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Feminism in Dollhouse: The Elephant in the Corner


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#1

Charlemagne19

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 11:34 AM

This is a thread for discussing feminism and feminist issues in Dollhouse.

Dollhouse is a thinly veiled metaphor for prostitution, in my opinion. The character of Echo being a young and attractive female that is entirely under the control of her "owners." The fact that her owner is a woman and a female Doctor works at the facility doesn't seperate it from many real world brothels in the world (or throughout history).

So far, we've also seen Echo play the part of a former rape victim (Pilot) and being hunted in the woods by a client (Target). We've also seen what constitutes as, presumably, a perfectly normal use of the Dollhouse in which she meets a man and they have an emotional connection followed by sex (Pilot). While the dollhouse screens clients (Target), there's more than enough evidence that at least some have disturbing tastes.

Of course, how "normal" the tastes of anyone who purchases a Doll can be disputed.

What sort of message is Joss sending here? Is this an "apology" for his supposed glamorization of prostitution in Firefly (And I didn't think it was particularly glamorous there)

Edited by Charlemagne19, Feb 22, 2009 @ 11:36 AM.


#2

Messy

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 3:52 PM

I dunno, but I think it might be one of the few shows where you get to root for the villains, and hope that the handlers get what's coming to them. Go ALPHA!!

#3

invisiblebob

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 4:45 PM

I've always admired Joss for writing such great roles for women. Whether his characters are portrayed in a positive or negative light in terms of feminism, the fact that he writes such roles for them surely makes his work inherently feminist? Whether or not you agree with the characterisation of the show as being about prostitution, the fact remains that he's written a part that would be any actress' dream. Whether ED can pull it off or not remains to be seen. SMG could sell me on anything (I still remember the look on her face at the end of 'Becoming' when she realises she has to kill the man she loves to save the world, just as she got him back - it was the first episode I saw and the reason I became such as fan!)

What sort of message is Joss sending here? Is this an "apology" for his supposed glamorization of prostitution in Firefly (And I didn't think it was particularly glamorous there)


I agree - it had something of a geisha feel to it (I know geishas aren't prostitutes before someone picks me up on that comment!) but I wouldn't say it was glamorised. More that it was a slightly Utopian view of what legalised prostitution would be. I liked the concept and wish the world were like that.

#4

terabithia

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 5:08 PM

I don't think he needs to apologize for the Companions. It made sense and it did work as an empowering view of sex work. And note that in that universe there still were "whores" who were treated badly by men (that one episode where they defend the whorehouse from the sleazy guy who fathered a child with one of them). So its not like he was saying that the existence of Companions made everything perfect. But the Companions were a powerful guild and they could afford to be choosy in terms of their clients. It worked sort of like Geisha's, sure, but also sort of like any other highly respected professional service. People pay a lot of money for someone with the right education and qualifications to give them mental or physical therapy, to give them dance lessons, tutor them, etc. If the Companions can position themselves as people with unique skills and qualifications they can afford to choose a lot and demand respect. They are selling a LOT more than sex, so they aren't even really competing with someone who is just selling sex, like the women in that other episode.

#5

Charlemagne19

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 6:25 PM

I think it's interesting to note that Dollhouse is going to be exploring at least some strongly nasty undercurrents of sexism.

1. Topher the Dollmaker: Literally objectifies women. He transforms vibrant, living, thinking women into literal dolls. Things he can dress up, order around, and pose as he sees fit. He's the ultimate chauvinist. I don't necessarilly thinks this makes him an outright misogynist but his chauvinism is even more frightening in many ways than a man who hates women (like Nathan Fillon's character in Buffy's last season)

2. The Dollhouse's Female Employees: Who work against their sex in this place. Willingly and objectively part of a system that is sexist in order to be paid money or whatever services they feel they derive from it.

3. The Clients: Who may or may not qualify as rapists for the fact that they rent effectively "shells" that are programmed with whatever qualities that they desire for a certain amount of time.

4. The Dolls: Who sold their bodies for 5 years for money.

Even if they introduce male Dolls, and we've seen them. This is still something that mostly relates to women. The introduction of male dolls is mostly something that just helps remove some of the sting to it.

Edited by Charlemagne19, Feb 22, 2009 @ 6:26 PM.


#6

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 6:38 PM

Reason #456 why TV is a borefest and losing viewers. PC in entertainment shows 1)drastically limits plot lines 2)is a throwback to the 50's era whitewashed TV.

No, women cant kick a strong trained mans ass as the modern media would like us to believe..now or ever. But....its important to show a woman isnt a doormat either. Lets let the full spectrum of human experience be expressed in drama without the fake phony PC BS that we are handed today.

#7

Charlemagne19

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 8:24 PM

No, women cant kick a strong trained mans ass as the modern media would like us to believe..now or ever.


The training part is the big question. Personally, I think that there's no reason not to see women kicking ass with guns and weapons. Also, there's no reason not to see them fight dirty beyond the limits of television.

Poke out a guy's eye with your fingernail and he'll go down a lot better than trying to punch him out. That would never fly on FOX, though.

#8

Temis the Vorta

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 8:45 PM

I'm sure Joss Whedon means well, but ugh. If this is his idea of "feminism," he's way off base. Echo is being put forward as a weepy victim - she gets herself into this mess, and her only excuse is that she was "confused and scared," poor dear - as though that's a valid excuse for a grownup to use.

She's presented in an objectified fashion, yet we're supposed to cheer her ass-kicking abilities and root for her to get out of the situation that was caused by her weakness and stupidity, or maybe just gullibility, in the first place.

In short, Echo is presented, not as an adult women but as an overgrown child, in desperate need of protection by her big, strong FBI rescuer.

I have the sickening feeling that we are witnessing Whedon's fantasies about saving nubile young helpless females, and I really don't care/don't want to know about his rather distateful fantasies. But who knows, maybe the evildoers at Fox are to blame?

Dollhouse's premise is similar to that short-lived show at NBC this season, My Own Worst Enemy, about a brainwashed spy whose amnesia kept his "innocent" self insulated from his other side. Okay it wasn't the best show but somehow NBC managed to keep from sexualizing Christian Slater in the least. Now why oh why can't Fox manage the same trick with a female lead character in a very parallel role? Hmm, I wonder.

Dollhouse is a thinly veiled metaphor for prostitution, in my opinion.


That's not a bad thing to base a show on, as long as it really is a metaphor (meaning the prostitution is never literal). Even better would be to explode our expectations by making the lead character male, and even better still, not particularly attractive. If the prostitution is metaphorical, you don't need Eliza Dushku.

Is this an "apology" for his supposed glamorization of prostitution in Firefly (And I didn't think it was particularly glamorous there)


This is far too exploitative to be an "apology." He's capitalizing on the titilation associated with his very thinly disguised prostitution metaphor and hypocritically trying to hide behind the excuse that after all, the Dolls kick ass. While wearing very tight clothes. Who does he think he's fooling?

Edited by Temis the Vorta, Feb 22, 2009 @ 8:51 PM.


#9

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 9:04 PM

Has anyone here read the book "Valley of the Dolls?" The "dolls" in that book are very different from the ones in "Dollhouse" (the characters refer to pills as dolls in the book), but beyond that it seems to have some parallels to this show. In the book, three women all get involved in the entertainment industry as a means to an end, and all three end up slaves to the situations they've put themselves in and failing in their original ambitions. Based on Caroline's statements to Adelle in the pilot episode about how she just wanted to make a mark on the world, and now thanks to her actions she has no real choice but to sign away the next five years of her life, I wonder if Joss is going for a similar statement here. (Keep in mind I'm basing this off the book "Valley of the Dolls," not the movie, which I haven't seen.)

Even the non-Doll characters seem to manifest this concept in my eyes, particularly Adelle herself. Based on what we've seen so far, it seems that she genuinely believes the Dollhouse is capable of doing good things, but has become such a slave to the bottom line that she's forced to send the Actives out with horny/lovelorn guys to be glorified prostitutes to turn a profit. And if my pet theory that Boyd is actually deep undercover and trying to bring the Dollhouse down from the inside, then I'm sure that his developing feelings of responsibility for Echo's well-being are going to be a wrench in his plans.

As of now, the whole thing seems to be making a statement that applies particularly to women since we've only seen female dolls in action, but I'm sure that as the series goes on we'll see more male characters put into situations as compromised as the one Caroline/Echo is in, and it won't be so much about women's rights as it is about people with ambition in general.

#10

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 9:45 PM

I'm sure Joss Whedon means well, but ugh. If this is his idea of "feminism," he's way off base.

Has Joss himself said this is his idea of feminism (in an interview somewhere), or are we just dealing with Charlemagne19's attempt to view this through that filter?

Echo is being put forward as a weepy victim - she gets herself into this mess, and her only excuse is that she was "confused and scared,"

We do see her pretty torn down in her recruitment scene with Adelle, but I'm not sure we saw enough in that scene to roundly condemn "Caroline". At the very least, she's done something pretty stupid but to be honest we don't really know what it was. At this point, I think the bigger problem is not whatever Caroline did to be that desperate, its the level of trust she seems to have put in the Dollhouse. Again, we don't know what exactly she was told about her time in service, but... well... either way it leads to a conclusion that she's a real sucker. If she was lied to, for believing them, and if she wasn't lied to... for agreeing to whore herself out for five years.

Echo is presented, not as an adult women but as an overgrown child, in desperate need of protection by her big, strong FBI rescuer.

I think its a little early to say that's the direction they are going. In fact, I think its possible that FBI man might be presented as an antagonist for her--at least at first.

Dollhouse's premise is similar to that short-lived show at NBC this season, My Own Worst Enemy, about a brainwashed spy whose amnesia kept his "innocent" self insulated from his other side. Okay it wasn't the best show but somehow NBC managed to keep from sexualizing Christian Slater in the least.

I think the similarities to that show are only in the sense that both involve artificial personalities, memory erase and imprinting, and the whole process breaking down. But that show was literally an inversion of this one in many ways. The "true" personality was empowered on that show--the one pulling the strings for the most part. So sure, that meant the situation came off as a lot less exploitative. But it doesn't seem to me like that difference had anything to do with the protagonist's gender. You could have just as easily put a female protagonist in Slater's role and it would have "read" the same. The question is... can you do the same with Echo?

Admittedly... probably not. Part of the story is Echo being a victim. I think that's clear. And although there are male "Dolls", I think its clear that this resonates more with a female protagonist--that she's figuratively AND literally being used as a whore.

What's harder to figure out is what Joss Whedon wants us to do with this scenario. We DO know from interviews though that he wants viewers to be disgusted. The part we have to reconcile, if at all possible, is if he wants us to take vicarious pleasure in watching the situation as well.

#11

Charlemagne19

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 9:59 PM

Has Joss himself said this is his idea of feminism (in an interview somewhere), or are we just dealing with Charlemagne19's attempt to view this through that filter?


This is just about discussing feminist issues in the show. I'm not saying this show is meant to be a show about feminist issues.

If you get what I mean.

The question is... can you do the same with Echo?


If we had a male character sleeping with beautiful women every week, the reaction would be decidedly different even if it was supposed to be under brainwashing. Obviously, the "Target" game wouldn't work at all.

#12

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 11:00 PM

I have a hard time being convinced that this is for feminism as it has been mentioned before that Echo is still a victim that has to be treated like a child and her "liberation" (and protection) is through the help of mostly men (Alpha, Boyd, Ballard). If she didn't have these men in her life she's not going to get saved. Thing is that despite his feminist leanings he can't seem to resist the temptation to inflict his female characters a lot with Women in the Refrigerator syndrome where women can be tortured, degraded and killed for the sake of story as if women characters can be used as plot devices. When Echo/Caroline was backed into a corner in her life she ran away and turned herself over to be a Doll. When Ballard was backed into a corner shown in the metaphoric boxing scene he chose to fight. Even Alpha is shown to fight back. Male characters fight, while Echo is a passive character always at the mercy of someone or something, letting things happen to her moving about blankly without an ounce of curiosity. We can be disgusted by the situation being done like some 70's revenge film where the woman gets violated from Act 1 to Act 2 but as long as we get the revenge scene in Act 3 we can justify watching the violation, but it doesn't change the fact we have to sit through watching a woman getting degraded.

If we had a male character sleeping with beautiful women every week, the reaction would be decidedly different even if it was supposed to be under brainwashing. Obviously, the "Target" game wouldn't work at all.

They did, with Alpha and he apparently able to escape and break through the conditioning on his own without help like a scene from V for Vendetta while Echo needs an extra boost and protection.

What sort of message is Joss sending here? Is this an "apology" for his supposed glamorization of prostitution in Firefly (And I didn't think it was particularly glamorous there)


In an interview on Salon he said this:

I believe that prostitution is not, in concept, repulsive. I believe that people are gonna want to have sex for a long time.


He also added that,

Eventually, I think that computers and TVs will become so awesome that they'll stop wanting to ...



I don't think he understands that prostitution is not always about sex, it's about entitlement and what the client believes they deserve that ironically he touched on (I guess he didn't even see that) and what we lose is the intimacy of connections as human beings. Now if he explored that aspect of prostitution and what it feels for the Dolls to used that way maybe I'd believe him. And it's hard to say what side of the fence he's straddling on this issue when the Dolls are whored out for "assignments" the viewers will cheer on for Echo to accomplish like the profiler one in the pilot. If he's making an issue about human traffiking. He can't pick and choose to say that part of that Doll assignment is abhorrent in one episode and then say in another episode that it is compelling and altruistic and look at what cool things they're doing like mountain climbing and safecracking and you can be anyone or anything.

If being a Companion like in Firefly is suppose to represent a "better" future in terms of sexual relations they wouldn't have to pay for it. Despite the idea of the contract being set the so-called Companion is still a just a buy-sell commodity. And it didn't stop individuals like Mal or the Companion's client to make the "whore" inferences on them. That's not respect. A Companion is still marginalized no matter how she's paid for because her dignity has a quantified price. If the Companion is so exalted why is whore still so easily thrown around? They may say it's exalted to pay for sex but what about the Companion's needs?

2. The Dollhouse's Female Employees: Who work against their sex in this place. Willingly and objectively part of a system that is sexist in order to be paid money or whatever services they feel they derive from it.

That's not uncommon, in Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, many of the enforcers of the women are other women like the Aunts and the Wives. Given a little bit of power over another and it doesn't take much to inflict it on others as long it isn't them.

#13

Charlemagne19

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Posted Feb 22, 2009 @ 11:56 PM

They may say it's exalted to pay for sex but what about the Companion's needs?


I suppose, in television-because I'm not going to discuss the realities of the sex trade on a board devoted to a show about mind control, that there's a serious question whether or not the modern conception of sex is one that needs to have intimacy whatsoever.

In reality, plenty of people have one night stands purely for the sexual encounter and the thrill of attracting a partner with no expectations of intimacy whatsoever. I don't believe this is degrading on television nor should women be deprived the opportunity or men.

In Dollhouse, though, this IS about intimacy. Artificially manufactured intimacy since that's what clients want.

#14

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 1:16 AM

No, women cant kick a strong trained mans ass as the modern media would like us to believe..now or ever. But....its important to show a woman isnt a doormat either. Lets let the full spectrum of human experience be expressed in drama without the fake phony PC BS that we are handed today.


I already said a lot about this on the episode thread, so I will try to be brief; I don't want to see women as doormats and I believe that real, average women - our friends, our family, us - compensate in many ways for the lack of physical power, sometimes in ways that are brilliant and cover both the physical and the non-physical. Weapons and training help narrow the odds, but only if your opponent doesnt have either. However, as we are speaking of the physical, a place where this was done well was the much loved Veronica Mars; she was a tiny girl and mostly took people down with her wits. In the few cases where she was in a serious physical altercation, she was genuinely in trouble - no roundhouse punches and boxing kicks for her. When Aaron had her, she ended up in a freezer. When Mercer the campus rapist had her, the only way she got out of that room was using a statue of a unicorn as a weapon and stabbing him in the thigh. She didnt stick around to finish him off, she ran. Later, when she finds herself back in the hands of the rapist and his henchman, she hides after leaving them a red herring of an open window and then slams the guy in the foot with a hammer and blows the rape whistle. She got away from the situation, but in a realistic manner - it showed that women arent wimps, but that we do have a huge handicap going into any physical altercation with a stronger male. I know I upset people pointing this out in the episode thread, but it really is the elephant in the corner in terms of the way women have to actually live their lives very much in contrast to the ass-kicking anorexic heroines we are being shown.

All of this I found believeable. And not only believeable, but laudable to the real women everywhere who compensate for the sexism they experience in astounding ways. Veronica was fighting back, using her brains and her strength, but in the strength category she was outmatched so had to develop ways to compensate. This was a feminist character - at least around this issue. Brainwashed dolls used as mental and physical prostitutes with only a veneer of consent? Not so much. And oddly enough, the imprints of "being in love" are bothering me just as much if not more than the sex.

#15

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 1:41 AM

Once Angel aired, I stopped believing that Joss's feminism was sincere. Or perhaps better said, that it was truly integrated into his creativity. I think he had an idea for Buffy that happened to come across as feminist, and he has a conception of himself as promoting strong female characters, but I think he has no true commitment to feminism.

So I'm not surprised that Dollhouse has a lot of problematic elements to it. I think it is telling that the male characters are being portrayed as empowered and in control and the female characters, except for Adelle, are not. And Adelle's a one-dimensional stereotypical ice queen right now, so she's not really redeeming anything. We could have had a female nerdy tech; a male scarred doctor; a male secondary Doll; a female FBI agent. But we don't. Just as we don't get a lot of diversity in the background Doll extras (even though logically we should) and all the SWAT team extras are male.

I don't know what to make of the waif action heroine phenomenon. I think what anastasia169 talks about is one way to go with seeing the heroines use smart fighting or weaponry (let's not forget Veronica Mars's taser!) to even the odds. Another way to go would be having larger (both taller and broader), more muscled, more athletic looking women doing the fighting... the Linda Hamilton in T2 look. I thought Eliza Dushku had a convincing athletic look when she played Faith, but maybe that was just in comparison to SMG. Now, on her own, she's seeming pretty small. And Sierra doesn't seem particularly well-built. IMHO, it connects to what I said about Eleanor Penn's outfit. At this point, people in the TV industry have internalized their sexualization, objectification, and narrow beauty standards to the point where they just don't see the images that they're really putting out anymore.

#16

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 1:56 AM

I confess, the fight in "Target" seemed like something from Buffy.

I dislike the implications that there's nothing that women can do against male attackers. Even a small woman can take out an eye against a single attacker if her hands are free and she's vicious enough. The problem is, Echo shouldn't be punching the guy. The story would have been just as dramatic if she'd dodged the arrow and then grabbed for the gun and shot the man.

Hell, I'd not even mind the punching if he'd already been shot by that point.

Not everyone can be Veronica Mars, or as I refer to her "Nancy Drew." You can have female action heroes who kill people and slit throats. Veronica Mars is, after all, just a normal student who is not going to take up serial murder. The options are more available to Actives and especially vicious ones.

#17

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 3:31 AM

I confess, the fight in "Target" seemed like something from Buffy.


Really? It struck me as being as un-Buffy a fight scene as I could imagine; where a Slayer would have used fancy kung-fu moves, she just tackled him and started throwing semi-blind punches at his face... which is pretty much exactly how I would have expected her imprint, a tomboy who learned how to fight from her older brothers, to handle that situation.

Back on topic, I think it's worth mentioning that a lot of these unfortunate sexist implications aren't quite so front-and-center in the original script for "Echo," the now-scrapped pilot (Which you can read here.)

Spoiler-text, just in case:

For one, Victor is shown on an extensive mission, with Sierra only showing up in one scene in mind-wiped state, which goes a long way towards making the entire establishment seem more gender-neutral. Second, a few people both inside and outside of the organization voice their displeasure at how often the Dolls end up getting rented out for dream-date scenarios. And the missions we see her on are much less sexual/romantic in nature (with one expeption that only gets a couple scenes); the first mission in which we see Echo is a pro bono one where she sits up with a woman who has OD'd and convinces her to call her mom and get treatment for her addiction, and later in the episode she's sent on a mission with an imprint as some sort of mercenary/spy to get close to Agent Paul and find out how much he knows about the Dollhouse, and the way she does so is both crafty and believable.

Joss has said that he had to compromise a lot with the network on the first six episodes, and based on the difference in tone between "Echo" and "Ghost," and how they wanted "Target" to be bumped up to the second episode, I'm thinking the chief compromise is how central Fox wants the "I was made to love you" dream dates to be to the series. (There's some other stuff that seems to have been changed that's less objectional, such as perhaps not wanting Agent Paul's first interaction with Echo to be her hospitalizing him with gunshot wounds, and maybe not making her the first Doll that he makes contact with, but that's venturing into spoiler speculation territory so I'll leave off.)

#18

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 3:46 AM

I just keep thinking about what Firefly's Zoe would have said if someone had offered her a Dollhouse contract. Damn, I miss that woman.

#19

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 10:21 AM

Once Angel aired, I stopped believing that Joss's feminism was sincere. Or perhaps better said, that it was truly integrated into his creativity. I think he had an idea for Buffy that happened to come across as feminist, and he has a conception of himself as promoting strong female characters, but I think he has no true commitment to feminism.


Interesting point. Although I wonder too he seems to like to show a lot of female characters have things done to them like a 70's revenge horror flick.

Just because he did Buffy he somehow is labeled as feminist. If you don't add Dollhouse most of his TV shows and other are male centric (Angel, Firefly, Dr. Horrible), Alien Resurrection doesn't count because it was horrible and made Ripley a emotionally diminished person. I'm not asking for girly I'm saying one show like Buffy doesn't define his label. James Cameron did Aliens and Terminator (Sarah Connor) and the creators of Hercules:TLS did Xena and neither of them got the feminist label. Having a Feminist label is nice but once it's on you find youself being backed into a corner and being questioned and having to explain the motivation of doing this or that to a female character and why. There's a reason why it's called Women in the Refrigerator.

Feminism isn't just about punching and saying "girl power" it's about equality and being treated with as much respect and consideration as a fellow human being. Now if Whedon were to expose and explore this in Dollhouse then that would be interesting but I think the kewl action scenes and things she can do from being a profiler to safecracker to "perfect date" as if this were an episode of Alias or Quantum Leap and the fanservice contradict his points. He would have been freer to explore it without pandering on the cable networks.

Also that Echo's saviors in this show from Boyd to Ballard to even Alpha are men from protecting her to even helping her recall her memories. Even in Buffy the trusted Watchers are men. There seem to be no female mentors. As if.

Writer Carrie Vaughan probably said it best in Analysis of Urban Fantasy Part III: Deconstructing Urban Fantasy

So many of my pet peeves are symptomatic of this conflict: these aggressive yet conflicted women characters who are simultaneously strong yet exhibit low self esteems, who kick ass with violence but submit to the sexy alpha male.


Maybe lots of urban fantasy isnít really about strong women, but about one special, chosen woman.


--Which I guess is not about gender equality but narcissism. Which explains the stringent enforcers of conservative qualities are women like Anne Coulter and Caitlin Flanigan. They think they're above the norm. It might explain Adelle.

I keep asking the question, canít women (and men, for that matter) be strong without being violent? What does it say that we equate strength with violence?


Edited by bluefish, Feb 23, 2009 @ 10:30 AM.


#20

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 10:28 AM

Charlemagne 19, a word in defense (Well, not quite) of Topher. I think he objectifies the male Dolls as much as the female ones. He's not a chauvinist, he's a sociopath. As has been stated elsewhere I don't think he'd molest them because he doesn't think that much of them. Laurence, now I could see taking advantage of a Doll that way if he thought he could get away with it.

#21

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 11:30 AM

I have a hard time being convinced that this is for feminism as it has been mentioned before that Echo is still a victim that has to be treated like a child and her "liberation" (and protection) is through the help of mostly men (Alpha, Boyd, Ballard). If she didn't have these men in her life she's not going to get saved.


Well, the last bit we can't know until we've seen everything there is to see, though it's not an unreasonable inference at the moment. But more to the point, Joss has said that the show is meant to be about Echo's journey of self-discovery. And without getting into the mess that is "what order were the episodes originally in," we've only seen her starting point. One of the strongest feminist stories I can think of would be a woman who starts with nothing, but realizes that she has some form of power and can take control of her own destiny. Maybe that's not what this will turn out to be, maybe it's only what I wish it were, but I still think that's what this could be. And there's still an awful lot we don't know about the supporting characters (male and female) and how they will fit in as allies or antagonists.

#22

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 12:26 PM

Having a Feminist label is nice but once it's on you find youself being backed into a corner and being questioned and having to explain the motivation of doing this or that to a female character and why. There's a reason why it's called Women in the Refrigerator.


This, I think, sums up Joss's situation better than I ever could. Everyone has brought up very valid and beautifully expressed points about feminism, but my issue is this: I keep equating what's happening in this show to women, and everybody's justifiably squicked out reactions to it, to the fan fallout that occured after Tara was killed in BtVS. And I think Joss's response to that fallout was very astute. To those who raised an outcry over his killing of a homosexual character, he said that not killing her because she was homosexual would be as bad as killing her because she was homosexual, because not only would it have forced Joss to handle his own show/creativity with kid gloves, thereby stifling the story he was trying to tell, it would've still relegated homosexuality as something "other" and the character of Tara and all the facets of who she was as nothing more than a posterchild for lesbianism that should be kept trapped under a jar under the pretense of protecting her. Fans wanted Joss to set her aside to protect her (and the implied feminist ideals that come with having a lesbian character), but she would still have been set aside. I loved Tara, but I've always admired Joss for treating her like anyone else who had to be greased to further the plot, in this case Evil!Willow. So, to sum up, this bisexual woman wasn't out for his blood ;)

So to say that Joss can't do something to his female characters because they are female and he is A Feminist calls to mind this kind of inverse discrimination. We're only two episodes into the first season, and Joss clearly has overarching plans for Echo's growing sense of identity. A lot remains to be seen as to how she'll react to the men in her life and how, if any, they'll benefit her. It seems Alpha would just as soon kill her if she doesn't meet his expectations, Boyd hasn't officially saved her until the day he busts her out of the Dollhouse for good, and Ballard will probably play the "Angel" role and try to look after her once he catches onto the fact that she's a Doll, but something tells me he probably won't get the upperhand for a good three seasons. This is one of those cases where, until we see how it plays out, we can't really accuse Joss of being a pimple on the butt of the Feminist Movement.

Hope I'm making sense here :)

Edited by dandylion paws, Feb 23, 2009 @ 12:31 PM.


#23

question fear

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 12:58 PM

Also that Echo's saviors in this show from Boyd to Ballard to even Alpha are men from protecting her to even helping her recall her memories. Even in Buffy the trusted Watchers are men. There seem to be no female mentors. As if.


Actually, there was one. But she was evil and wanted to steal some sort of powerup glove. I don't remember the details, to be honest. It's in S3, she is supposed to be Faith's Watcher.

And it proves your point even more.

#24

SilverShadow

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 1:08 PM

IIRC a good portion of the outcry after Tara's death was not just because she died, but because it happened directly after the first realistic Willow/Tara bedroom scenes and was then the cause of Willow going insane, which some people felt was combinationthese two tropes.

For the record I'm willing to give Joss a chance. I was at the ComicCon panel and there he was very clear on the fact that a) the dolls are being violated and b) yes, we are supposed to find it disturbing. I think he knows exactly what he's doing.

#25

terabithia

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 1:11 PM

That female watcher is Gwendolyn Post. She was originally a real watcher but was kicked out for being evil and power hungry. I believe she's played by the same woman who is in charge of the Dollhouse?

#26

Charlemagne19

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 3:39 PM

Actually, there was one. But she was evil and wanted to steal some sort of powerup glove. I don't remember the details, to be honest. It's in S3, she is supposed to be Faith's Watcher.


To be frank, I'm not sure that Echo is going to be saved by the FBI Agent or her Handler. Echo has already disposed of two attackers on herself while Boyd has been utterly useless in both instances. Instead, it seems more likely that Echo will be the one to make contact with the FBI agent as she starts to remember things and will become his mole within the Dollhouse.

Ala Alias.

There's a difference between men who help the heroine and men who ARE THE HEROES. Echo is a Distressed Damsel but she's not a Damsel in Distress from what we've seen. She's handled both of her highly dangerous enemies by herself.

#27

ShunnedforLife

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 3:54 PM

I believe she's played by the same woman who is in charge of the Dollhouse?

Actually Serena Scott Thomas (who has been in several things but nothing I can recognize) played Gwen.

#28

Anastasia169

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 4:06 PM

Silvershadow - that site on television tropes is amazing - thanks!

Terebithia - Gwendolyn Post and Adele aren't the same actress; they just have the same physical type, voice and accent, but they are very similar so it is an easy mistake to make.

#29

andreth47

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 5:07 PM

Thanks for a well-reasoned, calm analysis, Snark Shark. Especially:

What's harder to figure out is what Joss Whedon wants us to do with this scenario. We DO know from interviews though that he wants viewers to be disgusted. The part we have to reconcile, if at all possible, is if he wants us to take vicarious pleasure in watching the situation as well.



Yeah, that's the question. I'm comfortable blaming the prurient aspect of the show on Fox. ;)

Seriously, what I'm hoping, is that Joss is fully aware of the fact that he's putting the audience into this voyeuristic role, fully aware that Fox thinks it's just a little titillation for the masses, and is using the way he's positioned us to mess with our heads. To makes us so damn uncomfortable that we really have to think about issues of power and identity, force us to confront.

I think it's already working...

#30

tze

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Posted Feb 23, 2009 @ 5:16 PM

But more to the point, Joss has said that the show is meant to be about Echo's journey of self-discovery. And without getting into the mess that is "what order were the episodes originally in," we've only seen her starting point.


I agree 100%. What did we see in Episode 2? The Dollhouse pimps out Echo and infantilizes her. But when Boyd tries to tell her 'Everything is going to be okay,' she refuses to sit back and let him protect her. She didn't have the right 'imprint' to do what she did, but she did it nonetheless. Later, when she is insulted and threatened, even in her 'child' state, Echo instinctively reaches back to the moment when she was last 'strong', last capable of defending herself---try as they might, the Dollhouse couldn't fully take that away from her.

Also that Echo's saviors in this show from Boyd to Ballard to even Alpha are men from protecting her to even helping her recall her memories. Even in Buffy the trusted Watchers are men. There seem to be no female mentors. As if.


Not to get too far into Buffy, but my impression of the Watcher organization as a whole was that it had rotted. I mean, how did the Watchers start? They grabbed a young girl and made her the First Slayer, to fight the evil they themselves were too frightened to fight. They were not portrayed as a wise, all-knowing force, but rather as an explicitly exploitative patriarchal force. Giles was the exception, not the rule, and I don't think we were ever meant to view the Watchers as anything but a useless old boys' club trying vainly (and ultimately failing) to control the world's strongest woman.

Boyd originally didn't see Echo as a real person; like the men who rented her out, she was 'less' than a real person because of what she did (rather like many men see prostitutes as somehow 'less' and therefore justify abusing them). That attitude is clearly changing. Ballard's colleagues refuse to believe the Dollhouse is real, just as people refuse to believe that sex slavery is going on in thousands of normal suburban American neighborhoods.

Re: Alpha...we don't know what caused him to snap. I don't think we can necessarily assume that he 'broke free' on his own---maybe he had help from within the Dollhouse? For example: I wonder if the reason he didn't kill Dr. Saunders was because she helped him, and he only sliced her to prevent suspicion from falling on her?

But more importantly, Alpha's not trying to save Echo---he's trying to give her the tools to save herself.