|Creator:||Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, Michael Crichton (original film)|
|Date(s):||2016 - present|
|Country of Origin:||United States|
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Westworld is an HBO television series based on the 1973 film of the same name. The first season debuted in October 2016, and the second season began airing in April 2018.
The Westworld subreddit is host to an active fan theory community, which has been the subject of much media attention. In his essay "Monetizing the Maze: How the Internet Covers Westworld," scholar Myles McNutt writes, "Rather than generating content to create spaces for community, the outlets generating hundreds of articles about Westworld each week are attempting to tap into the existing communities on Reddit or Twitter or Tumblr." The relationship between the television show, its fans, and the media is at times contentious, as some critics have argued that the drive to "figure out" the show has ruined it.
In a 2016 interview with Vulture, Jonathan Nolan - one of the co-creators of Westworld, and a self-described Reddit user - addressed the show's fan theory community on Reddit:
"It’s a community — we love that. And it’s incredibly gratifying that there is a portion of the community that’s looking at that.
Where it got a little complicated on this one: two things. One, you’ve had a lot of “theory” shows. We didn’t really want to make a theory show. That’s kind of inevitable with this level of complexity. To Lisa’s [the show's other co-creator] point, we just thought we had a fantastic opportunity here to tell a story from the perspective of someone with a unique relationship with time and narrative. But that said, there are reveals in the narrative. And our hope is you would start asking that question in episode seven, and then it would grow as a feeling. But we also knew — and this is another thing for me that is vitally important — you can’t just pull the rug out from the audience...You have to play fair with the audience.
There are a lot of theory shows where the theories don’t really add up to much. Or as with the first season of True Detective, there were a lot of theories that were set in a metaphysical realm that didn’t necessarily connect immediately to the narrative you were watching. But it was perfectly fine to speculate about that and carry that speculation out on Reddit.Here, all the theories were connected to things we were doing. So they sort of wound up in headline items. And that was a bummer because you want people — you know, the Reddit community is fantastic but it represents literally one percent of our audience — 150,000 people; we’re being watched by 12 million. And all of those people in that community are self-selecting. They’re there because that’s how they want to engage with the show. And they’re very careful about laying out spoilers for people. It was where people were picking it up and running the word “timelines” in headlines where you thought oh, that’s a shame, because that probably is going to impact someone’s experience of watching the show."
On April 9, 2018, as part of a Reddit AMA in advance of the show's upcoming second season, Nolan posted the following to the Westworld subreddit on behalf of himself and fellow co-creator Lisa Joy:
Many thanks for your great questions and thoughts. As I've said before, I've been a member of the reddit community for years (no I'm not going to share my original username...). And I greatly enjoyed watching the friendly folks at this subreddit guess the twists and turns of the season.
It creates a larger problem for us, though, in terms of the way your guesswork is reported online. 'Theories' can actually be spoilers, and the line between the two is confusing. It's something we've been thinking about since last season. The fans of Game of Thrones, for instance, rallied around and protected the secrets of the narrative in part because they already knew those secrets (through season 5).
We thought about this long and hard, and came to a difficult (and potentially highly controversial) decision. If you guys agree, we're going to post a video that lays out the plot (and twists and turns) of season 2. Everything. The whole sordid thing. Up front. That way the members of the community here who want the season spoiled for them can watch ahead, and then protect the rest of the community, and help to distinguish between what's 'theory' and what's spoiler.
It's a new age, and a new world in terms of the relationship between the folks making shows and the community watching them. And trust is a big part of that. We've made our cast part of this decision, and they're fully supportive. We're so excited to be in this with you guys together. So if this post reaches a 1000 upvotes we'll deliver the goods.
Hasta victoria siempre!Jonah and Lisaa comment on Reddit
Responses to Nolan and Joy's proposal varied, but most commenters seemed to side against posting the video. Many of the comments noted that having confirmation of the events of season 2 would negatively impact their personal viewing experience, as well as the community that had grown out of the fan theorizing.
I love this comment, and I love that you're discussing solutions with the community like this! Thank you so much!
However, I don't particularly love the idea of a video. I love to read fan theories, as long as they are uncertain. If there is a video released, I'd know that every theory post not marked spoiler is a false theory. And if I want to read good theories, then I'll have to read spoilers - and know that they're correct.Much of the fun in this community is the thinking and guessing, but never quite knowing.a comment by Reddit user jIsraelTurner
You probably shouldn't post it. Uploading the entire plot of Season 2 beforehand will result in the spoilers being shared everywhere on the internet, which in turn makes it harder for people to avoid. Previous examples of this include when plot points, or at times, entire episodes of Game of Thrones leaked, and many unsuspecting fans on social media ended up getting spoiled beforehand. People who read theories know that there is a possibility of them turning out true, but if the entire plot was to surface on the internet, I think it would do more harm than it could prevent. Just let the actual episodes reveal the plot, the way it's meant to be.a comment by Reddit user Hordemaster63
Please don't. The plot speculation for many fans of the show is the social aspect we connect upon. Not even just reddit, during season 1 every week my co-workers and I would throw our ideas and opinions around, it became a game to the point where we created rewards for who had the right idea. If anyone can look at the answers, or possibly not even avoid them, we are left with the feeling of the "re-watch" experience. Having twists and turns and keeping them genuine is the responsibility of the writer. Think of all the lazy writing you've seen in shows or movies and how underwhelming the reveal was, don't offer it on a platter keep it a maze.a comment by Reddit user lagerea
Some commenters also pointed out that this could be a marketing ploy or a bait-and-switch:
Writing for Forbes, Paul Tassi commented:
"This reads like and idea from someone who doesn’t understand fans. Or fan theories. Or anything about why it’s fun to speculate on what’s going to happen next in a mystery-based show. You’ve enjoyed watching fans puzzle out your twists and turns so you’re just going to…tell them what’s a correct theory and what isn’t up front? And you’re going to offer to just negate the entire concept of fan speculation and puzzle solving by offering the answer key before you’ve even passed the test out? Why? Who does this benefit?"
Later that day, Nolan posted a Youtube link to a video purportedly containing almost twenty-five minutes of footage from season 2 of the show, along with the following comment:
Responses to Nolan's decision to share the video ran the gamut. Some commenters seemed gleeful, and others despaired.
I cannot believe you've done this... you guys have absolutely lost my trust and respect... you gave it up, you let me down. The fact that you actually decided to run around with this genuinly has me considering deserting you and your show. This shit almost makes me cry... WHY?a comment by Reddit user Hordemaster63
The video opens with the words "On Season 2 of Westworld," and from its first ninety seconds, would seem to be a narration of the initial plot of the new season. At minute 1:36, piano music begins, played by Westworld actor Angela Sarafyan and accompanied by co-star Evan Rachel Woods, who subsequently begins to sing the opening lines of "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley, revealing the entire video to be an elaborate rickroll. At minute 2:56, the following text appears: "Dear Reddit, From all of us here at Westworld, thank you for watching. We hope you enjoy season two..." The rest of the video is footage of a dog sitting at a piano; the final text of the video reads "For Bento 2009 - 2018." This, in turn, was interpreted as a tribute to Bento the Keyboard Cat, who had died the previous month.
Given the trollish nature of the video, some of the initial responses on the AMA thread may be viewed as sarcastic or intentionally hyperbolic, although it seems plausible that some commenters may have reacted to the video without actually watching it.
At a FYC event for the show later that month, Nolan commented on the prank:
"'We love Reddit and we wanted to celebrate Reddit in exactly the way they like to be celebrated: a sadomasochistic relationship where we over-promise and under-deliver,' Nolan said. 'Though I think we actually over-delivered because Evan [Rachel Wood] singing and Angela [Sarafyan] playing piano, you can’t beat it.'"
As of June 2018, there were 156 Westworld fanworks on Archive of Our Own. The majority of fanworks were tagged as het, and Dolores Abernathy/William was the most popular pairing. There is also a tag on AO3 for Westworld fusions; as of June 2018, seventeen works had been added to that tag.
- Westworld subreddit
- Monetizing the Maze: How the Internet Covers Westworld by Myles McNutt for Flow Journal. Posted on November 22, 2016. Retrieved on June 9, 2018.
- Online theorizing ruined too many TV shows in 2016 by Todd VanDerWerff for Vox. Posted on December 2, 2016. Retrieved on June 3, 2018.
- Westworld’s Creators on How They Feel About Fan Theories, and What They’ll Do Differently in Season Two by Gazelle Emami and Abraham Riesman for Vulture. Posted on December 6, 2016. Retrieved on June 3, 2018.
- Westworld AMA
- 'Westworld' Is Considering Spoiling All Of Season 2 On Purpose Because Of Fan Theories (Update) by Paul Tassi for Forbes. Posted on April 9, 2018. Retrieved on June 3, 2018.
- R.I.P. Bento, the Keyboard Cat by Alex Young for COnsequence of Sound. Posted on March 18, 2018. Retrieved on June 3, 2018.
- ‘Westworld’ Creators Respond to Reddit Rickroll Prank, as Ed Harris Actually Reveals Something About Season 2 by Ben Travers for IndieWire. Posted on April 18, 2018. Retrieved on June 3, 2018.