The Meta Storytelling of ‘Westworld’

Watch a video essay about how Westworld is about much more than meets the eye.
By  · Published on April 5th, 2018

Watch a video essay about how Westworld is about much more than meets the eye.

Westworld touches on a lot of frequent sci-fi fodder: technology, consciousness, free will. But at the show’s core, buried beneath its flashy exterior, is a thoughtful exploration of the art of storytelling. Westworld examines storytelling — what it is, what it can be, and what it should be — by telling a story. Luckily, the show possesses the self-awareness to pull it off. In fact, Westworld‘s meta storytelling is what makes it so thematically rich and narratively engaging. 

The show’s premise serves as an extended metaphor for storytelling, exploring the conflicts of authorship, artistry, and authenticity. The HBO drama centers around an amusement park filled with lifelike androids, who resemble actors, to play out the narratives of the elusive Dr. Ford who, in a directorial role, is the mastermind behind the park. Above all, Westworld examines the fundamental purpose of stories and dares us to consider why we need to tell and be told narratives in the first place. Author Joan Didion once wrote, “We tell ourselves stories to live.” Ford would certainly agree, as both Ford and his clientele need stories to make sense of their lives. But for Ford, his storytelling — which takes the form of the park — is much more: a legacy, a discovery, an offering of insight so potent that it can change humanity. 

The social implications of storytelling are also on full display in Westworld. Stories don’t exist in vacuums; the impacts of a narrative reverberate far beyond the story world. On the role of storytelling, Westworld takes a stance that is dystopian but hopeful. While the state of modern storytelling is in troubling disarray, delivering spectacle with little substance, Westworld posits that we can always tap into storytelling’s more profound possibilities, should we try.

Ultimately, Westworld teaches us about storytelling by telling a damn good story. Check out the video essay below for a brilliant in-depth analysis of Westworld‘s exploration of storytelling.

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Writer, college student, television connoisseur.