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May 08 2009

Why Dollhouse is really Joss Whedon's greatest work. io9.com argues the case for why the show is the best thing Joss has ever done. SciFi Wire goes down a similar route with its Dollhouse finale feature but includes an "anti" fandom point of view.

Eliza looks so pretty in that i09 picture - I've been so used to seeing the retouched still images of her, it's nice to see a candid photo of her! (Of course, she always looks great, but there's something about her expression in that photo that just struck a chord with me.)

On topic: interesting article - I like a lot of their points, and I love the idea of a "very different apocalypse."

[ edited by Ildeth on 2009-05-08 23:24 ]
I'm a little puzzled by the desciption of the second half of the Sci Fi Wire piece as the "anti fandom point of view". That person clearly admits to being a part of the fandom, they just didn't like Dollhouse.

Me? I'm giddy with anticipation for tonight's episode.
First impression of support side of the article: The author cited Firefly as having FTL...

Best premise of a Joss show? Maybe.
Best execution of a Joss show? not remotely.
Not even close.

"she didn't volunteer to become a mindless Doll. Instead, she turned down a rich guy's sexual advances, and he was so pissed he spent a fortune to have her erased, so that he and his slimy rich friends could hire her to be their willing, eager sexual plaything whenever they wanted." Warren and April much? This is not even novel or new inside the Jossverse.

"Worst evil ever?" Does the Shoah, Rwanda, ethnic cleansing mean anything?

Look, I get the writer loves the show, but the argument is so puerile in so many ways.
"Worst evil ever?" Does the Shoah, Rwanda, ethnic cleansing mean anything?

This is going to be a difficult point to argue without sounding like I'm diminishing the atrocities mentioned. But I'll try, because debate!

I don't know if I necessarily agree with them, but I don't think it's an indefensible point to say that the Dollhouse perpetrates the "ultimate evil." On a small scale, "enslaving" 20-30 people is less awful than genocide, end of story. But if the Dollhouse were a worldwide (as in, actually worldwide, not just located in several places around the world) organization... I don't know. I don't think it's too crazy to say that enslaving people so that (according to Victor) they're stuck inside their own minds, watching but incapable of doing anything, as they're forced to endure all manner of things--including rape, murder, offensively short skirts--is comparable in awfulness to actual murder. Again, I don't necessarily agree, but I think the point is not entirely insane to argue.
I'm a little puzzled by the desciption of the second half of the Sci Fi Wire piece as the "anti fandom point of view". That person clearly admits to being a part of the fandom, they just didn't like Dollhouse.

I think that the thread title means that the article is written by someone who's part of the fandom but it's "anti" Dollhouse.

Incidentally, the last part of that article seems to imply that the writer only watched the first four episodes of the show. Sorry if I don't take his / her opinion too seriously
"Worst evil ever?" Does the Shoah, Rwanda, ethnic cleansing mean anything?

In the article they move on to how the technology in the show does mean the ruin of *us all*. That actually is a step up from genocide, because it's everyone. So yes, worst evil in a long line of evil things. Maybe so far, because it's the Dollhouse that has the technology it doesn't seem as evil because it's only done to pretty people that are turned into sex slaves and the occassional dead person, but the NSA is onto them, and they are snooping around for it, and once that jeanie gets out of the bottle, the world would cave in on itself with the haves canabalizing from the have nots to use that technology on them. (You know it would happen.) And for a plethora of ugly petty human reasons. Murder and genocide are horrific yes. But destroying the human race? I'd say that's significantly more horrific.

Truth be told, I usually only give a show three episods and if I'm not interested enough in anyone on the show by them, I give up on it too. So, the fact the person watched four and just couldn't care enough to watch more doesn't bother me. Dollhouse isn't really that easy to like, actually.

Lastly: Safe and Heart of Gold are not lame! *harrumpf*

Truth be told, I usually only give a show three episods and if I'm not interested enough in anyone on the show by them, I give up on it too. So, the fact the person watched four and just couldn't care enough to watch more doesn't bother me. Dollhouse isn't really that easy to like, actually.


Yeah, but it doesn't seem to make much sense to get someone to comment on a show they haven't seen for half a season, especially one that has changed as much as Dollhouse. I wouldn't be too interested in hearing what someone who stopped watching LOST after episode four thought of the show, because the landscape is entirely different now. Even at the end of its first season, it was pretty different.

That's not to say I think everyone who disliked it needs to give it another chance. But I think for a fair The Good vs. The Bad debate, The Bad needs to be caught up.
I'm not criticising the author for only watching 4 episodes and deciding not to watch any more. I am criticising him / her for watching only 4 and then writing an article about how bad the whole show is, particularly when s/he's aware that it was supposed to get much better at episode 6 and when the review directly above hers concedes that the show started off shaky and got much better. Would we take a reviewer seriously if they wrote a piece dismissing the entirety of Buffy because they didn't think much of the episodes from 'Welcome to the Hellmouth' to 'Teacher's Pet'?

ETA: Or the shorter version - what Jobo said

[ edited by Let Down on 2009-05-09 01:03 ]
Haven't had time to read the Scifi wire article, but the 109.com was by far he best, most insightful article I've yet to read about Dollhouse. So good I'll overlook the classifying Safe and Heart of Gold as lame. ;)

Once it gets past comparisons of Joss's past shows, I agree with pretty much every single point made in this one. Especially the (thank the goddess and all the gods, someone is finally figuring this out) observation that Ballard is the only truly moral character in the entire cast.

And I have to agree that destroying humanity by robbing people of their identities is a crime against said humanity that ranks right up there with the reality of the physical genocide we see in the world today.
Future-possible tech genocide to be sure, but the show asks us to contemplate this possibility becoming a reality. In which case we'd have a "civilization" very much like that depicted in the future flash-forwards from T:TSCC.
EF: spelling

[ edited by Shey on 2009-05-09 01:17 ]
Ok, no one, fan or not, has to finish watching a series they aren't into. And I can (grudgingly) accept that a professional or avocational critic can honorably write a review, early in a series, saying they have found it not worthy and are no longer interested in watching it -- I've walked out of bad movies half way through without feeling that I needed to stay until the credits rolled to feel decently confident in my judgement. BUT someone who has been asked to provide a co-review of the series at the time of its season finale would, you would think, be expected to be professional enough to actually sit through it to add to the discussion, even if it were not a series that seems to have a sizable chunk of reviewers and others suggesting that a major shift in the show had occured since the co-reviewer stopped watching. OK, I suppose I should not totally blame Janna Silverstein for accepting an offer to write her "nay" viewpoint for Sci-Fi Wire. What sort of twerp of an editor would encourage a writer into this unprofessional mistep and would compound their deep incompetence by publishing it once they realized what had resulted? A parallel If you, as a critic or editor, loathed, say, Star Wars Episode I and II so much you refused to see Episode III, fine -- heck, admirable ;) -- and you might even write a preview saying "I ain't gonna see it and I don't see why anyone else would!" But, if asked to offer a counter-review to Episode III by someone who loved it, you would certainly either SEE the f'ing thing or REFUSE the assignment.
ETA -- hmm. others saying similar. I need to learn to type faster.

[ edited by doubtful guest on 2009-05-09 01:18 ]
Type faster, me too. What doubtful guest said.
Let's look at this as a positive thing: maybe they couldn't find anyone who'd seen the whole series and didn't love it to bits?

:D ?
Well, except most of the people in the DH agreed to what has happened to them, at least in microcosm, so their enslavement was by their permission (note: I used the word permission, as opposed to consent, because I do not know what their contracts say). That is a far cry from murdering entire populations of people willy nilly because they are in some way different from you. Sorry. And I think the DH is tremendously evil. Technology is neither evil nor not evil; how it is used is. Think: nuclear bomb. That could destroy the human race a lot faster than the DH ever could.
Yeah, I agree with Dana5140. It's hard to argue that the DH is as evil as genocide
All the DOLLHOUSE chatter aside (which is cool)...The 1st season of ANGEL was "weak"? The ENTIRE season? I stopped reading after that. This guy needs to go back and rewatch "HERO" (Angel, Season 1, Episode 9). "You never know until you've been tested. I get that now." - now there's Whedon's greatest work! I get a tear in my eye just thinking about it. Also, what's so "weak" about "Safe" and "Heart of Gold"? gmab - Zero credibility, this writer.
Hero is terrible. Fans wouldn't like it if it didn't have that tacked on death of Doyle.

And, yeah, season 1 of Angel is weak IMO but with some standout eps like the Faith two-parter and the last couple of episodes.

A friend of mine who I'm just getting into Buffy after him resisting for a long time (he's just about to watch 'The Wish') agrees with this article. He thinks Firefly is Joss's best show so far but that Dollhouse is almost as good and will be better with a second season. And (shame on him) he thinks Buffy isn't as good as either. He somehow failed to be wowed by 'Becoming Part 2'; I dind't know that was possible
Just one man's opinion here.

Lurking the DH discussions here the most popular griping over the whole season seems to have been: "Fox - Arghhh! Mucking with my show." Following that was: "Adventure of the week - bo-ring. Where's my Whedon?" After these two really business / show structure concerns came one about the content of the show, more or less: "But, but, but ... these people suck! What?"

Yes, these people kind-of suck - all of them. Even Boyd. He's there, as someone noted. He's not shy about shooting people mostly because it's convenient. And how many people has he outright killed? Captured and delivered to various fates in a death-like neighborhood of bad? Without the strong, stoic arm, how many of the more blatantly baddies would be toast by now - Topher, for example.

So, he's maybe all honorable service whatever that service guy, except ... fails to narc on Topher for giving him a chance to bolt. Gives Ballard a chance to run, too. Speaking of which, rough, grudge sex with Mallie / November? He had to do that, right? Then again, you've never used a partner blindly devoted if only in that moment, as a kind of psychic balm. Because you could. Or even because that's what you needed right then to survive - that makes it OK, right? Or he had to, to keep up the illusion, right? How far to go in the service of a greater good, and which greater good, exactly? Who decides? And doesn't the hero get a payoff just from getting to be the hero? This one is clearly ,"in need of some serious moral spankitude."

These people all kind-of suck. And yet only kind-of. And is there an entirely clean choice for any of them? Even a mostly clean choice, one clear about what's being valued over what? (Does the slayer get to choose her sister over standing against the darkness? Sacrifice or selfishness there?) Maybe Sierra.

I still think Firefly is Mr. Whedon's best work. It has moral ambiguity, and the funny, yet is also about found family. Family are the people who take you in. Family are the people you decide you'll make your way with, flaws and all. Family is how you navigate and survive the impossible, ambiguous choices in a world with only the meaning we make in it. Found-family are the ones you choose to throw in with who also choose you - I'll stand through this with these, my tribe, my peeps, my family.

Anybody else notice how much the people in Dollhouse are so alone?

So, while Dollhouse is asking some mighty big questions, I have to go with the show that was also front and center about how you muddle through the wickets of ambiguity and impossible choices.

But not by much.
I very much like the observation that, while Firefly had Sci-Fi as the backdrop and hundreds of nice plot devices that firmly defined it as a "Sci Fi Show", it actually wasn't dealing with the sci fi-elements. Dollhouse does, it constantly ponders around the question: "What would that technology do to us? And what would we do to us, if we had it?" That is a question Mal only asked himself at the end of Serenity, that was the only moment where I got the feeling that Joss actually went all the way and made his big epic Sci Fi franchise complete. That was the last piece of the puzzle. But Dollhouse starts out on that note. It is quite literally a continuation of: "A year from now, ten, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better." with all the fun that can be had when we actually switch our perspective and watch the Alliance at work making people better.

It is btw incredibly hilarious for me that Firefly isn't dealing with sci-fi in a 500 year away future, but Dollhouse is doing just that with a setting in 2009.

A friend of mine who I'm just getting into Buffy after him resisting for a long time (he's just about to watch 'The Wish') agrees with this article. He thinks Firefly is Joss's best show so far but that Dollhouse is almost as good and will be better with a second season. And (shame on him) he thinks Buffy isn't as good as either. He somehow failed to be wowed by 'Becoming Part 2'; I dind't know that was possible

I wasn't wowed by "Becoming" either. :)

I have a lot of friends that think in similar directions. Firefly is mostly agreed to be his best work, but a few are already starting to see Dollhouse up there contesting that title. It may also have something to do with the fact that nearly all people I watch with here have never seen a Joss show "live", we're all late-comers living off DVDs. So, Dollhouse is new form of Joss-experience too for us. I know it has an affect on my reception, and I don't think I'm the only one.
I am frustrated by DH, and what I think it could be, but it is still better than most of tv and every now and then I have a "now that is a Joss moment" moment, and it keeps me watching.
Dollhouse isn't the greatest anything.

It's a good show, but I wouldn't equate it to being better than any of Whedon's other works.

Cause there's no singing.

Ignoring Stage Fright, of course.
"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is Joss' best work, and nothing else is close, in my opinion, because none of Joss' other shows made me care even half as much about the characters. To me, that's the foremost reason why "Buffy" is Joss' best-known, most-successful television series.
*cough* Firefly
I have a hard time with the idea that Dollhouse is Joss's best work when, IMO, it is very light on the ambiguity and it is the only show whose first episodes were actually repugnant to quite a number of people. Yes BtVS, Angel and Firefly have some weak episodes, all of which still manage to have something worthwhile in them, but they are just weak. In spite of the fact that I like what I am seeing from Dollhouse now, the first 5 episodes may as well have been from a totally different, and very objectionable, show. The lack of a decent moral compass for any of the characters, including Ballard (Am I the only one who thought he went too far with what he did to Victor/mob guy when Ballard thought he had set him up?) takes away moral ambiguity in favor of showing how awful, weak, opportunistic, corruptable etc. ect. humanity is. I have come to be able to enjoy Dollhouse, but it is an enjoyment of watching craftmanship. I am enjoying the wheels within the wheels. It is in no way, the emotionally gripping, intellectually riveting, and soul enhancing work that his other shows have been or have sometimes been.
Okay... I have to stick up for it. ANGEL is the best Whedon show. I might be a minority in the fandom, but it's true. It is the most heart-wrenching of his shows with the best premise and messages.

NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING beats the Angel/Darla/Wesley/Holtz/Connor arc. That's epic stuff. Though the Angelus arc in season 2 BtVS is pretty frickin' close.

Firefly/Serenity did very little for me. The only storyline that got me was River Tam's story. It's good, but not up to BtVS/AtS standards. I enjoyed the movie more than the show, though. The film struck me as having more of Joss' epic brand of storytelling than the show.

Dollhouse isn't up to BtVS/AtS for me, but it interests me a lot more than Firefly/Serenity.

But, yeah... Some love for AtS in the house!

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