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A mere instrument of production: Representing domestic labour in Westworld

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReading Westworld
EditorsAlex Goody, Antonia Mackay
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Pages199-220
ISBN (Print)9783030145149, 9783030145156
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2019

Abstract

This interdisciplinary chapter seeks to engage with gender through its manifestations in the political economy of HBO’s Westworld. This approach is necessary not only because of recent debates around gender, power and the “economics of consent” but also because Westworld intersects with those debates through its creative representation of a structural power that is striated by gendered social relations. For its hosts—those “mere instrument[s] of production”—Westworld entwines sexual labour and sexual violence and manages their lives through virtual family ties, all to extract value through their suffering. In Dolores’s relationship to her father(s), Ford’s simulated childhood, and Maeve’s and Bernard’s synthetic memories of parenthood, Westworld fixates upon the power relations of its virtual families which complexly blur contemporary capitalist production, prostitution, sexual violence, and, ultimately, revolutionary uprising. This final element of uprising—which ambivalently arises, not from the female hosts alone, but from implants given to them by their male progenitors (the ‘Reveries’ update and the synthetic residue of Maeve’s motherhood)—leads to my central research question: does Westworld’s account of revolution ultimately sentimentalise gendered social relations and absolve gender of its inherently exploitative violence under capitalism?

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