After taking a boatload of questions about the quantity and graphic nature of on-screen violence against women on HBO series, with Westworld, The Night Of and Game of Thrones mentioned, HBO’s new-ish programming chief Casey Bloys returned to the stage for the TCA session about Westworld, a remake of the 1973 Michael Crichton movie.
But answering the one question on the subject during the Q&A fell, not surprisingly, to the show’s female co-creator/EP, Lisa Joy.
The sexualized nature of some of the violence on the show “was definitely something we discussed and heavily considered as we worked on the scenes,” she began. “Westworld is an examination of human nature. The best parts: paternal love, romantic love, the finding of self. But also the basest, including violence and sexual violence” which, she said, have “sadly been a fact of human history since the beginning of human history.”
When tackling a story about a park in which people can come and “do whatever you want, whatever you desire without impunity or consequence, it seemed like the issue had to be addressed,” she said. As to the series’ sexual violence, she insisted, “we take it very seriously. It is extraordinarily disturbing and horrifying, so in its portrayal we endeavor not to be about the fetishization of those events.”
“It’s about exploring the crime and establishing the crime and the torment of the characters within that story…and exploring, hopefully, with dignity and depth.”
No further questions were asked on the topic – in marked contrast to a separate executive panel with Bloys, during which he took several questions on the subject, getting pushback to his first stab at an answer.
“I can tell you that violence, it’s not just specific to women. It’s indiscriminate. Plenty of men are killed as well,” Bloys noted, listing a few examples of violence against men on HBO shows. After more questions about rape scenes featuring female characters, Bloys admitted, “I think the criticism is valid. It’s something that people should take into account. It’s not something we’re wanting to highlight.”
Westworld, a 10-episode series, is described by HBO as a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin. Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, it explores a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged.