In the third episode of Westworld, Anthony Hopkins’s enigmatic Dr. Ford gives the stalwart cowboy Teddy Flood (James Marsden) a new backstory. “Your mysterious backstory,” Ford tells a naked, blank-faced Teddy. “Do you know why it is a mystery? Because we never bothered to give you one.”
This is a nod to Westworld’s continued clever meta streak: commenting on the often arbitrary nature of character backstories on television, where it often does feel like the writers merely didn’t bother. But it also speaks to a larger and more intriguing question about the hosts: their sexual preferences.
If the robots can be programmed with backstories and memories, it stands to reason their sexuality is also subject to change at the whims of the programmers. Though the show has yet to deep-dive into any storylines focusing on gay characters, in the first episode we watched a programmer, Elise, kiss the robot prostitute Clementine. For Elise, that kiss was either a stolen moment of curiosity or a violation, depending on how you look at it. For the viewer, it remains a confusing moment.
As she presides over the saloon, we have also seen Clementine hit on both men and women with the same sultry phrase, which she croons in a voice worthy of a phone-sex operator: “You’re new around here. There’s barely a rind on you.”
Teddy rejects her advances, but the cowgirl Marti takes her up on it, grabbing her hand with a smile and following her upstairs.
We have seen lesbian guests and programmers and female hosts with fluid sexuality, but aside from a man present in the second episode’s orgy scene, we have yet to see any gay men take center stage beyond a vague background presence.
This seems unbelievable, for several reasons. In a future world where the wealthy can visit an ultra-realistic Wild West simulation, we’re supposed to believe there are no wealthy men with cowboy fantasies? The only wealthy people visiting this world are straight men who want to shoot and fuck women, like Logan (Ben Barnes), or their giggly wives à la the first episode? That seems like a statistically improbable future.
As we’re only three episodes into the first season, there is ample time for the show to further explore the hosts’ sexualities. Perhaps, if Westworld is truly as subversive as its promising beginning suggested, it will add a secret penchant for Brokeback Mountain fantasies to Teddy’s “programming.” Or perhaps later in the season we will indeed meet overtly gay guests and hosts.
Having characters with sexuality that is subject to change at the click of a button is a fascinating concept filled with untapped potential. If Westworld is bold enough to go there, it will solidify its place among the most subversive shows on television. If it doesn’t, it’s a hell of a missed opportunity, but we remain hopeful that a gay cowboy is at the center of that mysterious maze everyone is looking for.