Dollhouse 01×07: Echoes (SPOILERS)

28 03 2009

HERE is the Whedon I’ve been waiting for!  This episode grabbed me from the beginning.  It’s a premise that makes sense (except I kept wondering how her stockings stayed up), with emotional stakes that matter, and FINALLY we get the character conflicts that the show has been building up since the first episode.  It’s a shame that the first half of the season was so dreadful.  This is making even that part of it worthwhile.

Except — holy crap, why did it have to be the black guy who turned out to be the murderer?  Seriously?  Throughout most of the show I was so impressed that a black guy was cast as one of the grad students, and then he turned out to be less than honorable.  GAH.  They gave him a halfway decent motive — he wants to help his mother — but that doesn’t solve the problem.  And the fact that he is set up to become a new doll at the end of the show doesn’t really make it any better.  Is there a larger point here about certain experiences of black masculinity?  I’d like to think so, to see this as a condemnation of the structures that force young black men into untenable choices.  But I’m not sure that we get enough information about and sympathy for Sam’s character for that to be the best interpetation.

Still: best episode yet.


Dollhouse 01×06: “Man on the Street” (SPOILERS)

21 03 2009

… I don’t even know.

So now we’re supposed to feel empathy for the client whose fantasy involves nonconsensual sex with a woman brainwashed into believing she’s his wife, rather than nonconsensual sex with a woman brainwashed into believing she’s doing a one-night stand?  That seems even SKEEVIER, somehow.

Also: what kind of idiot is Ballard, talking specifics of his cases with his freaking neighbor? Of course she’s a Doll — I wondered about it when we first met her, then decided she wasn’t, but as soon as we discovered her apartment was bugged it was clear she’s an active — but even if she weren’t, Ballard is a PRIZE MORON to talk to her about an open case.

I also can’t figure out what we’re supposed to think of the framing device: which of the various perspectives are we supposed to agree with?  Our very first woman-on-the-street is an African-American woman — the only African-American that I recall seeing in the entire framing device — and she talks about this being slavery and nothing but.  Her blurb coming first indicates that hers is the perspective we’re meant to believe.  And yet by putting the word “slavery” in her mouth turns it into a racial thing, and I can tell you exactly what much of America will do with that statement: dismiss it because “black people are always making everything about slavery.”  (I can’t tell you how many times I heard that growing up, from people inside and outside the family.)  Also, they couldn’t do something LESS stereotypical than the Sassy Black Woman?  So while on the one hand I completely agree with that perspective and commend them for starting off with a black woman at all, on the other hand, there are still some highly suspicious racial issues going on in this show (also with Topher’s Asian-American lab assistant — have we even gotten her name yet?).

And yet the show ends with Echo apparently asking to go back to Joel Miner.  Whedon spent much of the episode showing us all the ways in which the Dollhouse is evil (and it is!).  This episode in particular focused on the issue of consent, particularly with the awful, vaguely pedophilic rape of Sienna by her handler.  But ending the episode with a close-up on Echo and Miner’s clasped hands, after that weird interchange between Echo and De Witt, ends up sanctioning Miner’s particular fantasy.  Don’t worry, that ending says, Echo wanted to go back to him!  Look, nonconsensual sex is okay in marriage because the guy will win her over with his sweetness! And… no.  Just no.

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) Read the rest of this entry »

Dollhouse 01×03 and 01×04: “Stage Fright” and “Gray Hour”

7 03 2009


  1. Why on earth would anyone hire one of the Dollhouse actives to be a midwife?  This makes no sense whatsoever.
  2. Why can’t anybody just use normal security measures?  Why use Echo as a bodyguard when all Rayna’s manager really needed to do was find the Kevin Costner to Rayna’s Whitney Houston?

I liked “Gray Hour” a lot better than “Stage Fright” — in fact, I like “Gray Hour” better than any of the episodes so far.  (SPOILERS BEHIND THE JUMP)  Read the rest of this entry »

Dollhouse, 01×02, “The Target”

22 02 2009

The good things first: this episode was MUCH better than last week’s. The tension felt more real, and so did the basic premise (for a world in which people’s personalities can be wiped, anyway).  We get the first hints that the brain-wipes don’t always go as well as planned, and we find out some of the backstory.

I like the character of Boyd more and more, and Topher, albeit funny, grows increasingly creepy.  I’m intrigued by Alpha.  I’ll keep watching next week.

BUT… I am still really worried by the depictions of women in the show.  (SPOILERS after the jump!)

Read the rest of this entry »

Gender in the Dollhouse

16 02 2009

Joss Whedon’s new show Dollhouse premiered on Friday. I have to say that I didn’t really enjoy this episode. The New York Times review calls the Dollhouse universe “thin and bland,” and I did kind of agree with that. Thin, yes; bland, perhaps; malevolent, certainly. There are also certain gaping plot holes (why would this client pay for a doll for this situation? it makes no sense). But I hear that the next episode is better, and I am willing to give Joss Whedon another shot. However, I’m one of the ones who thinks that Penny’s fate in Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog was meant as satire (the headlines! Whedon couldn’t include those newspaper headlines and NOT be taking a shot at the woman-in-fridge trope!), so adjust your opinions of my opinion accordingly.

But before I move on, I have SEVERAL bones to pick with the NYT review. Read the rest of this entry »