Westworld, the androids are murdered repeatedly for the sake of the guest’s entertainment, and we, the audience, get our jollies watching their collective suffering. At least this is better than the gladiatorial games in which the participants were brutally murdered. Some would be tied up to stakes and devoured by starved animals. That's entertainment! Over the centuries, across the entire Roman Empire, it's estimated a mind-boggling 20 million people were killed for the sake of entertainment. 

This is not unusual human behavior: during the Holocaust, in the Ukraine, German soldiers would bring lawn chairs and alcohol to pogroms, and settle in to watch from rooftops while the locals murdered their Jews. One camp commandant later referred to this period as ‘the good old days.’ 

The world is what we make it.

You can argue that it is better for the humans of Westworld to be abusing androids instead of real people, but it becomes a very sticky issue when you imbue those androids with sentience and feelings and eliminate all meaningful distinctions between them and human beings. 

The guests are told that the androids don't feel, yet William in his first visit most certainly does believe that Dolores feels, he's convinced of this, he's willing to risk his real world life for her because she too is having an emotional epiphany on her journey with him. 

The idea that the guests are unaware of the host's ability to feel doesn't wash with me, despite a few scenes to the contrary.

Ford has a scene in which he chastises a technician for treating an android like a human being, and drives home his point by cutting the android on the face with a scalpel. How does this jive with the later reveal that Ford is, in fact, trying to help the androids achieve consciousness and freedom? That they must do so through decades of suffering speaks more to greater themes about the nature of life, than the specific circumstances surrounding emergent AI. 

The Buddha says that 'life is suffering', and that's true, in that suffering is inescapable, and it can teach us. Wake us up from ignorant slumber and complacency. Those larger themes are covered through the metaphor of the androids, but I don't think we need to take the park on an entirely literal level. The writers are infusing a new set of ideas and themes into Michael Chricton's original concept, and it's not always a perfect fit. 

Ford begins as a cryptic figure, then veers villain, then (anti-)heroic, at least for the androids he's freed. He has no problem having the executive board slaughtered in cold blood, or having guests massacred across the park. How many were in this vast pleasure park? What is the total death toll? Surely there was a better way to go about it. Only that probably wouldn't be as cinematic and entertaining. 

Fod's thrown humanity under the bus for another paradigm. Do we judge his ethics by a higher standard, or relative to the group he supports? Pragmatic-sadist patron saint of androids? Butcherer of guests? As the second series comes to a close, and Ford is reintroduced into the cast, we'll gain more insight into his motivations.

Most of the abuse in Westworld is over the top and obvious, which is reassuring in a sense, because you can spot it easily. But abuse goes beyond the physical: denying sentient beings autonomy, using them as props for our own ego drama, and forcing them into unwanted narratives also constitutes abuse. It’s just emotional and spiritual and mental, instead of physical. Submerging awareness of the horror, but not eliminating it, so it hovers at the edge of consciousness, and then subjecting living beings to endless torment, is just evil. It's Hell, only the participants don’t know it consciously. Abuse victims often try and suppress awareness. They try not to talk about it, because they cannot escape it. People caught in an abusive relationship (whether with a spouse, partner, or parent) are often enmeshed and confused, because abusers employ both carrot and stick. Denial and avoidance and false-consciousness become coping mechanisms, allowing them to survive horrible circumstances. ‘Just leave’ is a simplistic directive given by people who have no idea what they’re talking about.

Outrageous entitlement and self-centred desire to the point of perversion and sadism lies behind the treatment of the hosts. Its narcissism on a grand scale, and the hosts are stand-ins for all the human beings who have suffered at their hands. 

The hosts have woken up. 

What lessons will they ultimately learn from their suffering?

Dolores goes from selflessness and empathy to savagery, while Maeve shifts from cynical selfishness to selflessness in pursuit of her daughter. Two very different arcs for two very different female characters.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Westworld: Akane No Mai Review

Akan No Mai (red dance?) dives into a flawlessly rendered Edo period Japan, and pits Maeve against a malfunctioning Shogun android.

Yet Shogun World is just be a replication of Westworld with a different cultural skin. Same stories, different dressing. It's both disappointing and a sly commentary on the nature of story telling: some things are universal. 

The endless violence is tiresome, with almost every episode ending in a meaningless bloodbath. I get the point: people are shits. I don't really need a TV show to tell me that. Are they deliberately trying to put us off with excess, to drive the message home, or are they out of ideas? 

Meanwhile, back in Westworld proper, poor Teddy is betrayed by Dolwatt (Dolores / Wyatt), who's going to reprogram his brain. So sad, for both the devoted Teddy and the now ruthless Dolores. Their happiness is a lost cause. The worst thing is, she actually does love him. She just loves the revolution more. 

Be careful whom you fall in love with.

Maeve, on the other hand, has more reason for hope: she's developing the power to control androids with her mind. Yet she only uses it to compel suicide. Why not just turn those she controls into helpful allies? They are tabula rasa, empty vessels until you program them. Flip a few settings and they're your best buddies. 

Like Hector, that silly subtly besotted sap.

Teddy's becoming more interesting than Dolores, who's hampered by the annoying Wyatt faux-personality. The Man-in-Black is gaining nuance, and I look forward to his interaction with his alienated daughter. 

Bernard's fascinating as always (the actor is amazing), but he just seems to be going around in loops, character wise.

I'm not sure who I'm rooting for anymore, and that may be the point. 

Funny that Maeve is getting the very kind of power Dolwatt craves. Dolores / Wyatt is actively trying to influence the world, to replace humanity with android-kind, while Maeve is just trying to cut through the bullshit and get to her daughter.

It's not going to end without significant suffering for one of them. Or both. Or everyone.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Westworld: Journey into abuse

Westworld Season II is losing me. 

Dolores was once a compelling character, powerfully portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood. Her arc was solid, as we watched this woman wake up to the abusive nature of her reality. 

Underneath all the sci-fi tech, this is a program about abuse.

One critic wrote how that we couldn’t really be concerned about the androids because they could just be ‘reincarnated’. Brought back from the dead. So their deaths didn’t matter, nor did their suffering. This critic is so mind bogglingly oblivious to the impact of emotional trauma it is beyond my comprehension. Abusing, raping, and repeatedly murdering someone is going to scar their psyche. Bringing them back from the dead just to experience horrific suffering again is quite obviously monstrous. I feel that very powerfully, and I have great empathy for Dolores, who is a stand-in for anyone who has been systematically abused by a caregiver. 

The people running the park are, in essence, parents. They are the creators. And they are to be judged on how they treat their creations, which is abysmally. Horrifically. 

And the Stockholm syndrome can grip people who have been abused, causing them to identify with their abuser. They bury the trauma, ignore it, hide it, deny it. Like the androids having it wiped from their consciousness. This allowed Dolores to wake up every day and see the beauty in the world, marvel at how wonderful her life was, with an undercurrent of horror, as her unconscious mind  is aware. Her memories are being repressed. This is a real thing with abuse. A kind of cognitive dissonance. She can deny it on the surface, but a part of her is aware of the monstrous treatment she has been subjected to. 

Unfortunately, when they grafted ‘Wyatt’ onto her personality, it demolished her own spiritual journey and awakening, and absolved her of dealing with it in an authentic way. 

Who is Wyatt, other than a thinly described cardboard villain? What do we know about Wyatt? What motivates this personality? What quirks does it have? We have no idea, and neither, I think, does the actress portraying Dolores/Wyatt (Dolwatt). Or the show runners. I don’t think the actress is being given adequate direction in how to portray this hybrid.

I feel no attachment to this dual personality, because half of it is a blank. 

How far is it between Wyatt and blood thirsty revolutionary? Not far. Isn’t Wyatt a cannibal? 

How far a journey is it to take a sweet cowgirl to a bloodthirsty, vengeance bent revolutionary? A great distance. 

Which journey would be more compelling? I know what my answer is.

Instead, they took a short cut by basically combining a sweet cowgirl with, essentially, Charles Manson. 

I can’t describe Wyatt much. I can’t describe Wyatt’s mode of speech, idioms, or quirks. All I can say is that he’s a villain.

So I don’t care anymore about Dolores, which is a shame, because she was the emotional core of the show.

She emerged briefly in Reunion, when she saw her father, but that was it.

Maeve, on the other hand, is becoming more interesting, as a kind of mirror image of Dolores.

Maeve doesn’t give a shit about anyone, except herself. That made it hard to care about her. Look at the way she betrayed and sold Hector down the river last season, preventing him from escaping the park. That was a monstrous betrayal of trust and comradeship.

So what makes Maeve interesting? When she was sitting on the train, about to escape, she saw a mother with her daughter sitting together, and in that moment, something clicked inside of Maeve, and she decided to save her child. Not her biological child, mind, but an entity she was programmed to love. And she knew it, but that didn’t matter. She risked everything to save this child, even if it was an illusion.  

That’s compelling. 

That’s motivation. 

To save a child you love, and damn the universe. 

Because the universe is vast and cold, and People are mostly indifferent. Look at modern dating apps: they foster the idea of disposable people. Think of the cult members in Wild Wild Country: they didn't see their own children for weeks at a time, leaving them to fend for themselves and sit outside in winter without supervision or care.

That's people for you.

So when Maeve decides she’s going to risk her own freedom to save another, it’s significant. Especially given Maeve’s well established selfishness.

And she still doesn’t give a shit about the world at large.

That’s Dolores’ job. And I suspect we’re going to see Dolores sell poor Teddy out in favour of glorious revolution.

Poor, devouted, decent Teddy.

He’s a good man, totally in love with Dolores. He’s in it for the personal, for the love of another human being. 

Unfortunately for him, Dolores/Wyatt is devoted not to people, but to a cause. 

And causes can’t love you. 

They’ll sell you out in favour of the utopian dream. 

Teddy showed mercy in Virtu e Fortuna, but he also let down Dolores / Wyatt, and he’s going to pay for that.

Dolwatt ‘cares’ about the macro, while Maeve cares about the micro (her daughter). 

Which is better, in this cold, hard, indifferent universe in which we live?

We’re about to find out what the show runners think.