The premiere of HBO’s Westworld was met with near universal praise. A strong opening episode, with all the gratuitous sex and violence you’d expect from HBO.
But it’s pretty easy to see the premise of the show won’t sit well with today’s outrage culture. A Western theme park where visitors can kill and rape robots without consequences is very problematic to certain (you know who) types.
HBO has received lots of flack in the last few years for sexual violence toward women in their programming. Game of Thrones has at least one rape-related social media blowup per season, and the latest series, The Night Of, was also chided for a plot revolving around a murder that happened after consensual sex.
So Westworld’s sexual assault Disney World is sure to draw ire, which is already evident in some of the negative reviews.
Salon calls Westworld a part of HBO’s “brutality fetish.” Flavorwire describes the show as a “male fantasy billed as a unisex adventure.” The Daily Dot declares that Westworld already suffers from the same sexism problem as Game of Thrones.
These critiques begs the question how Westworld’s plot could ever completely dodge these complaints. Could they ever adequately explore the darkest parts of human nature and still make entertaining, not completely disheartening television?
Probably not. No matter how much empathy the show gets the viewers to feel toward the abused robots, or how “tasteful” and non-titillating the violence, the plot will always be inherently problematic.
Fans of the show will just have to weather years of sexism accusations, limited only by how long HBO decides to continue the production.