As Game of Thrones nears its much-dreaded end, HBO is setting up Westworld to take its place, and while Westworld is worlds away from Westeros, critics are already drawing comparisons between the two shows. As has been the case with Game of Thrones, Westworld is already showing a propensity for violence against women, and critics are suggesting HBO is going too far now. Is the network really going too far, though? In spite of critical commentary, ratings for the George R.R. Martin-based series and hype surrounding Westworld suggest far more people are intrigued by the sex and violence than those put off by it.
Westworld Creators Respond To Criticism Of Sex And Violence
Westworld won’t officially premiere until October, yet the Hollywood Reporter reveals that critics are already slamming the new HBO series for employing extremely graphic scenes of violence against women and creating scenes that are far too sexually charged, even for a premium cable network. Critics have been able to screen the first two episodes of Westworld, and their reactions weren’t nearly as positive as Westworld creators had hoped.
There were two scenes in particular that drew the most disdain from the critics. The first, Westworld‘s opening scene, shows a life-like female android (Evan Rachel Wood) being dragged away by her hair. The android is then raped off screen by a character known as the Man in Black (Ed Harris).
Another offending Westworld sequence was actually a part of a teaser released by HBO, because it showed a graphic orgy scene. The shot was cut from the teaser before it was uploaded to YouTube.
“It was definitely something that was heavily discussed and considered as we worked on those scenes,” says showrunner Lisa Joy Nolan. “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.”
Ms. Nolan goes on to explain that, while sex and violence have to be explored within the context of the Westworld story, the inclusion of those graphic scenes are something that Nolan and co-creator Jonathan Nolan take very seriously. The Westworld showrunner says sex and violence is used to explore the crimes and delve deep into the experiences of the victims of those crimes, adding that they treat each incident with as much respect and sensitivity as possible.
“…it’s extraordinarily disturbing and horrifying,” Nolan says of Westworld‘s graphic scenes. “And in its portrayal, we endeavored for it to not be about the fetishization of those acts.”
There’s More To Westworld Than Sex And Violence
Some fans may already know that Westworld is the recreation of an older Yul Brynner science fiction flick, but Vulture delves deeper in their coverage of the show’s TCA panel. Based on the 1974 film written by Michael Crichton, Westworld was re-imagined as a series, because it was thought the format of a longer running series would allow the story to be told better. The Nolans were excited to develop the film as a television series, because it would allow them a better format in which to explore the themes introduced in the Westworld film.
When asked which themes will be involved in the overriding story arc, Jonathan Nolan says, at its heart, Westworld is about defining life.
“That’s very much what show is examining — where does life begin,” said Nolan. “Whether or not it’s an artificial being. A.I. believe in their own realities and they feel as we feel our own feelings.”
Westworld is shot in a way that leaves audiences guessing when and where the series takes place. However, Westworld does offer clues, allowing us to experience the drama through many different points of view. Speaking of varying perspectives, Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton play android hosts in Westworld and each said there was much to be learned in the way of playing an android.
“I did a lot of research and tried to learn about the actual technology, and now that’s my hard drive,” said star Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Westworld host Dolores Abernathy. “In the pilot we worked a lot together on how far we were going to take it, and ultimately it was all about subtlety. It was acting Olympics. ‘Do we sweat? Will the sun blind us? Do we breathe?'”
“I actually felt more human than I’ve ever felt by nature of this simplicity,” said Westworld actress Thandie Newton.
Westworld will premiere on October 2 on HBO.
[Image by HBO]