A tongue-in-cheek but also painfully earnest look at pop culture, politics, music, videogames, travel, fatherhood and anything else that deserves to be ridiculed mercilessly while at the same time regarded with the utmost respect and sobriety. It is written by Matt Marrone and emailed to Stu Horvath, who adds any typos or factual errors that might appear within.
This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #87, the Rebellion issue. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.
Someone pointed out at work that the 1973 film Westworld, starring Yul Brynner, would be airing on the SyFy Network.
I set my DVR.
I’m a fan of the HBO remake, so I was curious. I suspected seventies camp, but as the film was written and directed by Michael Crichton, I was excited to view it through my usual prism of hipster irony mixed with earnest love.
I wasn’t disappointed on either front.
But I’m not here to write a movie review. You should DVR it for yourself. Instead, what I want to propose to you, dear reader, is a not-so simple question:
Which World would you go to?
In the HBO series, there is the hint that worlds other than Westworld exist. For example, we glimpse Samurai robots at one point. In the film, however, it’s revealed straight away – in the opening scene no less – that there are, indeed, three parks: Western World, Medieval World and Roman World.
For the sake of focus, let’s stick to those three and dispense with any fan theories or wild speculation about where HBO might take us next. Also, let’s set aside the inconvenient fact that, whichever world you choose, the robots are going to become sentient and likely kill you.
In the movie, during an orientation video, the parks – “each with its own special appeal” – are described thusly:
Westworld: “Western World is a complete recreation of the American frontier of 1880. Here it is possible to relive the excitement and stresses of pioneer life to the fullest. Western World is a life of lawless violence, a society of guns and action.”
Medieval World: “This is Medieval World, where we have reconstructed 13th century Europe. A world of chivalry and combat, romance and excitement.”
Roman World: “Then we have Roman World, a lusty treat for the senses in the setting of delightful, decadent Pompeii.” (Note: Probably not a random choice of venue.) “Here the traveler experiences the sensual, relaxed morality that existed at the peak of the Imperial Roman Empire.”
“All together, these resorts comprise Delos, the most exciting vacation spot in the history of man.”
As you can see, each is distilled into relatively surface-level experiences. Priced at a whopping $1,000 a day, your choice is Wild West shoot-outs, courtly intrigue or orgies, respectively.
Let’s start with my wife’s pick:
“Definitely not Medieval World,” she tells me, immediately writing off a time of serfdom, squalor, wealth inequality, plague and just plain mud and filth. I explained she’d be paying for a premium package, a whitewashed world where she would likely be a princess or a queen, but that didn’t seem to move her. In the end, she went with Western World.
We don’t see much of Roman World in the film. If you’ve seen Eyes Wide Shut that’s kind of how I picture it, except sunnier and with a lot more eating.
For me, Medieval World held a lot more charm. I like castles. I like large hunks of meat. It seems like a RenFair at its tamest, and, at its harshest, a version of Game of Thrones where you’ve won the crown already, can’t possibly lose it, and winter has long since come and gone. In the film, there is also a brief appearance by a sexbot maiden that might, for some, put Medieval World over the top.
We don’t see much of Roman World in the film. If you’ve seen Eyes Wide Shut that’s kind of how I picture it, except sunnier and with a lot more eating. (I almost wrote “a lot more dangling of grapes”, but I guess there’s a lot of that in Eyes Wide Shut, too.) Frankly, Roman World sounds great, but since you can pretty much do whatever you want in any of the worlds, this is more like the Delos equivalent of going to a spa. Not surprisingly, the middle-aged housewife-looking character selects this as her destination. She will come to regret it.
Western World is pretty much the same both in the movie and in the series, just with the predictable differences in the depth of the characters and storylines. So you either know it, or you should stop reading and start binging.
As far as I’m concerned, with Roman World eliminated – despite my heritage – the choice comes down to two conflicts: my dislike of the desert vs. my love of Medieval architecture, and my desire to fake-shoot someone from a healthy distance vs. my tendency to shy away from situations where anyone within a 50-foot radius is trying to smash me with a sword.
Alas, since I have forced myself to pick by the end of this column, I think I’ll take Medieval World. It’s good to be king – or so I’ve heard – and I’m guessing they won’t run out of turkey legs and ale.
Plus, the Yul Brynner robot? He spends most of his time in Westworld – and he’s scary as shit.
So . . . how about you?
Matt Marrone is a senior MLB editor at ESPN.com. He has been Unwinnable’s reigning Rookie of the Year since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @thebigm.