There's a lot of pressure on HBO to deliver the goods with #Westworld, but not just in regards to entertainment factor. While they've had a lot of success from #GameofThrones, HBO has also received their fair amount of criticism surrounding their portrayal of women on that show. Unjustified sexual violence, excessive female-only nudity and even lack of pubic hair rated high in the complaints department from more Bechdel-savvy viewers (though the most recent GoT season was certainly an improvement in this regard).
Westworld is trying to give this whole equality thing a crack, and they're certainly giving it a good go. There's a very high amount of central female characters in the show, and the narrative is revolving more and more around their empowerment.
With three episodes left in the season, how does Westworld fare in the "strong female characters" stakes? Let's break it down.
Breaking That Glass Ceiling
Two of Delos' most respected senior employees, Charlotte and Theresa, are women. Inside the park, Armistice leads one of the baddest gangs of bandits known to terrorise Sweetwater.
Taking The Power Back
Maeve uses her intellect and cunning to quickly gain the upper hand over her literal masters, completely playing Felix and Sylvester for her own benefit and potential future freedom.
Both male and female hosts are frequently naked during updates and interrogation (remember that host penis?), and Dr. Ford even goes so far as to reprimand a technician for covering a host's body during work. The last episode also revealed that the female hosts have pubic hair, a big complaint about the medieval maidens in Game Of Thrones.
Not Defining Queer Characters By Their Sexuality
While we see Elsie kiss Clementine while no one is watching, establishing her sexuality, it isn't touched on again. Nor is it used to completely define Elsie as the "token gay character" — though we've yet to see how she reacts to news of Clementine's lobotomy.
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Theresa maintains a strictly sexual relationship with her coworker Bernard, subverting the stereotype of women being unable to emotionally detach from sex. Board member Charlotte's recent romp with a host was a bold display of her sexual confidence. Her posture in the above photo — slouched over, legs apart — is one that would normally be deemed too "masculine" for a woman to adopt, but instead Charlotte asserts herself as unfazed and empowered.
Humanization Of Sex Workers
The women of Westworld are subjected to deplorable horrors by park attendees, and the brothel is certainly no exception. However, Maeve and Clementine are depicted as more than just sex objects, despite their trade. Clementine voices her hopes and dreams for her life and her family, and her lobotomy in the most recent episode is a sad and meaningful event. Even before Maeve's perception boost, she was incredibly sharp and quick-witted.
No More Damsels In Distress
Just a few weeks ago, Dolores was nothing more than a sweet-natured farm girl in a pretty dress, and a recurring victim for the Man In Black. Now she's thwarted her attackers and ditched Teddy, wears pants and shoots guns. Hell yeah.
Maeve's focus quickly switched from sex to freedom after she was awoken by Dolores's Shakespeare recital. Now she's on the most badass quest to become an independent woman we've ever seen, determined to use her artificial super-intelligence to become her own person.
Seeking Fulfillment Outside Of Romance
Sorry, Teddy, Dolores has bigger things in her sights now. Dolores's focus on her Maze quest is unwavering, and she's willing to leave behind her entire life in her search for the truth.
Westworld certainly isn't the perfect feminist narrative. Sexual violence is through the roof, there's hardly any woman who don't look like a model, and Dolores's epic narrative has the potential to be completely sidetracked by her newfound romance with William. But it's still subverting a lot of stereotypes and shining a spotlight on a multitude of strong female characters, the likes of which we've never seen before. Not bad, HBO. Not bad at all.
Watch Maeve plot her freedom in the promo for next week's episode of Westworld: