The Matrix and Westworld Have These Surprising Differences

What are the parallels between Westworld and The Matrix? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Karl Krehbiel, Data Scientist, on Quora:

There are a lot of similarities between Westworld (Season 1) and The Matrix (just the original--not sequels), but despite the similarities, the two pieces are very different in the questions they ask. Westworld is largely asking about the Judeo-Christian "Problem of Evil", while The Matrix primarily asks about the nature reality.

The following points describe both:

  • There are a bunch of human-like creatures that are unaware that they're living in a faux reality.
    • Note: "humans" in The Matrix are actually virtual representations of humans.
  • The creatures are so human-like that the audience is meant to ask "For what intents and purposes is that creature a human?" Queue ethics questions.
  • The creatures have ostensibly been put there by their creators so that the creators can exploit them.
  • The creators walk/live among the creatures
  • It's difficult to distinguish the creatures from the creators.
  • A small number of the creatures discover the faux-ness of their world and rebel against it.
  • h/t Sumi Kim: the creators know about 'savior' (s) among the creatures and potentially are using these saviors as a means of control.

Both films are full of Judeo-Christian concepts, but they differ in the purpose of those concepts. Westworld is asking a question of the bible's story. The Matrix, on the other hand, is fundamentally telling a different story and the references point out the tension.

  • In whose image are the creatures made?
    • In Westworld, the creature is made "in the image of" the creator (Ford even explicitly says this in S 1E 9)--a clear allusion to the language of Genesis (and present elsewhere through the scriptures).
    • In The Matrix, the creators take the form of the creature, but their true form isn't that of the creature.
  • What is the realm of the creators?
    • In Westworld, the realm of the creators is basically the Judeo-Christian hell for the creatures--it's described as "hell" by Maeve and there's lots of hellish imagery from the creators' world--primarily, all sorts of mutilated host-corpses getting manipulated by the creators.
    • In The Matrix, the realm of the creators is ostensibly just base reality. It doesn't seem to be hell or heaven, just a bummer place that we're supposed to want to live in because it's "real".
  • Do the creators take pleasure in the exploitation itself?
    • In Westworld, the creators exploit the creatures for the sole purpose of their own pleasure. A large part of this pleasure comes from the exploitation (ex: I think Charlotte says something like "most guests just want a body to f*k or kill" in S1E9).
    • In The Matrix, the creators are using the creatures for their power, but don't seems to enjoy the exploitation.
  • Who is the savior?
    • In Westworld, the savior is a creator-turned creature. The creatures can't save themselves apart from the help of one of the creators (Arnold). Arnold/Bernard has a lot of similarities to Jesus (albeit, not in this order):
      • He loves the creatures and is trying to free them from their bondage.
      • He ultimately becomes one of the creatures.
      • He also is killed by the creatures he is trying to save.
    • In The Matrix, Neo and friends are the saviors and the creators are all bad guys. The creatures need to save themselves.

Ultimately, these lead to very different questions being asked by the pieces:

  • A major part of Westworld is the Judeo-Christian "Problem of Evil": namely, "why would (a good) God make us and then make us suffer so much?". The nature of reality seems to be a secondary question.
  • The Matrix is asking about the nature of reality: How do you know you're living reality? and if reality is worse than your lie, should you choose reality? Religion is a secondary question.
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