The return of Westworld and its narrative about revolution is crystallized by current events. The massive unrest in Nicaragua shows the beginnings of a revolution, of which Nicaragua is no stranger (see Sandinista Revolution). Media tends to reflect the times through commentary, critique, or even as a form of escape. Several films and tv shows of the last year have played with the idea of revolution. The realities of living in the Trump era, even though it’s only the second year, has created a crisis of place for some in the U.S. Media understands this, and one of the narrative avenues that addresses this crisis is revolution. Revolution by proxy is seen where the oppressed groups aren’t human. Revolution in the digital age both reflects the times but also satirizes it. Revolution through personal acts of rebellion are seen in dystopias. Others pieces of media deconstruct the role of leaders in a revolution.
Revolution by proxy suggests that current power structure needs to be dismantled and rebuilt. Westworld and Blade Runner 2049 explore the disenfranchised android population and their attempts to disrupt the current power structure. That crisis of identity contributes to their respective revolution. The characters in Westworld and Blade Runner 2049 struggle with their personal identity and their place in the world. In the first season of Westworld, we see the way that the hosts (androids) begin to question their station and reason for being. The source of revolution comes from their an awakening about their station in life. It wasn’t until they were given the faculties to think for themselves that they started to rebel. Westworld uses the Promethean narrative in the shape of giving androids consciousness and memory. Once the hosts know that they are ostensibly slaves that is when they rebel. Blade Runner 2049 continues the story of a society where androids are part of the disenfranchised class. Similarly Westworld, Blade Runner 2049 explores the idea of an awakening of consciousness. The replicant (android) assassin K struggles with a conflict about his profession which contributes to his efforts in the revolution. Both of these pieces of media are stories about a created underclass through technology, suggesting that ignoring issues within a system creates a cycle. Hence, Both Westworld and Blade Runner 2049 show that an android revolution is a revolution by proxy of the oppressed class.
Most recently, Isle of Dogs explores the revolution of two warring parties, dog lovers and cat lovers. The two warring parties mirrors the current explosive fight against the left and the right. The long history of war between the two sides results in a big show of force. Isle of Dogs attempts to reach a compromise instead of a return to a dog dominated system. The film favors compromise as the solution for a revolution. This focus on compromise says that the current power structure still has some good qualities. On other hand, the android proxy revolution wants a complete restructure of the system.
The digital revolution focuses on the branding in revolution and attempts to restructure access to information. Mr. Robot explores the way that a digital revolution is commodified in contemporary times. Revolution via in the digital era is a double edged sword. The Arab Spring shows the integral role of that social media played in aiding the revolution of Arab nations. Whereas the downsides come from the way that iconography of social organizing can be bastardized or misused. Groups that have a particular “brand” that represents their social movement run the risk of having shallow membership. This can be seen with group like Black Lives Matter where the group’s mission can be co-opted for a separate goal. Silicon Valley’s narrative focuses on creating a revolutionary, and seemingly agrarian, a decentralized internet. The current season’s narrative about decentralized internet rings familiar in the wake of the net neutrality spectacle of 2017. The Promethean goal of giving everyone a free internet mirrors the goals of allowing all access to information. Without the barrier of entry of paying a monthly service fee. Revolution through free information.
Revolution in the micro gives a deep dive on how individual contribution becomes collective. In Handmaid’s Tale we see that the devaluation of women leads to a hierarchical patriarchy. The story follows Offred or June and personal struggle withing a male dominated regime. Her small gestures of resistance are revolutionary as she fights against the male power structure. One isolated act of revolution, resistance, contributes to the fight at large, therefore the personal become revolutionary. The new season looks to be a further step towards a revolution. Which is topical as the Me Too movement aims to restructure the patriarchal practices and structure of entertainment industry. I Am Not Your Negro chronicles the work of writer James Baldwin and his personal journey in the Civil Right Movement. Baldwin’s story and his personal rebellions contributed to the revolutionary acts of the Civil Right Movement. Both are stories about revolution under a microscope.
The themes surrounding leadership deconstruct the role of a leader in a revolution. Black Panther explores the mindset of a revolutionary with Killmonger. That is not to say that Killmonger did not commit murder but his goals of helping black bodies around the world shows the foundation for a revolution. He wanted to use his position as leader of Wakanda to aid black bodies around the world, by any means necessary. War for The Planet of the Apes explores the role that leadership plays in a revolution. Caesar compromises the revolution when his family is hurt but other apes manage to accomplish their goals without his leadership. This shows that while leadership is important it is equally important to have a strong foundation for revolution.
The narrative about revolution continues to dominate the stories in pop culture. All of these story present the various iterations that revolution can manifest. Revolution by proxy looks at attempts to completely restructure the power system; Isle of Dogs looks to fix the structures in place through compromise. Revolution is the digital age, Mr. Robot, satirizes the vital role of branding in a revolution and Silicon Valley looks to create easier access to information through a decentralized internet. Other works explore the way that the personal becomes revolutionary. Furthermore, Black Panther outlines the ideology of a leader in a would-be race revolution and War For the Planet of the Apes contends that the people are more important in revolution. Taken together, all of the mentioned pieces of media provides a wide spectrum revolution. The common refrain of “media reflects life,” will soon be tested and we will see if it is also vice-versa.