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February 08 2009

(SPOILER) Meet the Anti-Buffy. Joss talks Dollhouse with the NPR set.

NPR calls it "a surprising show from someone who, in a 2006 acceptance speech for an award he was given from the women's human rights group Equality Now, said, 'The misogyny that is in every culture is not a true part of the human condition. It is life out of balance, and that imbalance is sucking something out of the soul of every man and woman who's confronted with it.'"

Might want a Spoiler tag there. Gives away the basic plot of episode two.
All of Joss's shows have included the exploration of human reaction. The interviewer seemed to want to demand an apology for stories depicting what happens when you don't have control of your actions. In a perfect society, the kind of situation Dollhouse sets up wouldn't happen. What this Sci-fi story tells is what happens when a few gain monsterous control of another human being. It is horriffic and dark and makes good storytelling by displaying the worse of human nature, so that we can look in ourselves and know we could not let this happen in reality. Awarness of how bad we could become is the best peventative. I'm really looking forward to seeing this show. With the striping away of the memories and experiences that shape a person, we will get to see just what is written deep in a person.
I don't really understand why it's so surprising that a feminist would want to explore and discuss mysogyny. I mean...that's the whole point, right?
Granted, I haven't listened to the interview, but this is a story which while maybe not about an entire dystopian society, certainly has the dark aspects of something of that nature. Exploring the exploitation of a woman through narrative, in my opinion, is not the same thing as actually exploiting her. Especially not if you raise questions about power, and make it clear that some very wrong things are going on.

I'll probably wait to listen until after episode 2 airs.
Also, there are male actives as well. And focusing on a female active as the one fighting to be a person again is definitely in line with the whole feminism thing.
I'm impressed, this was a very tough interview, the interviewer was really pinning Joss down on the whole concept of dealing with a topic like this. It is a very taboo topic; we have shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit which (to my mind) has a very prurient attraction since the crime and the focus of the show is on the abuse of women and children, just because the bad guy is caught at the end does not , to my satisfaction, save the show from being attractive to people who want to see women and/or children abused. But Joss wants to actually deal head on with ideas of sexual fantasy and prostitution and even non-consensual sex! Heck, I'm no longer surprised that the network got uncomfortable with the show, I'm surprised that they are doing it at all!

Don't get me wrong, I'm still more excited than ever to see what the show is really like!
This quote, vis a vis his dealings with Fox really struck me as promising (and spoiler-free):

"My problem has always been, what happens is that you get the corporations basically enjoying the titillation of the thing instead of wanting to baldly talk about it," he says. "We really wanted to hit it in the face and say, well, what does it mean? Is it wrong to pay somebody to have sex? How wrong is it to try to create your own perfect experience? When is it appalling? And when is it a part of people becoming increasingly incapable of dealing with other people and living these incredibly insular lives?"
Well, Joss has said that this is something very different for him and he wonders how fans will react. I'll wait and see and then make a judgement.
Debate seems to be the life blood of a Joss show.
Off topic, but I just watched The Simpsons, and they had two Dollhouse ads in the 1/2 hour show (the Grindhouse-style one, and one that I hadn't seen before that ended with the "they're living the dream" "whose dream" exchange). Yay for actually promoting the show!
This is sooo "Joss":

And what would Whedon do if he finds his supporters being turned off by the new show's premise?

"The fact of the matter is, I've been worried about this. It's kept me up nights. But I believe the best way to examine anything is to go to a dark place," Whedon says. "You can't be a storyteller and a speechwriter at the same time."


-Very well said, and I look forward to seeing what he does with the Dollhouse premise.
This was one of the best Joss interviews I've heard/seen in a long time. Jacki Lyden asked him some good tough questions, and we got great substansive answers. Fannish interviews are fun, but I'll take thoughtful, meaningful discussions over them any day of the week.
Oh man,I am hardly able to contain my excitement anymore
Whedon says the theme of hiring people for sex was something he and Dushku were eager to explore.


This seems... misconstruable.
If you haven't *listened* to the interview, you should. A lot gets cut out in the write up of it, especially a moment when Whedon basically states Lyden is reading the text in a way inconsistent with his intent. Of course, reader response is as valid as author intentionality, but when I hear what Whedon is trying to do, the whole thing makes so much more sense and sounds great. Lyden brings up Dua Khalil and Whedon's post here on that, and he has a great response worth quoting in full (this is my transcription of the radio interview), in which he says he's worried "they’re [my supporters] going to be disappointed by this, they’re gonna interpret this, uh, a certain way, and they’re gonna be maybe, you know, people might be angry with me for having come up with a story like this, but I believe in the story and I believe that what it’s going to say and where it’s heading is a valid human place and so, you know, I had to take that risk. I can’t just write a polemic. I have to be a storyteller, and to be a storyteller I have to go to the dark place.”
My tagging isn't working for some reason -- here's the URL for Whedon's post on Khalil: http://whedonesque.com/comments/13271

[ edited by whedongeek on 2009-02-09 18:07 ]

[ edited by whedongeek on 2009-02-09 18:07 ]
I'm in the library right now, so I can't listen to the speech but right now, I'm very, very worried.
When Joss starts saying stuff like:
"Obviously, the point is you have to take control away from her so that she can get it back."
That is... wow. That's like saying abuse makes you a more capable person. Or that parents who beat their children make them stronger.

The other part, is that Eliza Dushku was good in Buffy, but she hasn't been in very many notable roles since then. I would even call some of them terrible. If she cannot pull off this VERY fine line that Joss is drawing, then this could be a disaster in the making.

And by disaster, I mean, the overarching story, the ultimate question about freedom, gets lost in smut... (cough, maxim, cough). Then again, if that happens, then it'll be widely popular and last for years to come.
Sania Delian: I think what Whedon means is that depicting the *process* of gaining power can be as important as showing someone who has it (like Buffy). Even Buffy had to fight for her power and her sense of identity -- it just took a different form then Echo's. Somehow I missed your last line originally -- you're right. I think part of this is trying to get Fox to actually show the series, so he is coming dangerously close to more shallow waters. I find some of the posters and pics on the Fox website disturbing as well. It's going to be hard for Whedon to stay true to his vision AND work with Fox. "It's going to get bloody, head up Joss-y buddy, it's time for no mercy!"

[ edited by whedongeek on 2009-02-09 18:59 ]
"Obviously, the point is you have to take control away from her so that she can get it back."
That is... wow. That's like saying abuse makes you a more capable person. Or that parents who beat their children make them stronger.


I don't think he means "in order for someone to be strong, you need to abuse them" I think he means "in order to tell a story about someone fighting to regain their power, you have to set that story in a world in which they have been deprived of their power."

A storyworld in which every single person was happy, whole, trauma-free and untroubled might be a nice glimpse of an ideal world, but it would hardly teach us any lessons about how to get to that state.
"Obviously, the point is you have to take control away from her so that she can get it back."

I agree with snot monster, Joss was definitely talking about storytelling, not that abuse in real life is an ok thing. To show the true strength of a protagonist you need to show her in a bad place first. The worse her circumstances are, the more terrified we are for her, the stronger she needs to be to come through at the end. And I can't imagine a situation more scary for a human being than her memories, her identity, and any form of control being taken away from her.
It's that thing he said with the "storytelling vs. speech-writing". He has some strong views on what he believes, but a story is not his opinion, but a world with characters and life. If that world can't border on the "crossing the line" point, what can we take away from that? Things need to get dark so you can see an issue in a different light (or no light). It doesn't mean that the writer believes in the character's choice of life, but he believes in the story and the lessons learned from it.
Ok, so I listened to the full NPR radio clip.

I agree that people, in stories and in real life, are put in positions that are less than desirable. And in a story, it is the action of getting oneself out of the situation is the fun part.

My problem is that he is dealing with a very, very, VERY tricky issue: which is that real people have to go through what Echo will go through, however, they do not have the luxury of having their minds wiped clean. I understand that he is going to go into a dark place, but HOW dark is he going to go, in order for Echo to learn her lesson? Many accuse Buffy in the final seasons to be 'too dark'.

In addition; to say that a "story is not his option, but a world with characters and life" is completely wrong. Joss has a responsibility for his characters and his viewers. Yes, he is creating a world, but he is creating a world for OUR world.

He has admitted that he wants this to be as real as possible, which is why sex comes into that world. And I respect his vision, his unsullied ideal. However, how well will the ideal translate into reality? Let's face it, in this interview, he admits that he is making a TV show that is PURPOSEFULLY dealing with the controversial.

And for that, I am very, very worried about this show. And frankly, Joss is too.

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