Women on TV Were a Heated Topic at HBO’s TCA Exec Session

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Photo: Courtesy of HBO

HBO’s new president of programming, Casey Bloys, was in the hot seat Saturday morning as fired-up journalists drilled the executive about the way women and sexualized violence are portrayed in the network's series — specifically in Game of Thrones, The Night Of, and the highly anticipated new sci-fi Western, Westworld. Bloys was asked to comment on the violence seen in the series — the perceived-to-be-gratuitous and pervasive rape and murder of female characters, but not of their male peers. Bloys admitted, "The violence is pretty extreme on all fronts" on HBO dramas. "I take your point — so far there aren’t any male rapes," he said. "But the violence is spread equally. I would hope the violence is not intentionally against women."

Violence against women in Game of Thrones became a topic of debate among fans and critics when Sansa (Sophie Turner) was forced to have sex with her new husband in season five. The network’s current critically acclaimed miniseries The Night Of opens with the grizzly stabbing murder of a young woman in New York City. And there are many hints that Evan Rachel Wood’s female-robot character in Westworld — which premieres October 2 — is also the victim of rape, according to the pilot episode. "Is there a lot of violence in Westworld? Yes, but it’s not isolated," Bloys said, closing with a joke: "Eventually we’re going to kill everybody."

Slightly less awkward was the topic of HBO’s all-male talk-show lineup, headlined by John Oliver, Bill Maher, and Bill Simmons. Vulture asked Bloys to address this as well: Are there plans for a female-led talk-show format? "There is no plan as of now, but there is interest," he said. "We need more than white males [doing these shows]." We sure do.