If your water cooler is anything like ours (i.e., sometimes it’s a keg), Mondays are spent gathered around it discussing your personal Westworld theories. With the season one finale quickly approaching, we at The Starr Conspiracy are preparing our human minds for what lingering mysteries the finale will solve. (Namely, do these violent delights really have violent ends?)
An Archetypal Debate
While we anxiously await Sunday’s 90-minute Westworld finale, we had the opportunity to combine two of our favorite pastimes — watching Westworld and debating archetypes. If you’re unfamiliar with archetypal branding, don’t worry, you’re in the same boat as a lot of the players in the B2B world. Discovering your company’s archetype is one of the reasons why The Starr Conspiracy is changing B2B marketing forever.
What’s Archetypal Branding?
In a nutshell, archetypal branding roots your company in one of the 12 iconic archetypes that have been embedded in the public conscious for ages. It makes your brand instantly relatable and controls the way you position yourself in an otherwise clouded and muddy market. One of our favorite explorations into archetypal studies is Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson’s The Hero and the Outlaw. If you’re interested in learning what your company’s archetype is, give us a call.
OK, enough selling. Let’s talk about Westworld.
(There are probably spoilers in here somewhere, but we’re too excited about the finale to call them out.)
Dr. Robert Ford — The Ruler, Not The Creator
Those of you somewhat familiar with archetypes might ask, “But isn’t Ford The Creator archetype?” And to you we say, “Kind of, but not as much as he is The Ruler.”
It’s a common problem for enterprise software brands, too. A brand can have certain aspects of multiple archetypes, but the successful brands are the ones that find the archetype that resonates with their organization the most and play strongly to it.
Sometimes archetypal confusion is just a function of the product’s solution category. For instance, you might think Dr. Ford is a Creator archetype because he’s an inventor. Straight up, that’s what he does.
But look closer — Ford’s main drive is all about control, which happens to be The Ruler’s keyword. Ford exhibits this drive for control in almost everything he does — whether it’s threatening anyone from Delos or QA who questions his authority over the park, manipulating the romantic interests of the park’s employees, or even creating failsafe hosts who will do his bidding and protect him at their own risk.
Creators give structure and control to others. Rulers take and keep control for themselves. Ford’s hell-bent drive for control of his park lands him firmly as The Ruler archetype.
Dolores Abernathy — The Everyman Who Wants to Be a Hero
“I imagined a scenario where I didn’t have to be the damsel.” — Dolores, Season 1, Episode 5
In a major character turning point halfway through the season, Dolores drops her usual helpless farm girl persona and pumps a couple of Confederales full of lead (er, whatever Westworld guns are full of). But after that, Dolores falls back into her old, dependent habits.
This happens with enterprise software branding, too. Almost everyone wants to be The Hero. But take a closer look at Dolores’ real drive (at least so far this season): She just wants a feeling of belonging somewhere, which is The Everyman’s keyword. Dolores is constantly exploring her true meaning, trying to discover where she is supposed to fit in this world, and wondering what life is like beyond her “little loop.”
Dolores’ character makes the most sense when she plays into her Everyman archetype. We all want to be The Hero, but somebody has to be Dolores.
The Man in Black — The Explorer, Not The Outlaw
At first glance, the Man in Black (MIB) is surely an Outlaw, right? He has a black hat, a menacing demeanor, and the impressive ability to promptly remove anything that stands in his way.
The Outlaw is the MIB’s red herring, though — he’s truly an Explorer. The MIB has been coming to Westworld for years and years (he practically grew up there). He’s past the elevator pitch of the park (shooting robots, meeting lady robots), and he’s ready for something more. That’s where his real drive comes in: uncovering the mystery behind The Maze. Scalping robots is not the MIB’s prime directive (I mean, it certainly doesn’t look like he minds doing it) — that’s just the means to reach his real goal.
At the center of everything the MIB does, it’s all in the pursuit of discovering the uncharted territory of The Maze, which is The Explorer’s true calling.
Maeve Millay — The Caregiver Turned Outlaw
Maeve begins her journey as the matronly head of a brothel (and as a loving mother in a previous loop). She’s all about watching after her employees and serving her clientele (with drinks, with drinks).
But when Maeve tampers with her code and discovers the truth behind her reality, she becomes The Outlaw. Her main pursuit is liberation from Westworld, and she pursues it by any means necessary (poor Felix and Sylvester).
Just take a look at The Outlaw’s main attributes (via The Hero and the Outlaw):
- Core desire: Revenge or revolution. Check.
- Goal: To destroy what is not working (for the Outlaw or society). Check.
- Fear: Being powerless, trivialized, inconsequential. Check, check, check.
- Strategy: Disrupt, destroy, or shock. Check (sorry, Sylvester).
- Trap: To go over to the dark side, criminality. Check.
- Gift: Outrageousness, radical freedom. Check.
Maeve even teamed up with an actual outlaw in the latest episode. Her turn as The Outlaw in Westworld is one of the show’s most exciting and compelling character arcs, and it’s a big part of the reason why we love her character.
Teddy Flood — The Lover, Not The Hero
Surely Teddy is The Hero, right? He’s portrayed by the impossibly good-looking James Marsden, a literal X-Man (albeit the most annoying one) and the prince from that Enchanted movie. Surely his need to save Dolores lands him as The Hero archetype, right? Wrong.
Like most James Marsden characters, Teddy is actually bad at being The Hero — constantly getting killed, stabbed (arrowed?), or unwittingly coerced into doing something. Teddy’s main drive isn’t mastery — it’s intimacy, The Lover’s keyword. His trap is doing anything and everything to attract and please others and his goal is to be in a relationship with the one he loves.
Although Teddy wants to be The Hero, his lack of mastery and his desire for intimacy land him squarely as The Lover.
So, What Do You Think?
Did we hit the nail on the head? Do you have a differing assessment of one our favorite Westworld characters? Do you still wonder how this relates to enterprise software brands? Do you want to know what your company’s archetype is? Let us know in the comments.
Now play us off, skeleton hands!
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