‘Westworld’ EP Defends Portrayal of Sexual Violence: It’s ‘Part of Human Nature’

Westworld Teaser
Courtesy of HBO

The first episode of “Westworld” features the implied rape of a main character — making it the latest in a string of HBO series to prominently feature violence against women, particularly sexual violence against women, as part of its narrative. Co-creator and executive producer Lisa Joy defended that depiction Saturday.

“It was definitely something that was heavily discussed and heavily considered as we worked on those scenes,” Joy said at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “‘Westworld’ is a consideration of human nature. The best parts of human nature … and the basest parts of human nature. That includes violence and sexual violence.”

Joy added that sexual violence is “something we all take seriously” on the production. “We wanted it to not be about the fetishization of those acts.”

HBO programming president Casey Bloys fielded several questions about violence against women on “Westworld,” “Game of Thrones” and “The Night Of” during his executive session earlier in the day, struggling at times to answer.

“I can tell you violence, it’s not just specific to women. It’s indiscriminate,” he said of HBO’s shows. “Plenty of men are killed as well,” he added.

Scheduled to premiere Oct. 2, “Westworld” is an ambitious science fiction series that saw production halted in January and not resumed for three months. Executive producer Jonathan Nolan said that “catching up” period was necessary.

“I’ve worked in film and broadcast TV to this point in my career,” Nolan said Saturday at the TCA 2016 panel. They’re not kidding when they say it’s not TV, it’s HBO. It’s a little different. We got to a point in the season where we needed to catch up, we needed to write ahead. With a lot of places this is a dollars and cents issue. With our partners at HBO and Warner Bros., we felt like they wanted us to have as much time as we need.”

“Westworld” is adapted from the original 1973 film directed by Michael Crichton and starring Yul Brynner.

“Crichton is such a genius that he was able to predict the far flung events,” Joy said. “Today it’s not really science fiction, it’s science fact. … Our examination of AI within ‘Westworld’ accounts for a plurality of ways that AI could develop.”

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  1. Tim says:

    Westworld? lol more like Rapeworld

  2. I can picture Hopkins getting drunk on Valvoline, with a robotic teen sex machine.

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  5. Derek says:

    HBO has to continue to stir up controversy or people won’t watch. Simple as that.

  6. Mr.P says:

    Says Billy Clinton so gtf over it!!!!!

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  8. Freddy says:

    Defending violence….blablabla…..
    It’s a show by Jonathan Nolan. He think that he is sooooo celver. But he’s not. Like killing Root in person of interest. He thought fans would like because he liked his soooo clever idea and he doesn’t care if fans don’t like it because he likes it. Jonathan Nolan thinks that he’s so clever and cool. But he’s just someone with a big ego.

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  9. blip says:

    It’s not about SJWs or morals or “real” life. It’s all about choice– as in, a writer can choose what he or she chooses to write. We’ve all heard this from HBO before: how “difficult” it was to decide to subject yet another main female character to sexual assault. Well, here’s a newsflash, kiddies: you could have decided– or chosen– differently. It really is that simple.

    Unless you really think that sexual assault is the only way to develop a female character, in which case you’re just plain dumb. Or you get off on it, in which case you’re pathetic AND dumb.

  10. Maria says:

    Resist the Social Justice Warriors HBO! We are with you.

  11. Appearing Tonight says:

    Poor HBO, lost in a sea of crap and they don’t even seem to know it . . . . .

  12. ima superstitious says:

    Told you you shouldn’t have Illyria’d Root Jonah. It’s backfiring now. Ask Whedon he still has a ton of bad luck after killing off Fred.

  13. Rape is not “human nature”. It is a felony crime.

  14. Murphy says:

    I will never watch this show, rape is to real I don’t need to watch it on tv, besides I will never watch a show J Nolan is attached to you. not after he killed off Root in POI – a most idiotic decision on his part

  15. r henry says:

    I won’t be eatch this. I avoid any and all depictions ofsexual violence.

    Strange how many viewers are willing to watch a woman raped and abused, but come unglued with news of a puppy being abused.

    • Maria Sanchez says:

      We should be more upset over fiction than over fact? I am far more upset over the death of a garden spider than I am of a cartoon depicting every human being on Earth being raped and then pulled apart by horses. One is real. The other is not.

  16. Joe says:

    It’s easy so writers use it.

  17. Andrew rivera says:

    Why is it when Hollywood depicts violence against women there artists. But when art inspires real life violence against women Hollywood is the first to decry it? Same with gun violence, drug addict chic?

    If you watch old movies, a lot of them are what we would now call racist. Inforcing real life of the time? Hollywood complicit in then modern day racism? What ever made them money.

    Several people have nailed it, total sleeze hypocrites in Hollywood. Sanctimonious self absorbed narssasists. America should wake up and reject Hollywood lock stock and barrel.

  18. Mary Lynn says:

    Given that the only “sanctioned” romance on Nolan’s last show was also begun and rooted in violence, I’m going to say there’s definitely a fetish element going on — on the part of the EP.

    • Vera says:

      Not to mention, Root died as disposable woman for shock value and there was no purpose for her death, other than give her voice to an artificial intelligence thing. So yeah I’m not surprised by how Nolan treat women in Westworld especially if they’re not real.

  19. Sam Dennis says:

    Too many people can’t handle reality …. hiding their heads in the sand. Living by a philosophy that if they don’t see or acknowledge badness, it simple hasn’t happened!

    • Vera says:

      We have enough badness happening in the real world, thank you and thanks to news, twitter etc. we know all about it.. I don’t need my television to be too violent and victimize women in every show to demonstrate me that.

  20. Lauren Lynley says:

    Hollywood has become a cesspool of cultural decay. I tuned out years ago. PBS I watch online but I haven’t owned a TV for over a decade.

  21. nearboston says:

    What next a movie about taking dumps? That’s part of human nature too

  22. JoJos Jacket says:

    And what would the King of Siam think?

  23. nerdrage says:

    Given the premise, and the fact that it’s on HBO, I’m sure we can expect maximum depravity. It’s sort of built in – how abusive would humans be, if they think they’re just abusing “things”? I think we’re all forewarned enough and if anyone can’t handle it, don’t watch.

    • Vera says:

      It will be cancelled after season 1 anyway so… why waste time on watching it?

    • Michael Anthony says:

      Maximum depravity? Hardly. This is based on the film from the early 70s. It was extreme then, so why would anyone expect anything different. It’s a film, that’s it. Unless of course you believe that music, films, TV, influence people. Hogwash

  24. this is why we must become machines.

  25. Rolf says:

    “With a lot of places this is a dollars and SCENTS issue” Is this why a lot of TV stinks?

  26. With two young daughters, why I [must] carry legally…

  27. Michael says:

    Dollars and scents? I smell dollars being saved on proofreading.

  28. jefhv says:

    part of human nature? maybe you should change the crowd you’ been hangin’ with

  29. Jpe says:

    They cancelled Project Greenlight but renewed the low-rated Ballers. They cancelled Vinyl but they give us this. This is why I cancelled HBO.

    It’s not what they depict that offends me… it is their stupid programming decisions.

  30. spike says:


    • Michael Anthony says:

      Wow, all caps. You’re so smart.

      “Westworld,” is based on the film of the same name from the early 70s. It was strange then, but no, society survived it, as it always does.

      Morally bankrupt? Hardly. The real problem is people like you who have issues with entertainment. It’s not all ponys and rainbows. That’s why we have rating systems, to alert parents. Morals are subjective and I’d movies or series portray life in a certain manner, that’s their right.

  31. Laici Dreyer says:

    If you find a story depicting rape to be something worth whining about, why not put your outspoken opinion to some better use by being outspoken against ACTUAL rape? You can’t put your head in the sand against reality and then get bent out of shape and offended because storytellers use reality as a base for their stories.

    • Bubba Bite Lip says:

      And that ladies and gentlemen is why the Clintons belong back in the White House.

    • Kevin says:

      I’m glad for you that you’re enjoying watching women being raped on television! Storytellers work hard to make people like you happy!

  32. leo says:

    And it’s part of human nature to be triggered by sexual violence. Nope not watching it. My my is Nolan keep making worst choices to tell his precious stories?

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