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

"It seemed like the issue had to be addressed"

Kaitlin Thomas

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.

Evan Rachel Wood, Westworld John P. Johnson/HBO

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.