Westworld Creators Defend Series' Use of Rape and Violence Against Women

Evan Rachel Wood Westworld  Photo Credits John P JohnsonHBO

HBO has once again come under fire for violence against women in its programming.

The opening hour of the network's new one-hour drama Westworld (Sunday, Oct. 2 at 9/8c) features a scene in which it's implied a lifelike female android played by Evan Rachel Wood is raped by an older man played by Ed Harris. The network's fantasy epic Game of Thrones has also been heavily criticized for its depiction of rape throughout its six seasons on air.

When asked about the decision to include the scene in the Westworld pilot, especially in the wake of the network's previous issues, new HBO programming president Casey Bloys attempted to rationalize it by pointing out that Westworld's violence was not limited to its female characters.

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"I can tell you the violence, it's not just specific to women. It's indiscriminate," Bloys told reporters Saturday at the Television Critics Association fall previews. "Plenty of men are killed as well," he added.

Thankfully, Westworld showrunner Lisa Joy had a better response when asked about the same topic, noting that the show, a sci-fi series that explores the awakening of artificial consciousness in androids, was attempting to depict the entire spectrum of human nature, up to and including the ugliest impulses.

"When we were tackling a project about a park with a premise where you can do whatever you want, whatever you desire without impunity or consequence, it seemed like the issue had to be addressed," she said. "Westworld is an examination of human nature, the best parts of human nature -- paternal love, romantic love, finding oneself -- but also the basest parts of human nature -- violence and sexual violence."

"Violence and sexual violence have been a fact of human history since the beginning," she continued. "There's something about us -- thankfully not the majority of us -- but there are people who have engaged in violence and who are victims of violence."

Joy, who co-created the series with Jonathan Nolan (Person of Interest), also pointed out that the show's intent was not to fetishize violence against women, but to explore it and the aftermath.

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"In addressing it, there's a lot of thinking that goes into it. Sexual violence is an issue we take seriously; it's extraordinarily disturbing and horrifying. And in its portrayal, we endeavored for it to not be about the fetishization of those acts. It's about exploring the crime, establishing the crime and the torment of the characters within this story and exploring their stories hopefully with dignity and depth. And that's what we endeavored to do."

Westworld was inspired by the 1973 film of the same name written and directed by Michael Crichton. In addition to Wood and Harris, the series also stars Sir Anthony Hopkins, James Marsden, Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright.

Westworld premieres Sunday, Oct. 2 at 9/8c on HBO.

This article originally appears on TV Guide.com.

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Aug 01, 2016
No matter how many times they defend it - the complaints will happen - it's how the internet works

All i am gonna say is those offended by such subjects have been forewarned - so watch at your OWN RISK and stop putting the blame on the writers

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Aug 01, 2016

The Hollywood reporter:

"Westworld is an examination of human nature. The best parts of human nature — paternal love, romantic love, finding oneself — but also the basis for parts of human nature —violence and sexual violence"

ETonline:

"Westworld is an examination of human nature, the best parts of human nature -- we explore eternal love, romantic love -- but also the basis parts of human nature, and that includes violence, that includes sexual violence."

Variety:
"Westworld is an examination of human nature, the best parts of human nature -- paternal love, romantic love, finding oneself -- but also the basest parts of human nature -- violence and sexual violence.

The Hollywood reporter version doesn't make sense. Is the best part of human nature the basis for the worst part? Interesting theory. But no.

And ETonline also screwed it up big time. basis parts? Really? There's no such thing. and the first and last part of the sentence aren't correct either.

Variety has in my opinion the right version because basest means morally low, dishonorable or selfish.
Transcribing is hard. You have to listen carefully. And that is harder than you think. Okay. I'll be in my bunk.
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Aug 01, 2016
Sam Pickenpaw thought his film The Wild Bunch's intense violence would turn people away from the Vietnam war and violence in general. However, it failed. It only sent his film making career on a trajectory of increasingly violent films. The fact is people can easily be desensitized to most things. So, I wouldn't be surprised to see this show fail in all respects in protraying the consquences of violence.
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Jul 31, 2016
I very much like Lisa Joy's answers and hope they pull off what they endeavor to do. She rises a lot of valid points, but somehow I doubt those screaming the loudest will listen.

You can't ever have a proper exploration of human nature in fiction if you convieniently avoid everything that might be uncomfortable (although you get a pass on killing, no one ever objects to killing). Once our species ever succesfully evolves beyond that point, object away.
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Jul 31, 2016
I saw the trailer for this show today. I'm not sure how the premise of the movie can be stretched more than one season without being absolutely boring. I feel it's another case of modern Hollywood TV taking a limited premise because they think it's cool and not realising there's not enough there to begin with to create something worth watching.
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Jul 31, 2016
Wow, spoilers for a show that AIRS IN 2 MONTHS !!! New heights here on tv.com. Or HBO did that themselves and TV.com just mindlessly incorporated it. I'm not really bothered, but hey - credits where credits due.
And this ridiculous PC agenda has to stop NOW. It hurts more than it helps, really. EVERYTHING EXTREME is fetishized (let's pretend that word actually exists), it comes with the medium.
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Jul 31, 2016
Just because a show like Hawaii Five-0 shows cops going around shooting people and beating people up doesn't mean they're condoning it.
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Jul 31, 2016
No? Look at any cop show and message is that sometimes a bit of violence is justifiable if cops know person is guilty (which they always do, being hero cops and all). Same goes for things lawyers and activists get upset over, such as warrantless searches and recordings, harassing, intimidating witnesses and family members of suspects....

Take Chicago PD for example. Everybody knows Voight and Olinsky beat up suspects from time to time, entire unit has no problems with threatening people they talk to with all sorts of problems if they don't tell them what cops need to know (starting with "charging you with obstruction of justice" and moving up). And everybody is cool with it and show is written so that such acts are seen as necessary to solve the case. Entire unit will act united when IAB comes looking and ill do everything in their poer to prevent them from finding out anything, even if detectives know what really happened. And msot importantly, nothing ever happens to cops who do such things.

So don't claim shows don't condone police violence, if conditions are right.
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Jul 31, 2016
THIS IS ADVERTISING. Not from this site (hey, controversy brings clics), but from the producers of the show. And that makes me wonder if there is anything else worth knowing about this show? Or should I just go and watch it cause there is controversy in internet discussions about violence? I can assure you I do not enjoy rape, wheter it goes towards women or men, or androids, in any tv show, and there better be some reason to watch this crap otherwise. Oh, and all these people down here asking for equality in terms of gender rapes, i think we should grant it to them. Let's make it so that more women kill their attackers and rapists and more men get to be raped and violently attacked by women as well. It should all be equal, so much better for everyone. And more chances for these people to get to know what they are making jokes about. Let's make it happen, click that button. What? Was I harsh? Sounded resented and vengeful? And how do you stupid people think you are sounding with the women-equality-hate speech? smart...???
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Jul 31, 2016
I'm not quite sure how you can actually question whether this "controversy" is the only thing this show has going for it.

Have you watched the trailer? Have you taken a look at the cast? Have you seen the writers/production team behind it? Those things, combined with HBO's reputation for quality programs (programs that they are not afraid to put big production money behind) make this a show that I am looking forward to more than any new program in many years.
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Jul 31, 2016
Were you harsh? Well, not really. I just don't think you made a whole lot of sense, though. No one asked for "equality in terms of gender rapes." I read through all the comments, and you just made that argument up in your head. I think people just want tv to reflect real life situations, not keep a running even total of gender rapes. I think that it would be great if more women could kill their attackers. I will even be rooting for them every time as long as it's realistic within the story, and not just put there to appease people. As far as men getting raped by women goes, I'm not sure you're aware of the logistics of that, it's not too easy to do. As long as it's realistic within the story I have absolutely no problem with it, though. Hell, I would be interested how a writer could creatively make that happen, it sounds interesting as long as it's realistic. Do you sound resented and vengeful? You mean after you were making up arguments, calling people stupid, and claiming their using hate speech, when I didn't see anyone being hateful, just people saying that they don't want other people telling them what they can or can't watch, noooo you don't seem resented or vengeful at all.
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Jul 31, 2016
You want to see man getting raped by a woman? Watch Grimm. Of course you have a group of people saying "it's not rape because she merely took appearance of his girlfriend" but such is life....
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Aug 01, 2016
Anyone who says that isn't rape doesn't understand what rape is, Nick did not give consent to Adalind, that's the definition of rape.

You could also say that she raped Hank considering she put a spell on him into wanting her.

http://www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2016/04/grimm-nick-adalind-and-rape-no-one.html
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Jul 31, 2016
LOL!!
Well put, like I said, the PC crowd isn't exactly known for making a lot of sense. However, making up arguments, bashing people about, and insinuating things that they never said is right in their wheelhouse.
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Jul 31, 2016
Come on, I get that rape is a taboo topic but with so many films and tv shows depicting murder, mutilation, blood and gore and violence of every kind why would rape be any different?! You have a tv show like Hannibal where a murderer creates sculptures out of his dismembered bodies and the show is still great but when you have a rape scene people go nuts.

The other thing - I think the tv shows and films should not idealize the world they are trying to present us because it is a copy of our world and in that world sh!t like this happens all the time.
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Jul 31, 2016
Sorry, but I'm going to have to agree with a lot of the posters below. Some people are going nuts over nothing.

It's like we still get so many silly things on this very site (from both authors and visitors) about crap like how shows like The Vampire Diaries or Supernatural are constantly killing female characters when it's just factually false (they kill both genders equally)

But it seems people still think if you repeat the silly mantra over and over again you will somehow make it right.

I said this previously in an article that talked about all the "female deaths" in the past year on tv.

You want equality? You want more women to serve in the front lines? Well, guess what? You can't just get yourself a poster girl in a uniform and call it a day. More women on the front lines means more women are going to get hurt and killed.

And that's okay. Seriously grow up. Don't you realize it's a good thing? It means as a society we can look at women as actual human beings fully equal to men in every way and not just some helpless damsels in distress that are so fragile they break at the slightest touch.

Even funnier is that this is supposedly a mantra for gender equality but it's actually the other way around. You want to talk about gender equality?
The real question you should ask yourself isn't why are so many women getting raped on tv, it's why are there no men?

Can you name any tv show where a leading female character was a rape survivor and continued to go on and maintain her status as leading character? Sure, there are dozens of them. Just take Jessica Jones for start.

Can you name one tv show where a leading male character was a rape survivor and still maintained his leading character status? The only thing I can possibly think of is Beetcher on Oz and even that is quite a stretch.

When Snyder made the comment about if he would do Batman in prison, he would be raped people went ballistic. Because the idea of such a studly man being a rape survivor is unthinkable? And that is the real showing of these loud idiotis sexism. They don't seem to care at all about the fact that true, there are far less male victims of rape as there are women, however their treatment is usually several times worse including the fact that the odds of them reporting are practically slim to none.

Heck, do you know how many countries don't have a law against raping men? It's either non existent or goes by some other less fancy title such as sodomy or whatever.
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Jul 31, 2016
Can you name one tv show where a leading male character was a rape survivor and still maintained his leading character status?

Outlander.
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Jul 31, 2016
Grimm.
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Jul 31, 2016
If you ignore it it ill go away, right? I mean, if there is no depicition of rape on screen then rape isn't talked about and so you don't have to deal with it so it doens't exist.

As for this show, lets' face it, if you had an opportunity to engage in scenario where you could be anybody and do whatever you want most men would go for sex. Either with beautiful woman, either in se acts that they ahve no chance of doing in real life. I vaguely remember original movie and there is a scene where one older man "hooks up" ith two young looking bots. So ignoring it in this setting is idiotic. Hell, Humans acknowledges sex aspect from several angles.
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Jul 31, 2016
There is absolutely nothing wrong with Bloys answer. HBO is a network which is famous for uncensored content in their shows, including violence. To suggest that women should somehow be an exception is to expect content to be more concerned with hypocritical political correctness than with creativity and a sense of realism. HBO shouldn't even have tried to justify the equal opportunity violence of their shows the way Lisa Joy did. In all honesty, the perfect response of Bloys would have been to tell critics to get a life, but in his position i can understand his diplomacy.
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Jul 31, 2016
Listen - if it bothers you that much - don't watch it. I understand some people are sensitive about this stuff (as are some of the more overzealous censors these days on this site) but really, if it bothers you that much, move on and don't try and censor things that actually do happen - even if they are "bad things".
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Jul 31, 2016
It's sad to say, but a lot of times they actually do have a effect. GOT kowtowed to their crying, and I bet Westworld will do the same in the future just so they don't have to deal with answering for it again. The sad thing is, their just the minuscule minority, but because they all complain they get their way, because people don't want to have to deal with them. That's why right after I read this article and even before I wrote this, I went over to hbo.com and sent them a message saying that if anything comes of these complaints, or I hear a this show changes anything in the future because of those comments- that I'm canceling my HBO Now account. The only way that they stop having a effect is that the silent majority speaks up. The bottom line is, the only type of people who are okay with tv shows where little girls are being burned at the stake, but have a huge problem with rape on a tv show, are people with a agenda. I personally can't handle letting these people tell me what I can and can't watch. Not only is it not good enough for them to not watch it, they have to choose what everyone else watches too. Also, in this article I just read it, made it seem like the Westworld show runner Lisa came in and saved the day with her comment after HBO's president made his. I thought his comment was perfectly fine. To most people I think that would make perfect sense.
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Jul 31, 2016
Sure, loud idiots have their effects in history, but it's actually decreasing not increasing.

The thing is, in today's world, the minor vocal groups can't hide how minor they are like they used to. The most obvious example is the whole Million Marching Moms thing.

In the older days, people would assume they really have high numbers, but when you can look at their facebook page and see they are only about 50,000...

You get the idea.

Social media has made it easier to allow people to group together, but it also made quantifying them easier and thus they aren't as powerful as they used to be.
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Jul 31, 2016
Now I have to get HBO. Anytime people bitch about things like this (even if I essentially agree) all it does is make me want to watch.
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Jul 31, 2016
So, now these idiots are crying and raising a fuss over something no one has even seen yet?
If these morons had one working brain between them, they might actually be dangerous. As it is, they're too stupid to realize that the louder they cry, the more people will watch the program to see what all the fuss is about. It's like when all the religious nuts protested the Last Temptation of Christ, they took a movie hardly anyone would have went to see originally, and turned it into a gold mine for the studio
These people should all move to the middle of the woods somewhere with no access to any television or movies, that way they won't have to worry about having their tender sensibilities offended. That way the rest of us can live our lives without having to hear them cry about something stupid every three months, and make their lame attempts at censorship.
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Jul 30, 2016
I love how GOT kills people right and left, burns people at the stake, hangs young girls, and many other things crazy things, and yet some how rape is the only problem. Then here we go with this again, we have some lovely SJWs getting triggered by this show, and they want people to completely change something they no doubt put a lot of work into just because .001% of the population have a problem with it. Of course lets also blame HBO for making shows about real life issues without just omitting one of them because there are people who want to cry about it. I have family members who are no longer with me because of car accidents, cancer, and war. Of course rape is absolutely horrible and one of the most disgusting things humans have done, but I would say having your life taken in the ways I just mentioned have to be at the very least equally as bad, but you don't see me calling every network telling them to remove shows with death via cancer, cars, and war. Pretty soon there will only be shows that revolve around college Women's Study courses. I can't wait!
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Jul 31, 2016
Believe it or not, actually no. In terms of social acceptance, rape is far worse than any form of murder. The most obvious trick in a writer's sleeves is, if you want your bad guy to be "pure evil" then you make him a rapist (Nazis come close second).

Even if your bad guy is a complete genocidal monster, it still doesn't make him "all that bad" if you compare him to a rapist.

I'm not trying to start a scale of morality here and say which evil did is more evil than the next one (let's agree to not try to rape or kill anyone in general, okay?)

I'm just saying your analogy of cancer or car accidents is completely besides the topic because when rape is used as a literary device, it is used in order to created a more vilified antagonist - it's more of a description of the attacker than the victim.

Hence why something as car accident or cancer are besides the point as they no malice in them.
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Jul 31, 2016
That's a good point, and I totally agree with what you're saying from a literary and social stand point. As a viewer, portraying someone as a rapist does make me loath the person more than being a murderer. Rape just seems so inconceivable to me, where murder as bad as it is seems as though it could be justified given the right situation. Which that just goes to show how bad that would be if all writers just completely omitted rape from writing going forward, because it evokes such a response.

What I was trying to say is, if people are complaining about it and only it from a nasty and completely unthinkable thing for one person to do to another standpoint, then I would point out that there is much worse incidents on GOT that no one says anything about. Which btw your example was even better than mine, I completely forgot about that whole situation. Which just goes to show how many other bad examples there are.


If, however, they were saying that it shouldn't be televised based on the fact that it had happened to them or someone they loved, and that people shouldn't be made to watch and have to relive something like that. To those people I would say trying watching a family members dead corpse being carted off after a car accident and knowing you're never going to see them again. My point is, that bad things happen all over every day. Something as simple as car accident might mean nothing to one person but everything to another. You just can't start removing everything that "triggers" people from from tv and movies, because there wouldn't be anything left to write about. No one person's issues are more important than an-others.
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Jul 31, 2016
I said the same thing when that whole Sansa rape scene "outrage" first happened. They were okay when a 12 year old girl was tied to a stake and burned alive, and didn't raise a fuss when a pregnant woman was stabbed in the stomach to death, but having an out of picture rape scene was despicable and unforgivable.
These over the top PC people have never been known for making any sense.
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Jul 31, 2016
To be honest, what's even weirder is that they had no problem when Ramsey captured, tortured, enslaved, completely dehumanized Theon including mutilating his genitals and used him as a human plaything.
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Jul 31, 2016
[sarcasm]But that's violence against men, so totally acceptable [/sarcasm]
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Jul 30, 2016
So now violence against robots is a problem? That doesn't fare well for Battlebots.

The idea of Westworld was as an "adult playground" where they could do things that would get them arrested in the real world. But it never really showed any rape, even though it did have sex with robots.

Anyone who has seen the original movie knows what to expect. In fact, anyone who has seen Macross Plus knows how rape can be used to fuel a story very effectively.

And there is a double standard when you can kill all the men you want on a show and nobody thinks anything of it. One of the best ways to show a bad guy being bad is for them to be violent. This is also a show meant for adults who know it's not glorification of violence. People do know better.
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Jul 30, 2016
Now, it would have been better if it were Incest Rape!!!!
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Jul 30, 2016
I haven't heard much about this until now. I was wondering if it would be good, but starting with rape is not going to help. I guess I'll have to wait for more opinions on the rest of it.
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Jul 31, 2016
I've seen the first episode and I liked what I saw. It's an interesting concept. We'll have a review and probably more when it gets closer to the premiere date.
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Jul 31, 2016
It's not even due to premiere for another 2 months.
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Jul 31, 2016
Yes, we know that. It says in the article, too. We also know that there is a violent rape scene in the first episode.
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Jul 31, 2016
Actually, we don't know if there is a "violent rape scene". The whole thing could happen off screen.
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