The Secret Meaning Behind This Westworld Character's Name

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
The more we see of Westworld, HBO's mind-expanding new sci-fi Western series, the more we come to understand that everything on the show means something. It's becoming increasingly complex each week — as is the web-wide brainstorm of fans theorizing about what the hell is really going on. And as seemingly minor plot details and utterances take on significance, we've realized that the multiple meanings behind one major character's name are no coincidence.

Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is the cryptic, cool-mannered mastermind behind the elaborate theme park of Westworld. He is brilliant, stubborn, and ambitious. We don't know too much about his background, save for his contentious relationships with two men in his life.

From a young age, Ford's father told him to stay on the straight-and-narrow track in life; Ford gave his dad the ultimate finger when he went and became the master of his own universe. And then there's Arnold, Ford's onetime partner who helped him start Westworld. Their visions diverged when Arnold became obsessed with the "humanity" of the robots and tried to upend the park. Arnold went on to kill himself...allegedly.

Now let's explore the two most likely — and mind-blowing — meanings behind his name.
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Photo: Authenticated News/Getty Images.
The First Connection: The Coward
Now, here's how the potential meaning behind Robert's name could fit into his character profile. "Robert Ford" is the name of an infamous American outlaw who killed the leader of his gang of bandits, Jesse James, for a reward from authorities (and a legal pardon for another murder) in 1882. He and his brother were found guilty, sentenced to death, and pardoned hours later. Ford was seen as a traitor to his comrades and a coward (he shot James from behind). Ford and his brother staged reenactments of the betrayal in the months following James' death to make money. The 2007 movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford stars Brad Pitt as James and Casey Affleck as Ford.
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Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
What could this mean for Westworld? That Ford betrayed Arnold in a similar way — he killed him. Given how murky the facts surrounding Arnold's life and death are, it's very possible that Ford murdered him for his own selfish reasons. Was Arnold getting in the way of Ford's vision? Or perhaps somebody funding the park didn't want Arnold involved, so Ford knocked him off for a financial incentive. Sound familiar?
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Photo: Courtesy of Chatto & Windus.
The Second Connection: The God
The other possible "Ford" connection is to the deity worshiped in Brave New World. Aldous Huxley's classic sci-fi novel explores a utopian society creepily similar to Westworld. Everything is artificial, manipulated, and tightly controlled; the emphasis is on hedonism and primal pleasure, not finding true purpose or making choices. The society operates based on an ideology called "Fordism" — itself inspired by the principles of real-life automaker Henry Ford's assembly line: homogeneity, compliance, predictability, mass production and consumption, and using humans like cogs in a machine.

So much about the society in Brave New World is eerily mirrored in Westworld. Government officials in Huxley's novel manufacture people (like the Westworld technicians make the hosts); indoctrinate them with recorded voices in their heads from birth (like the hosts are programmed); instill sleep-learning (like techs run diagnostics while the hosts are "dreaming"); and maintain control by social conditioning and psychological manipulation (like the hosts' coding is manipulated in order to keep them happily on their loops).
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Photo: Courtesy of HBO.
Now, tell me this is all a coincidence. Hell, no! I think the comparison to Huxley's novel is incredibly apt and indicative of the grander themes and realities of Westworld. Ford operates his park like his own twisted little Brave New World experiment, and he's playing God.
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Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images.
Or, then again, maybe the showrunners are just making a reference to the tragic story of the disgraced (and deceased), crack-smoking mayor of Toronto, Robert Ford. In that case, we're a little worried for Hopkins' character.