November 7, 2016

Statement: Westworld’s Latest Homicidal Sexual Assault Contradicts Co-Creator’s Commitment to Not Depict Violence Against Women

Statement by Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of NCOSE

Washington, DC – In its latest episode, HBO’s Westworld portrayed a homicidal sexual assault. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) calls on the creators of Westworld to publicly commit to no longer producing such content.

Ahead of the Westworld series premier, actress Evan Rachel Wood told the Daily News, “We don’t actually show any violence against women, although it is implied. (Co-creator) Lisa (Joy) was very passionate about not showing gratuitous violence against women . . . .”

“There was nothing ‘implied’ about the sexual violence in last night’s episode,” said Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. “In the opening five minutes of the show, Westworld unambiguously depicted a homicidal sexual assault in which not only was the woman brutally choked to death, but she also encouraged her assailant to do so. Westworld creators attempt to hide behind the claim that they are examining the ‘basest parts of human nature’ and insist that sexual violence is something they all ‘take seriously.’ Yet this episode was another milestone demonstrating HBO’s and Westworld’s radical commitment to the mainstreaming of sexual violence against women as mass entertainment.”

“Even if we could believe in the good intentions of Westworld’s creators, we would like to remind them of the lesson learned by Norman Lear. Lear created the famed show All in the Family and its lead character Archie Bunker as a humorous satire on racial prejudice. It was supposed by Lear and others that the show would produce a cathartic rejection of bigotry. However, research revealed that most viewers did not consider the show a satire on bigotry, and saw nothing wrong with Archie’s use of racial and ethnic slurs. So, good intentions notwithstanding, the show actually encouraged bigots to excuse and rationalize their own prejudices. Westworld routinely depicts graphic sex, uses women (especially prostituted women) as objects of sexual violence, and regularly displays female (and male) nudity. Thus, we have good cause to believe that Westworld appeals and gives validation to an audience with attitudes supporting female sexual objectification and violence against women.”

“As a woman, I ask Ms. Joy to stop producing scenes that normalize and popularize the sexual exploitation of our sex,” Hawkins continued.

Due to its history of creating and distributing sexually exploitative programming, including shows such as Westworld and Game of Thrones, HBO is a member of the 2016 Dirty Dozen List. You can learn more here: http://endsexualexploitation.org/hbo/

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