48 FASTCOMPANY.COM MAY 2018
CREATIVE CONVERSATION I JONATHAN NOLAN AND LISA JOY
But we’re in the same boat, which is the absolute annihilation of the line between
nonfiction and fiction.
JN: We’re not giving the answers so much as asking the questions.
When the show first aired, it was criticized for having a “woman problem” because the female hosts were so frequently abused by men visiting the park. By
the end of the first season, the narrative shifted so that those same hosts were
fighting back. Have your views about
how you depict women changed since
you started writing?
LJ: Well before #MeToo came and announced to the world, “Hey, we have a
real problem here with sexual abuse
and violence,” I would say most women
knew that. You whisper it, you talk about
it, you understand it, you live it. So those
thoughts were in my mind [when I
started writing the show]. The Western
has so often been a tale about men and
masculinity on the untamed frontier. I
was hoping to imagine truthfully what I
thought people would do in a theme park
where you could do anything. And based on what I’d seen, the stories I’d heard, and the
tales I knew, this was a truthful way of representing it.
At the same time, we care deeply about the manner in which we represent an actual act of sexual violence, which is why you don’t see it. You see a girl yelling as she’s
dragged away, fully clothed, but we didn’t want to show nudity and sex.
Jonathan, you directed the Super Bowl teaser for the second season of Westworld,
which offered fans the first glimpse of where the show was headed in more than
a year. That spot, much like Westworld episodes themselves, was immediately
or contemplation on the world, you
have to take into consideration
the great strides or stumbles that
Jonathan Nolan: Sadly, since we
started putting the show out there,
the world has taken on a dystopian
feeling. You have these companies—
Facebook, Google—barreling toward
AI with zero accountability, because
it services their corporate mandate.
The better they can read your mind,
the better they can sell you shit. It’s
taken Facebook a long time to come
to grips with the fact that it’s responsible for interfering in our last
election; if they’re taking the same
approach toward AI that they’re taking toward their responsibilities in
social media, we’re fucked.
LJ: I think there’s less margin for
error now. We’re designing AI and
algorithms that, once they’re out
of the box, can amass intelligence
faster than we can fathom. People
say, “It’s just a new industrial age!”
When the printing press was invented, it didn’t start printing its
own books. This is a different kind
Do you feel you have a responsibility to comment on what’s happening in the real world, or are
you more concerned with telling
a good story?
LJ: I try to come at it from within
the story. You always hear that fiction is a lie that tells the truth—[I
think,] Is there an emotional truth
you can access by grounding people
in a different point of view and
[then] expanding it and walking
through those steps together? What
if you start to think, along with [a
Westworld character], that she is
living in the Old West and she’s free.
And what if, within the first five
minutes, you learn, with her, that
she’s not free at all, that this person
who came to town is the human,
and we’re not watching what we
thought we were.
The line between nonfiction
and fiction has blurred. We have
our president saying it’s all fake,
and other people saying what
the president says is fake. We all
have our idea of who is lying, and
it differs from person to person.
“IF YOU DIVE DOWN [THE SOCIAL MEDIA] RABBIT HOLE TOO DEEPLY, YOU WIND UP LETTING IT INFLUENCE THE WAY YOU’RE TELLING THE STORY,” SAYS NOLAN.
plays Maeve Millay,
one of the robotic
hosts of Westworld.