Whose Real? Encountering New Frontiers in Westworld
AbstractThis article explores the themes of psychoanalysis and Lacanian theory discernible in the HBO version of Westworld (HBO 2016- ). This article argues that it is productive to examine the series through a psychoanalytic lens, especially through Jacques Lacan’s concept of the Real. In an examination of Season One of the series, we argue that this new show – given its focus on psychological landscapes and trauma – requires a deeper textual analysis to uncover similar Lacanian themes. These are themes signposted by the quite literal depictions of therapy sessions shown throughout the season. At the heart of the show lies a double irony about the human and non-human characters in the show. Westworld’s robotic characters are gripped by the complexity of their memories: memories pre-programmed, easily adjusted and changed by the scientists running the park. Then, we see the actual human figures of the show in hot pursuit of violent sexual desires, thoughtlessly enacting free plays of desire without consequence and the conscientious interruption of the superego or the ‘Law’. To explain this, we firstly provide an introduction to the contextual origins of the three psychoanalytic orders (or triad) developed in Lacan’s writings, particularly looking at Seminar II of 1954-1955. Using this framework, we then focus on a textual analysis of four key characters in the series, and how each negotiates journeys through these conceptual/spatial zones that delineate some ‘encounter with the Real’. Finally, we argue that the text’s complex narrative devices become allegorical for the viewer him- or herself as a lost figure in search of answers, allowing a meta-analysis of key themes of the show.
LicenseMEDIANZ abides by the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Public Licence. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode
Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal. The work may not be used for commercial purposes. The work may not be altered, transformed, or built upon.
Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal. For queries about all other uses, please contact the issues editor for MEDIANZ