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"I want to resolve this like civilized men."
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March 14 2009

A 'True Believer' chat with Tim Minear. He tells Dollverse all about yesterday's episode of Dollhouse. And the episode itself can now be bought on iTunes and watched for free on Hulu or Fox On Demand.

I'm glad he didn't include children in the cultist compound. Even thought their absence is less realistic, the whole fire thing was intense enough with the adults inside. It brings up remembrance of heavy feelings from the Waco incident.

ETA: It's nice he gave a shout out to pie. Happy PI day!

[ edited by peacemonger on 2009-03-14 15:33 ]
I agree peacemonger, also similar to Jim Jones taking everyone with him (this cult leader knew he was going to jail for the guns so he felt all his followers should die too). It was an interesting episode partly because it really spelled out that Echo's death was deemed an 'acceptable risk' when you know, even if Caroline signed up for this... she didn't sign up for THAT!
I thought last night was the best ep yet, gives me big hope for the show.
Hah, cool, Mr Tim Minear esq. agrees with me about the "slapping sight back into her", it's meant to seem like a miracle. I always suspected he was a pretty sensible guy ;-).

I agree peacemonger, also similar to Jim Jones taking everyone with him (this cult leader knew he was going to jail for the guns so he felt all his followers should die too).

I really didn't see it that way. To me he might well have been genuine in his beliefs and not only that but as Tim says in the interview, he might even have been right (at least as far as his beliefs go). This is something that's always fascinated me about believers - how do they know which bits of The Bible to believe completely and which bits to avoid cause they might well involve burning yourself to death ? This episode seemed to ponder that too.

And I actually question the word "cult" in this context. He was their leader but he wasn't claiming revelation, wasn't claiming to be better than any of his flock - he actually says he's "weaker than most". Not sure how he's different to a minister from a more conventional religious organisation. The difference between cults and religions was something else the episode seemed to ponder (for me).

(and Pi day doesn't work for me unfortunately - cos there's no 14th month ;)
You can still have a slice of PI. There are plenty to go around - enough for everybody. Pick a numeral and enjoy!
I can't wait for the "juicy arc stuff" :)
Wait, were there people who didn't understand about the slapping?
@Saje - Sure there is. It's called Smarch... "Lousy Smarch weather!" :)
"In like a lion, out like a smamb" ;).

Wait, were there people who didn't understand about the slapping?

Well, i'd put it more "There're people who have a different take on it" but yeah, quite a few, in t'other thread ;).
I stopped reading the other thread.
Has anybody sussed out the references to The Inside and Drive in this episode yet?
I'm intrigued by Tim's new pilots. Of course he doesn't have the best of luck with his shows (sigh) but the Sci Fi show based off an old title sounds very interesting.
I'm glad Dollhouse has 13 episodes in the can. I'm not ready to consider anything less than all of them being broadcast on TV. And I sure wish Drive had been able to complete a full season - regardless of the tragic (IMO) cancellation. A DVD set would be welcome.
Tim with pilots thrills me. I hope he gets something on TV--if Dollhouse doesn't come back, a new Tim Minear production would certainly help ease the pain.

I have loved his work for a while, but since I saw the Inside a few months ago, I've become nearly as obsessed with him as I am with Joss.
The references - whilst Paul is talking to Loomis at the FBI, she says she got an FBI computer guy called Carter to check. Carter is the FBI computer geek in "The Inside".

Brian Bloom's character shares his name with his "Drive" character. (Jackal spotted that one).
ETA: gossi just answered

[ edited by Emmie on 2009-03-14 19:32 ]
No X-Files or Lois and Clark references then?
You didn't see Mulder surfing porn in the background?
ETA: Maybe Mulder played the stunt pee-pee ?

How quickly they forget.

(Esther was in peril, I think that covers both L&C and X-Files)

[ edited by Saje on 2009-03-14 19:40 ]
What are the odds of seeing a character from The Inside make an actual appearance at some point?

[ edited by Barry Woodward on 2009-03-14 19:51 ]
Or it turns out Webs was an Adelle equivalent at another "branch" of the dollhouse and his entire team were dolls ;).
I think Webster is more likely to be in charge of the Dollhouse. The man really did have gray morals.
I dunno, "morals" might be going a bit too far - 'tactics' seems closer to the mark ;).
"And I actually question the word "cult" in this context. He was their leader but he wasn't claiming revelation, wasn't claiming to be better than any of his flock - he actually says he's "weaker than most". Not sure how he's different to a minister from a more conventional religious organisation."

Saje, there's a scale, the Advanced Bonewits Cult Danger Evaluation Frame, for evaluating organizations as to whether they have the characteristics of a cult, or are simply enthusiastic groups with unconventional beliefs and practices. The scale was formulated by a neopagan Druid who didn't like the way media and authorities were tossing the word "cult" around to describe any group they didn't agree with. The scale can be found on the Net in various places, such as

http://www.neopagan.net/ABCDEF.html

This particular group scored high on internal control, isolation of members, and paranoia (all the guns).
Just skimmed that but i'd question 2 of those 3 that you mention janef. They defer to him but do we see much fear or force exercised in "internal control" ? I.e. they seem to genuinely trust him, rightly or wrongly (also, when he hits Esther not only do a few people stand up to him - rather than cower in fear - but they're also shocked at the violence, suggesting it's new, that people aren't routinely struck or bullied there). And we also don't see what measures are used to actually prevent "members" contacting the outside, as opposed to just "they don't contact the outside". I'd also point out that it seems to score quite low on most or all of the other 15 criteria.

Not much doubt about the paranoia though, that's a lot of guns, even for America ;).

Also couldn't find the threshold for "cult" (what would it need to score to be one) ?
io9 calls Minear "[a] man who could write an hour of television about two old men playing Scrabble, and it would rock".
So he actually talks like they did on Buffy. "Mythology-y"
io9 calls Minear "[a] man who could write an hour of television about two old men playing Scrabble, and it would rock".

I guess Eliza needs to get him to write the chess grandmaster episode?
Well, Joss wanted to do a cult episode. The only real edict was that the culties should have a point of view -- that they shouldn't just be crazies. In fact, they should be right. I liked that notion. I don't recall who came up with the "blind Echo" angle -- I think it was Andrew.


Who is this Andrew fellow?
Tucker's brother.
It'd be the nastiest Scrabble battle ever though. Words that'd haunt your dreams for years to come.
Morally ambiguous Scrabble.
Andrew Chambliss is a staff writer, I believe. He's writing... some upcoming episode.
pretty sure it's the one where they imprint Echo with the persona of a flying demon monkey and send her after a troupe of shakespearian thespians.
Tucker's brother.

Saje FTW!

[ edited by electricspacegirl on 2009-03-15 06:08 ]
"Just skimmed that but i'd question 2 of those 3 that you mention janef. They defer to him but do we see much fear or force exercised in "internal control" ? I.e. they seem to genuinely trust him, rightly or wrongly (also, when he hits Esther not only do a few people stand up to him - rather than cower in fear - but they're also shocked at the violence, suggesting it's new, that people aren't routinely struck or bullied there). "

From what little we get to see of how the group operates, they have a single charismatic leader who has one lieutenant that can be counted on to follow orders. There is no indication of a council of elders, a constitution, bylaws or charter that can be appealed to, or any person or group of people who has the authority or the power to challenge any of the leader's decisions.

"And we also don't see what measures are used to actually prevent "members" contacting the outside, as opposed to just "they don't contact the outside"."

From what we are told, the organization does not permit outsiders to phone or visit the compound; we don't know whether or not the residents receive mail. It was stated that most of the residents never come to town and that those who do, come only to pick up supplies. Those who come to town travel in a group and sing hymns continuously, preventing any of the townspeople from conversing with any of them. It seems clear that there is at the very least extreme social pressure on the residents not to have any direct communication with the outside world. Social isolation is in itself an indicator of strong authoritarian control over group members.

"- I'd also point out that it seems to score quite low on most or all of the other 15 criteria."

We don't have any information on some of the criteria.

"Also couldn't find the threshold for "cult" (what would it need to score to be one) ? "

I think it's intended to be seen as a continuum from "not a cult" to "has some cult aspects" to "definitely a cult" to "definitely a dangerous cult." For example, monasteries and convents isolate their denizens from society but don't score high on some of the other criteria.
Yeah, that makes sense but surely they must have some sort of initial level ? I mean, all religious groups would score more than zero on that scale, depending on how you allocated points (and not just cos the criteria start scoring at '1' ;).

Broadly though, I guess it's down to impressions. They talk about how they left the Zion compound because of how bad it was (the implication being it's not bad here, certainly not as bad) and aren't we told about the communications aspect by the ATF guy ? I'd say his information is very far from reliable (he was basically wrong about everything apart from the guns and even then he seemed to be wrong that Sparrow was running them). But even then, we don't see much (any ?) evidence that they're forced to avoid contact that they'd otherwise seek out.

As to the town thing, well, we see them being attacked when they do come to town (again, because of the ATF agent) so i'd say they had good reason. As Minear says in the interview, Sparrow was pretty much right on most scores (albeit not in his methods - or you could make a very good case he wasn't anyway ;).

We don't have any information on some of the criteria.

Perfectly true, quite a few of them in fact and even the ones you mention are a bit sketchy (or at least can be read more than one way). In that situation I guess it just depends on the individual and which way they're predisposed to "jump" given imperfect information.

[ edited by Saje on 2009-03-15 12:43 ]
Cults don't necessarily physically isolate their adherents. It can be an emotional distance (don't talk to your parents, follow the advice of the leader over your own reasoning). You could make a case for Christianity being a Jewish cult, as an offshoot of an established religion.

Heck, you could make a case for Whedonesque being a Joss cult. (Slavish devotion to a leader). ;)

One thing I liked about this episode was the moral ambiguity, not so much of the Dollhouse itself (that's a given) but of the Esther story. The history of the leader gave cause for concern, but it wasn't proof of wrongdoing. The cause for the warrant was faked, so that was definite wrongdoing. But the leader had a cache of weapons and set fire to his followers, so he was in the wrong. He wouldn't have taken action if the police hadn't acted on an illegally obtained warrant.... etc.
Yeah, that's exactly it redeem147. All leaders are charismatic to some extent, that's partly why they're leaders and where's the line between being devoted and being manipulated (or even forced) into that devotion ? What/where's the difference between following an inspiring example and just plain being made to do something ?

It's been said by some that Christianity for instance is an idea almost perfectly "designed" to spread, that it has just enough carrot, just enough stick, enough practical instruction and enough spiritual support etc. to make it hard to "resist" (and not only that but it's often propagated by the people that most of us, certainly in our formative years, trust more than any others i.e. our parents). But for the most part Christians are seen to come to their faith of their own free-will. Seems greyer than that to me personally.

(and sometimes I think you could make a scarily good case for Whedonesque BTW ;)
I've thought for a long time that the religion I was raised in was cult-like, and it's a mainstream religion. There definitely was no free-will in my case.
I think Andrew Chambliss is writing episode 10, "Four Engagements".

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