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April 27 2009

It Depends On What You Pay. An interesting fan video intended to provoke debate. Some could find it offensive. So, yeah - warning.

Discussion anyone?

Those lyrics were just perfect.
That was a great vid. It surprised me, in the comments, to read that people saw it as a critique of Dollhouse, in the sense that they're saying the show doesn't necessarily realize that this is the subtext/text. I've been watching the show thinking that the massively disturbing aspects of it were all very consciously and purposefully done. It's true that it isn't 100% textual all the time, but I think that's part of the point: when the disturbingness fades into quiet subtext and the show focuses on other things, it's still there, we're just being made to be ok with it, and that's...deeply disturbing. I can see how people who don't see it that way would find the show fairly repugnant.

I mean, I think this is a fantastic Dollhouse vid because it goes right to the heart of part of what the show is actually about, not because it's picking at something that the show doesn't realize is a problem.
(commenting on a lot of reactions to Dollhouse around the web, including the comments to that video, not on the video's intent itself - I liked it)

I'm still baffled... As someone who spent years in film classes discussing gender issues, feminism etc. (neither of which are the topic here, but related to it)... I still find it very hard to see this major thing that's supposedly "wrong" with the show itself; its "problem" -- or whatever people like to call it. But then, I also fail to see the misogyny in something like "Y: The Last Man", so I'm probably just deluded :-P

I just see these kinds of critiques of modern entertainment as having reached a point where you can't subtly debate the issues, without being accused of supporting the "wrong" side. Where every nuance has to be thrown out of the window, and the author has to spoon-feed the point to the audience, lest they decide he/she's saying the opposite of what he/she actually means. Exactly like those two slashes in the previous sentence - and this video.

I dunno. I can't watch Dollhouse without having this rape and prostitution angle constantly present in my mind. Guess it's not as obvious as I think. Maybe Dollhouse's model reader is too hidden for mass media, and that's its problem. :-P
Hear hear omnie and kaneda - it's started to really irritate me how much of the criticism of Dollhouse seems to take it as a given that if the actions of characters are wrong and there's no extremely obvious moral condemnation of it then that's a problem with the show. I've seen so many reviews that basically trash it whilst admitting everything is good except for the supposed problem that it's about abuse / rape

I read a review of 'Haunted' yesterday that actually suggested it was a despicable objective to try to humanise Topher. As if we need all our bad guys completely bad. We might get a bit confused if there's something sympathetic about them
On another note, it's not hard to see why that song was cut. Just imagine the outrage if that were in a new musical
Subtle it wasn't but I don't think that was the intent. The trouble is that the battle lines were drawn well before the show aired and I don't think either side has budged since. Shouting arguments at each other is a sure fire way to get people to listen to you. But that's more of a comment about fandom in general. If the show does get a second season, it'll be interesting to see if Joss and co take on board the criticisms. I have to say though if Dollhouse was made in Britain, I think the pundits here would be more willing to accept it as "edgy drama".

Also now that I've seen Dreamwidth up close I'm still not seeing the point of it.
Good points Simon. But I really hope Joss and the writers don't take on board too many of the conservative moralism in disguise criticisms
Personally, I find myself on the side of Let Down. I find it annoying when I see others say that the show's subject matter is a problem and that the show itself is immoral for having such a dark subject. I honestly can't even comprehend how people can watch the show and assume that we're supposed to condone what's happening at the Dollhouse. I have the same problem with those that believe the show Dexter is promoting homicide.
Yeah, one of my housemates says that about Dexter. He says it's 'morally abhorrent'. I'm yet to watch Dexter but I'm pretty confident I'll disagree
It is indeed a problem if you cant portray serious questions in a tv-show without getting this kind of respons. Just as it was with Inara. Getting people to think about something is a lot better then just smacking them on the head and say *bad!* But I get the fealing that it is the "thinking buissness" that tend to scare some people.
Guess that might be my problem too, Simon (re: if it were a British series). Too European to get the criticism :-) My bafflement really started when seeing otherwise astute Whedon scholar David Lavery join in on the criticism around the time of "Grey Hour" (although he changed his opinion after MotS).

And I must agree with Let Down, that I hope they follow the original mission statement. Although I guess it might not be possible, should the show get a second season.

Didn't know Dreamwidth was supposed to have a point, but then, I don't really follow the premade-blog-tool-market. The main website reads like neo-marketing-lingo to me. :-)

(Edited to clarify)

[ edited by Kaneda on 2009-04-27 10:29 ]
The Joss quotation that keeps popping into my mind is "Television shows are a question, films are an answer." Though I actually can't remember the context and I imagine it doesn't really apply in the way that I'm thinking, I can't help but relate it to the whole situation.

Feminist SF said that this video addressed "the crucial problem of the showís cavalier use of rape." And I just don't get how anyone can think the show is being cavalier about what's happening to these people.
And I just don't get how anyone can think the show is being cavalier about what's happening to these people.

Yeah. I've seen some disturbing opinions from people here, possibly because the show isn't beating you over the head constantly with the evilness of the Dollhouse (except in the case of Sierra/Priya). But if you engage your brain at all, almost everything about the show is horrific and creepy. And if you know anything about the show's creators, it's obviously meant to be that way.
He's said that a few times, but just to give an exact quote (from SWE4), because even if he's (in this case) talking about Buffy and the sustainability of a premise, I do think it relates to what you're saying, Knuckleball:

It occurred to me recently -- a lot of the differences between movies and TV -- and one of the main ones to me is that TV is a question, and movies are an answer. Movies make a definite statement. They want to explain, and then they get the hell out. TV examines something, if you're lucky, for seven years -- or eleven whole episodes. [... Fillion joke, Fastlane/FOX joke ...].

So the movie was, very simply, a girl sort of coming to power. And, well, you can't do that for seven years. You have to have a question, you have to have something that's gonna sustain.


No one (Whedon included) says the question needs to be controversial and debatable, but I do think Whedon took a very important step forward in question-molding for TV -- by making (one of) Dollhouse's question(s) just that. Buffy's "question", in my mind, is much closer to the movies than Firefly or Dollhouse was/is.

And yes, that FeministSF mention was actually what reminded me to release my bile about the reactions in general here :-)
Thanks for the source quotation, Kaneda!

I should probably also mention that I do completely understand why some don't enjoy watching Dollhouse, because of its premise. It's absolutely disturbing and dark and I can totally imagine not being attracted to it, as art. I love it because of its darkness. It's the belief that the show is morally corrupt because of its premise that bothers me.
I should probably also mention that I do completely understand why some don't enjoy watching Dollhouse, because of its premise. It's absolutely disturbing and dark and I can totally imagine not being attracted to it, as art. I love it because of its darkness. It's the belief that the show is morally corrupt because of its premise that bothers me.

Exactly. But I'd take that one step further: even if a show is morally corrupt (which I think Dollhouse emphatically isn't) that doesn't make it bad art. Heck, half of our greatest literature is morally corrupt in one way or another
It's the belief that the show is morally corrupt because of its premise that bothers me.


In a way it feels like the old "if we donít talk about the problem it will go away" approach combined with "guilt by association". And they are both indeed bothering.
I just recently stumbled upon Stanislaw Lem's "His Master's Voice" and right there at the beginning it says:

A phonograph record of angelic singing is not an iota better morally than one that reproduces, when played, a scream of murder.


That's how I like to look at Dollhouse.
I guess the question that comment raises, wiesengrund, is whether art changes behaviour. If so, you can claim that a mere representation of fictional people can be morally good or morally bad. Personally, I'm sceptical that art changes behaviour. I think to a large degree people read what they like into fiction and are drawn to fiction that suits what they already believed. But it's at least arguable that morally bad stories make viewers / readers / listeners behave in worse ways
Hm, is it dark though?
I generally dislike "dark" shows and movies, too depressing. But I don't really get that vibe here - its not funny, and for me that's a major minus, not "darkness".

But then I don't see anyone being raped on this show, at all. The body doesn't get a vote, its the current mind in the body who determines if it is willing or not - and be that mind shaped by god or man, they are clearly all willing.

But then I'm one of the man on the street kind of people who would probably sign up to the Dollhouse if I got the offer.
This is a great video. I agree with everyone else saying that it is not saying anything that the show itself is not saying; that is to say, it's not really a critique of the show so much as a (partial) articulation of the show's point.

Also, I'll just add that this is not the first show to address the evil that people do without giving the audience a good-guy hero to latch onto. "The Sopranos" springs to mind. The things that are different about "Dollhouse" is that everyone was complicit in this evil operation from the very beginning, and the audience was given no indication that any of them were "really" better than it. Also, it doesn't fit easily into a genre (like mob movies) where we are used to seeing bad guys who we like nonetheless.
I assume Hunted that you're excepting the Hearn and Sierra situation in 'Man on the Street' and the flashback of Sierra struggling as a man is on top of her in 'Echoes'?

I do think it's arguable that when a person signs up for the Dollhouse knowing that they'll be sleeping with clients it isn't rape. I'm not sure but I do think it should be open to debate. But even there we know that Pria didn't consent to this. It seems to me that it's much harder to argue in her case that it's not rape (though it's still possible if you consider the imprint a different person to Pria; although in that case it would be murder. So take your pick really)

ETA: Hunted, I just read your post more carefully. Under your reasoning, even Sierra who was forcably signed up to the Dollhouse is not being raped. You probably know this but it's just an observation. By the same reasoning, it means that if someone gave another person mind-altering drugs that made them want to sleep with that person it wouldn't be rape

[ edited by Let Down on 2009-04-27 12:53 ]
Let Down, you are right, I had forgotten about the Hearn incident - yes I would consider that a rape of Sierra, she clearly wasn't a willing participant.

And yes, even if Priya was forced into this the 'real' Priya is on a harddrive somewhere, the new inhabitants do what they want because they want to do it.

And I don't at all agree its like drugging people, none of those drugs replace personality, they try to suppress the existing one.
But Hunted your reasoning was that the mind inhabiting the active's body wants to have sex and therefore it's consensual. Similarly, if a person's mind is altered in a way such that they they want to have sex, that equally shouldn't be rape (under your reasoning). I don't see how the distinction between replacing and suppressing a personality can possibly come into this question of consent

Incidentally, in your comment above were you suggesting that you'd become a Dollhouse client or an active? Just curious

Edited for spelling

[ edited by Let Down on 2009-04-27 13:47 ]
Kaneeeeedaaaaaaaaa!!!! (Sorry, I loathe that film.)

But then, I also fail to see the misogyny in something like "Y: The Last Man", so I'm probably just deluded :-P


What idiot is telling you that Y is a misogynist comic? The sexual reconfigurations at the end are uplifting and complicated and the women who populate the story are rich multifaceted human beings! That's, like, the definition of not misogynist for god's sake.

Cerebus is misogynist; Y is honest. (And sidenote, it's probably a better dissection of young male insecurity - BKV's specifically but, hell, mine too - than any comic this side of Bendis's Spider-Man.)

(And extra sidenote: unfortunately, Cerebus is the greater comic. Which is to be expected - it's probably the most impressive thing anyone's ever written in comic form, ever.)

The idea that Dollhouse is 'cavalier' about anything is just resentment - faux-critics complaining about being one step behind Whedon et al. Being uncomfortable with it is one thing, maybe even sufficient reason to turn off the TV, but that does raise the question of what other grotesquerie such sensitive souls are comfortable with. The discomfort is the point, has been since the very beginning.

But yeah, I assume everyone who cares already knows this. :)
Sounds like Cerebus is an interesting read - I'll have to check it out.

I only read the first 3 volumes of Y:The Last Man. I didn't see any misogyny but I did find it rather boring. I loved the first volume and was very disappointed by the next two.
And I don't at all agree its like drugging people, none of those drugs replace personality, they try to suppress the existing one.


Actually, there is substantial evidence that the original persona is suppressed rather than removed, whether Joss meant for there to be or not. In "The Target", the drug "Echo" is given manages to not only restore memories of her Doll-state, but also of her true past as Caroline. That's not possible unless those memories do still exist in her. Further, in "Needs", "Victor" refers to being trapped inside himself when in Doll-state.
Yep, what KingofCretins said
Well Let Down, perhaps it is simply that I am unable to explain in written english what I try to say, but there is NO WAY that I accept giving people drugs in our real world is the same has having your "brain program" replaced. Of course if you can't entirely replace it, as KingofCretins suggests you can't - well that may cast a different light on it, or it may not - I don't believe that memories alone make a personality - its how you react to it that makes a personality. As they suggested in the Caprica movie, the brain is full of facts, but that's not what makes a personality.

As for client or active - well.. if i had the money ;)
I think Knuckleball makes really good points here: "Personally, I find myself on the side of Let Down. I find it annoying when I see others say that the show's subject matter is a problem and that the show itself is immoral for having such a dark subject. I honestly can't even comprehend how people can watch the show and assume that we're supposed to condone what's happening at the Dollhouse. I have the same problem with those that believe the show Dexter is promoting homicide."

I think what people have trouble with is the difference between dystopia and misogyny. The characters can be trapped in a totally dystopian situation (that is also completely misogynistic) without the show itself being misogynistic.

Plus we are (hopefully) at the beginning of a long journey. If the characters started out in a situation that was generally okay, then there would be no story.

Buffy was the same way. It's not feminist (or at least I don't think it is) b/c Buffy can kick some ass. It's feminist b/c it's all about a woman coming to power and then changing the power structure. But that doesn't fully happen until the series finale. But the fact that Buffy has superpowers from the beginning masks how little power she actually has over her life. So nobody gets pissy.

What's hard about Dollhouse is that the characters are so clearly stuck in a frakked up situation- that they so clearly have no power and that makes (and SHOULD make) people feel really uncomfortable.

I just hope we get to see the rest of the journey.
I agree with Hunted. Imprints have shown themselves to be distinct personalities (be they outright downloads as in the last episode, or personality mashups as in previous), and I believe they have the right and the ability to give consent.

Frankly, I'm rather dismayed at those who dismiss and marginalise the imprints. It reminds me of the blatant and ugly discrimination against the Cylons ("they're just frakkin' machines") that ran throughout BSG. Did fi-sci fans learn nothing from the ST:TNG episodes that explored and established Data's legal rights as a sentient being?

I think we need Imprint Equality, kind of now.
Ah, see, AlanD, that is the $64,000 question for Dollhouse. What is the difference between an imprint and a "normal" human subject? And, what are the ethical issues with replacing one with another?

We don't really have concepts to deal with these questions, and so we realy on metaphors. Wiping someone is "like" murder (only, it's not, really; it's more like putting someone in a coma). Imprinting someone is "like" drugging them (only, it's not, really; it's more like some combination of brainwashing and educating and drugging and hypnotizing and ...).
Lump me in with the "missing the point with criticism of show promoting rape etcetera" crowd.

As for the is it rape at all discussion, I do think Hunted makes an interesting point. In the beginning, I tended to think of the imprints as complete personalities. They are imprinted with real memories and bits and pieces from previous persons. For all intents and purposes, these people can then be considered real, just using an active's body. The thing that bothered me there is: after an assignment is complete, these imprints get tossed out. Maybe if they'll need them another time - like "Roger" for Victor - they get stored somewhere for futher use, but mostly they are never used again. I, for one, was always unconfortable with this. It seems like murder to me. First the Dollhouse creates life, and then they take it away.

Now what this means for the rape issue is that these imprints don't get raped. They consent. Of course, they are created to consent, but that point is moot, because the resulting persona is real and makes decissions based on their impulses, memories, etcetera, just like the rest of us.

Now the question is, if the original personality is being raped, while the new persona is not. That's actually a pretty difficult question, as far as I'm concerned. Certainly if they - like Sierra - didn't sign up for this by their own free will (which is probably often the case, by varying degrees), there's something wrong with their bodies being used. But then again: they are usually not in there. The body is inhabited by a different persona who is not being raped, as far as I'm concerned. So is the original "inhabitant" being raped? I'm not sure. If someone is sexually assaulted while they are unconcious or in a coma, they're being raped. If their body is used after they've died (which, ew), their body has certainly been used, but have they been raped? Probably not. In this case? Maybe. But it's certainly not clear cut, I'd say.

Now all this gets even messier because we're not quite sure how the imprint mechanism works. Are imprints complete personalities to begin with? They're certainly different, because they respond to deeply imprinted suggestions like their treatments, etcetera. Plus, we've seen that bits and pieces of the original persona can resurface while in imprint status and bits and pieces of the imprints can mesh over into other imprints (the "Echo" persona tends to remember things from her previous engagements as different persons). Or is there maybe a gliding scale? I'd say most of us think as the Dolls in blanke state as people, right? Certainly "Echo", who is - in fact - an imprint. Or Mellie, she seems very person-like and makes us feel. Or the woman returning in a new body to investigate her own death. She seemed real and complete as well. But how real are they? My instinct says they are: they can reason, think, feel, etcetera. Most of them don't know they're imprints, they think they're original people. Any of us could be an imprint right now, and we wouldn't know the difference. So the question becomes: is there a difference. To which I say: maybe, but I'm not sure.

ETA: Ah, I see AlanD and septimus got here before me. Damn my impulse to make long winded statements ;)

[ edited by GVH on 2009-04-27 15:27 ]
I see no grey area -- Priya is being raped everytime an imprinted identity has putatively consensual sex in her body. If Priya were in a coma in a hospital, and thus, like as an Active, not immediately experiencing the violation, it wouldn't even be a question.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2009-04-27 15:43 ]
Now the question is, if the original personality is being raped, while the new persona is not.

Yeah, that frames the question really well. It might well be that the imprints aren't being raped but the original inhabitants of that body are.

Anyway, my only other contribution to this thread before I go to sleep is that while the question of whether or not it is rape is interesting it's ultimately definitional rather than ethical. I mean, it might well be that it's not rape (however we choose to define that) but it's still immoral. To put that the other way around, if an action is immoral it's immoral regardless of whether or not we define 'rape' to include that action
I think it might be relevant to point out that we have yet to see any evidence that Topher, et cetera have the ability to produce original material for Imprints, rather than relying on parts taken from real personalities.
I see no grey area -- Priya is being raped everytime an imprinted identity has putatively consensual sex in her body. If Priya were in a coma in a hospital, and thus, like as an Active, not immediately experiencing the violation, it wouldn't even be a question.

I don't agree, KoC. The difference with actives is that (placing the situation of Priya to one side; that's a different kettle of fish) they've signed up knowing that they'll be used for sex. The coma patient hasn't. A better analogy is this (and here we get into icky territory): a person goes into a coma but before s/he does so s/he tell his or her partner that s/he can sleep with him / her while s/he's in the coma. Although I guess I'm sanitising. It's more like someone going into a coma who agrees beforehand that lots of people s/he doesn't know will sleep with him / her in exchange for a lot of money when s/he gets out of the coma. It's very messed up but I'm not convinced it's rape and it is a different situation to someone sleeping with a coma patient entirely without their knowledge
But KoC, doesn't that also hang on the question of what a person is? We don't quite know how the imprint process works, but let's for the sake of argument assume that the original personality is taken out and "stored" somewhere and new personalities fill up the empty shell. Of course, we still see flashes of the original persona's memory sometime (as well as flashes from other imprints which Echo remembers), but we could just as well assume that these are "ghosts" - leftovers which were not correctly removed (like traces on a harddisc when one removes a file), instead of hints that the new personality is placed on top of the old one.

The question then becomes: to whom does this body belong? If the person is truly not in there, can they be raped? If someone gets transplanted organs from a deceased person, and that person then has sex, is the original person then being raped because their body parts are involved? I'd say pretty obviously not (and everyone'd probably agree on that), but it's a sliding scale. Is it then only rape if the complete body is involved, or not even then? Is it only rape if there's traces of the original personality present? Or is it only rape if the complete original personalty is present, silently screaming and observing everything the "imprint" does using their body? I'd say we just don't know and as such: grey area. I for one am not ready to call everything we see in Dollhouse rape or say Priya is being raped every time Sierra or one of the other imprints is involved in a sexual activity, though I'm certainly open to the possibility that it is.

Having said all that, I do think that - as is often the case - this is a definition question, like Let Down points out. I think we can agree that this is immoral, wether we choose to define it as rape or not.

ETA: and also, the consent issue. Like Let Down points out. If some of the Dolls truly do consent, knowing full well what they're getting into (something which I highly doubt, by the way), then those Dolls are probably not being raped even if the original personalities are still present, although there's a grey area there too.

[ edited by GVH on 2009-04-27 16:10 ]
The dirty little secret of the Dollhouse, IMO, is that Hearn was right. There is basically no difference between what he did for free and what the Dollhouse does for lots of money. Indeed, were he a client and wanted an engagement tailored around manipulating a naive, helpless person into having sex with him against her will, I tend to think as long as he didn't mark her up, they'd have taken his money. Adelle's ethical line on the subject was a joke almost as sick as Hearn's own desire to sleep with Priya in Doll-state.

I don't think there's any point in placing Priya's situation off to the side -- Caroline and Sam were both extorted into signing as a way to avoid likely prosecution. Indeed, only "November" has shown any reason to actually believe she genuinely volunteered, and even then, we know *nothing* of how much any of these people were told. Given the Dollhouse's track record, it's silly to actually give them the benefit of the doubt on disclosing what an Active will do.

Besides, any consent is essentially meaningless, because nobody consented to being slaughtered in the shower. Nobody consented to the Dollhouse's risk of being tricked into sending an Active out to be hunted by a psychopath. Nobody *can* consent to those things. If Hearn had taken a liking to "Tango" instead of "Sierra", and we assume that "Tango" is the mythical fully aware and fully consenting volunteer, she *still* didn't consent to what Hearn did.

The question then becomes: to whom does this body belong?


There's a question here? Caroline's body is always and exclusively Caroline's. I've had this out on BuffyForums about this episode -- bodies are not fungible, one isn't as good as any other, and imprints can't play 'finder's keepers'. If an imprint had to be forcibly removed in order to restore the true identity to its own body, and the imprint didn't want to be removed and thusly obliterated... tough.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2009-04-27 16:10 ]
KOC is right, as far as I am concerned.

"the new inhabitants do what they want because they want to do it." Nope. They do it because they were programmed to do it; want has nothing to do with it at all. They "want" only what they were programmed to want. Period. That programming overrides their own free will, and if you enter into sex without freely doing so, that's rape. I think we get dangerously close to accepting rape when we argue that it is not the mind of the body in there. Rape makes no distinction. A short legal definition of rape is: "The crime of rape (or "first-degree sexual assault" in some states) generally refers to non-consensual sexual intercourse that is committed by physical force, threat of injury, or other duress. A lack of consent can include the victim's inability to say "no" to intercourse, due to the effects of drugs or alcohol. Rape can occur when the offender and victim have a pre-existing relationship (sometimes called "date rape"), or even when the offender is the victim's spouse." In the case of the DH, note that the definition states clearly "other duress." I would argue that giving up your ability to have free will due to compelling legal problems (like Echo did) is still duress. And the corollary that "due to the effects of drugs or alcohol" would be the same for mind-imprinting. It's rape. It is inescapable.

You know, I don't even think this is definitional, even though I just argued based on a definitional perspective. This is like torture- is waterboarding torture just because we had someone somewhere argue that we define torture some way other than the rest of the world does? It's not rape just because it happens to someone whose mind was altered? Or who allowed it to happen as part of some contract designed to get her out of the immediate trouble she is in? I refuse to go down that road.
There's a question here? Caroline's body is always and exclusively Caroline's.


This was not the "belongs" I was going for (see further down in this message), but I'll go with this line of thought for a bit first:

[sidetrack]

I'd say that, yes, there's a question there. Sure, in the case of 'Haunted', where a person knowingly takes over anothers body, there's no question of who is the rightfull "owner". But in the case of a created imprint who through no fault of their own came to be in a body which originally belonged to someone else, both equaly being "real" persons, etcetera? Then I'm not so sure. To me, that's a difficult question.

Let's say you find out today that you're an imprint who's been using someone else's body for quite some time. Is it then just "tough luck", you're out of there, dead, gone, etcetera? I'm not so sure. At the same time, the original person deserves to live as well. It's not all that clear-cut.

[end of sidetrack]

But even then, like I said up top, this was not the "belongs" I was talking of when typing that comment. I was asking the question, maybe not articulated that well, if the "body" has a higher status than just something physical. Is it linked to that personality, always "belonging" to them, even if they're not in it. Or is it more like a car - anyone can drive it, even if there's only one person who owns it, and anything that happens in that car while someone else is driving it has little to nothing to do with the owner.

In other words: is a person being raped if someone else uses their body? Is a "body" something that has a status higher than, say, just an arm. If someone chops of your arm and uses it to bludgeon someone to death, have you then killed someone? I'd say everyone would probably say: nope. But if an imprints kills, has the original personality then also killed? And if not, what, then, is the difference if they have sex while using that body? ETA: There certainly is some difference (killing is active, rape is passive), but we can't argue one way (it's not them doing the killing) one time, but argue the other way (it's them, having sex) the next, even if there is a difference there.

If someone has sex with your dead body (which, again, ew, I hate going there), have you then been raped? Or is your body just a 'car', an object. I don't know. I'm just saying there's grey there.

ETA: some more sense

[ edited by GVH on 2009-04-27 16:30 ]
I think "dead" fails as an analogy for an Active's true identity. Coma is valid. If "dead" applied, well, that undermines the central thesis of arguing that they volunteered or consented to anything, because if they're never coming back, than the contract itself was a fraud. They're not "dead", they're just "asleep" -- suppressed deep down in the brain and the rest put on a hard drive somewhere. No different than if there were in a coma.

Whether the imprint actually understands that it's not their body is irrelevant, as irrelevant as it would be if you climbed into an identical car and by coincidence your key actually did start it. Your good faith doesn't make that car yours. And if we won't even permit that kind of mistake with a completely fungible commodity like a car or a house, why would we even debate it when it comes to one's body?
I'm really uncomfortable doing the legalistic hair-splitting when it comes to definitions of rape (though I LOVE legalistic hair-splitting in other areas). But, the show pretty much demands it of us, even if it comes down on the side of "whatever we call it, in the end it's immoral."

So, on a "typical" assignment (say, the very first scene of the series, Echo on the bikes, on the dance floor, and in bed with Matt), the questions about rape are: (1) was their sex rape? (2) who was being raped? (3) by whom? (There are other questions, of course, about prostitution or slavery or what have you, but for now let's stick with rape.)

Obviously Question (1) has two answers, but if the answer is "no" then there is no need to go further. So, presuming that the answer is "yes," let's continue.

Question (2) has three possible answers: Caroline, Echo, the Imprint (whose name I don't know).

The argument for saying Caroline is being raped is that her body is being used for sex. She may or may not have consented to that use (depending on the coercive force of her situation when recruited). So, if she did consent, then she is not being raped. If she did not consent, then she MAY be being raped (if it bieng her body is the deciding factor).

The argument for saying Echo is being raped is really unclear. Echo is kind of a special case whose ability to consent is unknown. Of course, under the law, an inability to consent would mean that it is rape.

The argument for saying the Imprint is being raped is that she thinks she consents, but in reality she has not consented because she is "programmed" to do so. This, of course, gets into the whole question of free will and false consciousness and ideological indoctrination: can any of us really consent to anything when we are allo "programmed" in some sense?

Question (3) has two possible answers, that I can see (though there could be more, if you differentiate between people's roles in the Dollhouse): Either Matt is raping someone OR the Dollhouse is. Matt is obviously the one having the sex, but he is only indirectly overcoming someone's will. The Dollhouse is not having the sex, but it is profiting from it and is overcoming someone's will. Is a john raping a prostitute, just because she ahs been coerced into having sex with him? Is a john NOT raping a prostitute, jsut because he's not the one directly coercing her? (This all gets way too complicated to parse out in a Whedonesque comment and clearly implicates the prostituion/slavery/trafficking questions as well.)

(A better example might actually Whatshername/November/Mellie and her sex with Paul. For one thing, there is less reason to think that she was coerced into signing up for the Dollhouse. for another, Mellie's sex with Paul in this last episode is a perfect example of the kind of ideological-"self"-subjugating that makes these definitions tricky.)

So, yeah, it's all icky. But how exactly it is icky, and why it is icky, and what that ickiness says about how we all relate to one another and to power, THOSE are the questions the show is asking us to confront. If it were easy to label it as "rape," then we could happily believe that 'we know it when we see it' and that rape/subjugation/etc. are always clear cut. "Dollhouse," though, won't let us rest that comfortably.

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-04-27 16:40 ]
Darn, hoped I'd get to comment on what a great video this is before the discussion spiraled off into essentially the same discussion (with nearly the same players) as every episode thread.

Oh, well! Just wanted to say that this may well be the most expertly crafted fan vid I've ever seen on the internets, and I think I'd still say that if I were to find out that the creator was on the exact opposite side of every issue that I am. Two things that add to the joy for me, of course: (1) first seeing the Fantastiks in a local production when I was 10 and being hooked and (2) As an adult, always being tickled by the fact that that is Jerry Orbach singing. If that great man had survived a few more years, maybe we could have had a guest appearance, perhaps as the wizened senior agent acting as "Deep Throat" to Ballard...The world is poorer that we don't get to see the argument between Jerry and Tamhoh that ends with "Nobody puts Echo in the corner!"
What a great conversation! This is a big part of why I love Whedonesque :)

I just want to note that we are all "programmed," in a sense, by some ridiculously complex interaction of our genes, history, environment, brain chemistry, memory, current barometric pressure, etc. etc. The imprint personalities are programmed much more directly by Topher, but I would argue that doesn't negate the concept of free will for them, any more than having (for example) a genetic predisposition combined with a certain upbringing or environmental circumstances eliminates free will for "normal" people. Acknowledging the factors involved in someone's choices isn't the same as denying that they had a choice...

But that said, I think it's that complexity that's part of what makes the Dollhouse such an interesting "question" for a TV show. We're not talking about a stable of Buffybots, one-dimensionally mandated to adore and want to please their Spike figures -- imprint personalities are set up to be fully three-dimensional people.

Personally, I'm finding the relationship between Ballard and Mellie to be one of the most interesting things on the show. He's in love with Mellie and she's in love with him (because she's "programmed" to be perfect for him), but he knows she's "only" an imprint, that it's someone else's body he's having sex with. So maybe he temporarily convinces himself that it's okay to sleep with her, but at the same time hates himself for doing so. I think that's the show in a nutshell, maybe even representative of how we viewers feel sometimes (at least some of us...)
Dana wrote:

"the new inhabitants do what they want because they want to do it." Nope. They do it because they were programmed to do it; want has nothing to do with it at all. They "want" only what they were programmed to want. Period. That programming overrides their own free will, and if you enter into sex without freely doing so, that's rape.


Disagreed. It's not like there was an "original" imprinted personality, who is then "programmed" to want to have sex. No, there's a completely new personality who actually wants to have sex. How this person came into being in the first place, has no bearing on that, because that doesn't make them any less real. They want to have sex with that person, simply because they want to. Maybe it is because they fall in love with a client or for a myriad of other reasons, based on the people they are.

Everyone has probably had sex with someone at some point in their life, it's safe to assume. They did so for reasons that made sense to them at the time. The same thing goes for these imprinted personalities. The fact the Dollhouse picks parts of real personalities and merges them into a person who fits the job means nothing for that person, only for the original personality (whose part, like I've tried to argue above, in this whole thing isn't clear-cut either).

This new person simply is the kind of person who'd have sex with this particular client. And they'd be the same way if they were put into this situation, pre-selected so you will, by the Dollhouse or got there in the real world, of their own accord.

The only reason this would then constitute rape, is if we somehow assume the choices an imprint makes can be defined as lesser than those of a person born into that body and I don't hold to that.

(also, yikes: lots of new comments while I was writing this, hope I'm not treading on already explored ground here :))

ETA: partly, I was treading on said ground, it seems :). miri47 was kind-of making the same point (and Septimus also touched upon it in his excellent summary of the issues at hand), and I basically completely aree with what she's(?) saying in her post :).

Also, to reply to what KoC was saying upthread:

I think "dead" fails as an analogy for an Active's true identity. Coma is valid. If "dead" applied, well, that undermines the central thesis of arguing that they volunteered or consented to anything, because if they're never coming back, than the contract itself was a fraud. They're not "dead", they're just "asleep" -- suppressed deep down in the brain and the rest put on a hard drive somewhere. No different than if there were in a coma.


Again, disagreed :). Both 'coma' and 'dead' fails as a 100% correct representation here, which is why I used both. First of all, we don't know if there's an original personality left, or if - after storage - the body is an empty shell (thus bearing a closer resemblance to a dead body, than to a body in coma, where the original personality is simply dormant). And secondly, there's a new personality present who's "controling" the body, for which both 'dead' and 'coma' completely fail as an analogy :). So I'd say it's not so clear-cut that we can simply compare this to the moral situation of someone having sex with a comatose body. There are essential differences there.

Also, as to the 'body property' issue:

Whether the imprint actually understands that it's not their body is irrelevant, as irrelevant as it would be if you climbed into an identical car and by coincidence your key actually did start it. Your good faith doesn't make that car yours. And if we won't even permit that kind of mistake with a completely fungible commodity like a car or a house, why would we even debate it when it comes to one's body?


Ah, but then: what if someone bought a painting from a regular seller, that originally belonged to a jewish family but was stolen by the nazi's? Then ownership becomes troublesome as well. Basically ownership isn't even always clear for actual objects in our real world, so why would it be for a body in this fictional case. I know I sure would want some rights if I found out I was an imprint using a body that originally belonged to someone else, just like I would sure as hell want my body back if someone else was inhabiting it somewhere down the line. I'm sure if something like that happened in the real-world, the resulting law suit wouldn't have a clear winner up front.

[ edited by GVH on 2009-04-27 17:08 ]
Let's say you find out today that you're an imprint who's been using someone else's body for quite some time. Is it then just "tough luck", you're out of there, dead, gone, etcetera? I'm not so sure. At the same time, the original person deserves to live as well. It's not all that clear-cut.


You know? I had totally forgotten about Total Recall until now...
Aren't the differences between the Active's true identity, for which programming is natural and, at best, only a metaphor, and an imprint, for which programming is very artificial and literal, self-evident?
Aren't the differences between the Active's true identity, for which programming is natural and, at best, only a metaphor, and an imprint, for which programming is very artificial and literal, self-evident?


No, because the resulting personality isn't different. They are the same "end product": a personality. The production process doesn't really matter. Is a baby born using IVF somehow different than a baby born using completely "natural" means? And what if that baby was completely born outside of an actual womb? The way this person has been created doesn't negate the fact that they're a person, with everything that implies (like having free will).

What's more, Dollhouse has so far implied that the programming isn't really programming anyway: they are not building a personality from scratch. They're using parts of real personalites all of whose 'programming' was natural as well, and combining those into a new person who has the attributes they want.
So the programmed ends justify the programming means, and we can make no moral/metaphysical judgment between them? I can't possibly disagree more. In fact, I often wonder when the "difficult" question of identity are supposed to start being raised by this show, since most of this seems cut and dry.

The IVF analogy is unspeakably inapplicable -- a child born by whatever means is a child born. A person who grows and lives and evolves into a personality shaped only by the natural stimuli of the world around her. An imprint has none of that, just the sick and arrogant human hand imposing *every* aspect of it.

An imprint, unlike an IVF child, isn't a "real person" in any sense of the word, no more than a simulation on a Holodeck.
I have only watched a little Dollhouse, but I think I know enough about the show to answer this question

Are the actives are raped or not?;

If they signed on, knowing they would get sexual assignements, the no, it's not rape.

If they signed on, knowing they would get assignments, but not knowing it would include sexual assignements, then it's not rape, but it should definitly be mentioned when they sign on.

If they're forced to have imprints, of course it's rape. Even if they're just coerced to sign the contract or whatever(it sure looked like Echo/Caroline had no choice in the first episode but to sign, but since I haven't seen that much...) and they feel like they have no choice, it's bad. It's not necassarily rape, but it's bad. If they have to do it to save their families(they have to pay a kidnapper or their child dies) it's rape. Even if their personalities are complelety removed, it's as much rape as if they were drugged.

But I guess that depends on the person. Some people might be okay with rape as long is they're not "there" when it happens. But since many would care, it matters.

That said, I can't wait until Dollhouse gets out on DVD so I can finally watch it. I've wanted to see the Dollhouse taken down ever since I saw Caroline being persuaded to join. Like they couldn't have helped her without taking years of her life.
Wow. You discussed.

Ok, I'm going to leave the definition of rape conversation. I know where I, and every other person who would matter to me, comes down on that. It is interesting to see people defending the rights of imprints though. This could quite swiftly turn into a pro-life/choice type debate.

I'm more interested in how the author saw the video as a way of illustrating how Dollhouse runs with a sexual exploitation theme while simultaneously performing it. For example the pilot, where we had an abuse storyline coupled with child abduction right away, but it was quite shallowly explored and had to be done with sexy secretary outfit and biker date creep warm up. Now when that stuff is done well (in later episodes) it's good thoughtful tv. But when it's not and everyone's "Fox"ed it just seems to be a massive exercise in irony.
Agreed, curlymynci. It treads pretty close to the line, and sometimes even oversteps it.
Am running late, and unfortunately don't have time to follow up properly on this fascinating discussion, but just wanted to quickly interject an interesting factoid that kind of relates.

In 1990, a Wisconsin man was charged with raping a woman with multiple personalities. The personality he was with at the time consented, but two of the woman's other personalities found out and filed charges. It was a fascinating case, as the different personalities gave testimony, and were treated as distinct people and sworn in separately. From a legal perspective, the woman was judged to be mentally ill, and not able to give consent at all. The man was convicted after a witness testified that the defendent knew about and undertood the woman's condition. However that testimony was later found to have been purjured (and that the witness was himself having sex with the woman), and the conviction was overturned.
Curlymynci: I think it's difficult to separate out what's well done and what's exploitative on Dollhouse because much of the thoughtfulness depends on the culminative effect of the episodes rather than the individual plotlines. For example, considered in isolation the creepy biker date has several standard exploitative elements not least the skirt skimming cinematography. But by the time we've seen Echo come back from several similar dates and then the same guy hires her as "Alice" the show's condemnation of his actions becomes impossible to ignore.

Another thing I liked about the vid, which hasn't been discussed so much here was that it wasn't simply applying 'rape' to scenes of Actives having sex while on mission but also making the point that the whole business of creating imprints and shoving them into bodies is just as much of a violation if not the primary violation - the final shot was of Topher conducting his latest brain masterpiece.
So the programmed ends justify the programming means, and we can make no moral/metaphysical judgment between them?


Nope, I'm not saying that. We can make all the moral judgements we want. I myself, for instance, think the Dollhouse is morally wrong in creating and, then, trashing/killing personalities and in taking people's bodies from them after manipulation or outright against their will (which is something we can probably all agree on, is morally wrong).

Do I then think these created personalities are not people, only because we can point at someone and say "see, he made them"? Nope. Do I think these people are being raped on their assignments? Nope, because they are consenting. Do I think the original personalities are being raped? Maybe. Depending on the way the imprint process works and if they are "in" their bodies, etcetera. It's a grey area. Is it morally wrong? Yep, big time.

The IVF analogy is unspeakably inapplicable -- a child born by whatever means is a child born. A person who grows and lives and evolves into a personality shaped only by the natural stimuli of the world around her. An imprint has none of that, just the sick and arrogant human hand imposing *every* aspect of it.


So, 'Mellie' is completely fake? As are 'Echo', 'Sierra', 'Victor', etcetera? It doesn't matter what happens to these people, or any of the other imprints we see, because someone made and/or compiled them from parts in a computer? Because of this, we don't view them as persons? I just don't hold to that.

My point with IVF was: a baby is a baby, wether it's been 'made' through IVF, or grown completely naturally. If we ever developped the technology to completely grow babies in tanks, the endresult would still be people.

In the same way, a person is a person. Regardless of if they grew and had "real" experiences, or if these experiences were picked and chosen from a database with experiences real people had (and in some cases maybe created, although we haven't had textual examples from the show for that yet) by a programmer like Topher. The end result is still a real person.

Having said this, the IVF example was maybe a bit of an unclear comparison, so let me state my intent with it: I wasn't comparing an IVF baby to an imprint, I was saying an IVF baby is to a baby what an imprint is to a 'normal' personality. Like with all analogies there's a few problems there, but mostly it holds.

An imprint, unlike an IVF child, isn't a "real person" in any sense of the word, no more than a simulation on a Holodeck.


Couldn't disagree more. These Holodeck characters - it's been a while since I saw Star Trek, so correct me if I'm wrong - are not self aware and not based on actual persons, right? That makes them different. If they are selfaware and have free will, etcetera then, even though they are programmed, I'd consider them real people. Just like I'd consider cylons real people, despite them being created by man.

Again, if you, today, found out that you were an 'imprint', would you then proceed to conclude you're not real and your personality is worthless and you have no free will, etcetera? I'd highly doubt it.

This could quite swiftly turn into a pro-life/choice type debate.


Really, curlymynci? I'm not that familiar with all the philosophical arguments in that discussion (it's not really an active issue, politcally, in The Netherlands), but if I or anyone else has been treading on the ground of that discussion, we might indeed be getting into dangerous territory here. Let me state that, at least, none of that is intended :).

As for me: I'm enjoying this discussion mostly because it's fantasy. While the themes hit on real-world issues, the fictional constructs themselves seem inherently unrealistic, so that we'd never get to quite this type of situation or this kind of discussion in real life (which is also what's making this difficult: we have no real benchmark for what we're talking about, morally speaking, in the real world).

And AlanD, that is interesting! Someone with multiple personalities seems like a better representation of the state of a Doll, than coma patient or dead people ;). Although, obviously, this wouldn't hold 100% either (are seperate personalities aware of each other on some level, on some subconscious level for insance?).

ETC: a few typo's

[ edited by GVH on 2009-04-27 18:17 ]
curlymynci said:
I'm more interested in how the author saw the video as a way of illustrating how Dollhouse runs with a sexual exploitation theme while simultaneously performing it.


I actually wanted to address that in my first post, but first I wanted to check the video again, and for some reason it took ages to load (still haven't been able to load it again).

Yes, there is a lot more interesting and subtle debate to be made about the irony of the premise vs. execution in the early episodes. But I don't think the video succeeded in exploring those at all. Hard to do in a video anyway. The episodes themselves did much better in that regard -- intentionally or not. If intentional, clearly done with a hand forced by FOX.

And it does seem intentional to me, because any storyteller would know, going in, that it's hard to avoid such irony, if you want to discuss these issues on network TV, not least on FOX. It is, however, something that's much harder to address overtly later on, without obliterating the fourth wall.

Could those early episodes have been done better? Certainly. Could they have been done much differently? Not sure about that. I do think that such an ironic presentation is pretty much necessary in order for the rest to work.

Tearing down the fantasy from the get-go is not only sure to alienate most of the audience you might have. It also lessens the subtlety of the argument later on. It would entirely get rid of one of the most important questions.

Skipping the discussion of rape for now, because what I have to say has pretty much been covered by everyone else. Although I'm on the side of those who think it's not so clear cut. :-)

waxbanks said:
What idiot is telling you that Y is a misogynist comic?


Don't worry, no idiot is ever going to be telling me anything. :-) We totally agree (about "Y"). It was just another example of what makes me baffled. "Y" as misogynist is the subject of probably the longest review written on the series (easy to find by Googling the title plus the obvious word). And it did manage to be a topic of debate for years.

It's not that it's now widely regarded as such. It's that anyone could read that into it, and turn the argument into page after page. Which, to me, is a symptom of where feminist criticism has gone the past 20 years. Lots of made up victimology that has written feminism into a corner: Had it been "X: The Last Woman", the woman would be the victim of 3 billion men. Since it's not, 3 billion women are the victims of the author.

Cerebus is misogynist [snip]


Oh yes. misogynist, misanthropic, but also profoundly flawed in its self-indulgence in the second half. And that was even before he started doing exactly the thing Whedon hopefully never will do in Dollhouse -- and thereby negated most of the story's value :-) (so, yes, I disagree with Cerebus's greatness).

ETA: Passable grammar

[ edited by Kaneda on 2009-04-27 18:20 ]
So, 'Mellie' is completely fake? As are 'Echo', 'Sierra', 'Victor', etcetera? It doesn't matter what happens to these people, or any of the other imprints we see, because someone made and/or compiled them from parts in a computer? Because of this, we don't view them as persons? I just don't hold to that.


Not to the point that it's irrelevant how people treat them, because to threat them badly is still an offense to basic charity between people and a stain on the actor. But to the extent that there is a proprietary conflict between imprint and true identity? There's not even a discussible question. If, for instance, Caroline's mother (assuming Alpha hasn't killed everybody related to her) found out about all this and demanded her daughter be restored, neither the innocent imprint (for example, Alice, the imprint in "Echoes") or the aware one (Julia from "Haunted") has any claim to continue to exist in Caroline's place.

Couldn't disagree more. These Holodeck characters - it's been a while since I saw Star Trek, so correct me if I'm wrong - are not self aware and not based on actual persons, right?


They're as self-aware as they're programmed to be, just like an imprint. They're unaware that they are holograms, but they are programmed to act as though they have a self-aware identity.

Again, if you, today, found out that you were an 'imprint', would you then proceed to conclude you're not real and your personality is worthless and you have no free will, etcetera? I'd highly doubt it.


Oh, I'd run -- everybody would. Everybody can make their play, sure, but if caught, they don't have any right to assert. I felt the same way watching "Total Recall" and "My Own Worst Enemy". I wasn't cheering for Quaid to get caught and turned back into Hauser, but Quaid would hardly have had a legitimate beef if he had been. Neither would Henry over Edward. But Caroline is a prisoner deep down in her own body, with part of her scooped out and the rest shoved down. That's not acceptable just because an imprint is told by a machine that it thinks that it's its own body.
Again, if you, today, found out that you were an 'imprint', would you then proceed to conclude you're not real and your personality is worthless and you have no free will, etcetera? I'd highly doubt it.


Everything about my suppposed past? Yes.
My future I would make my own.
Well, I imagine you might go a bit psycho and start slashing at all of the people around you before making your escape and then turning against the very place that made you...

I mean... you MIGHT do that...
hayes62 - I'm with you on the imprinting being a violation. Everything on this show is a violation. That's why I feel an exclusively rape focus misses the point.

GVH said:
I'm not that familiar with all the philosophical arguments in that discussion (it's not really an active issue, politcally, in The Netherlands), but if I or anyone else has been treading on the ground of that discussion, we might indeed be getting into dangerous territory here.


Oh god, don't listen to me that closely - I'm British. :o)
I just thought the conversation above looked like it was edging towards "Two individual's sharing a body, who has the rights?" debate. Lots of defining when a person is a person etc. Could get very messy.


Kaneda said:
...any storyteller would know, going in, that it's hard to avoid such irony, if you want to discuss these issues on network TV, not least on FOX.


Yes. I realise that. But it effectively makes you Boyd - intelligently disapproving but utterly utterly complicit.
One thing to noted is that in the Fantasticks the word "rape" is used in its historically literary sense (Latin "rapere") of "abduction" - and not the more modern sex related usage.

That doesn't mean that isn't how the fanvid author intended it.
However, the original meaning from the play does work as well. The actives' original selves have been abducted and can not escape their hard drive prison.

...speaking of which, interesting that shot of "Mellie" holding a 'mug shot' ID card. Perhaps the real purpose of the Dollhouses is a new form of prison?
But to the extent that there is a proprietary conflict between imprint and true identity? There's not even a discussible question.


Aren't we kind of proving this to be untrue right now, KoC? ;).

As for the rest: I'm making seperate arguments. Your reply is debating the 'owning the body' point, of which I'm not saying you're wrong per se, just that it's not as clear-cut morally and probably even legally as you're stating.

Th segments you've quoted from my post were arguing my other poinbt: that these imprints are real persons. These things are related, but not the same. (I.e.: an imprint being real is part of the reason I think the morality of 'owning' isn't as clear cut, but it's not the only argument).

They're as self-aware as they're programmed to be, just like an imprint. They're unaware that they are holograms, but they are programmed to act as though they have a self-aware identity.


Ah, but see, there's the difference. There's room between 'acting as though they have a self-aware identity' and having a self-aware identity. I'm saying imprints, like Echo and Mellie have self-aware identities, and aren't just programmed to act as though they have. Of course, in the extreme, this is the same thing. But I imagine the holodeck characters were not complete, three dimensional people. The imprints, as far as we've seen in Dollhouse so far, are.

Oh, I'd run -- everybody would.


Exactly. But would your finding out make you less real?

Oh, crap, I'm late for a meeting. Have to run :). I'll be interested to see where this discussion has gone when I get back :).
Yes. I realise that. But it effectively makes you Boyd - intelligently disapproving but utterly utterly complicit.

I think Boyd kinda is and kinda isn't. Not unlike a showrunner trying to do something both subversive and successful on network tv.
Well, I think it makes him sometimes Boyd. But sometimes he's Alpha - destroying the house from within. :o)
hayes62 said:
Another thing I liked about the vid, which hasn't been discussed so much here was that it wasn't simply applying 'rape' to scenes of Actives having sex while on mission but also making the point that the whole business of creating imprints and shoving them into bodies is just as much of a violation if not the primary violation.


Again, to me, that's the overarching point of the show. And yes, I do think that the imprint process itself (at the very least when not consensual) is closely related to (or identical to) rape, which itself, in the end, is not about sex.

And signing up to be a Doll is not much different from prostitution, whether sex is involved or not.

GVH said:
Really, curlymynci? I'm not that familiar with all the philosophical arguments in that discussion (it's not really an active issue, politcally, in The Netherlands)


Neither am I, GVH, not a real issue in Denmark either. But I think what curlymynci means is: We have the question of violation of body vs. mind; the question of what constitutes a person; etc.

curlymynci said:
Yes. I realise that. But it effectively makes you Boyd - intelligently disapproving but utterly utterly complicit.


Indeed it does. Producer and viewer both. The important question then becomes how many realize they're complicit. Whedon knows his Laura Mulvey. He also knows her ideas tend to lead to such ironies. :-)
Aren't we kind of proving this to be untrue right now, KoC? ;).


I'm sure we could make similarly lengthy motions toward arguing about the sum of 2 and 2, though.

I don't really think of the imprints as "real" at all. Even before Ballard turned his situation into a deeper moral quagmire in "Haunted", I doubt he has the luxury of thinking of the Mellie imprint as "real" either -- it's just a human recording device, an observer, a spy camera. And certainly the turn he made in "Haunted" didn't suggest he thinks of her as "real", probably due to the fact that being around her isn't like being around a person. He has no more call to be mean to her than he would to a stray dog, but the minute he decides she's a person and makes decisions about her only in that context, he'll probably get shot in the head because he let something slip.
Well, I think it makes him sometimes Boyd. But sometimes he's Alpha - destroying the house from within. :o)

There are also other writerly people shaping the thing, and then there's Topher.
"Are the actives are raped or not?;
If they signed on, knowing they would get sexual assignements, the no, it's not rape."

If you sign an illegal document, consent is meaningless. Does not matter what any doll signs on to. Further, if your even legal document does not give you the specifics of your use, it is meaningless. Consent requires information, and it also includes comprehension, voluntariness and lack of coercion- and we saw coercion in Echo's case, and we know it was there in Sierra's. The consent argument here is meaningless.

But I think you are all missing an obvious corollary. Let us take up the case of a person with clinical multiple personality disorder, like a Sybil. What is the real Sybil responsible for when another personality inhabits her body? If that personality commits murder, did Sybil commit murder? How would the jury decide, if indeed the doctors involved could convince the jury that she really did have MPD? If we had witnesses to the murder that Sybil did commit while another personality inhabited her, what then? Does she walk free, because it was not her, even though it was? Does she get put into a mental hospital? After all, Sybil is fine and healthy; it is her other personalities that are not. If she had sex while in another personality, was she raped? How do we view Faith in Buffy's body having sex with Riley? That is was okay, because after all Riley had had sex with that body before and the mind in it now was consenting? (which tangentially asks, what about Spike and Buffy in Seeing Red?).

Another thought. Echo gets imprinted. But Echo is not real. She is an imprint. Who herself gets imprinted. Echo is not freely giving consent, because Echo is a construct- and I think we need to move away from this idea that all we all are is constructs. The law would not care that you are nothing more than the sum of your upbringing; that does not excuse you raping someone. It may mitigate it a bit, but not excuse it.

Would it be rape if someone had sex with an anencephilic person, should one be able to live to an adult age? There is no mind in there, and there will never be a mind in there. Is it rape to have sex with that body? That body cannot consent, can never consent. I would still say that it is rape, because that body cannot assent to the action taking place on it. Why is Caroline any different? Because she signed some magical document that told her all the specific uses and situations she could potentially find herself in? A document that is illegal and nonbinding to begin with?

If I got drunk and you took advantage of that to have sex with me, well, when I was drunk I had a different personality, one that is not the me you are accustomed to. But the law still finds you guilty of rape, because when I am drunk, and ergo not myself, I cannot give consent. This is no different for an imprinted doll; they are not themselves, not the actual mind belonging to the body that existed pre-DH.

Is there anyone here who will defend what Ballard just did to Mellie? I sure as hell won't. So why is that situation any different than what is happening to Echo, SIerra and Victor? I am shocked that there is even a debate on as sensitive an issue as this, and if we are going to sit here and split hairs that what is happening is in any way okay, I hope the show gets cancelled. That's how strongly I feel about this issue.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-04-27 19:12 ]

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-04-27 19:15 ]
I will give Ballard a qualified defense insofar that he is still all but forced at gunpoint to have sex with the Mellie imprint as may be necessary to maintain his cover -- he's as much a victim as "November" is in that sense. I also am not really all that affected by what he does "to Mellie", but rather what he does to "November" (the actual woman, known only by her 'slave name', who is pressed into service in this sense). But obviously the way Ballard approached it wasn't "okay", at all, like his situation, trapped in the Mellie/Dollhouse pitcher plant, gives him license to have his way with her.

On a similar note, your reference to "Who Are You?" ignores that not only is Buffy sexually victimized by Faith in that episode, Riley is as well.
Dana, those are some strong points. And I think I tend to agree with them... sort of.

Another thought. Echo gets imprinted. But Echo is not real. She is an imprint. Who herself gets imprinted. Echo is not freely giving consent, because Echo is a construct- and I think we need to move away from this idea that all we all are is constructs. The law would not care that you are nothing more than the sum of your upbringing; that does not excuse you raping someone. It may mitigate it a bit, but not excuse it.


I don't think that the implication of the fact that "all we are is constructs" is that therefore we are NOT responsible for our actions. But, you're saying that Echo is NOT giving consent because she's a construct, which is the opposite of what you seem to be arguing. (I'm assuming that when you say "Echo is not freely giving consent, because Echo is a construct" you mean a particular imprint is not freely giving consent because she is a construct - though the same could be said of Echo's willingness to be imprinted.) So, you're saying that because Echo is a construct, she is NOT responsible for her actions (for giving consent) and then sayign that is not a viable conclusion for us to make about constructs.

Also, you are of course absolutely right about the legality (or lack thereof) of the contract that the dolls sign. First of all, there is very likely not fully informed consent; secondly, even fully informed consent does not make a contract for slavery legal.

That may make the consent argument legally meaningless, but not necessarily morally meaningless. Why should one not be allowed to sign a contract that says "you may use my body however you like for X years and not harm it, and then you will give it back to me along with Y dollars?" What is it about a body that makes it different from a car or a house, in that sense?

Finally (your post brought up a lot of issues!), you said "Echo gets imprinted. But Echo is not real. She is an imprint. Who herself gets imprinted." Is that really the case? (This is an actual, not a rhetorical question.) Does "Echo" get imprinted, or does "Echo" get stored on a hard drive while an imprint is put in the body that Echo inhabited earlier (and that Caroline inhabited before that)? Is there a difference?
We are presuming that the dollhouses are illegal, aren't we?
What if they have been given the legal basis to operate, just very secretly? Some parts of the government know, others do not. The DHs may even serve a useful purpose to the government (privatized prisons).

What if you could be spared the hassle of living through 5 years of prison if you were willing to work as a (legal) prostitute?

Is it possible to consent to work as a prostitute, consent to not remember the time period you engage in this activity, and have consensual sex?

Now the Dollhouse version of consent doesn't seem to mind strong arm tactics, but that's another aspect to argue.
Anyway, just throwing this out as I try to ponder all of these arguments. :)
Finally (your post brought up a lot of issues!), you said "Echo gets imprinted. But Echo is not real. She is an imprint. Who herself gets imprinted." Is that really the case? (This is an actual, not a rhetorical question.) Does "Echo" get imprinted, or does "Echo" get stored on a hard drive while an imprint is put in the body that Echo inhabited earlier (and that Caroline inhabited before that)? Is there a difference?


Speaking as someone with extensive computer knowledge on the hardware and software levels, this is my take:
The doll "personality" (ie. Echo) has been shown to be the equivalent of a computer's operating system: It's an empty program just waiting for a piece of code (an imprint) to be loaded on top of it. In other words, the doll is always present.
I think that too, but it gets trickier since as far as Echo's concerned, she sat in Topher's chair and took a momentary nap. She knows nothing except the world of the Dollhouse unless there's a bug. And apparently she's particularly buggy. So in one sense, Echo never left the building. In another sense she must have, because little things get retained after Topher ends the program.
I don't have time to get involved in this discussion :-) , but let me point out that the show makes clear that the Dollhouse is clandestine, illegal (at least if Ballard could prove it to his superiors), and with an ulterior unknown motive. We can discuss the ethical and moral issues of what is going on, but in the show it is not condoned.

This is only a problem for people that don't like grey, think people they like can only do right, and people they hate can only do wrong. All the characters have done right and wrong, are likable *and* hateful. (As someone mentioned earlier, Hearn is totally despicable, but he still makes a valid argument that the Dollhouse business isn't much better.)
Each doll is custom made for each new active.They have to be since each host body has its own, unique neural make-up which the doll personality has to control. This is why when first we see new actives being introduced to the Dollhouse they seem to be going through a far more invasive process than the standard run-of-the-mill imprinting procedure. The doll "personality" itself has built into it a kind of personality-less personality which is what you see when an imprint is not currently in place. It's just like if you took the hard drive out of your computer and started it: You still see something on the screen (the BIOS), which just sits there and waits for something to be loaded on top of it.
Ok, I like that analogy much, much better than others I've seen.
There's more to this analogy as well. When looked at from the point of view of an operating systems programmer, the whole Doll system makes a suspicious amount of sense. I don't know if anyone in the fandom has successfully analyzed the scientific underpinnings of this system yet (as much as it can be this early in the game), but I'm beginning to feel inclined to attempt it. Somewhere.
KOC: "On a similar note, your reference to "Who Are You?" ignores that not only is Buffy sexually victimized by Faith in that episode, Riley is as well." I do not ignore this, but felt that it was a slightly different issue since Riley is acting as his own person, not knowing that there is something "off" with the women he loves. But I surely do not mean to minimize that issue qua issue. I do think he is victimized as well, no question.

Septimus, I meant that Echo does not really exist. Echo is an overlay on a woman named Caroline, and to me Caroline is all that matters. Not Echo, as she is not actually real. Caroline is real. Echo may have free choice within the parameters of her programming, but it is her programming that gives her that appearance of choice. Caroline, however, has no choice. And yet it is Caroline that things happen to; if Echo were to die, Caroline does as well. But if we simply delete the programming called "Echo," Caroline returns. Caroline is the framework.

ETA: "What if they have been given the legal basis to operate, just very secretly?" You mean, like just writing a new law that says waterboarding is not torture after 50 years of saying it is? That's simple definitionism. Making a law may make it legal, but it hardly makes it morally right. As we are seeing right now.

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-04-27 21:39 ]
The system is completely buggy--Echo is glitching, Alpha composited-out, an airborne drug had the actives flashing back, and Victor said he feels himself inside of the inactive doll, but is unable to exert any control.

These glitches tell me that there isn't a wiping of the subjects, so much as a repression of who they are. As such, I don't buy the theory that these people have been murdered--merely repressed. Sure, the dollhouse has the technology to collect and re-apply imprints, but I view it more as high-tech brain-washing. Topher may have ways of manipulating Caroline's brain into believing that she is someone else, and he can give her the memories and thought patterns of that person, but it's still written on Caroline's brain.

What if I were hypnotized to think I'm a duck? Does that make me a duck? Or just someone who has every reason to think I'm a duck? Obviously, the technology in the dollhouse goes further, but all it's really doing is giving parameters for the brain to think a certain way. I absolutely do not believe the imprints are separate people, even if they believe themselves to be. Someone under hypnosis/mind washing is the wrong person to ask how real they are, because the point of the hypnosis/mind washing is for them to believe they are what they have been manipulated to think they are.

The problem I have with any "consent" is that it cannot be rescinded. Even if Caroline was briefed in full as to what would be required as an active, she can never change her mind. Even if we consider the military as akin to becoming a doll (which is not something I agree with), a soldier has a choice to follow his/her free willóthere are choices, even if some of those choices suck. Once wiped, the dolls donít have a choice of deciding this life isnít for themóitís one thing to be told youíll have to sleep with random people you wonít remember, but itís another to actually face the reality of it. Now obviously, the point is the dolls donít have to face the reality, but still, giving oneís body over for 5 years to be used any way seen fit by shady underworld people is not a choice most people would make--and it's a choice one could very well regret should one ever find out just what one did.

[ edited by Dizzy on 2009-04-27 21:44 ]
I think Caroline's on a disk in Topher's lab. I don't think deleting Echo brings Caroline back. I think Caroline has to be put back in.
And? Does this actually change anything?
Echo's what's left when Caroline's gone. She's not an overlay. She's not in addition to Caroline. She's everything except Caroline. Echo's actually the framework. I expect you can't put Caroline back together without Echo.
[ETA: I think we need to be careful when referring to "Caroline" and "Echo" and "any given imprint." When all works right, they are three differnet beings: a person, a BIOS (good analogy), and an imprint. In the working situation, Echo is just the BIOS, but clearly that's not the case since she has started to remember things and to want things. And, the imprints remember and want things, too.]

Well, it could change something, since it means you don't have to think of them as either/or existences.

Or, I guess the other way to put this is "why is Caroline's existence any more 'real' or valuable than Echo's (or an imprint's)?" (Note, this is not the same as the question that KoC brings up about who has a rightful claim to the body.)

Is it just because Caroline is the result of the "traditional" way that we make human subjects (having babies, raising them in the world, and having them develop through experience) while the imprint is the result of a "non-traditional" way (programming them in a lab from bits and pieces)? That doesn't seem like a very compelling reason, and it's the same reason that artificial intelligences in general are hated/feared in lots of science fiction (think Blade Runner or BSG).

If it's because the imprints are supposed to be in some way inferior copies/versions of real people, that just seems like begging the question. The point is: why is an imprint any less real or valuable if s/he is just like a human subject in every other way? I think it would be hard to argue that "Roger" for instance has less real human subjectivity than someone with a congenital mental disorder, right?

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-04-27 21:57 ]
Clarification: Caroline was saved to disk, then over-written with Echo who regularly gets fed imprints to run.
I see Caroline and Echo as flip sides of the same coin. Say Caroline has seven switches in her head. If they're all on, she's Caroline. If they all are switched off, she's Echo. The glitching happens when an outside influence flips some of these switches back on. I feel for Echo because of (not despite) the fact that I feel for Caroline underneath. That's how I see it, anyway.

Of course, the way I see it? Topher only thinks he's got Caroline on a disk and nowhere else. What he actually did is saved a copy somewhere else -- he didn't move Caroline completely.
As far as the scientific understanding goes in the Dollhouse itself, Caroline was over-written, ie. not there anymore. But is she still there on some deeper neural level than even someone like Topher can comprehend? That was the thesis statement Joss mentioned in the run-up to Dollhouse. Just like how Firefly was about nine very different people looking into the great unknown and what they each saw or reacted to.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-04-27 22:23 ]

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-04-27 22:27 ]
That was the thesis question. :)
...well ...gorram it I'm sticking with 'statement'. The thesis statement for Dollhouse is a question, that's all!
Or, I guess the other way to put this is "why is Caroline's existence any more 'real' or valuable than Echo's (or an imprint's)?" (Note, this is not the same as the question that KoC brings up about who has a rightful claim to the body.)


Yes. That. Although, of course, in the debate about 'rightful claim', this question of why it is or isn't more 'real' or valuable does come up. Anyway, I agree with pretty much everything Septimus had to say on this topic, a couple of posts upthread.

Dana also said a couple of things upthread, which I'd like to go into. First off:

But I think you are all missing an obvious corollary. Let us take up the case of a person with clinical multiple personality disorder, like a Sybil. What is the real Sybil responsible for when another personality inhabits her body? If that personality commits murder, did Sybil commit murder? How would the jury decide, if indeed the doctors involved could convince the jury that she really did have MPD? If we had witnesses to the murder that Sybil did commit while another personality inhabited her, what then? Does she walk free, because it was not her, even though it was? Does she get put into a mental hospital? After all, Sybil is fine and healthy; it is her other personalities that are not.


I'd say that she gets locked up, but only because these personalities are all stuck in the same body. I'd say her other personalities would not, morally, be blamed for those actions, but since they're all stuck in one body, it's tough luck. Now I'm not quite sure how MPD works: if these are actual seperate persons or just a dillusion of seperate persons, with one "meta-person" being aware of everything. Because in that case, the meta-personality "underneath" is probably the one who should be blamed (even if they weren't legally to be blamed). If a person with MPD gets treated, does a 'new' person then emerge when they are cured, or does one of the personalities survive and claim "victory"? The answer to that, would influence my definitive answer on your questions in this.

If she had sex while in another personality, was she raped? How do we view Faith in Buffy's body having sex with Riley? That is was okay, because after all Riley had had sex with that body before and the mind in it now was consenting? (which tangentially asks, what about Spike and Buffy in Seeing Red?).


Then that personality had sex and a seperate, unaware personality was not raped, just like a possible 'meta-person', if they exist, was not.

Faith in Buffy's body having sex with Riley? The only one being raped there is Riley, because he is not having sex with the person he's consenting to have sex with. Faith wants to have sex with Riley and Buffy's body is just that: a body. She's actually Faith. Buffy isn't there, she's in Faith's body, so she can't be raped by anyone in that situation. Now the fact that her body was taken from her is morally akin to rape. I'd say it's about as bad. But it's not rape. And even if it was rape, the rape would be the taking of the body by Faith, not the sex with Riley.

Same thing goes for Caroline: the fact that her body - clearly not entirely of free will - is being taken away from her, is morally akin to rape and very, very bad. But when her body has sex with clients, with another personality present, Caroline is not being raped, since she's not there.

Another thought. Echo gets imprinted. But Echo is not real. She is an imprint. Who herself gets imprinted. Echo is not freely giving consent, because Echo is a construct-


Well, the discussion has moved on, and I quite like the idea of Echo as a BIOS and the imprints being different Operating Systems, with Caroline being the original OS. Because it does seem that 'Echo' is inherently different from the other imprints. I'm still not completely convinced the analogy holds, but I do like it.

and I think we need to move away from this idea that all we all are is constructs. The law would not care that you are nothing more than the sum of your upbringing; that does not excuse you raping someone. It may mitigate it a bit, but not excuse it.


Was anyone actually saying that? In fact, I think in my case this was the point. We're all constructs. Us 'regular' people and imprints alike. And all of us are real persons with the rights and obligations that that brings with it.

Would it be rape if someone had sex with an anencephilic person, should one be able to live to an adult age? There is no mind in there, and there will never be a mind in there. Is it rape to have sex with that body? That body cannot consent, can never consent. I would still say that it is rape, because that body cannot assent to the action taking place on it.


Here I'm not sure on the question of who is being raped, although the action itself does seem like rape. But if it is just an empty body, then, maybe, it isn't rape at all. I'm not sure. But I am quite certain that it is morally unacceptable regardless of the question if it's rape or not.

Why is Caroline any different? Because she signed some magical document that told her all the specific uses and situations she could potentially find herself in? A document that is illegal and nonbinding to begin with?


No, it's different because someone else is running the body. Caroline is somewhere on a harddisc, and the empty shell is left and has been filled with a new person who is consenting. That's an entirely different ballgame.

If I got drunk and you took advantage of that to have sex with me, well, when I was drunk I had a different personality, one that is not the me you are accustomed to. But the law still finds you guilty of rape, because when I am drunk, and ergo not myself, I cannot give consent. This is no different for an imprinted doll; they are not themselves, not the actual mind belonging to the body that existed pre-DH.


Ah, but the difference there is that it's still you. It's you under the influence of something, making you irresponsible for your own actions, but still you. Not some entirely seperate entity inhabiting your body.

Is there anyone here who will defend what Ballard just did to Mellie? I sure as hell won't. So why is that situation any different than what is happening to Echo, SIerra and Victor? I am shocked that there is even a debate on as sensitive an issue as this, and if we are going to sit here and split hairs that what is happening is in any way okay, I hope the show gets cancelled. That's how strongly I feel about this issue.


Fair enough, Dana, everyone is entitled to their opinions. As for Ballard: I'd say his actions are morally bad, because to him, Mellie isn't a real person and she can therefore not consent. At the very least, the show is implying that this is how he sees things. And therefore, he's raping her, because he believes he's raping her. But while he is performing rape, I still don't think that Mellie - or, for that matter, the original owner of her body - is being raped. In fact, back when he did not know that Mellie was an active, there was no rape to begin with, as far as I'm concerned. Ballard was at that time having sex with a person (because, like I've stated, I believe the Mellie imprint is a person, even if Ballard now doesn't) who consented.

Finally, I wanted to respond to Dizzy's post. In it, he said:

These glitches tell me that there isn't a wiping of the subjects, so much as a repression of who they are. As such, I don't buy the theory that these people have been murdered--merely repressed.


I think I was probably the one to bring up murder? Anyway, I know that I (can't speak for anyone else :)) certainly never considered the wiping of the original personalities, as being murder. They do, after all, get stored. Now if they'd delete that harddisc without making any back-up whatsoever, than that would be murder. Plus, I'd also consider the trashing of newly created imprints murder.

Sure, the dollhouse has the technology to collect and re-apply imprints, but I view it more as high-tech brain-washing. Topher may have ways of manipulating Caroline's brain into believing that she is someone else, and he can give her the memories and thought patterns of that person, but it's still written on Caroline's brain.


Ah, but then the question becomes if Topher actually is doing that, manipulating Caroline into believing something. Because maybe she's actually wiped and replaced with something else. My instinct would say the latter, and I think most glitches could also be explained from that point of view (like I said upthread, as residual data being left behind on a harddisc when one deletes a file: the information is still there, ready to get written over, but it's just not accessible at the moment). I'm sure they plan to do a format of the system, but it's probably not as efficient as they'd like.

Now if it does turn out to be the former (i.e. brainwashed personalities), then all bets are off. It becomes an entirely different argument quite quickly, and I'd have to go back on nearly all my conclusions in this thread, simply because they all hang on the assumption that these imprints are complete personalities which can be stored on a hard drive (just like the original personality can) and can be put into a body.

In fact, 'Haunted' actually added to my belief in this particular take. Take the woman there, the main character of the episode - her name escapes me right now. If it wasn't actually her in there, but it was just Caroline hypnothised into believing she was her, than that episode would be much less interesting and powerfull and Boyd's quite accurate warning that they were messing with the possibility of eternal life would be much less impressive. I'd say that in that episode Caroline's body was actually inhabited by that person, and for all intents and purposes became her. Just like she could become Caroline again by loading that personality.

As for what 'Echo' is, I'm still on the fence. I think I consider her as a complete personality as well, just like Caroline or any of the imprints. At the very least, that's what I feel when watching. But I'm not sure if she is, in fact, a complete person, or just a BIOS with leftover programming on top of it, making her 'more' than just an empty body, but probably less than a "real person".

ETA: on further reflection, I do wonder if the BIOS thing is correct as an analogy for Echo. It seems like 'Echo' has too much inherrent personality to be purely something they load a new personality "on top" of. Because then, would the main character in 'Haunted' still be herself, or would she be someone different, because she's now loaded on top of 'Echo' instead of the BIOS in her body? And shouldn't these BIOS-es all be the same and devoid of personality to begin with anyway?

In fact, I think I prefer to think of 'Echo' as a placeholder program which they use to keep the body fit and in shape - somewhat akin to a screen saver - which gets 'removed' or 'deactivated' when an imprint "inhabits" the body. And this placeholder is - thanks to glitches - now becoming more, almost an entirely new person. She's 'gaining person status' so to speak, becoming more and more on level footing with the other imprints and the original personalities.

Not quite sure that that is the correct way to look at 'Echo' either, but I thought I'd just throw those observations out there, since this post was in no way too long already ;).

[ edited by GVH on 2009-04-28 01:37 ]
Great discussion but since I'm massively busy I'm just going to respond to one point. This:

If you sign an illegal document, consent is meaningless. Does not matter what any doll signs on to. Further, if your even legal document does not give you the specifics of your use, it is meaningless. Consent requires information, and it also includes comprehension, voluntariness and lack of coercion- and we saw coercion in Echo's case, and we know it was there in Sierra's. The consent argument here is meaningless.

Dana5140, that's a false comparison. If a person signs an illegal document the law says as a matter of policy that that contract is not binding. It does not say that there was no consent and therefore the contract is not binding. They law accepts that there was consent but says it's still not binding because we don't want it to be. Similarly, if the Dollhouse's operation is illegal (that's an interesting argument) the contracts the actives signed would be void. But that's an entirely different question to the question of whether or not they were raped, a question which revolves around whether or not they consented .

And to respond to your second point in your paragraph (that if a person consents without all the information that's not real consent). Sort of:

- It certainly (and obviously) requires knowledge that you'll be having sex. Do the actives have this? We haven't seen them specifically told this but as Saje has mentioned in other threads if they didn't know they're deeply naive. If someone said to me 'we're going to erase your personality and from time to time imprint you with new personalities and people will come to us and hire you out for whatever they want no questions asked' my first thought (and I think almost everybodys') would be 'oh, for sex'. I really think it's reading against the grain of the text to try to suggest that the actives don't have knowledge that they'll have sex (again, Priya excepted)

- As to other 'information' about it. I don't agree that they need to know everything for it to constitute consent. For example, in a classic English case a man told a woman (I think she was a virgin) that he'd marry her if she slept with him. They slept together and then he skipped town. IMO he's a bastard - but the court held (and, I think, rightly) that it wasn't rape. She consented to sex even though she was misled as to surrounding details.

- On your point about lack of coercion I think you're on strongest ground. But agh, I have to go
To me, the premise of DH has always been that they can wipe minds and implant new ones. People who don't accept that premise are naturally are going to see the show quite differently than I.

By the same token, if somebody doesn't accept the premise that vampires and demons are real, then they are going to have a very different view of Buffy. To them it may appear to be an abhorrent glorification of a deluded creepy mass-murdering teen (with stylish but affordable boots).

Of course there was very little moral ambiguity surrounding Buffy; it was fairly black and white. The lines got a little blurrier in Angel, blurrier still in Firefly, and even blurrier in Serenity. In Dr Horrible, the line between hero and villain was completely subverted, as black and white bled into each other. Now in Dollhouse the moral compass is spinning like a top, and it's shades of grey everywhere. Everything is open to interpretation, nothing is to be trusted, and I fully expect the premise I adore to be twisted around once or twice before all is said in done. Oh yeah, and I'm loving every second of it.

Which leads to the very troubling question: what is Cabin in the Woods going to be like?
ETA: on further reflection, I do wonder if the BIOS thing is correct as an analogy for Echo. It seems like 'Echo' has too much inherrent personality to be purely something they load a new personality "on top" of. Because then, would the main character in 'Haunted' still be herself, or would she be someone different, because she's now loaded on top of 'Echo' instead of the BIOS in her body? And shouldn't these BIOS-es all be the same and devoid of personality to begin with anyway?


I think you hit the proverbial nail on the head: They (the doll "BIOS" personas) should all be the same and, I would argue, in fact are.
The... variances we as the viewers are constantly picking up from the dolls don't come from the doll personality at all. That's the whole point. There's something else in there, in Echo, that is still Caroline. It's jut that we, and most especially the Dollhouse, don't know what, where, or really if it's there in the first place.

In fact, I think I prefer to think of 'Echo' as a placeholder program which they use to keep the body fit and in shape - somewhat akin to a screen saver - which gets 'removed' or 'deactivated' when an imprint "inhabits" the body. [...]


If this were the case, then the incident in the episode with the vault robbery wouldn't have played out the way it did.
Normally upon returning to the Dollhouse, an active has its current imprint's state information (post imprint memories, etc) archived followed by the DollTec triggering the doll personality's built-in reset routine (aka wiping), erasing the current imprint and its associated data. When (apparently) Alpha hacked into Echo's com and triggered its reset switch, we were not presented with a totally empty mind or Caroline un-suppressed, but with Echo, the doll personality, in its post-wipe imprint-less state complete with the routine "Did I fall asleep?" line.

As long as Caroline is a doll, Echo's always there. Unless of course something really bad happens...
To me, the premise of DH has always been that they can wipe minds and implant new ones. People who don't accept that premise are naturally are going to see the show quite differently than I.

By the same token, if somebody doesn't accept the premise that vampires and demons are real, then they are going to have a very different view of Buffy. To them it may appear to be an abhorrent glorification of a deluded creepy mass-murdering teen (with stylish but affordable boots).


As someone who doesn't accept the that the technology actually wipes a person and implants a new one, I think this is a little unfair. I'm not trying to twist the premise because I'm too stubborn or too thick to accept the truth of the show (as your example of someone who doesn't believe Buffy is fighting demons would have to be). I base my belief on what we've been shown--I listed examples above that prove the wipes are at the very least, not complete. If someone is wiped completely, why is Echo glitching, what happened with Alpha, where do the flashbacks come from, and why did Victor say he was conscious while in the doll state yet unable to control himself? Obviously the wiping process leaves a lot to be desired.

You are correct, though in that it changes my view of what's going on. I see the whole process as tinkering with a brain--and doing a rather poor job at it--but not implanting a soul. Caroline was made into Echo by manipulating her brain, and further manipulations cause her to take on different personalities. I just can't see them as separate people, even if the imprints themselves come from separate people. Caroline is breaking through--the imprints are being tainted by choices that come from her--if she's not there, where are these glitches coming from? And if she is there, if she is starting to control her imprints, then I can only accept the imprints as manipulations of the brain, not actual people.

Let's look at real-life example: say someone gets into a car accident and suffers major brain trauma. Often people emerge with completely different personalities after such trauma. Sometimes memory is affected, so they can't even remember who they really were before. Is the person they were before a different person from the brain-damaged person they are now? What about someone who is lobotomized? What about someone who takes drugs to control their bipolar tendencies? The brain can be so easily messed up, tinkered with, toyed with--when an outside force physically affects brain function and personality, where do we draw the line in what creates a new identity?

Sorry, there is a LOT more I'd like to address in this thread, but I'm really tired, heh. I am enjoying the discourse, though, this all makes for interesting reading. :)
Just wanted to say that I too found it surprising it was a critique upon reading the video's comments. Nothing in the video suggested to me that it was.

I thought it did a great job of amplifying the show's premise.
As someone who doesn't accept the that the technology actually wipes a person and implants a new one, I think this is a little unfair.


I don't think it's that unfair. Wiping and implanting minds is how the show has been pitched and described since day one (see the first 40 seconds of this clip for example). The entirely unsurprising and unremarkable fact that there are glitches in the technology doesn't contradict this.

Of course you are free to view and interpret the show any way you want. My point is simply that if you deny the show's fundamental premise, then you are seeing a fundamentally different show than I. (and I can certainly understand how that other show could be viewed as BrainwashingRapeHouse)
OK, maybe I wasn't being clear in stating my thoughts--tends to happen with me, heh.

I'm not arguing that the dolls aren't wiped and imprinted--my argument is that the wiping isn't what we think it is (i.e that the former personality is completely removed), and that the imprints aren't separate people with their own rights to exist. A lot of people are equating the imprints as new people, or in the case of Haunted, the actual person living beyond the grave. I don't buy into that. The real Margaret wasn't walking around in Caroline's body--the real Margaret was in her grave, and her conscious died with her. Just because she had her brain mapped and imprinted onto a young woman doesn't make that young woman actually Margaret. If I had my brain copied and imprinted on a super model, can I then say YAY! I'm a super model? Would it then be OK for me to die, happy to know that I live on in a super model's body? Yeah, I don't think so. She's not me. She may think she's me, but she isn't.

(That's not to say I don't see a use for this technology--map a dying genius, imprint someone young, and the brilliant mind is not only saved, but can continue growing and working. Still, it's not immortality for the genius, the genius is dead--it's manipulating someone's brain with the thought patterns, memories, and personality of the genius. In other words high-tech brainwashing.)

The glitches are notable because they're revealing there is far more going on than the simple clean slate Adelle promised. ALL the actives we know are glitching--flashing back, breaking through imprints, and otherwise proving that the first true personalities still exist in these bodies, and they are capable of recalling engagements even after their wipes. If you're going to lecture me on understanding the premise, then don't forget the part where Joss explained the turning point is that Echo starts to remember. What's been interesting and unexpected is that Echo isn't the only one, as the flashbacks the other dolls suffer in Echoes proves. If Victor, November, and Sierra are wiped, where are these flashbacks coming from?

And just because Joss has laid out a simple premise doesn't mean there aren't details he's not sharing. Am I right in how I'm interpreting imprinting? I haven't a clue, but I do know that just because Joss says something doesn't mean he's said everything. After all, Miracle and Enver were recast in different roles, right? Ummm...

Finally, I don't deny the show's fundamental premise--I see it differently from you. Nothing Joss says in that clip you provided contradicts my interpretation. He merely states that dolls are wiped and then imprinted. I think he's misleading us as to what the process is and the end results, but I'm not saying wiping and imprinting aren't happening.
I get that you don't buy into the idea that the technology is doing what it purports. Fair enough. But I don't see that the wipes not being clean in any way implies that the imprints aren't legitimate.

To draw an analogy with Star Trek, a person could say that they don't buy into the transporter technology. So to them, Star Trek isn't a show about Spock and Kirk exploring the cosmos, because Spock and Kirk were killed the second they transported, ripped apart atom by atom and destroyed, and replaced by soulless simulacrums. It's a valid interpetation, which doesn't contradict anything in the show, and has even been hinted at in some of the Next Generation episodes. But I think it rings hollow.

Getting back to DH, I have a hard time picturing Joss in the writers room saying, "hey gang, instead of making this cool show where you can swap minds around and create new people and personality mashups and explore all these fascinating concepts about identity and self, let's make a show where that's not happening, and it's really just about brainwashing and rape."

Of course I could be wrong, and you could be right. Time will tell. Frankly, I expect Joss will surprise us both.
I think it's worth keeping in mind that we're learning about the mind-wiping techniques by watching the exceptional cases where things go wrong. Even as Echo and now some secondary characters prove resilient to the techniques, most of the Actives are not glitching. Topher's got a houseful of Actives who aren't glitching. "I like pancakes" is the rule. "I'm not broken" and the like is so exceptional that Dominic quite accurately recognized Echo as a huge security threat early on.

The Dollhouse deliberately triggered the residual memories that surfaced in "Needs" by giving the Actives in the experiment their personalities back but not their memories and by letting them go do whatever it was they were inclined to do. And then it brought them back and wiped them clean. It seems to have worked for everyone except Echo. Maintaining control by lightly loosening it for awhile and letting things play out so as to tighten the grip afterwards is the scariest thing they've done other than wipe Dominic. That's power.
Even if Echo is an exception surely the fact that she exists at all indicates that the process may not be exactly what it claims to be. I think this would be a situation where to justify using the dolls the way the Dollhouse uses them youíd have to prove that an imprint was different from a brainwash *beyond reasonable doubt* rather than on the *balance of evidence.* Because if you were wrong, what you would have is a system of instituitional rape with plausible denialbility. And that would be bad.
AlanD, I've heard the Star Trek/transporter thing before, and really, while I know scientifically what needs to happen for a transporter to work, that whole thing gets filed away with sound in space and FTLT. While some may take a different view, transporters are not the premise of the show, and there's really nothing to be gained in looking so deeply into the science. Dollhouse on the other hand is wide open to interpretation, and almost any theory can be valid because it's still a developing show. Part of the excitement in watching it is seeing how everyones' theories hold up, and seeing how Joss can surprise us.

I think the main issue I have with accepting the imprints as people separate from the dolls is that unlike Star Trek or even Buffy, Dollhouse is very grounded in reality. Other than the technology, there is nothing that suggests that world is any different from the one we're living in. There's nothing metaphysical going on--so far everything's been based on science and technology (wacky sci-fi science and technology, but still).

I'm not sure how to explain this... OK, I'm pretty much agnostic, and I'm going to use a term I'm not sure fits, but it's all I have--soul. What makes a person a person and not just a construct or a body or upgraded computer? What is the soul? Does mapping a brain and imprinting someone else with that mapping transfer the soul? See, I just can't make that leap, not with this show, at least not with what I've seen so far. That's not to say Joss couldn't convince me that this world has metaphysical elements and thus there's a way, through a medical procedure, a soul can be transfered or copied. I'm just not convinced that preforming a medical procedure (no matter how sci-fi high tech) is enough to make an entirely different person with the same right to exist as the original personality.

I admit, it's a block for me. I try to see it as a lot of other people do, but I just can't. Caroline is Caroline even if she's Echo and even if she's Margaret--she's just had her brain manipulated into believing differently.

And again, just because I see the show differently from you does not mean what I'm seeing is less complex. Really, I am getting tired of being told that I must be watching a show that's only about brainwashing and rape, because the show I'm watching has a lot more layers to it. Joss is absolutely exploring what it means to be a person, what makes up an identity. Just because I'm not buying the imprint-as-separate-people theory doesn't mean I'm not open to where Joss is taking us, or that he can't convince me that yes, imprints are people too--but thus far, I'm not buying it. And that's ok, because we don't have many answers yet. I could be right, I could be wrong; I don't really care, so long as it's good. And I expect it will be.

Sunfire I get what you're saying. The glitching might have been happening for years but was overlooked/brushed off until Alpha. Or maybe someone is messing with the works. Considering the dolls we're seeing glitch are the ones closest to Echo, it's rather obvious that Alpha is doing something.

And yeah, I found what the dollhouse did in Needs to be chilling.
hayes62, I don't think my understanding of the methods they're using justifies anything the Dollhouse is doing. It might mean that the moral implications might differ a bit compared to other technical scenarios, but it doesn't remove the moral implications. Which are still massive and deeply disturbing. There's still a house full of mindwiped people, no matter how Topher achieves that. "Needs" and "Spy" gave me more insight into how it works, and it was fascinating. The other result for me was that the show got way, way scarier. Program Echo to be the perfect girlfriend and forget it later? Creepy as hell, but totally what I'd expect the technology to be used for. Let her wake up in captivity and liberate the household on a neurological timer so you can control her better afterward? Holy hell.

Have the up-until-then most sympathetic, defending-the-Dolls-as-people employee come up with the plan to both "help" the Dolls and help the Dollhouse at the same time? Masterful.
sunfire: I didn't mean to argue against your understanding so much. More that it seems the more you think about the Dollhouse the more disturbing it gets. The recklessness of them doing what they do without knowing what they're doing (scientifically) was one that only just struck me.
re: the soul, I can imagine that that would lead you to your interpretation, Dizzy. It's still not my interpretation, but I can see how you got there.

As for me, I don't believe in the concept of a soul, which is probably also influencing my interpretation of what's presented. I think of a person as, basically, nothing more than a highly complex machine. The way our brains are mapped, the experiences we've had, our memories, etcetera, that is what forms the person we are. We're self aware and have cognitive capabilities, but I don't think there's an "extra bit", apart from the physical (which probably includes mechanisms we have yet to discover or understand) which we would call 'soul'. So given that I don't think we have "souls", that has no bearing on any of what I see in the Dollhouse. I see the imprints as basically the same thing as any other person, just created in a different way.

Having said that, I wonder what you feel about any given AI in science fiction stories. Let's take the Cylons in BSG as an example, but it can really be any AI (take your pick from Bladerunner, through to the characters in AI, HAL2000, or even Data on Star Trek)... are these "people", to you? Complete beings of equal value to humans? To me, they are. To you, they might not. Or would these beings also have to have a soul, if they were ever to function in our real world? And if they can have a soul and be real, than what is the fundamental difference between them and an imprint? To me, it's pretty much the same thing, but it might not be to you, or others.

All in all, this discussion? Interesting as hell :).
I've argued this before, but since it seems forgotten, I'll bring it up again: In the U.S., in at least some jurisdictions, a person has a right to withdraw consent during sex, and if the other person doesn't stop, he's a rapist. Rape was originally a crime against the male relative whose "property" was being ruined. Thus, the only time that consent mattered was at the beginning when the woman was still (presumably) a virgin.

In recent times, some enlightened judges have decided that a person should have rights over what's done to her body. Thus, two people may want sex initially, and they may engage in sex, but they should still have the right to stop what's going on. Obvious examples: One person wants to do something that the other doesn't, but he forces her to do it anyway. Here's a real-life example: A friend agrees to sex, but says she wants the man to use a condom. He refuses and forces her.

This is why some of us think that it doesn't matter if someone under duress (imprisoned at the Dollhouse for a couple of days, with no access to a lawyer, etc.) gives consent. After their mind is wiped, they have no capability to withdraw consent.

Are some of you really arguing in favor of a mind/body dualism?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind-body_problem
Well, Suzie, the thing is that nobody DOES withdraw consent in the Dollhouse case. This, of course, is a different issue from "consent" which is achieved under duress. That's not real consent; I think we all agree on that.

As for mind/body dualism, I think the show itself argues pretty strongly for a mind/body distinction and separates them fairly strongly. I don't think it applies the traditional "superiority" of mental phenomena over physical.

ETActually address Suzie's post.

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-04-29 03:31 ]
Oh, and that song from the Fantasticks? INCREDIBLE. By 1960, the word "rape" had been associated with sexual assault for centuries. I can't imagine a woman who had been raped sitting in the theater while men pranced around and sang about "rape," even if they just meant a fake kidnapping.

I understand that "rape" originally related to the abduction of a woman or child, but that doesn't mean it was devoid of any sexual meaning. If a woman or child was kidnapped, she might agree to sex or marriage because she had little choice.
Oh yeah, absolutely, the song was deliberately and clearly about rape as we understand it.
Septimus, the problem is that people aren't given any opportunity to withdraw consent in the Dollhouse. They are kept in a wiped state in between engagements, and they're not told that they're in the Dollhouse, etc.

S, my interpretation is that the show is making the opposite argument about the mind and body. I guess we'll have to wait for the DVD commentary.
Well, they're not given the opportunity to withdraw consent, but they're also not experiencing anything, so there's not really any grounds for withdrawing the blanket consent that they gave before. (Whether such blanket consent should be allowed is a whole other issue. Legally, of course, it's not allowed.)

I guess I'd say that the show is working pretty hard to raise the mind/body question and to explore the real implications of treating them as distinct. Of course, the glitching and the like could suggest that the attempt to distinguish between the mind and body is futile, or that they haven't really managed to do it in the dollhouse.

[ edited by Septimus on 2009-04-29 03:46 ]
I think they are experiencing things. For the most part, they may have no conscious memory of those things, but we have seen some "breakthrough" memories with Caroline/Echo. And I think that's part of the premise of Alpha - that bits and pieces of his experience came back.

When I have surgery, I don't remember the operation, but, in the way that I understand "experience," I still think I experienced it in some fashion.
1. For anyone who does not know the show "The Fantasticks", it is one of those deceptive pieces of art that presented as though it is a frothy feel good piece, when it is actually a very dark commentary on romanticism, the loss of innocence, the blindness of parents to the damage they can cause their children, gulliblity, etc. etc.. It is not a sweet little tale at all. This song is one indication of just how dark it is under all the pretty melodies and cute theatrical devices that they employ.

2.At the top of the thread, people were very dismissive and even condecending towards people who felt that "Dollhouse" was making this seem like a good idea. If any of them are still reading this, please go back to the comments on the early episodes right here on Whedonesque where people were arguing that what the Dollhouse was doing was not so bad. People were bending over backwards to find the good in the characters and the Dollhouse itself. IMO if those first episodes had been made by someone other than Joss, most of the peole here would have called it exploitative.

3. I look at these people as if they were in a coma and had signed over their power of attorney...under duress BTW in all the cases we have been privy to. The one with the power of attorney is not looking out for the best interests of the person in their care. They are being cavalier with their safety, health and well being. Besides that, they got the power of attorney with full knowledgte that they intended to treat their charges as though they were less than human. These are horrible people doing horrible things to people who cannot fight back. Whether to label that rape or not, does not seem as important as the dispicable nature of what they are doing.

[ edited by newcj on 2009-04-29 19:47 ]
CJ, I agree ... even in the long discussion of the last episode, at least a couple of people thought the Dollhouse did some good, and others talk about the work of the Dollhouse being in a gray area, which I think means it's not all bad.

Imagine Priya getting her life back. She finds out that she had been put in the Dollhouse against her will, and she was then brainwashed to do various things she would never have done willingly. She learns that Topher, the guy doing the brainwashing, turned her into a buddy at least one day to help him celebrate his birthday. I think it's possible that she would be disgusted and furious.

Re: Paul and Mellie. I guess I'm the only one who thinks you can find an excuse not to have sex with your lover without them thinking that you know that they're a sleeper agent/assassin.
Priya is not really a fair example, though. I don't think ANYONE defends what happened to her. The only area where these things become gray is when we're talking about someone with actual, informed, non-coerced consent. (It's possible that there is no character like that in the show.)
Re: Paul and Mellie. I guess I'm the only one who thinks you can find an excuse not to have sex with your lover without them thinking that you know that they're a sleeper agent/assassin.

Yes, Paul is now part of the problem. My point is that his dilemma is pretty profound, whatever you think of the morality of his actions. I'm not defending his actions as moral, simply explaining how what he's doing makes sense. We keep coming back to this, so maybe I need to append it to my posts or something. I understand why he's doing what he's doing, and it's of interest to me, even though I don't think it's moral or right and yes, it's quite disturbing. Ideally he'd walk away. He should walk away. But my point is, I don't think he can. Someone else maybe could. But not Paul, because this is a custom-built Paul-trap. Adelle has literally sent the thing he is most obsessed with, the only thing he has left, to live with him. And he has become a participant in the thing he hates most. He's obsessed with the Dollhouse, and he likes Mellie, maybe even loves her. And now they're the same thing, and they've invaded what little he had left of his life. He probably sees forward, meaning playing along and using her to find the location, to be the only way out at this point. And in the meantime yeah, he's having sex with her. It's very messed up and it's supposed to disturb us. I haven't seen a lack of creep factor in comments here-- mission accomplished. I think we have established that it's not a good thing, what he's doing. I think it's possible to sympathize with his position and also recognize that he's responding to it by doing something awful.

The Dollhouse IS morally grey. Sometimes it does good things like save a kid who was kidnapped. Recognizing that some of its outcomes are good and that some people in it genuinely mean well (as Boyd seems to) doesn't mean that their means are justified, that they aren't effectively high-tech upscale human trafficking, or that the people who mean well aren't still doing very bad things. That's how real organizations work and it's nice to see it reflected onscreen. It's all too easy to make people working together to do things that disturb us out to be an Edifice Of Pure Evil-- very very black, shiny inhuman helmets and uniforms, very reassuring in its complete evil for when our hero blows up its base later on. I prefer Dr. Saunders, who's conceived and helped implement possibly the most evil thing so far, out of sympathy for the Actives and the necessity of her employer. Awww she's so nice and she cares! Unlike Topher. Oh god, she has the clearest sense of them all, even more than Adelle, about how best to control people. And she has no qualms about doing it, either.
At the top of the thread, people were very dismissive and even condecending towards people who felt that "Dollhouse" was making this seem like a good idea. If any of them are still reading this, please go back to the comments on the early episodes right here on Whedonesque where people were arguing that what the Dollhouse was doing was not so bad. People were bending over backwards to find the good in the characters and the Dollhouse itself. IMO if those first episodes had been made by someone other than Joss, most of the peole here would have called it exploitative.


I never read those episode discussion threads, since they tend to consist of huge amounts unfocused blabbering. One and half hour (mostly wasted) later, looking through the comments for episodes 2 and 3...

Does anyone bend backwards to find good in the organisation? Didn't find a single one. I found a lengthy (and interesting, for once) discussion on whether the show was completely morally black. Which is such a gross generalisation that it dumbfounds me, but whatever, it lead to good discussion.

However, again, I found no one -- not a single one -- in that discussion saying the Dollhouse were "good guys" as such. Since no one decided to look at the show in such a black/white "spectrum". Some said it was "gray", which I'd very much agree with. Yes. I would.

Sunfire has already pretty much summed up for me why that is.

I recall Joss indicating that one thing the network requested was that the Dollhouse would have some larger purpose. His original take was that, yes, this was "just" a glorified whore house. Which would have made it all the more murky, shady and gray areaish, but seeing the criticism so far, maybe the network was right to increase the black/white contrast... :-P (although we haven't yet seen if Joss decides the ultimate purpose is Good or Muahahaha-Eeeeeeeviiiiil or something inbetween)

As for bending backwards to find the good in the characters... Not necessary at all. These people aren't monsters, they aren't painted in shades of black. They're believable "real" people. Sad, pathetic, humorous, conflicted, frequently shady and often despicable, occasionally insightful and even upright, sometimes hopelessly ignorant, but -- as a result -- always interesting.

Before a pre-screening of 12 Monkeys for a test audience, Terry Gilliam read a list of check boxes from the studio authored questionnaire: "'Has likable main characters'. Why do we want them to be likable?"

That depends on your definition of likable. You'd certainly want characters the audience can relate to and be interested in. That's "likable" as in "able to be enjoyed". But that doesn't mean they have to be pleasant, upstanding citizens. Dollhouse's characters are the former kind of "likable" to me.

Adelle likes to tell herself -- and others -- that what the Dollhouse does, helps people. I think she believes it, and I can see why she would, from the aphorisms she utters every now and then. She's not just talking about rescuing kidnapped girls or bringing "stolen" art back to Greece. Actually, I think that's the minor thing to her. She's mostly talking about the "wish fulfillment" part.

Which doesn't change her profession one bit. The interesting thing is, she knows she's a pimp, and she knows what her company is doing is shady. She just doesn't voice it like Boyd does. And (maybe!) unlike Boyd, she still absolutely believes in what she's doing.

Why? We don't really know yet. She might simply be a utilitarian, believing that while her company is exploiting people, the ultimate purpose is for "the greater good".

Such gray area depictions do seem a rather unknown concept on U.S. network TV. Which is not just a pity. As Sunfire said, it's all too easy. It's also potentially hurtful.

So, yes, I do think it's strange to see people thinking the show paints the Dollhouse as a Good Thing, unless they're trying too hard -- maybe looking closely at individual strokes rather than just a square inch of the painting. Didn't find anyone indicating such a reading in all the comments I read through.

Was I being condescending above? Maybe. Wasn't intended as such. I do think, however, that it's a HUGE problem when we get to the point where entertainment needs to be black/white and hit us on the head with a Morality Hammer for us to get the point. And it's starting to seem we've gotten there.


ETA: Paragraph about network "tampering".
EATA: Few clarifications and fix ETA (from "studio" to "network") ;-)

[ edited by Kaneda on 2009-04-30 00:04 ]
I do think, however, that it's a HUGE problem when we get to the point where entertainment needs to be black/white and hit us on the head with a Morality Hammer for us to get the point. And it's starting to seem we've gotten there.

Hear, hear!

(Slinks back into lurking).
Woah, snot monster from outer space!

Stop that lurking right now! You've been missed.
Suzie absolutely I agree Ballard could have found a way to not sleep with Mellie. Thing is, I have not thought much of Ballard since whenever he thought he trapped Victor into being killed, so I do not expect a lot from the guy in moral terms. He fits in perfectly with one of my many problems with the show, I don't enjoy any of the characters. Boyd is closest to bearable, but he is still one of those working in this horrible place helping to do horrible things to people in his charge even though his attitude seems to say he knows it is wrong. That is a trait I find rather contemptable.

The Dollhouse IS morally grey. Sometimes it does good things like save a kid who was kidnapped. Recognizing that some of its outcomes are good and that some people in it genuinely mean well (as Boyd seems to) doesn't mean that their means are justified, that they aren't effectively high-tech upscale human trafficking, or that the people who mean well aren't still doing very bad things.

But saving that kid was not the mission and not the concern of the Dollhouse! Something good happening accidentally does not put a point in the "evidence that the Dollhouse does good" column. The policies indicated throughout the series show that the organization does not factor in ethics, morality or responsibility to anything but their bottom line.

Adelle had to be convinced to go in to get the kid when everything went south. (And as we saw then and has shown to be a constant, they never have a plan B.) She was willing to pull out and leave the clients swinging in the wind. Not only that, but the fact that the manufactured hostage negotiator was able to help the kid was a total accident. There was nothing to indicate that, other than the total accident, a real hostage negotiator would not have been able to do the same thing without the horrible act of mind-wiping a human being and then putting them into a dangerous position that the actual person might opt out of if they were given a chance to consent.

So here we are with everything we have been told about the Dollhouse and people are still saying it does good. So on one side we have people being condescending that anyone could criticize this show by asserting that it is presenting this kind of exploitation in a way that could be interpreted as saying it is ok, while at the same time we have people saying that the show is great because it has examples showing that this kind of exploitation can be ok and that creates gray areas. Neither group seems to see a problem here even while they are making these assertions on the same thread. Interesting.

UPDATE: While I was writing this, Kaneda chimed in and may be in both the groups above at the same time...I'm not sure. (is confused)

I never read those episode discussion threads, since they tend to consist of huge amounts unfocused blabbering.

I'm sure everyone in those discussions will be thrilled to hear their thoughts portrayed that way. If, as you say, you don't mean to be condescending, you may just have a natural talent. :-)

I recall Joss indicating that one thing the network requested was that the Dollhouse would have some larger purpose. His original take was that, yes, this was "just" a glorified whore house. Which would have made it all the more murky, shady and gray areaish,

How does that make it more greyish? I am as totally baffled by your view of moral greyness as you apparently are by my views.

I do think, however, that it's a HUGE problem when we get to the point where entertainment needs to be black/white and hit us on the head with a Morality Hammer for us to get the point. And it's starting to seem we've gotten there.

One of the things I especially find baffling is your apparent assertion that those of us who are criticizing Dollhouse want more black and white, when most of us are saying that all we are seeing in this show is all black and we want some greyness. None of the things you brought up create greyness for me. Assuming that Adelle, for instance, believes that creating wish fulfillment for the rich justifies dehumanizing the desperate and using them as the rich's playthings certainly does not make her or her motives any more interesting or "grey" than those of any of the despicable people who have done the same thing throughout history. I see a range of bad guys in Dollhouse and am finding it so depressing that people consider these characters and what they are doing anything other than genuinely morally bankrupt. That is why I stopped reading the discussion threads of the early episodes. I think I'll stop again. This makes me too sad.
Made a lengthy reply here (very lengthy), then decided to delete it all, because the arguments about black vs. gray are already right there, and my rephrasing them isn't going to change anything.

I do not, however, enjoy being called condescending. Repeatedly. Whatever you think, I'm not used to that :-P

First post:

- I was specifically not addressing your opinions (which are very different from the ones voiced in the comments to the video) -- neither in that post or the last one. If nothing else, then because I didn't know them, and because they're not the topic of this thread.

- I said I was baffled at the response, and I might be deluded, because I genuinely meant that (maybe I should have made that clearer?). Maybe I am missing the point, because very bright people have argued these kinds of (to me, baffling) views for decades. I have a problem seeing them as anything but "too 3D gray -- we need them to be 2D black", because if they were 2D black, then it would be really hard for anyone to think "the Dollhouse are good guys!"

- I go on to say that maybe these people are seeing a problem with the subtlety -- that it's too hard for a general audience to find the way to interpret this text.

"unfocused blabbering":

- Wrong choice of words, maybe due to writing too late in the night (and I'm obviously not a native English speaker). It's not a slight of any of the posters in those threads, it's just what I think comes with the territory of "as it airs"-threads:

"unfocused" - because such threads generally bring up lots of issues which are never discussed any further.

"blabbering" - as in "chatter" -- "that was great", "this episode sucks", "ooh, look at Adelle's shoes!". Random (even if insightful) observations, boiled down to single sentences.

There's a reason why next day (or same evening) reviews are hell to write. And why bloggers doing recaps/analysis of TV episodes generally wait at least a few days before posting. To reflect. Same day observations on complex shows generally don't lead to readable material.

And since I usually can't watch the show until 4-5 days later, by then reflected discussion of the episode is better found elsewhere.

I didn't set out to make a list of grey areas, because there are countless posts in dozens of threads to give hundreds of examples of those. Whether you agree with them or not. :-)
Dana said:
"I am shocked that there is even a debate on as sensitive an issue as this"

Really ? "Shocked" ? You've been posting here how long ? We cover damn near everything. Also, hyperbole is not our friend. You abuse it to the point where you come off as shrieking sometimes. I often like your contributions to the discussions usually, but just wanted to point out that sometimes it's hard to get around this aspect when it rears its ugly head.

These are topics that should be debated and discussed and the show has presented them in a way that may not be as clear-cut to some as you find it. No need for the veiled condescension toward those who haven't arrived at a concrete conclusion.

"and if we are going to sit here and split hairs that what is happening is in any way okay, I hope the show gets cancelled. That's how strongly I feel about this issue."

Fair enough that you feel that way, valid. But don't you think that's a bit childish ? You don't like the thoughts people are having about the show, so you hope it gets shut down ? Wouldn't it be simpler to just stop watching it if it gets to a point where it's causing you that serious a degree of a mental anguish (or its fans are, I guess). Wishing for the end of a TV show that inspires passionate debate...why stifle ? (sure, we can still debate Season 1 'til the cows come home, though the more seasons we get, potentially the more we'll have to talk about and have fun verbally sparring over, agreeing and disagreeing merrily)

I have nothing to contribute to the rape debate, at least not until we have a clearer picture of what's going on.

The music video is awesome and creepy. And way too jovial for the subject matter, but that's what creates the subversive contrast, so yay.

[ edited by Kris on 2009-04-30 11:04 ]
newcj said:

So here we are with everything we have been told about the Dollhouse and people are still saying it does good. So on one side we have people being condescending that anyone could criticize this show by asserting that it is presenting this kind of exploitation in a way that could be interpreted as saying it is ok, while at the same time we have people saying that the show is great because it has examples showing that this kind of exploitation can be ok and that creates gray areas. Neither group seems to see a problem here even while they are making these assertions on the same thread. Interesting.


I'd like to second that.

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