West to the Afrofuture: Race and Gender Performativity in HBO’s Westworld
Though Westworld was originally constructed by Michael Crichton as a problematic storyline in which black robots were slaves to their white counterparts, its reboot on HBO reinvents the story to incorporate an Afrofuturistic narrative in which black robots such as Maeve Millay can not only run her own businesses and write her own storylines, but also ultimately gain control of her own future. Using this new critically acclaimed show as a point of entry into this discussion of hybrid Afrofuturistic identity, I seek to reveal how the show’s usage of different nuanced elements of race, embodiment, and performativity argues that the future will likely render identity-related differences such as race, gender, and class unstable and inconclusive. Through close examination of Maeve’s character, I argue that the show offers a necessary update and expansion to Judith Butler’s earlier conception of the performativity of multiple identities simultaneously. For instance, Maeve’s biracial identity (portrayed by actress Thandie Newton) exemplifies a complex racial performativity in that she performs her own blackness and whiteness separately when necessary for her own personal advantage.