Dollhouse 01×05: “True Believer”

19 03 2009

The jury inside my head is still out deliberating on Dollhouse.

My major problem with the show since episode 1 has been the preposterousness of the premises.  I can’t figure out why anybody would pay the enormous fees to do most of the tasks that Echo has been hired to do.  However, needing to infiltrate a cult, while still seeming wildly improbable, strikes me as somehow less wildly improbable than some of Echo’s other missions (such as BEING A MIDWIFE, wtf).

So: cults are creepy, as we all know, and yet no cult could be as creepy as the Dollhouse, or the dark potential of Whedon’s own ambiguously misogynist narratives, in which Echo gets hit or shot at or otherwise hurt every week, all in the name of… showing how bad misogyny is?  (SPOILERS behind the jump) I still can’t figure out the extent to which this show is subverting tropes of violence against women vs. perpetuating them in the name of subversion.  We see how awful Jonas Sparrow is, and he’s condemned for his arms dealing and human trafficking and the previous incarnation of this cult that involved teenaged girls, presumably for salacious and statutory and dubiously consensual purposes.  But the Dollhouse itself begins Echo’s mission this time by BLINDING her.  It’s okay, though!  It’s all in the name of justice!

We then get these warnings about how a sneeze could set off a seizure or an aneurysm.  But when Sparrow smacks Echo around a bit, she regains her sight.  It’s a miracle!  And we’re supposed to recognize that there is no miracle, at least not in the sense that she and her cult compatriots believe it to be.  And yet the miracle from a narrative perspective still hinges on the same thing: an act of violence committed against Echo by a man.


In the same way that the violence enacted against her in the second episode enabled another narrative miracle: her memories of herself as she used to be.

So, Joss Whedon, which is it?  Is violence against women bad and evil, or is it a convenient means to an end?




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