Its Sunday Sermon time with the Pop-Culture Theologians!
Kirsten Gerdes, Pop-Culture Theologian extraordinaire is joining us this week for our takeaways! Check out her bio here.
Want to join us as a guest theologian? Give us a shout-out!
A couple quick pop culture observations from the last week
1. Michelle Wolf is a national treasure and we were LIVING for her speech at the correspondents dinner. THIS is what white allyship looks like. This is what punching up looks like. The reactions? That is what misogyny, patriarchy, and complicit-ness looks like. #michellewolf2020
2. Yo. We are actually speechless about Kanye. But.... damn.
3. We loved Episode 2 so much we ended up restarting The Leftovers, another show with incredible depth worthy of discussion. Waiting a week between Westworld episodes leaves us looking for other nuggets of pop-culture theology.
4. And again, our hope is to transition this into a podcast, but that is in the future (or past, or present, right?).
5. Martha Cecilia will join us again next week. For fellow Potterheads, she is spending all day watching both parts of The Cursed Child, which, if we are being honest, is her own version of Church. Expect a special PCT post on Cursed Child soon!
Let's break down Season 2, Episode 1: Reunion
Spoilers Ahead: You have been warned...
John's 5 Sips of Tea:
1.) "You're to perfect to be one of us."
This piece of dialogue was said by Logan Delos and man did it pack a wallop.
They made the androids to be too perfect because they, unlike their makers, are not. My mind kept flashing to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The creators of the androids played God in the sense that they wanted to give something so perfect to the world that people would ultimately give whatever they could to be with them. Whether they were seeking pleasure or the ultimate adventure that Westworld presents, people consumed the product of Westworld and believed in the promise that they were being sold.
However, while the episode shows us how long Westworld actually was a successful, an odd 30+ years, in the narrative before the present day timeline takes place, the viewer is lead to believe that the people who chose to believe in Westworld chose to do so because they needed to believe in something that was more perfect that they ever could be.
I almost want to break this whole quote and idea of the androids being “too perfect” down even further and compare and contrast the ideology of people “consuming” the perfect body of their “saviors” in some type of Eucharistic fashion but hey, I already have one dissertation I cannot finish.
2.) Sexual Fluidity
I have to admit, I really enjoy that this show explores sexuality in a level free from shame (in the sense that we have seen to this point). I find it freeing that Logan Delos, the son of the CEO of the Delos Corporation, has no hang-ups when it comes to loving freely.
From the time in season one when we are introduced to him to the second episode of season two, Logan’s character has had quite the ride. From William’s journey ultimately driving him mad and to a point where he no longer is the heir apparent, Logan’s sexual journey mimics that of a stereotypical white, rich son of a corporate overload. He can have whatever and whomever he chooses. In a world where people attempt to escape reality, it is refreshing to see a person whose sexual proclivities are not hidden when he leaves Westworld.
Although he may be a walk stereotype, it is nice to see a character’s sexual fluidity being displayed loud and proud while offering a minor critique on sexuality in the Westworld universe. While the other characters everyone are out there exploring what it means to be alive, Logan just simply wants to have a little bit of fun.
3.) Join Me or Perish
It finally happened: Dolores and Maeve met. While they may not have hit it off, I found myself wondering what their relatioshi would have been like had they met earlier in season one or, just like with each of their own journeys, are they just two different to share the same space with one another?
I don’t know the answers to ANY of these questions but much like with the sassy look Maeve gives Dolores after she asks her to join her because she, Dolores, is the only one that can save her, Maeve, I’m left with the same determination to see their stories to their bitter end.
4.) "A place where they can sin in peace."
I am here for the Man in Black (and not just because I have a thing for Ed Harris). William’s journey into the Man in Black is something I could watch by itself. Never one to parse words, he says what the ultimate purpose of the park is not because he truly understands its purpose and fundamental meaning for its patrons and shareholders.
Much like the Garden of Eden, Westworld represents a place post-apple; more specifically, whereas in the classic tale Eve takes the apple and is made keanly aware that she is naked and she and Adam are ashamed because God did not want her to possess that type of knowledge, Westworld is the Garden of Eden without the shame that comes with possessing knowledge.
Westworld in and of itself is a location hidden away from God’s gaze where people can sin in peace by experiencing all the pleasures it has to give (i.e. the apple). Better yet, Westworld IS a place free from heavenly sin, judgment, and ultimately damnation:
"If you [believed in God], you would believe everything you've done has been watched by an all-seeing eye — every choice, every little indiscretion — and when you die, all your sins are tallied up and judgment is rendered," the Man in Black tells his companion. "That's why your world exists. [Humanity] wanted a place hidden from God, a place they could sin in peace. But we were watching them. We were tallying up all their sins, all their choices. Of course, judgment wasn't the point. We had something else in mind entirely."
5.) The Last Supper
When Dolores walks into the barn in the last scene to talk to a group about joining her, the camera pans out and you focus on a scene emblematic of The Last Supper (I mean, that is how I saw it at least). However, I took the symbolism present throughout the scene as representative of man’s ability to see a woman as a viable leader or “chosen one.”
Much like Christ saves the world through dying for his sins, Dolores, after having Teddy shoot up the place, approached the man at the center of the table and brings him back to life. Resurrected and now with new life and understanding, he no longer sees Dolores as the naïve character he thought she was when she first entered, but instead the savior that they need in order to accomplish freeing everyone else from the same type of mental bondage that he just escaped.
Kirsten's 5 Sips of Tea:
1. The theme of the ethics of creation still resonates. Clearly Ford and Arnold both felt burdened (at different times) about their responsibility for creating a group of sentient creatures for the sole purpose of enslaving them. We learn this in S1. This season, I think we might see what results when the AI create something new: a revolution (and possibly new life? More on that below.)
2. Motherhood (through the character of Maeve) is being contrasted to fatherhood/the patriarchy (through Ford, Arnold, William, etc.). Current fan theory is that Maeve’s daughter is not just her host daughter but her “biological” (wrong word?) one. This would position Maeve as another type of Creator.
3. Maeve has no time for White Feminism, as can be seen in her delicious exchange with Dolores.
4. Apparently, the Westworld writers really don’t like Facebook’s mining of our data. I wonder if Zuckerberg watches. 🤔 Since William’s the one who set up the data mining to begin with, is he exempt from it? 🤔🤔 Is Zuckerberg’s data being mined from Facebook?? 🤔🤔🤔
5. The slave revolt as represented in Westworld is rightfully bloody and extensive. I’m definitely curious to see how it plays out: what world will result when the enslaved have fully overthrown their masters? And let’s be clear that most sci-fi stories about AI that pontificate on what makes humans human really double as narratives that depict the problem of deciding who or what is the Big Other (to use Lacanian terms): who or what is the ideal that gives everything else its meaning - the master signifier. The boundary between human and non-human has to be drawn somewhere and someone (or some group) always seems to be on the wrong side of that line.