I.D. Check – Westworld S02E03 The Veneer of Colonialism

Irene,

In the latest episode of Westworld it is impossible to ignore the weight of the sins of the 19th and 20th Centuries settling on the 21st (or is it 22nd in the show’s chronology).  The most obvious of these is illustrated in the opening sequence, featuring new series regular Grace and the events of her trip to The Raj, the first park seen outside of Westworld, surprisingly considering the viewing audience had been fed so many teasers for Shogunworld.  Appropriately for its name, the new park replicates the period of the British Raj and the height of the Empire, through its most valuable jewel, an India that had not yet wrested free of its chains.

What we see of Grace’s personality shows every sign of the entitlement that permeates the thought process of the colonizer.   Obviously, one would say, since she is content to have the Indian hosts serve her at a grand hotel and also expects there to be hosts during the Tiger Hunt to prepare food for her, being shocked when the usual amenities are not available.  But it goes beyond that, as well.  When she meets another guest at the hotel, she is only interested in a sexual relationship once she proves that he is, in fact, human and not a host there simply following his programming, going so far as to be willing to kill the host to prove its true nature, commenting that they won’t remember the pain of death in the morning.

Also, there seems to be something particularly decadent about The Raj, even compared to Westworld.  There is such a power imbalance already in the park between guests and hosts that covering it over with a further sheen of colonialism at its most extreme seems decadent at best, debauched at worst.  To afford a vacation at one of these parks already assumes the guests to be quite wealthy and, no doubt, able to afford all of the benefits of service employees in the real world.  It is one thing for them to be ignorant of what the hosts are going through, and their burgeoning sentience, but to have them masquerade as real humans that went through much of the same pain seems a step too far.

Westworld has been established as a place where the privileged can sin away from the eyes of God, as the Man in Black explained, but the hosts who are portraying the oppressed ethnic group there, the Ghost Nation who now seemingly have Grace’s fate in their hands, are fearsome in their own right and not expected to prepare kippers and tea for the guests.  I am eager to see what Shogunworld brings, portraying a land that never experienced European colonization and how different the hosts that are designed to act out that chapter of Japan’s history react to their newfound freedom.

David Troy is the host of The Counterpart Podcast and the Terror Podcast on Electric Streams.

David,

I could not agree with you more, colonialism is – although deemed as a sin of western civilization by the eastern part of the world – still viewed as an exotic era from the western point of view.  The Raj was clearly designed to satisfy a shallow hunger of Westworld’s rich clientele for the exotic sensations of being an adventurer and conqueror, while being served as kings or queens by the native population. With romance in between, of course.  This park was purely serving the western point of view of colonialism and would be completely the opposite for an easterner who was the object of colonialism.

Speaking of Grace, at first I thought she was just another unnecessary addition to the already full group of strong female figures that are featured in Season 2 of Westworld.   As we learn more, she turned out not to be just another client, but also came with an important backstory of her own.  Still i can’t help to think that character wise, Grace’s bears a close resemblance to the female figures that already came before. First among them are Maeve and Dolores, not to mention their female soldiers such as Angela and Armistice who are strong, serious, cold-blooded killers. Her character felt redundant instead of enriching Season 2.  I wish the writers could have been more creative with a what could have been a new archetype for a female character on the show.

Irene Sarwindaningrum is a frequent contributor to Electric Streams Media.

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