Watching HBO’s Westworld, I often find myself juggling two conflicting thoughts: First, what does it mean—both for the human race and those unfortunate enough to come into contact with it—that people feel most truly themselves when at their most debauched and violent? And second, is there a historical theme park where I can go fuck a hot bot?
Yes, Westworld—if you’re a visitor and not a resident—seems like helluva good time. While I personally do not find the violence aspects remotely appealing (partly because the series has done such a great job showing that, in this world, there’s no such thing as victimless fun AND partly because the idea of hurting someone else, even a robot, is not something that brings me joy or thrill), the concept of stepping into a prettied-up version of history and living my own customized storyline is utterly compelling to me. It’s like playing Dungeons & Dragons or LARPing, but on a huge budget, and only with hot people.
But maybe the Wild Wild West is not for you. Maybe you don’t like the desert climate and think you look bad in a cowboy hat. Where would you go instead? Consider that in these theme park versions of time, you would not be affected by the social mores of the era that might have hurt you in the real world. You could, in other words, have a ball in the court of Henry VIII as a woman without actually getting your head chopped off.
Both my colleagues Joanna Rothkopf and Julianne Escobedo Shepherd expressed an interest in Ancient Romeworld, which (PROS) comes with a lot of wine and very comfortable outfits, but (CONS) you will probably end up seeing someone get eaten by a lion or crushed by a chariot in an arena. Julianne also threw out the idea of 1960s London, which (PROS) is very shagadelic, baby, and honestly, I can’t think of any CONS. Ellie Shechet would like to be the lone woman at a gay orgy in Ancient Greece, which (PROS) is a lot of robot dick and (CONS) is a lot of robot dick. Kate Dries, however, went the more wholesome route, saying she’d like to attend a 1950s sock-hop. What this adult woman (CONS) would be doing at a teen dance, I don’t know, but (PROS) she’d probably be heckled by some youths in leather jackets. Kelly Stout would visit the Salem witch trials because (PROS, no wait—CONS) she’d witness humanity at its ugliest, which she’d find “educational.” Anna Merlan would visit a prohibition era speakeasy and if she wants to get bathtub gin poisoning (CONS), that is her right as an American. Aimée Lutkin would visit a gothic Van Helsing-esque Europe to (PROS) fight some werewolves, but (CONS) she’s have a hard time seeing them through all the pea soup smog. Joanna backed off of Ancient Romeworld eventually and we had a beautiful meeting of minds, both of us saying we’d want to visit the Bohemian culture of pre-war Paris and Berlin. While there, we’d get to (PROS) throw back absinthe with a robot Gertrude Stein and get weird at a cabaret, but (CONS) Woody Allen thought of it first and Naziism is right around the corner.
Sadly for humanity, basically any time in history is bad, but what if you could go back and live it by your own rules?