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Sunday, April 29, 2018

Westworld 2.2: “Narcissus Narcosis”




One of my favorite of Marshall McLuhan’s concepts (he called them “probes”) for exploring our relationship with media is “Narcissus Narcosis”: the Greek youth Narcissus was so in love with his own reflection that all he wanted to do all was stare at in a lake, wanting to reach out and embrace it, having no idea it was him. This, McLuhan noted in Understanding Media back in 1964, was us, we humans, looking at television.  And this is what William says to young Delores tonight in the sparkling city in episode 2.2 of Westworld: “you’re not even a thing, you’re a reflection” of me - i.e. William - who goes on to note that everyone loves their reflections.  Clearly William, i.e. the writers of Westworld, know their McLuhan.

By the way, there’s more than one William, even though he’s human not android. There’s young William, who tells a young Delores what she is, and older William, who we didn’t learn until the end of last season is aka The Man In Black.  And episode 2.2 features them both, as well as a young and slightly older Delores, who is of course unchanging and eternal.

But her mind is not unchanging, and in 2.2 we see it continue to rebel and take charge, as the narrative jumps up and down in time like playing the keys on the piano, which has been one of the apt motifs of the series.  And Delores’ violence is matched by the older William’s, which makes for one fine upcoming clash of titans indeed.

See you after the next episode.   Meanwhile, check out McLuhan in Age of Social Media for how “Narcissus Narcosis” shows up as "news bubbles" and figures in "fake news".
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