Westworld is set up as an adult playground, a place for the financially fortunate to forget about the rules and restrictions of everyday life and let their hidden desires loose. They can kill, they can steal, they can cheat, they can adventure – all without the worry of any undesired consequences. This all kind of sounds like the stuff of bedtime dreams, right?
Kelly Bulkeley, Ph.D., a psychologist of religion focusing on dreams within science, history, art, and spirituality, begs to differ. In a new Huffington Post article he authored, Bulkeley argues that the guests of Westworld experience the opposite of a dream-like self-awakening while in the park:
“When [the guests] enter the park and let loose with their repressed desires, they become decidedly less conscious, not more so. Instead of ascending to a higher level of enlightened awareness, they descend into a pathetically base realm of lower animal reflexes.”
He claims that Westworld has been set up as the embodiment of a lucid dream, where people can pick and choose their own realities without any negative cost. And through this newfound power, he argues the guests should then theoretically ascend to a new level of consciousness by discovering their ‘true selves’. This may be the goal of the park, but Bulkeley asserts that suppression of consciousness is the actual result.
I don’t disagree that many of the guests in the show’s first season revert to more primitive and instinctual actions as they let the lawless land envelope them. A perfect example of this is William (Jimmi Simpson), who allows himself to start falling for Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) even though he is engaged to the sister of his adventure companion Logan (Ben Barnes). While speculative, I think it’s safe to assume that William never allowed himself this type of emotional transgression in the real world – it’s only when he submerges into the fictitious park that this primal instinct of seeking a mate overtakes him.
However, I would argue that the discovery of our more primitive senses is something that actually helps in our road to enlightenment. By letting our repressed thoughts and actions loose (in a safe environment), we help ourselves realize the entire spectrum of our being, beyond the limited personas each of us create as a response to the rules and regulations that govern our real-world lives. How can you claim to have a heightened sense of self-awareness if there is an instinctual side of you buried deep down that you’ve never let yourself experience?
Bulkeley goes on to give an interesting analysis of how the idea of dreams intertwines itself among the storylines of such characters as Dolores, Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins), and Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton), all of which is worth a read. How do you interpret the role of dreams within the show? Let us know!