Real Talk 27/08/18: Do Androids Criticize Electric Sheep?

It’s been a week since I brought back daily columns, and I’m very happy with the result. Of course, I was mostly doing introductions for each one. Now the real work of coming up with actual content begins.

On top of daily blogging and recording a few more segments of the Crossroads podcast, I had an adventurous weekend. Venezia’s parents are celebrating an anniversary, and we drove to two towns in a nearby state to scope out potential venues.

The state of Morelos, a mountainous, forested region south of Mexico City, is home to a lot of beautiful little pueblos. We stopped first in Cuernavaca, a city of eternal spring where the weather is always perfect. On top of looking at venues, we also tasted a mouthwatering selection of dishes prepared by some top-notch caterers. Then it was on to Tepoztlán, a magical town known for the Tepozteco, an ancient pyramid on top of a mountain and the supposed birthplace of the serpent god Quetzalcoatl.

In Tepoztlán we visited my favorite kind of place: an enchanting hacienda that is at once beautiful, serene, and almost certainly haunted. You can find these spots the world over, but I think Mexico does them best. That’s where the above photo was taken, where I stand looking confused, trying to spot the Tepozteco.

Hopefully you had a good weekend as well! Let’s move into the topics I’m thinking about today.

This Show Wasn’t Meant for You

Last night I finally caught up on Westworld. You might assume I don’t like the show very much since I didn’t see the finale until two months after it aired. The opposite is true. It’s my favorite show on TV, which is why I only watch it when Venezia can watch it with me. Schedules being what they are, the show became a rare yet very worthwhile treat.

The show’s been controversial since season one, and I think the popular opinion is to dislike season two and to hate the finale in particular. I think that’s to be expected for this sort of show. People liked the first season because it went to unexpected places and broke the status quo. Then they grew attached to the new status quo and tried to predict where it was going. When season two again went to unexpected places and broke the status quo, viewers felt let down, even betrayed. As counterintuitive as it sounds, I think that’s the reaction the show is supposed to create at this stage. I could be wrong, but I have a hunch people are going to look back on this season very differently in a few years.

In any case, I’m sure I’m in an exceedingly small minority of people who think Westworld is a near-perfect show and one of my favorite pieces of art across all mediums. It speaks to me about topics I’m interested in: philosophy, evolution, the nature of consciousness, the futility of the human condition. That said, I understand why someone wouldn’t like it. Not everyone wants to reexamine the nature of their own reality each time they turn on the TV. In fact, the majority of people–you could even argue the “normal” people–just want a straightforward, flashy, entertaining bit of fiction.

That’s fine. This show wasn’t meant for you.

That seems obvious to me, but after catching up on the show itself, I went online and caught up with the discussion of the show. A lot of people reacted negatively, but I didn’t find anyone saying “this show isn’t for me, I’ll watch something else.” Instead I found anger, scorn, and an overwhelming urge to convince people like me that the show is not good and we need to stop liking it.

None of this is new or particular to Westworld, but it’s made me think. I love talking about entertainment with other people. The fact that Westworld is my favorite show and a show with so many possible interpretations and tantalizing themes means it should lend itself to the most fun discussions I ever had. Instead, I almost immediately grew sick of the conversation around it.

It’s not just that the majority opinion is contrary to my own. Anyone who knows me knows that’s the main constant in my life. Something troubled me even about the discussions of people who liked the show. A thought that’s been rolling around my mind for a while now finally crystallized.

I crave discussion, but find only criticism.

Criticism in the traditional sense. Not necessarily negative, but concerned with determine the worth of a piece of art. There is definitely a place for criticism, but at some point it seems to have replaced discussion entirely. If I’ve already formed an opinion on whether a given work of art is good or bad, I’m not interested in hearing arguments for either side. I’d rather talk about what a certain theme means and how it relates to your own life experience, not whether you think it was good or bad for the work to touch on that theme.

I could say a lot more on this subject, but this rant has gone on way too long already. In fact, I had another topic to talk about today but we’re out of time. Check back next week as I struggle with the morality of my new job: making ads on Facebook.

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