Exploitation in Westworld

whisky-glass-croppedSomewhere during the last couple decades the bartenders in the mainstream entertainment business slipped over a line. Sexual themes once seemed to be served up to be sipped in glasses of art (admittedly often in poor taste). Now they come straight up as shots of one hundred and fifty-one proof exploitation. A recent Time Magazine post describes criticism of HBO for a contract that requires extras in the “Westworld” series to consent to sexual contact on camera, including “genital-to-genital” touching.

Once upon a time we had to sneak off to imbibe this in seedy windowless “gentlemen’s clubs” in shabby districts of big cities. Now subscription TV and the Internet will provide the swill on tap right in our homes – and garner critical awards in the process.

As I said when I commented on Gone Girl and Fifty Shades of Grey this is not about art. It is about our insistence that in the name of art we expect the participants in a production to violate boundaries, ones that should only be crossed in private, within healthy adult relationships.

So we can pay to watch those boundary violations.

We want to teach young adults to appropriately navigate issues of consent regarding their personal boundaries. But the machinery of the entertainment industry just seems to ride right up and over top of that.