In an earlier scene, Angela is taken from the park and brought to the underground programming center where she’s brutally beaten — before she turns on her corporate overlords and beats one of them to death. It’s the kind of scene that fans of Westworld have been waiting for since Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) was dragged into a barn and raped in the opening scenes of the show’s pilot: We’ve been promised a robot uprising, and it looks like we’re going to get one.
It’s not hard to root for women (or robots embodied by human women) who are used as sex dolls to rise up and avenge their masters. Cyborg hookers spilling blood! Women using male hosts as sex puppets! Let equality reign! But there’s something troubling about the implication — not unique to Westworld — that the liberation of women depends on our ability to act like men.
Women can be very active participants in our own subjugation, taking pride in our misogyny; any woman who grew up with brothers is well aware of the near-automatic impulse to ape the behavior of men and boys who we understand hold more power than we do, even if we can’t quite articulate the feeling. There’s something depressing and even dangerous about the implication that women can only achieve equality by acting as boorish as the kind of men who represent the worst strains of macho-man prejudice.
For women, to revel in this brand of equality is its own kind of fantasy. And yet, women can find catharsis in characters like Charlotte or Maeve precisely because they represent a kind of best-case scenario that’s actually plausible in our world. (It’s telling that the first time we see a woman have sex with a male host, it’s not in Westworld but the “real world” of the park’s corporate headquarters.) There are plenty of women who have found a path to professional success by aping the behavior of even the most abhorrent men. Westworld’s humanoid sex robots are flashy and provocative, but a black woman in her thirties who’s in charge is perhaps the bigger trompe l’oeil of Sunday’s episode. A woman’s equivalent to the gun-slinging, whore-fucking cowboy fantasy that flatters men’s sense of total dominance is the fantasy of being any old man.