Monday, March 30, 2009

He's Baaa-ack!

And about blooming time, I'd say!

I just finished watching episode 6 of Dollhouse - this one had been hailed as the "game changer." Let's see where things go, but yes, yes, yes!! At one point, I actually said out loud, "I. Love. This. Show." Some very typical Whedon points - especially with funny lines that mask Truth and a certain amount of misdirection. And a client who doesn't seem like all that much of a bad guy. (And names!! C'mon, the Internet mogul is just a "Minor" character, right?) And the interviews on the street - what would you do if you could have your deepest fantasy with no consequences? That veneer of civilization gets awfully thin, doesn't it?

No one is what they appear to be. No one. And that makes sides very difficult things to choose.

Another lesson of the Dollhouse: Beware quiet women. Like Mellie. Or River Tam. (All together now: "Fruity oaty bar . . . the third flower is green.") I've noticed "safe words" in this show; phrases that are repeated as a Doll is brought back to consciousness after an engagement and as a Doll is removed from an engagement. It makes me think of River being triggered and Simon's "safe word" to stop her by making her fall asleep.

Or is Echo waking up?

Quick side note: I'd have to re-watch a bit to be positive, but I do believe that the doctor who is so easily dismissed by Topher (whose creep-factor continues to grow) is wearing the same flamingo pin as Badger wears in the "Shindig" episode of Whedon's Firefly. I'm not sure, but close enough to sure that I'll mention it. And both shows use Shawna Trpcic as the costume designer and also Mark Sheppard (who played Badger) appears in this episode, so maybe . . .

"It's not finished," says Echo about her childish painting. (Or maybe about something totally else.) The painting which includes a couple with no faces. They could be anybody.

Or everybody.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

"I See Perfectly"

I predicted back with the first aired episode of Dollhouse that eyes and vision would be a recurring theme. (See my post from February 17th.) It appears the fifth episode, "True Believer," proved me right. Ahhh - doomsday cults always provide such fertile storytelling ground, don't they?

Let's see - Echo is made blind in order to be a sort of high-tech spy camera. When knocked violently to the ground by the Big Bad (named "Jonas Sparrow" - we'll get back to him) the camera-thingie goes skittering loose and Echo regains her sight in what is taken for a miracle. (Echo's name in this one, by the way, is the overtly Biblical "Esther Carpenter." Esther is an Old Testament queen who sticks her neck out in order to save her people - it works and we get the festival of Purim to boot. And yes, the world is saved by a carpenter in this one.) She is betrayed by one of the Dollhouse flunkies, but rescued by another. She's wiped, but she's beginning to seriously remember things, as she replies to the question, "How's your eyesight?" by noting the man who slugged her with a gun butt and saying, "I see perfectly."

Indeed, our girl just may be telling the truth. That seems to be underscored by the fact that she sees the need to conceal her knowledge about that little run-in.

Finally. It's shaping up. And I hear that episode six (which I plan on watching tomorrow) is the real game-changer.

Oh - "Jonas Sparrow." Well, "Jonas" is a Latinized form of "Jonah" (he of the whale detour to Nineveh). Ironically, "Jonas" is translated as "dove." This particular "dove" was lining his nest with high-powered rifles. And "Sparrow" - well, God's eye is always on the sparrow, isn't it? See Matthew 10:29 - 31 - "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father . . . So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." This sentiment is also part of a lovely spiritual titled "Eyes on the Sparrow."It's a gorgeous song that reminds listeners of the comfort and care of the Divine.

But whose eyes are on Echo?


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Report from the Trenches!

Okay, I don't think Gardner-Webb University counts as the trenches, but it sounds more dramatic than "report from the nicely appointed auditorium populated by helpful and friendly people," doesn't it?

What am I blathering about, you ask? Good question - let me answer it by directing you to here. Despite it being a dark and (even) stormy night, turnout was quite gratifying for this talk. The organizer thought so, and that's probably a better gauge than I am. After all, I'm willing to stand on a milk crate in the town square to pontificate about Whedon. Having people sit and listen (occasionally even taking notes!) is a candle on the cake!

Seriously, the talk was well-received and I met some wonderful people - both fans and scholars. I so enjoy getting to do this sort of thing and it proves that yes, you can turn your passion into a vocation. Or at least an avocation. (Probably not an avocado, though. Lines simply must be drawn somewhere.)

Now that the talk's done, it's time to catch up on some Dollhouse viewing! I had several people tell me, "Hang on - watch episode six." And it's waiting for me.

Back soon with thoughts.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

We Interrupt This Blog . . .

I'm behind on my Dollhouse viewing. I plan to catch up and blog about both episodes 5 and 6 by the end of the weekend. (Episode 6 is rumored to be a real game-changer! If you don't mind spoilers, see here. And here!) Already a few academics (not just fans, although I'm one of those too, so don't gripe at me) have weighed in on the show - if you want to get a taste of that point of view, try here! (My friend Alyson has a specialty in French feminism and she's one heck of a Whedonian, so here's a long overdue shout-out.)

Until I can get caught up myself, please consider the following:

I'll be speaking at Gardner-Webb University next Wednesday (March 25). My talk is part of the Joyce Compton Brown Lecture Series and I'm very pleased to be associated with this. The presentation (notice how I'm avoiding the word "lecture"?) will begin at 7 pm in the Blanton Auditorium. (That's #56 on this map.) I'll discuss popular culture as a subject for serious study and touch on what the character of Faith (now there's a named drenched in irony for you!) has in common with the Prodigal Son. And Hansel & Gretel.

Should be a blast!

Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 2, 2009

At Home in the Dollhouse

Thank heaven for snow days! I was finally able to catch up on the last two episodes of Dollhouse. I'm not exactly sure why or how I got behind, but thanks to DVR technology, I'm caught up now.

And I'm happy for a variety of reasons.

1. The wry, snap-kick fast humor I associate with Whedon was back. As you recall, that was one of my concerns from the pilot. Only I hear that wasn't the pilot. Ah, Fox. You change, yet you remain the same.

2. Echo is developing nicely. Now, I understand that for many people, Dollhouse is proving problematic. And I'm with the whole "how can Joss Whedon, male feminist icon galore, have a girl be hunted through the woods?" Well, let me explain something here, Drake. It's good to set up expectations before you start knocking them down. And just maybe Whedon wanted to do something a little different here. We've come to expect strong female characters from him. This is true, but we never saw how Buffy got that way; she just always was strong and definite and wise-cracking. (Sure, there were cracks in that from time to time and we loved her vulnerability, in part because we knew that deep down, she was strong. See? Knocking over expectations.) Here, we're going to have the delight of seeing Echo become strong.

3. The attention to detail is a marvel to watch. As I've said before, pay attention to the names. The pop singer was Rayna, which is a derivative of "queen." (She even wears royal purple in one scene.) She's a bird in a gilded cage, literally. And, oh yeah - her costuming for her opening number bears a striking resemblance to a jingly chastity belt. This queen is trapped by her own image and is willing to go to extreme lengths to get out.

I was of the "meh" school with the first episode. Now, I'm on board. And I really want to know what worn-out toys are up in the Attic. I'm beginning to think they may have a Skin Horse up there.

You remember the Skin Horse, don't you? Go re-read The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. The Skin Horse knows a thing or two about the difference between just being a toy and being Real:

"You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."