Why I Stopped Watching Westworld

Tonight I stopped watching Westworld.

I’m so massively bummed.  It was such a great idea.  The script was so unique, so intriguing.  I literally couldn’t wait for the next episode.

But then I’m pretty sure it became porn.  And I just can’t.

Why, Westworld?  Why must you assault me thus?  Why in the middle of a really unique compelling story that I am devouring like a bag of kettle corn at the Cumming Fair, do you have to slam a gigantic orgy scene?   Do people want to see this?  Am I the only prude?

You eased me into it subtly with your show about robots that look remarkably like humans who live in a theme park where real people live out western fantasies.  The robots, called hosts, get killed in saloon shoot outs or stage coach robberies over and over again as new guests arrive.  When they are repaired, you see them naked on the robot repair table.   Ok, I get it, it’s not “real” naked, it’s “robot” naked.  I can deal.

They are also naked as they sit on stools having conversations with the park techies for evaluation purposes.  Ok, I guess.  I mean, I don’t visit my therapist for evaluations naked; I usually have clothes on by then, but fine.  Be naked.  Even though the entire time I’m watching, I am wondering how Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton FEEL about being naked so constantly, and did they put up a fuss, or are they “true actors” understanding that naked makes you vulnerable yet powerful at the same time! (according to interviews I read with both actresses, the latter is true).

It’s not just the women in this show.  The writers were so fair.  Lots of full frontal for the men too.  About time ya’ll got a taste of your own medicine, but man!   Is it just me that has no real desire to view the male genitalia, or have I just been married too long?  (Love you, honey!)

I hung in there because it seriously is the most imaginative script I’ve seen in a long, long time.  I needed a show.   The Gilmore Girls reunion was not available just yet.  So Westworld.  Awesome.

But tonight, there was a brothel scene that had me like HOLY HAIL, that is a visual image that I do not want to be having.   My reaction reminded me how one of my daughters felt when she worked with a kid who would regularly flash pornographic text messages in front of her face.  “Hey look!”, he would say, then crack up.   My daughter’s response was an exclamation of disgust and arms in front of her face.  As it continued, her protests became more vehement, and I should have had the little punk fired 100 times over because this clearly falls under the heading of sexual harassment, a policy which is strictly observed on film and movie sets.   They have very intense meetings with cast and crew about it where they word things very seriously with grave faces.  Sexual harassment is bad!  Never, never do this!   And yet, when the characters in their show flash me similar imagery, it’s art.

Or maybe, Westworld, you’re sexually harassing me.

Too sensitive?  Legalistic?   Was I just not understanding the over arching themes of real humanity here?   I didn’t know.   So I posted something to this affect on Facebook asking if Westworld was simply porn disguised by a hell of a story line.  The reactions were not surprising.   100% of the women that responded agreed with me.  I hate that too!   So gratuitous!  Just gross.  Isn’t there a way to create good entertainment without it?

There were three men that responded.  One accused me of being hypocritical because previous posts had shown my love for Game of Thrones, which dances along similarly pornographic lines.  And also that my daughter had performed on one of the most violent televisions shows in history.  True.  More on that later.

With the second male responder, I engaged with in a very respectful debate after he said that he was not offended at all (but respected my right to be offended) because in Westworld, a brothel like that would absolutely exist and so it serves the story.  I agree to some extent, but felt like there are ways to indicate that sort of world without making us experience it quite so graphically.   To bring it closer to home, I asked him if he would be ok with his wife or daughter playing the chick who was face down in some guys crotch?   He said that he would if they were ok with it, but that neither of them probably would be, and would not perform such a role themselves.

So herein lies the question that gnaws away at me as an artist.

If your moral and ethical boundaries do not permit you to perform a certain role, should they permit you to view the piece as a whole?  After all, if it’s ok to view them, then get out there and perform them.  If you’re an actor, that is.  Don’t make another artist do all the dirty work.   But if you’re saying that it’s not something YOU would do, that tells me that something in your conscience isn’t sitting quite right or as a “true artist” you would do it.   And if you won’t do it, why does your conscience permit you to watch it?   I suspect it’s because of what guy #3 said:  Yeah, it’s so bad, I know!  But the story is so good that I just put up with it.

Exactly why I continue to “put up with” Game of Thrones, Rome, Vikings, The Tudors, and White Queen.  Clearly, I’m a sucker for period drama.   There were many times in all of those shows where I averted my eyes feeling, well, sexually harassed.  But the story!!  It’s so good!   So compelling.  I can’t NOT watch, can I?

Another thing that got under my skin is the fact that almost all of the actors in the scene in question were background actors.   They get paid a whopping $72 per 8 hours.  You may be able to tell me that they knew what they were getting into, but you cannot tell me that 100% of those actors were entirely comfortable.   SAG even felt it necessary to send a letter ahead of time to make sure they knew what they were in for.

Could they have said no?  Absolutely.  But behind every tableaux of graphic sexual encounter, is a girl (or boy) who is just trying to make it.  Who moved to Hollywood with a dream.  I guarantee you, when that young girl pictures her career it is not pretending to give someone a blow job.   She would probably prefer not to be pressed up against a wall with a stranger.  But she thinks, this is a start.  It’s Westworld!  On HBO!  If she can just get her foot in the door by painting her naked body gold and draping it across a principal actor who probably doesn’t even speak to her when they call cut, then maybe something better will happen.

After 25 years in this business, let me make something clear.  Nothing better will happen.  They are paying you $72 a day for this.  You don’t even have any lines except maybe to moan louder.   No one is paying attention to you in the least.  You are a prop.  A piece of furniture.  This job is not the stepping stone you think it is.  So if you are going to pretend to have sex with five people at one time, at least get PAID for it, like Evan and Thandie.  You are worth more than $72 a day.

Why are they doing it then?  Because there are becoming fewer and fewer benign options.   A few months ago, Mackenzie came to us and said, “Mom.  Dad.  I honestly don’t know how I am going to make a living in this business.”   After the cancellation of Under the Dome, she had moved to LA to make a go of it. She had done fairly well, landing a lead in an independent movie, and a short play in less than a year.   However, she was severely hampered by the fact that 50% of the auditions she was offered contained one of three scenarios.  She either had to be naked, simulate sex, or simulate sex with the same sex.  All three made her uncomfortable.   It is hard enough to make a living in this business when you are willing to do any and everything.  But when you have to pass on 50% of the auditions you are getting, it becomes a pipe dream at best.

To be fair, we have always been a bit more liberal with violence than sexual situations.  Maybe that is hypocritical.  But when Madison got shot in the head on The Walking Dead, she did not, in fact, actually get shot in the head.  However, when you have to press your naked body against someone to simulate the most private act in humanity, you cannot escape pressing your naked body against someone while simulating the most private act in humanity.  I know you are not actually having sex, but it is much closer to the real thing than Sophia’s head wound.   And the consequences, especially for children, are not something we are willing to risk. (Yes, children get asked to do some pretty astonishing things in this business, too. It would make your hair curl.)

So when is it just too violent and too sexual?   When is the price of art just too high?  The line is grey.   But the more we watch it, the more we put up with it, the more they will make it.  We have given them permission.  And pretty soon there will be nothing left for anyone with a sense of decency or privacy, or any sort of moral and ethical boundaries to perform.     Which makes me sad.  And hopeless.

So while it will only be a drop in the bucket, while it will more than likely make no difference in the grand scheme of anything….while HBO and Netflix will flick my concerns off their shoulder like an irritating fly…….I have to stand up in the face of what I THINK…..is straight debauchery.   Someone has to say no, I do not want to see your disgusting, pornographic brothel scene.

And that’s why I stopped watching Westworld tonight.

Jesus be a Stylist

There are two types of people in Hollywood. The people who other people want to know what they are wearing so designers give them free stuff to wear. And the people who no one cares about what they are wearing, so when they ask designers to give them free stuff to wear, the designers just stare at them blankly, then get back to dressing Lupita N’yongo.

We fall into the latter.

However, its not like we are sitting around doing NOTHING worthwhile in the entertainment business. We do have STUFF TO ATTEND. But to ATTEND STUFF, you have to WEAR STUFF. So what that looks like is us trudging wearily all over downtown Atlanta (where the cool people shop) searching for the perfect outfit for whatever premiere/screening/event we have to go to, trying to find something that makes us LOOK LIKE we are the type of people that people care what we are wearing when really we have found it, styled it, and put it on our own selves.

We are the Arya Stark of fashion. The family wears no one.

I am forever indebted to Catt Sadler of E! News. Mackenzie was 14 and walking on the biggest carpet I have ever seen for her tiny role in Hunger Games, in which she played the tribute from District 8. The dumb one who lit the fire and was killed by the careers? Anyway, when Catt called Mackenzie over, I was simultaneously thrilled that she ranked high enough to be noticed by E! News, and terrified that Catt would embarrass Mackenzie by asking who she was wearing, which was no one.

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Kenz, ya looked gorgeous, but this was no Dolce and Gabbana. I saw Catt assess the dress in a quick glance and then simply say ,“Mackenzie, you look absolutely beautiful tonight! Did you enjoy working on this movie?” And that’s how I know that Catt is a kind person and I would like to send her a box of all her favorite things.

By the way that dress was never worn again. Why? Because once you are photographed at an event of any kind, the pictures will be all over the internet so when you say to your teen daughters, “Hey, I know, how about you wear one of THOSE dresses to your prom and save some money?”, they are all like, “Dad, you need to take mom to rehab because she is clearly addicted to crack. We do not repeat outfits. Like EVER.”

We are the Kaucasian Kardashians and I was not informed.

So when Matt was invited to the premiere of his next movie, Free State of Jones, I inwardly groaned. I was going to have to shop.  And I would rather hang from a cliff by my eyelids than shop. I actually sent my daughters out by themselves to find their prom dresses, which is arguably one of the most important mom/daughter rites of passage there is, aside from shopping for their wedding dress. Oh God…..do they want me to go with them to shop for their wedding dress?

I am not a good mom.

Anyway, back to the Free State of Jones premiere which would not be FREE at all. We begin by entering a literal apocalypse of traffic to head down town ON A WEEKDAY.  An hour and a half later, Matt is snarling at me for making him physically BE with me on this mission of doom rather than bringing him home choices to try on. He wants choices to try on, ya’ll. And then I can just return all the things that don’t meet with his approval, he says, because he is a millennial and doesn’t actually DO THINGS.

I need a sweet tea from Chick Fil A just to write about this. I’m feeling warm.

We follow our hour and a half of travel with two solid hours of walking into stores, staring listlessly around, and walking out. Too stupid. Too babyish.  Matt is a fashion impossibility right now. He is 15 and ready to venture out into making more of a statement with his clothes, but his body is betraying him by being too small to make that happen. He’s sort of like Fashion Simba who is trying to roar like Fashion Mufasa, and Top Shop is Fashion Mufasa who just chuckles, pats him on the head, and says in a James Earl Jones voice, “Son. Journey to the nearest department store. There you’ll find what you seek. In the children’s section.” Then Fashion Simba snarls irritably and swipes his paws at the nearest family member.

In desperation, I begin texting my fellow stage mom friends like Shari Drucker, mom to Jason Drucker (newly minted star of Diary of a Wimpy Kid), and I say, “Hey! That looks cool! Where did you find THAT!?”

Jason

And she names all these great stores, not one of which is within the confines of Lennox Mall in Buckhead.   Thanks Shari, that’s great.  You’ve been such a help.  So then I try my friend Beryt, mom of Joshua Rush (Andi Mack, Parental Guidance) and say, “HEY, where did you find THIS?  This looks amazing!”

Joshua

And she says really unhelpful words like, “Oh my husband handles all of his styling.  I don’t know where they got that.”  Thank you so much, Beryt. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to end our friendship now.

On to Christi Spink, who’s son Brandon was in Miracles from Heaven with me and looked ADORBS at the premiere.   I facebook messaged her from my phone outside of Jamba Juice: WHERE DID YOU FIND THIS??  I NEED THIS RIGHT NOW???????  (I was shouting.)Brandon

Her reply.  “Oh!  We had some help with that one.  A stylist sent it over!”

…………

I took a moment to question my existence, and then:

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Meanwhile, Fashion Simba has not hunted all day.  He is famished because I “forgot to remind him to eat” (srsly?), which brings on the following exchange:

Me: You see!? This is what happens when you don’t eat. You cannot shop for an outfit that you absolutely HAVE TO FIND on THIS PARTICULAR DAY without fortifying yourself ahead of time.

Matt: Mom if you tell me I need to eat one more time I am going to turn into one of those ungrateful child actors who are entitled and treat their moms with utter derision.

Me: Happened an hour ago.

(5 minutes later)

Matt: Let’s go, I think I just need to eat.

I stare straight ahead and wish for Jesus’s return, because aside from the rapture occuring, we CAN’T GO.  We have to walk out of this mall with a hang up bag over our arm.  You cannot walk a red carpet entirely nude, Matt.  You are not Shia LeBoeuf.

Finally, FINALLY thank you Jesus and all of his angels who did not defect, we find something that could work.  From where?   You guessed it. Macy’s.  Which is also right at the nice little mall in my nice little suburb of Atlanta and would have saved us A LARGE QUANTITY OF TIME AND SUICIDAL THOUGHTS.

But I don’t even care because I love Macy’s right now!  I watch its parade every Thanksgiving with avid attention and now Macy’s is returning the favor by providing me with a nice steel blue suit by Ralph Lauren who IS a designer after all, and it FITS!  I am joyous, happy and free!

So Matt flies out to LA with Marc, because I just do all the work around here and don’t get to actually have the fun, and the night of I’m trying to dress him via text message and when I demand photos they do guy things like send me photos from the neck up.  But from the neck up he looks good!  I ensure that the second button of his shirt is movie star UN-buttoned, that he’s tucked in, and we are CARPET READY.

The Getty Images start pouring in.  Fruit of labor realized.   Matt looks put together.  Handsome.  And dressed.  By someone.  No one need know by who.   If Catt were there, Matt could proudly say, “I’m wearing Ralph Lauren, of course.”  Then Catt would smile indulgently.   “Of course you are Matt, why wouldn’t Ralph want to dress you!”  Back in Atlanta, Jesus and I look at one another, wink, and fold our arms across our chest in satisfaction.   Somewhere in the distance, a lion roars.

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