I made a comic!

Gift exchange panel 1Gift exchange panel 2Gift exchange panel 3Gift exchange panel 4

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How Tropes Excuse Sexual Harassment

A friend was telling me about someone she knew who worked incredibly hard, was incredibly talented and incredibly lucky and landed a staff writing job on a sitcom where she was the only woman in the room. (Very common.) She left the room to use the restroom one day and when she returned, the other writers had left a picture of a penis on her chair and were encouraging her to guess whose dick it was. “That’s so disappointing,” I said, and then, searching for the argument that might have adequately explained to the other writers why they shouldn’t do this again, “it’s just such a fucking cliche.”

The news has been full of stories about sexual harassment and sexual assault throughout this industry and others. When this story broke about the writer who was fired from Mad Men, my brain automatically added in context that he was probably saying she should get naked to give him inspiration. Which is not in the article, by the way, although it does say they were working late, but did lead me to realize the connection between this behavior, the disappointment, and The Muse Trope.

The best explanation of The Muse Trope I’ve seen was in Dogma. Salma Hayek plays a literal muse, a celestial being who inspires great works of art and literature. But when she decides to come to Earth to create things for herself, she finds the well is dry. Her value is only in inspiring others, which as the movie finds her, she is doing as a stripper.

I’m just going to pause to let that sink in for a minute. The inspiring real-world job she finds is as a stripper.

The Muse Trope plays into a lot of other tropes in our culture. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a Muse. The fat husband with a skinny wife exists as a trope because men can have value by being funny but women can only be attractive. (Skinny and attractive are two different things, but we can talk about that another time.) Women are fridged as a means of providing inspiration to men. The fact that most of our stories center men means that women are often relegated to “inspiration.” And since inspiring usually means “fuckable,” and we live in a racist society, that leaves women of color getting left out completely or filed under “fetish” characters.

And none of this would matter if it didn’t bleed into real-world attitudes, but it does. If women exist as muses, it’s nice to have one or two in a writers’ room but they are not, strictly speaking, necessary. And they never have to be promoted. If, for instance, you have a really good assistant who busts their ass, if that assistant is a man, you’ll think, “he’s angling for a promotion.” And if the assistant is a woman, you think, “better not let her get away!” Because her entire purpose is to serve you.

But for creative women, being expected to inspire others and not create work of your own is horrible. And that’s why all of these cases are so disappointing, because all of these are women who are ambitious, who have worked very hard and found themselves in a position to prove themselves and their art, and are now being told no, you’re just the stripper. You’re there for Tony to look at while he does business. And it’s such a fucking cliche.

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First Impressions: Star Trek: Discovery

I don’t get very many job perks, but last Tuesday I got two: an email that as a full-time CBS employee, I now have free CBS All-Access, and the ability to go to the new Star Trek press premiere in Hollywood. On the first: knowing that I’m able to watch future episodes gave me permission to like this show. Because there was no way I was going to shell out money for yet another streaming service, and so I was feeling a guilty duty to hate it. That’s sort of how that works. Also, the news this morning announced that CBS is very excitedly saying this is their biggest week yet for people signing up, just to watch Star Trek, and while I’m sure that would be true even if they didn’t suddenly give a couple thousand people free accounts, I’m also sure it didn’t hurt. I mean, they didn’t offer us the free accounts before The Good Fight premiered. (A show I’m looking forward to getting caught up on as soon as I have a free weekend.)

The premiere event was a lot of fun. I ended up, through sheer dumb luck, in the front row, center seat. They brought out the producers and cast and they were right in front of me. They asked William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols to stand and we all applauded. The audience was full of cast from the various series so they all stood and we applauded. A couple fans were in costumes and when I left I saw Bill Nye talking with Robert Picardo (the Doctor from Voyager) and had a totally-unchill freakout. They also gave us Federation pins so I promptly put mine on my favorite sweater and keep “forgetting” to take it off so people keep asking me about it.

But it’s hard to give a review of the show itself, because they screened the first two episodes for us (which is also what was released on All-Access last night) and those two episodes function as a sort of stand-alone movie; a prequel to what the show will be. The show is called Star Trek: Discovery because it takes place on the USS Discovery, except that ship doesn’t even appear in those first two episodes, which take place on the USS Shenzou. Only two of the main characters even survive the first two episodes. These episodes are about the start of the Klingon-Federation war that presaged The Original Series, but while these episodes are entirely about that war, I have no idea how much it will figure into the ongoing series. I can tell you that I enjoyed watching it, and not just because I was at a big Hollywood premiere, but also that I can’t justify spending more money watching TV (every six months my cable bill goes up another $5) so really what I recommend is that you work for my employer so you can watch it for free. It’s REALLY worthwhile.

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First Impressions: Orville

Last night, Fox premiered the first two episodes of The Orville, a sitcom by Seth McFarlane that is decidedly ripping off Star Trek. And honestly, the “ripping off Star Trek” part was fine. It was the “sitcom” part where I had trouble.

Seth McFarlane stars as a Star Fleet Planetary Union officer who is given command of his first ship, populated with misfits, most of whom are getting their first assignments. And… they’re all competent and try really hard and are generally nice to each other. His first officer is his ex-wife, whose only concern is the state of their relationship (she feels guilty for cheating on him) and not at all the state of her career. Is this a step up for her? Were they previously at the same career level? Was she actually higher than he was? No idea. This is about a guy who has to work with his ex-wife. Her motivations don’t play much into it. (That said, the actress does a wonderful job with what she has. If the writers just thought about her character and perspective a bit more, she could steal the show.)

And that’s the frustrating thing about this show: the pieces are there. The problem isn’t in the concept, it’s in the execution. One of the officers is a cyborg from a race notorious for being racist against all organic beings. Except saying that is the entire joke. He doesn’t try to bond with the ship at the expense of the crew, he doesn’t get upset when the ship is damaged by enemy fire, he doesn’t even react when the captain and another crewman openly discuss urination. We all know how shows about misfits coming together are supposed to go: they’re supposed to be hamstrung by how odd they really are and initially fail to come together, but when the chips are down they learn how to rely on each other and also that they each have unique skills and traits that, when combined, make them successful in a way they couldn’t be individually. None of that happens here. None. From the jump, they are all competent and nice and try really hard. One of my friends asked if this was an “unfunny-funny show,” lumping it in with shows like One Mississippi and Transparent that aren’t so concerned with the three-jokes-per-page rule. I’d argue that this is a different category, because those shows are usually sacrificing humor for deep character moments and psychological study, but what’s holding Orville back is Seth McFarlane’s deeep and earnest love for Star Trek. While I believe that loving something is important to being able to parody it, you still have to want to say something unique about it. It seems all Seth McFarlane has to say is “I want to be there.” I’ll give it more of a chance because I CAN see the promise, but my hopes aren’t particularly high.

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Some of them want to abuse you…

Read this.

It can be really hard to work in an industry where abuse on the job is not only common and accepted, but sometimes encouraged. One of the reasons I feel so far behind in my career is that I’ve moved from production jobs to office jobs, but the path forward in office jobs is in Development, and the Development career path starts with working at an agency. And I refuse to work at an agency. I have too much respect for myself to put up with the treatment that agencies are famous for. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t put up with shit, or that other paths aren’t full of the same abuse. I’ve worked with wonderful actors, lawyers and executives, and also some who would scream insults all day because they locked themselves out of their offices or couldn’t figure out how to work their GPS devices. And they felt entitled to this behavior.

Abuse is especially common in entertainment because whistleblowers don’t have to be fired to never work again. No job lasts very long so it’s easy to simply not hire someone who makes trouble, and the person “making trouble” is never the abuser. And it’s not like assistants get to be abusive. Nobody bullies their boss. You have to have some degree of success before you can turn asshole. Other people have to be invested in you.

I think the part that still hurts, all these years later, is feeling like putting up with all of that didn’t even pay off. Not only am I still an assistant, but I’m not on an executive track. I love television. I can discuss ratings the way other people discuss draft picks. But every interview with someone who’s been successful in television will include how lucky they were, that somebody gave them a break. Nobody is guaranteed that break. But some people get it, and think that luck entitles them to be assholes. And far too many people on the receiving end of their shit agree.

 

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Summer Binge-Watch: Ozark

A while ago, I read an article about a wealthy couple getting divorced and how the husband was trying to hide hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore accounts and the wife had to hire a private investigator to track it all down. But the article also described how the couple had made their money; basically, they invented new and even more obnoxious versions of pop-up ads and toolbars that claimed to clean your computer. They specialized in annoying people out of their money. They started with nothing and became very, very wealthy, and suddenly it hit me that when people talk about the American Dream and how anyone can become rich, that is true with a caveat. You have to be willing to be evil. If you can look at your fellow human beings and see nothing more than rubes, then absolutely you can become rich. But if you actually care about other people and their happiness and comfort, your income potential is severely limited. It was hammered home again for me a few weeks later when I saw an article about how a breast cancer “charity” was being fined $350k for defrauding contributors. As I read into the article, it described how the “charity” had made at least $3m a year for six years. So they made $18m and were fined $350k and this was described as a win for the justice system. Being evil is really lucrative.

I was thinking about this while Marty Byrde was giving us his opening monologue, about how the amount of money you have is directly proportional to the amount of work you’re willing to do. The way he lets the word “work” drip, we know it’s just a stand-in for “evil.” So our first introduction to the main character is knowing that he’s a giant douche. But it’s a tricky needle to thread, introducing us to a character through his point of viewing and trusting us to understand that he’s not right. True Detective tried it and it didn’t go well for them.* Ozark has it a little better by sheer virtue of being able to be binge-watched, so if you haven’t picked up on Marty’s life philosophy from his monologue, you certainly will within a few episodes. It’s slightly undercut when the second thing we learn about Marty is that he’s surrounded by even bigger assholes than he is, but that’s the nature of Marty. He tricks you with his innocent-seeming Jason Bateman-ness into thinking he is the spark of good in the murky lake of assholes, but the truth is that Marty CHOSE this lake. He made the effort to surround himself with terrible people, because he thinks this is a lake he can swim in. The third thing we will learn about Marty is that he believes he can talk his way out of any situation.

There is something that differentiates Marty from all of the people you know in real life who think they can talk their way out of anything, and that is that he’s smart enough to know he also has to do to the work to back up his stories. His mouth isn’t plan A, it’s plan C, but it hasn’t failed him yet. This is why his bosses don’t kill him immediately, not that he’s actually the best money launderer in existence but that it’s just so entertaining watching him thrash around on a string. And that’s why we keep watching, to see what happens when Marty is suddenly thrown into another lake.

In the world of Ozark, people live stratified lives. It’s like those tanks demonstrating pollution in water that you can see in aquariums. Most people live more-or-less law-abiding lives, getting loans from banks and running small hotels and maybe finding a tourist to have consensual sex with on weekends. Then there are people who live lives of petty crime, who don’t see the difference between earning a paycheck and “earning” someone else’s belongings, and are just working on getting through each day as it comes until the days stop coming. And then there are the hard-core criminals, who don’t think twice about resorting to murder and value money above all else in life. Marty’s career places him in that last group with the bottom-feeders, but when he’s dropped into the lake and sinks straight to the bottom, he stirs up all the other layers as he goes. Suddenly, the other bottom-feeders are exposed, the petty criminals are contemplating murder and lives of luxury, and the law-abiding people are committing arson just to stay afloat.

Marty is used to talking his way out, but he doesn’t understand the language of this new lake. Even when he’s told repeatedly that gestures matter, he insists on doing things his way, without consulting any locals. In the end, well, you’ll have to watch it to the end. But Marty does have an amazing way of talking himself in circles, and it is very fun watching him thrash about on the line. Even if we no longer know who’s holding the other end.

The first season of Ozark, 10 episodes, is on Netflix. The show has already been picked up for a second season.

*As a  bystander, this is still one of the weirdest reactions to a TV show I’ve ever seen. In the True Detective pilot, Cohle has a whole speech about how humanity is a scourge upon the planet and if we had any dignity we’d lock arms and march straight into extinction. I interpreted this as Cohle being emotionally immature and depressed, like most college freshmen who have just discovered nihilism. The way most viewers seemed to interpret it was that Cohle is really, really smart. Then, after the show was lauded for being so smart, the backlash came in the form of people pointing out that nihilism was already a philosophy that existed, and viewers felt betrayed. I swear I could hear the writer’s confusion from the other end of town.

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Summer Binge-Watch: Dear White People

I first witnessed this power out on the Yard, that communal green space in the center of the campus where the students gathered and I saw everything I knew of my black self multiplied out into seemingly endless variations. There were the scions of Nigerian aristocrats in their business suits giving dap to bald-headed Qs in purple windbreakers and tan Timbs. There were the high-yellow progeny of AME preachers debating the clerics of Ausar-Set. There were California girls turned Muslim, born anew, in hijab and long skirt. There were Ponzi schemers and Christian cultists, Tabernacle fanatics and mathematical geniuses. It was like listening to a hundred different renditions of “Redemption Song,” each in a different color and key.

-Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

I haven’t seen the movie Dear White People, but I watched the first season on Netflix. As near as I can tell, this is like watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer the TV series without watching the movie. The movie is fine, but the show is something different and completely worthwhile on its own. The first season is 10 half-hour episodes, following a group of very different black students as they navigate life in college, trying to find themselves and their places in the world. And it’s really good.

Most episodes focus on a different student and their experience. While the stories overlap, the timeline does move forward a little each time, so we can see how the same kids went from an act of overtly uncovering racism on campus to being driven to riot. We get some flashbacks, so we can see how one student expressly requested to not be assigned to black student housing, was anyway, but then grew to love it and feel that living there helped her to define her identity in a way she wouldn’t have been able to on her own. We see people who have ideas about the “right” and “wrong” type of black person realize that it’s not about the type of person so much as how far they’ve been pushed. Students of other ethnicities aren’t ignored; they’re just not the focus. Every character has strengths and weaknesses and goals. They make mistakes and they make friends and they struggle to identify themselves against parents and a school and a society that’ve already identified them.

The show puts a lot of thought into the difference between “segregation” and “having space.” And it doesn’t pretend that there are easy answers, although there are definitely some wrong answers. It can sometimes throw in a little absurdism a la Atlanta, but for the most part plays it straight and is well worth the viewing time, giving it to characters that don’t get nearly enough representation. The show, knowing that’s the case, makes the time count.

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Summer Binge-Watch: The Crown

One of my coworkers is all about this show. When I told him I was watching Victoria, he insisted I watch this. Unfortunately, I had to wait about six months in between. And then I was kind of disappointed.

Victoria aired on PBS last winter, and was about the early reign of Queen Victoria, who inherited the crown in 1837 at 19 years old. Women were not generally allowed to have any kind of power at all, but she was head of state and had to not only assert herself politically but find a husband and have a family while being queen. The writing wasn’t always the best and the show could be amazingly soapy (there were also all these intrigues involving the serving class) but the costumes were amazing and the drama was real. Victoria was only in line to be queen because her older cousin had died during childbirth, a thought that terrified Victoria when she got married and became pregnant. But since neither birth control nor c-sections existed, and discussing women’s health was considered vulgar, there wasn’t much she could do about it.

The Crown is available on Netflix and is about the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II, who inherited the crown in 1952 at the age of 25, when she was already married and had two children. This show is about how stifling the manners and traditions of monarchy can be, and most episodes follow this template:

Loved One: I want to do this thing.
Queen: That’s a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Of course you can do the thing.
Government: They cannot do the thing. It’s against tradition, and since your uncle abdicated the throne everyone’s just waiting for you to turn out to be crazy so you can’t do anything against tradition.
Queen: Sorry, Loved One, you cannot do the thing.
Loved One: You suck!
Queen: Being queen sucks.
fin

The fashion is pretty, but since it’s the 1950s and not the 1850s, it doesn’t seem that alluring to us today. And as an American, being told that the traditions of the monarchy are constricting just doesn’t make sense. If traditions aren’t working for you, just change them. Tradition for tradition’s sake isn’t a part of our culture. My coworker who loved the show has a British wife, who explained to him all the nuance that probably flew straight over my head. I will say that John Lithgow does an amazing job playing Winston Churchill, who has a much more complicated character with an actual arc and everything. But I strongly suspect the show is trying very hard not to disparage people who are still alive… and have a lot of power. Unfortunately, when the conflict can play out over one episode, it ends up feeling like the same episode over and over again.

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Summer Binge-Watch: Riverdale

One of the people in my writing group decided to write a Riverdale spec, so I spent the weekend watching season 1. Riverdale is a gritty murder-mystery show on the CW based on the Archie comics, and the look on your face right now is absolutely correct. Some people have described it as “Archie in Twin Peaks,” meaning the dark, murder mystery part of Twin Peaks and not the supernatural or “weird for the sake of being weird” parts. My overall impression is that this is a VERY teenage show. Every time our narrator, Jughead, references the murder of Jason Blossom as “when Riverdale lost its innocence,” I think, “no, you’re just 16. That’s what 16 feels like.” When Betty confesses that sometimes it feels like there’s an evil inside her and she doesn’t know where it comes from, I’m reminded of Pubertus. And when Cheryl changes moods like hats, I remember that brief period in high school when I tried wearing hats.

And yes, this show is ridiculous. Most of the adults are mustache-twirlingly evil. Betty’s mom, Alice, is supposedly a reporter but writes articles specifically about her personal vendettas and without regard for libel laws. When Alice is right, she’s right for the wrong reasons and in the worst possible way. She’s so over-the-top that the writers use her in situations where there is a clear path forward that any rational person would take, but the show doesn’t want to go that way so they use Alice to derail the plot. A friend called her a “human record-scratch,” which is a phrase I have to work into my everyday conversation. For instance, you may have heard about the plotline at the beginning of the show where Archie is sleeping with his music teacher, Miss Grundy. (There was a strong fan reaction when the show debuted.) Miss Grundy is clearly a sexual predator, and when the parents finally find out and confront her, Archie basically recites all the things that kids who are the victims of sexual predators say, starting with “she didn’t do anything wrong! I pursued her!” So the way this would go in real life is that she would be arrested and tried, and those stories can be interesting but the writers really knew they had made a mistake with this one and wanted it over as quickly as possible, so instead they put Alice in the scene and she started screaming to where we thought Miss Grundy would end up swinging from a tree and everyone agreed that she just needed to leave town as quickly as possible.

And yet, the show can be frustratingly real. Betty still trusts and confides in her mother, despite her mother breaking that trust every single time, because it’s her mother. Most of the kids, in fact, should have declared themselves emancipated long ago but don’t because this is how it works. When Jughead’s dad accepts money to set off a chain of events that he knows will involve making his son homeless, it’s heartbreaking. When we watch the other adults in Jughead’s life penalize him again and again for being poor instead of protecting or providing for him, the reality makes us cringe.

And amongst all of this, the Blossom family literally tries to replace their dead son with Archie, because they kind of look alike, and nobody sounds the alarm. Jughead tells someone “you can talk to the Sheriff, or you can talk to me [a high school reporter]” and this is played straight. Betty is not only a far more responsible reporter than her mother (despite trying to cover up stories involving her friends), but the school newspaper, which didn’t exist at the beginning of the year, has a larger operating budget than the town paper. THIS IS ACTUALLY STATED AND UNIVERSALLY AGREED ON. The kids are definitely the adults, and yet the kids are still kids. Sort of what you expect from a show based on the Archie comics.

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Background Info: The 1973 Westworld Movie

The movie was written and directed by Michael Crichton, and is the basis for the current HBO TV Series of the same name. The thing that strikes me while watching it is how little is actually there. It’s like if you broke down a movie to its logline; say, The Hangover would be “A group of men take their buddy for a bachelor party in Vegas and wake up the next morning with no memory of what happened – and no groom.” Which accurately describes the movie, but obviously there’s a lot more that happens with tigers and a baby and Mike Tyson, because it’s a full movie. Well, in Westworld, “at a high-end amusement park populated by robots acting as people, the robots malfunction and start killing the guests.” And that’s it. That’s the whole movie. Really. Don’t believe me? Here’s what happens:

We open on something like filmed testimonials for Delos, which is made up of three parks: Medievalworld, Romanworld, and Westworld. (Notably, this was clearly shot after the rest of the movie, because everywhere else it’s referred to as Westernworld.) Guests discuss living their fantasies of shooting six men, a woman talks about getting her groove back, and a man gushes about marrying a princess, something he dreamed of doing “all my life!” And they say men don’t fantasize about their wedding days. One man brags that he was the sheriff of Westworld for two weeks. This will be important later. It’s also established that visiting costs $1,000 a day, which today would be around $5,500. (This seems low to me, but two different inflation calculators gave me similar numbers. I was thinking closer to $12,000.) Remember the Fyre Festival fiasco? Yeah. I think we’re supposed to hate these people.

Then we move to the hovercraft currently transporting a group of guests to Delos. Why a hovercraft and not a plane? Or a train, like the current series? Shut up, that’s why. We meet James Brolin, looking exactly like James Garner in profile and playing John Blane, keeping it cool. He has been to Westernworld before. He’s being grilled by Richard Benjamin, playing Peter Martin, who is a total dork about the whole thing. Peter asks John how much a Colt .45 weights, and John says it’s 3-4 lbs. Having never handled a gun in my life, I feel completely confident that John is full of shit. Every robber would have carpal tunnel. Everyone else watches a movie pumping them up to visit Delos, and giving us no new information except that Romanworld is basically a giant orgy. (Medievalworld is if you want to stab robots with swords, and Westernworld is if you want to shoot robots. In all of them, you can also fuck robots.) One guy traveling with his wife is clearly regretting that they are going to Medievalworld instead of Romanworld. The hovercraft arrives and everyone gets onto trams to go to their respective worlds, which is mostly us being introduced to robots that look like people “except the hands.” The guys going to Westernworld are given authentic clothes to change into, but they’re just in a big, open locker room, and Peter finally gets a gun.

We do get to briefly see Central Control, where they mostly say numbers and there’s one guy who’s always on the phone placing lunch orders or complaining about his laundry not getting done. It’s a swell job.

Peter and John arrive at their hotel, which Peter complains about being an authentic shithole, and John tips the innkeeper just so we can see his hands, which actually look fine to me but apparently are not? John gives Peter a hard time for still thinking about the wife who divorced him six months ago and took the kids, which, the hell? Peter shoulda pistol-whipped John as soon as he found out John lied about the gun. Who are these guys to each other, anyway?

They go to a bar and Peter’s having trouble getting into the spirit of the place (he orders a vodka martini, extra dry) until Yul Brenner, playing a character called The Gunslinger, shows up. He’s clearly a robot, clearly designed to goad tourists into shooting him. So Peter does, but it takes a while, and nobody thinks much of it besides Peter. John finally explains to Peter that they know The Gunslinger was a robot because Peter was able to shoot him, and the guns don’t shoot anything with a body temperature. Which, do the robot whores have cooch-warmers? Because I’d imagine that would be awkward to fuck a cold robot.

We check in on Medievalworld, I think just to show how much better the food is there than Westernworld. Then we’re back in Westernworld, where Peter and John visit the brothel because they have the same questions I do. Peter’s getting the hang of playing cool and ordering whiskey, but still freaks out at the prospect of fucking machines. For about two seconds. And then he’s all sad they have to miss the bank robbery happening across the street so he can fuck a machine. His robot, by the way, does not look into this. At all. She looks downright sad. But Peter doesn’t notice over the sound of his boner. They make sweet, sweet love, which, to be fair, doesn’t look particularly rapey. (This is one of the differences between the movie the TV show. The movie: “You can fuck and kill robots!” The TV show: “You can rape and kill robots!”) We see the robot’s eyes get wide and hear a tone which we’re supposed to interpret as her being affected by this malfunction, and when she leaves she says “I think you’re very nice” which I suppose is why she doesn’t kill Peter? John comes in so they can both giggle like schoolboys.

At night, while all the guests are asleep (sure, that’s how resorts work), the park employees come around to pick up all the robots that are dead or otherwise in need of service. They’re all put on a conveyor belt and taken to a big room lined with surgery-like repair setups. This is mostly to show off the special effects. It’s funny how there’s not even an attempt to get the actors playing robots to stop blinking if the camera isn’t focused on their eyes, although they do hold their breaths. We then get a long explanation about how more robots are breaking down than expected, and it started in Romanworld and is spreading. They kind of go out of their way to NOT invent the term “computer virus,” calling it “a disease of machinery.”

In the morning, after the robots have been activated, The Gunslinger shows up looking for Peter, presumably because that’s the last person he remembers shooting him. John dives behind a bed, which is a good idea when Peter swings into action, taking out a mirror and a lamp before slow-motion shooting The Gunslinger.

The next scene only makes any sense at all in the context of the TV show, so props to the show for that. See, the show explains this concept that the park has “storylines,” which you can choose to participate in or get roped into. The movie sort of references the concept (like with the bank robbery) but the whole concept doesn’t seem as scripted out. What happens here is that Peter gets thrown in jail until the judge arrives “next week.” Which, clearly, you can’t have someone paying $5,500 a day for a park experience and then lock them in a small room for a week of that time. From the park’s perspective, that just doesn’t make sense. Fortunately, John is familiar with this concept, so he bribes someone to pass Peter a note that he’s getting out of jail. And then the side of the jail blows up. How is not explained. Did John also sneak Peter explosives? There’s no evidence of that. Does the wall randomly blow up every other day or so? No idea. But then John shoots the sheriff as they leave. Hey, remember that guy at the beginning that was all happy he got to be sheriff for two weeks? How was John so sure that wasn’t happening again? Anyway, the boys take off into the desert, where John is bitten by a robot snake and the boys prove they’re BOTH really bad shots and everyone in Central Control freaks out because even the snake robots aren’t supposed to hurt people. And we check in briefly again on Medievalworld, so we can see how quickly the robots can be reprogrammed, I think. And then Westernworld gets a new sheriff, who is a short tourist wearing glasses who clearly causes all the other tourists to worry that he’s going to get in the way of their robot-killing-and-fucking with his non-macho ways.

Central Control talks again about the snake problem and decides not to let anyone new into the park, although the people already there can stay. One guy says, “but we can’t ensure their safety!” and another guy says, “sure we can. Watch: they’re safe!” And clearly he’s mixing up ASsure and ENsure. This is why, presumably, they have INsurance.

John and Peter are at a bar fight/chance for stunt people to show off in Westernworld, except everyone is beating up everyone else. So clearly 1) that thing about guns not working on anything with a body temperature is going to be irrelevant and 2) some guests are beating on other guests. But just like in Fight Club, everyone leaves happy.

It seems all the scenes in Medievalworld have been leading up to this one, which is relevant because a “sex model” robot turns down sex with a guest and clearly that’s not right. Central Control takes this WAY WAY more seriously than the snake biting someone or The Gunslinger stalking someone, but they still don’t shut down the park. I mean, sure, snakes are supposed to bite people, but a woman turned down sex?!? WE HAVE A CRISIS HERE. So then the Black Knight shows up in Medievalworld and kills the guest. HE DIDN’T EVEN GET TO HAVE SEX FIRST. They try cutting the “robot power,” but that does nothing because the robots run on batteries, and naturally this is when The Gunslinger shows up again and this time he kills John. Peter’s like, “uh oh, better not shoot him again!” and runs away and The Gunslinger follows him.

We see quick video of the robots killing everyone in Romanworld and Central Control complaining about how they have no control and then realizing they can’t even save themselves because when they cut the power they accidentally locked themselves in. Peter rides a horse through the desert and The Gunslinger rides a horse through the desert. Peter loses his gun. Peter finds a maintenance man, who offhandedly suggests Peter throw acid on The Gunslinger’s eyes, then tells Peter he hasn’t got a chance and promptly gets shot by The Gunslinger. Peter rides his horse into Romanworld, where there are lots of dead bodies and suspiciously few robots. He finds an entrance to the underground tunnels (how? don’t know) and kind of picks one at random. He finds Central Control, where everyone has suffocated because their electronic doors are also airtight, or something. The Gunslinger follows Peter into the tunnels.

Peter finds the surgery/repair lab, where there is a handy bottle of HCl with which to douse the eyes of robots. He rather hilariously lies on a table and tries to pretend to be a robot until The Gunslinger walks up to him, and then he throws the acid in his face. And then just strolls away, like, “problem solved! This robot with a clear grudge against me will definitely be fine with this!” Fortunately for Peter, when The Gunslinger finds him, he can’t shoot him because THE BATTERY ON HIS GUN IS DEAD. I feel like someone at the NRA watched this movie and had nightmares. Anyway, Peter runs to Medievalworld, where all the robots’ batteries have died, so he and The Gunslinger are the only ones moving. Now The Gunslinger can only see Peter’s body heat, so Peter’s invisible if he hides near open flame. Yeah, that’s a thing that happens. So Peter then sets The Gunslinger on fire, and strolls away because that was so effective last time.

Peter finds a woman chained up, pleading for help, so he unchains her and then forces her to drink water, which short-circuits her. Maybe there was more rape in the movie than I realized. This is when The Gunslinger shows up again, but mostly so he can fall over and finally die. Peter actually watches it happen this time, so he finally learned his lesson. Or, since then he takes a load off on the stairs to reflect on things, maybe not.

And that’s the whole movie! From this, the TV show came up with a thing about the robots developing consciousness and spent a lot of time exploring what humanity is, what memories are, and what identity is. It’s bigger than the movie in every way, but although you can see the clear inspiration from the movie to the series, there are almost no clues as to where the series is going. At least, none that can be deciphered in advance.

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