The re-imagining of Westworld as a series for HBO, directed by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Nolan, is already being compared to Game of Thrones over its use of sexual violence perpetrated against its female characters. That’s a pretty impressive accomplishment, considering Westworld won’t even debut to the television-watching public until tomorrow night. While early critics are eager to condemn Westworld for exploring the use of such graphic imagery, many of the Westworld stars, including Thandie Newton and Evan Rachel Wood, are stepping up to defend the use of sexual violence, suggesting that the graphic scenes are necessary in exploring the darker themes and the moral implications behind those themes.
Westworld Stars Evan Rachel Wood And Thandie Newton Say Violence Serves A Purpose
Based on the 1973 movie of the same name, written by Michael Crichton, Westworld explores a theme park where men pay to interact with humanoid robots, and as People points out, many of the creations are female. Of course, that kind of a set-up leads into some very dark places and, in so doing, sets up story arcs that have the power to make social commentary and force viewers to question issues they may face in the real world.
What makes Westworld a little more comfortable for audiences is that there are rules for the robots. They have their memories wiped at the turn of each day, making the rapes and murders of the robots (termed “hosts” within Westworld) less traumatic and essentially less real. The hosts also may not harm any human being, a rule present in almost every tale of man versus machine.
All of this comes into question and raises issues of morality when a glitch causes the robots to recall past traumas. In discussing this turn of events, actress Thandie Newton, who plays a host and has herself been the victim of sexual abuse, says the sexual violence seen in Westworld is absolutely necessary. Also, she adds that this violence isn’t committed without consequences. She says there’s a cost and the ramifications of these depraved acts are not slight.
While sex and violence will be a big draw for fans of the horror and sci-fi genres, Westworld star Evan Rachel Wood says there’s nothing glamorous about these scenes.
“You have an obligation as a storyteller to raise awareness and to show the horrors of that so that people aren’t desensitized to it,” the Westworld actress explained. “I don’t think there’s anything titillating about what we’re doing. It’s all horrific, as it should be.”
In the four episodes released to critics, rapes haven’t actually been seen in full, but, instead, Westworld implies the assaults with the acts happening off camera. Still, the viewer knows what has happened and Wood says that the events surrounding the rape sequences are unsettling enough, because Westworld never tries to make light of the incidents.
Westworld Explores The Depravity Of Human Nature
Statements made by Wood and Newton in defense of the Westworld brutality are similar to the sentiments expressed by showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Nolan, reports the Hollywood Reporter. Lisa Joy says Westworld seeks to explore every facet of human nature, whether that means telling a story of love and self discovery or exposing the most deplorable acts of violence and the most deviant sexual practices imaginable in the Westworld setting of hosts and guests.
Ms. Nolan adds that in a world like Westworld, where one can do anything with impunity, it seemed obvious that issues relating to sexual violence certainly had to be addressed. Westworld sets the stage for abuse and corruption, so it seemed necessary to explore such practices.
“Sexual violence is an issue we take seriously,” said the Westworld showrunner. “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.”
J.J. Abrams, who serves as Westworld executive producer, has also defended the sexual violence of the series, adding that, in telling the tale of oppressive, the lives of the oppressed must be examined.
Westworld debuts on Sunday, October 2, on HBO.
[Featured Image by HBO]