HBO Chief Talks “Westworld” Rape Criticisms

HBO is in big need of a major critical and commercial drama series hit and the upcoming “Westworld” series is shaping up to be that potential next big breakthrough. Don’t expect the series to pull any punches though.

The ambitious drama is set in an ultra-realistic amusement park where visitors come to live out their most outrageous and darkest desires, it has also been the subject of swirling rumors about a troubled production.

The first two episodes of the series were screened on the weekend as part of the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, and just to show how dark the series is – the opening scene of the premiere reportedly features a lifelike female android (played by Evan Rachel Wood) being dragged by her hair to be raped offscreen by the villain played by Ed Harris.

THR indicates that while speaking about the series afterwards, HBO programming chief Casey Bloys was reportedly rattled by the line of questioning about the show’s violence against women and portrayal of rape. He responded to one question with:

“The point in Westworld is they’re robots. How do you treat a robot with human-like qualities? Is that reflective of how you would treat a human? It’s a little bit different than Game of Thrones, where it is human-on-human violence.”

Showrunner Lisa Joy had more to say and says the depiction is necessary as the show explores those darker themes:

“It was definitely something that was heavily discussed and considered as we worked on those scenes. 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. Violence and sexual violence have been a fact of human history since the beginning. 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.

When we were tackling a project about a park with a premise where you can come there and do whatever desire you want with impunity and without consequence, it seemed like an issue we had to address. 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 what we endeavored to do.”

“Westworld” is currently targeting an October 2nd premiere date on HBO.