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Friday, December 09, 2016

How “Westworld” Failed the Western - The New Yorker

The first season of “Westworld” fused the robot-rebellion genre with mythology of the American West, but it failed to reckon with the racial implications of its fictional civil war.





"But the season-one finale of “Westworld” also revealed what the show’s creators, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, missed about the story of the American struggle to end slavery, or perhaps didn’t care to explore. In his monumental 1935 work of historical revisionism, “Black Reconstruction in America,” W. E. B. DuBois argued that, in reality, the Civil War had been a worker revolt—that, without a mass labor strike of slave resistance during the war, the peculiar institution could never have been ended. In his account, which an increasing number of contemporary historians have accepted, enslaved African-Americans were not given their freedom but took it. DuBois’s argument broke with the Dunning School interpretation of the Civil War—a neo-Confederate perspective that stressed the failures of emancipation, and laid the intellectual groundwork for Jim Crow—but it would take decades for mainstream historians to follow his lead. In part, this was owing to the influence of popular culture, which, from D. W. Griffith’s Dunning School-approved “The Birth of a Nation” to the many Westerns set during Reconstruction, often told the story of the Civil War as one of white heroism and black passivity. Because the war divided American white people between North and South, famously pitting “brother against brother” over the issue of black slavery, the Western told a different story, a mythology of North and South reuniting on an almost completely white frontier, turning their guns on the continent’s indigenous peoples instead of on one another."



How “Westworld” Failed the Western - The New Yorker

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