Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Welcome to the Dollhouse

It's been quite a while since I've posted here - I devote this blog strictly to Whedon issues and primarily use it as an update site for my classes. Since I haven't had a Whedon class in a while (blasted global economic meltdown!), I've been focusing my energies elsewhere.

But now there's a new show. Have you checked out Dollhouse yet? If you missed the first episode, you can see the whole thing on Hulu for free. Just click here.

What do I think? Actually, the jury's still out on this one. I want to love it. Really, I do. It warmed my heart to see the stick-monster lurch across the screen and hear "Grr. Arrgh." again. (By the way, Dollhouse premiered five years to the day that the announcement broke that Angel had been cancelled. I'm just sayin'.)

The show has a fine cast and crew (look at the credits carefully - there are a host of producers [DeKnight, Fain, Craft, etc.] who have Whedon connections) - it's got quite the pedigree. Yet I must admit to being a wee bit disappointed at the ratio of dark action to quippy dialogue. Then again, it's a first episode, and much must be set up for later. I can be patient.

Names are always important and so far we have Echo, who has allowed herself to waste away from being a real person to a mere projected fantasy. Interestingly enough, the first "engagement" we see her on involves a self-centered rich boy who bought her as a "perfect date" for his party but is fine with her having to go; he has enough else to entertain him. Narcissus, party of one. Your table's ready. We also have Paul, who is apparently the only one who sees things as they truly are. No scales on this boy's eyes!

And watch for more references to eyes and vision. "Things are never what they appear to be." "That's because you're only seeing part of it." "Ms. Penn" being near-sighted. Nothing wanders into a Whedon-written script by happenstance and this could easily be a recurring theme.

This is a show that has great potential. I'll also admit to being troubled by parts of it. The "Actives" have apparently agreed to a five-year "term" with the Dollhouse, so it's not slavery. Yet what else can you reasonably call it when your memories and personality is stripped away and you are re-programmed to be someone else's fantasy? All sorts of interesting places to go here - identity is only one. There are also power issues to be explored - the Dollhouse is run by a woman; I thought of the Guild rule laid down in Whedon's Firefly that only women could run a House. Is prostitution better if it's female-led? If it's high-class and expensive? What will this show say about choice? Exploitation? And consequences? And it's just eerie to see the "dolls" being put up after everyone's done playing with them for the day.

So we'll have to see.

And please, make with the funny!