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Westworld Co-Creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan Connect the Show to Feminism and #MeToo

Westworld Season 1, Episode 8 Air Date: 11/20/16 Pictured: : Jimmi Simpson, Evan Rachel Wood

Before the watershed moment of #MeToo and #TimesUp, Westworld was using robots to tell a story about female bodily autonomy. In a recent interview, co-creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan discuss being able to openly talk about things that were once merely whispered about, as well as how their inherently feminist professional (and married) relationship allowed for each of them to get what they need while working on Westworld.

Fast Company’s Nicole Laporte asked them about their choices around depicting women, particularly when it comes to things like sexual violence, and whether or not real-world events have an impact on those choices.

“Well before #MeToo came and announced to the world, ‘Hey, we have a real problem here with sexual abuse and violence,'” Joy explains. “I would say most women knew that. You whisper it, you talk about it, you understand it, you live it. So those thoughts were in my mind [when I started writing the show].”

She talks about how traditionally, the Western genre has always been hyper-masculine, and so she wanted to be truthful about what a western-themed park where there were no limits on behavior would actually be like. At the same time, however, Joy says that they “care deeply about the manner in which we represent an actual act of sexual violence, which is why you don’t see it. You see a girl yelling as she’s dragged away, fully clothed, but we didn’t want to show nudity and sex.”

It’s always interesting to listen to them talk about how their marriage affects their working relationship, particularly in light of the fact that film and television have historically been male-dominated. Joy and Nolan, however, are very much an equal partnership.

“The first assumption we get is that Lisa writes the female characters and I write the male characters,” Nolan says. “That’s not the case. One of us will get a handle on a moment with a character and there’s a constant back and forth. There’s no set responsibility.”

Recently, Joy directed her first episode of the show, her television directorial debut after having built a career as a writer and producer, and she was able to do that, in large part, thanks to Nolan’s encouragement.

Joy shares:

“The world can feel very dark lately, but there are acts of everyday feminism, support, and generosity that I have been the beneficiary of in so many ways on this show. I had a baby and was still breastfeeding, and I had this mammoth, crazy episode [to direct], full of all the things you’re scared of as a first-time director. I thought, I can’t do this. It’s irresponsible right now. When I faltered, Jonathan pushed me out the door. He said, “You got this.” He took on this role at home so I could live a typically masculine dream.”

We often talk about the fact that feminism benefits both women and men, and Nolan hits on a point when talking about Joy’s directing that should be obvious, but often isn’t. He laughs, saying, “I also wanted to see our kids.”

Can you imagine? A father wanting to spend time raising his own damn kids? Bananas!

The second season of Westworld premieres this Sunday, April 22nd. And I will have a spoiler-free review of the premiere up later this week!

(via Fast Company, image: HBO)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.