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May 14 2009

Escaping The Dollhouse. SocialistWorker.org: "Dollhouse should be renewed--and folks should watch it. For all Whedon's wild plots, his stories are some of the few on television that really resemble the complications and conflict of life as it is actually lived."

Adam Turl comments on Joss Whedon and feminism, his work, and why we should all be watching Dollhouse.

Hmm, in spite of the source, I liked the arguments; I guess I haven't devleoped the completley closed mind I've been working so hard for so long to develop.
And this is what he says there:
Dollhouse's biggest problem (politically, artistically and in getting viewers to tune in each week) is also what makes it interesting--the identity crisis of its characters.

Part of what made Firefly, Buffy and Angel compelling was that viewers loved the characters and identified with them, warts and all.


Which has been my concern all along. But I am guessing this is part of the discussions about S2 (which, wait for it, is going to happen).

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-05-14 18:24 ]

ETA: I finally learned how to quote properly! Only took 1600 posts!

[ edited by Dana5140 on 2009-05-14 18:25 ]
That's been my concern as well Dana5140, ever since I first came in contact with the show's very premise.
Although, I can understand why the "identity crisis" aspect of the show could turn off some people, I must say that I love the show for this very reason.... it really is "what makes it interesting" for me... and what makes it really resonate for me.

[ edited by mortimer on 2009-05-14 18:34 ]
Don't like it, don't watch it. That's what I say.
From the article:
"But the series suffers because Whedon doesn't clearly condemn the prostitution implicit in the fabric of the dollhouse (not unlike far too many later-day "feminists" who wrongly believe there is something "empowering" about prostitution). Whedon doesn't go that far, but his ambivalence about the "world's oldest profession" is a weakness in the makeup of the show."

Many viewers want the moralizing and the answers now, when many of the things asked for are sorta more down-the-road subjects to tackle. Maybe Joss will make clear, obvious points about prostitution and maybe he won't, but I appreciate that Season 1 allowed us to simply live in the Dollhouse world for a bit. Make up our own minds. Does Joss always have to be writing an essay with his shows ? What is it about the apparent moral ambivalence in this series that makes many so uncomfortable ?

I'm more interested in the questions about free will and what makes a person a person than I am about the show getting all holier-than-thou about whether prostitution is good, bad, or something in between (I realize prostitution is tied into the subject of free will with this show, but I don't hope for it to become a focus to the degree that we're getting barely concealed preachyness in favor of either side of the debate).

Re: Identity Crisis

Topher, Ballard, Adelle, and Boyd--four main characters that are themselves, not imprints, throughout all 12 of the episodes we've seen so far. Claire Saunders/Whiskey as well, since this seems to be her permanent self from now on. Although you may not relate to or like any of them, are any of them interesting in the least to you ? If so, isn't that enough of a point of intrigue ? Do we really have to always have characters we like/love/relate to as an entry point into a series ? Isn't it enough to be fascinated by interpersonal dynamics, the plots the writers are putting these people through, and just being along for the ride the show's taking us on ?

I really think some folks have set up barriers for themselves from the get-go with this show.

[ edited by Kris on 2009-05-14 18:39 ]
Don't like it, don't watch it. That's what I say.


That is unfortunately a sentiment which we will be unable to even consider if the show gets cancelled due to lack of viewers stemming from this issue in the first place. I like Joss Whedon's body of work. I like the way he operates artistically and want his creations to succeed commercially. If something in the premise of one of his works is getting in the way of that, I don't see how that aspect can be portrayed as being anything but a negative.
See and I always thought the whole point of it was that, currently, all the characters are UNABLE to choose sides, that they either don't have all the information or are too cowed by, or invested in, or pinned down by the way things are run, that to take any moral stance would be either undesirable or impossible. It's a hegemony metaphor.

If the complaint is that the SHOW itself ought to take a moral stance for its own reasons, as opposed to the characters doing it for their reasons...there's a term for that. "Bad writing". And we know Team Joss doesn't do THAT.
"If something in the premise of one of his works is getting in the way of that, I don't see how that aspect can be portrayed as being anything but a negative."

Except there's no way to be certain that that's the reason people aren't tuning in and/or sticking with the show, it's just an opinion many fans have. Some people (posters, columnists) are going around stating the relatability of characters issue as fact, I think that's what's rubbing a lot of folks who are enjoying the show the wrong way. The folks taking a hard stand on that as if it were set in stone (yes, I know having an opinion and sticking by it is fine, it's when the "I-know-better"/"This-is-what-I-feel-so-it-must-be-legitimate-for-many-other-voiceless-viewers-out-there-too" attitude shows through that it starts to grate. May not have intended it to come off that way, but the constant repetition results in that impression, IMO).

But that's what we're here to discuss, at least many of us. I can understand Simon and many people here getting tired of hearing from some of the detractors, but the perceived negatives of the show are worth discussing, IMO. I don't think "Don't like it, don't watch it", a typical discourse-shutting-down smackdown, is especially helpful (although yes, I also realize we chase our tails a lot around here).
But isn't "the premise of one of his works" tied directly to "the way he operates artistically"? I understand you're probably not intending to say that, but it could be taken as "make sure to compromise that artistic stuff so you succeed commercially".
I think, Kris, that people are not putting up barriers at all. People like what they like, period. And for some people, like me, having a character to identify with is my entry into the world of the show. Without it, I find less to be interested in. And that is how it works for me; I have not "put up a barrier." I just like things how I like 'em, and I think that I am hardly alone in this, given what we have seen critics say about this.
I can understand Simon and many people here getting tired of hearing from some of the detractors


As much as I enjoy reading the debates, I'm of the mindset of "if I genuinely don't like the show, I don't watch it". I did it with Bonekickers, Demons, Sanctuary, Charmed, Century City and many others. I wish I had done it with Spooks: Code Nine but that's another story. But I would be interested to know why others watch shows they don't like. I mean not everyone thinks like me, thankfully.
Fair enough, but I think folks would be rewarded by being a lot more open-minded to experiencing shows without clear heroes/likeables. Yes, we like what we like, but we also have control over the effort we make to...sorry, I'm gonna stop that train of thought, it's unfair, it makes it sound like I'm saying, "You're not trying hard enough to enjoy it" and that's not where I go with this at all.

Some of my favorite shows have been about sometimes-dispicable, grey/black characters only. Living in the light all the time becomes blinding. That's where I'm coming from.

Anyway, it doesn't apply to Dollhouse for me. The four principle Dollhouse employees (including Paul now) may not be people I would want to know in real life (Topher, maybe, if he was just the nerd without the morally questionable job), but two of them are very interesting to me so far. And I can easily care for innocents like Echo, Sierra, November, and Victor. There've been plenty of triumphs among all the moral ambiguity and stalemates. November is free, some of the missions have helped people, Paul has gotten closer to his goals...etc.
I don't think the show needs to or should come out explicitly to say "what the Dollhouse does is evil," because, not only is that preachy, it's needlessly preachy (why preach about the evils of something that is impossible?). I find it much more interesting and insightful that the show uses the Dollhouse as a metaphor for real-life evils (like the much-maligned episode three, or the rape of Sierra by her handler, or Paul's relationship with Mellie). THAT seems like it's bringing up important ideas/lessons/concepts to ponder.
Simon said:
"But I would be interested to know why others watch shows they don't like. I mean not everyone thinks like me, thankfully."

Haven't watched any shows I didn't like recently, but I did stick with Smallville for the first four seasons and had like 85% complaints most seasons to my 15% praises. The only time I stick with a show I don't always or even often enjoy is if I like the premise and maybe saw some goodness or serious potential early on. And then occasionally there's a brilliant episode (very occasionally in Smallville's case, and maybe not brilliant but at least highly entertaining and emotionally affecting) and you let yourself get attatched and then proceed to get mad at the show as it continues to disappoint you later. But you still hope! Pathetic, potentially futile hope...but you won't know for sure unless you keep watching.

That mindset gets thrown out the window entirely if life is busy. Shit shows get dumped. I kinda hated the finale of Season 4 and missed the premiere of Season 5 of Smallville, had three jobs, was time to give up on Smallville.

I think my attitude lately is that there are so many well-regarded shows I have yet to get around to that I don't have time to spend on the bad or mediocre or stuff I try out for three or four eps and can't get into or realize is pandering to the dumb (sorry, a lot of shows out there are, or their writers just aren't very talented). At the very least, working in its favor, no one can possibly support an accusation of Dollhouse doing that. Doesn't take a physicist to figure out, but at the very least it's not stupid TV. Even if it wasn't working for me as well as it is, I would still be watching (nothin' else on Friday night either and not to get all worshipy, but Joss has earned my attention after three shows and two movies, so I'd be waiting this out for the amazing to come along even if I was kinda hating it, but that's me, I'm a TV-masochist, heh).
Simon, in my case, there is an easy answer. I watch a bit of TV and my wife watches some of the shows I like, so I watch DH with her because she really likes it. And of course, it is not onerous watching, but I just have not found myself investing very much in its world or its characters. It is odd, what we like. I loved Buffy above all other shows, love Firefly but never made it through all 5 seasons of Angel and did not much invest in DH. As I noted to Kris, I just like what I like; notably, in Angel, there was no character that grabbed me, as for example Tara and Willow did in Buffy or River did in FF. It is simply my quirk, and has nothing to do with the moral status of the world the show is in.
Kris: Does Joss always have to be writing an essay with his shows ?
So, you haven't read much socialist art criticism, then?
@Simon, I watched heroes halfway into season three, even though I found season two mediocre and what I saw of season three mostly intolerable. Partly, I liked some of the actors; partly, I was waiting for Bryan Fuller's return to see if he could salvage the show; but mainly, I just liked making fun of it, and I had a friend who also watched it and also hated it, and we'd call and tear the show apart regularly. Then I moved, got busy, watched the midseason premiere (3.5 I guess), and simply gave up--no time, and it's less convenient for me to call my friend in another city just to make fun of a show. I recently saw the friend and he says he's liked the end of the season, so I might give it another shot (Bryan Fuller, after all). But maybe not.
pnwfilmgeek said:


Kris: Does Joss always have to be writing an essay with his shows ?


So, you haven't read much socialist art criticism, then?


Heh, I guess not. Given how long I've been reading this site though, and what we link to, have probably read a bit.

[ edited by Kris on 2009-05-14 19:54 ]
WilliamTheB, wait to see how the majority opinion of Season 4 forms. Bryan Fuller salvaged the show in some ways (it's kinda beyond saving though, really) but squandered the potential of Season 3.5 in other ways. The finale was really rushed too. Since he's apparently on board full time for Season 4 and, if ratings have anything to say about it, Season 4 may be the show's last, wait and see whether it's worth seeing through to the end before you invest more time in it. Just my take on Heroes currently. I was ready to give up after the first half of Season 3 as well, what a train wreck.
@Kris: I'm currently watching Smallville. And yeah, I always find it so bland (parents are awful!) - I'm halfway through season four, but apart from a couple of character changes, its the same show as season one! I only really like it when the Superman mythos comes in, and I'm going to keep watching at some sort of pace, at least, until the introduction of some of the newer current characters (i.e. Green Arrow.). I like Lois Lane, also. I wish I felt the same about Smallville, as I do about 90210, Gossip Girl and even One Tree Hill because even if they are bad, I like them, mainly because of all the bitchiness and you can always ship your least hated pairing.

@WilliamTheB & Kris: I just love mocking the show, as well. I don't really care about anyone, but I do occasionally miss it when its not on air. I sometimes even wish it was more like Smallville when it is on the air

I will recommend one episode of Season 3.5, though. The Bryan Fuller written one - It focuses on a few characters, and its brilliant. Absolutely brilliant!

I don't think Heroes will get cancelled anytime soon, though. It might not pull in massive numbers but the advertising it returns is utterly astounding.

[ edited by Jayme on 2009-05-14 20:08 ]
I love Dollhouse, but then I'm a sucker for anything that deals with issues of identity. Which is probably why I'm a huge Charlie Kaufman fanboy. (Incidentally, am I the only one who can draw a direct line between what the Dollhouse does and what Lacuna, Inc does in Eternal Sunshine?)

But, at the same time I can totally understand the people who have a different point of view. As the old saying goes, that's why they invented both chocolate and vanilla ice cream. So, if the show isn't for them, it isn't for them. No harm, no foul. They can go away and watch something else.

Has anyone else spotted that they spelt Reavers wrong in the article BTW?

*I've just worked out that the identity thing is probably behind my otherwise inexplicable love for Grease and High school Musical. Not that anyone was actually interested in hearing that. But I felt like sharing*
I think it's perfectly legitimate to criticize a show for failing to realize its own aspirations. What I don't get is criticism that basically says the show should aspire to be something else entirely. If you want to watch a show about good guys taking on bad guys I would think it would be pretty easy to find plenty of shows thatd do just that. If you need shows with characters you can relate to, I think you'll find they are not in short supply. So why insist that this one show that tries to do something different try to be more like all the other shows? For me, at least, the dramatic punch I get from this show is unsettling and compelling precisely because it's coming from such a different narrative place.

I grant you, it may not be commercially viable. I think the show deserves one more shot at finding its niche, and I hope it gets it. But if the price of getting that shot is becoming a whole other show, I'm not sure what the point of the exercise is. I'd rather see Joss work on a whole new premise that has more commercial upside than try to commercialize Dollhouse at the expense of losing what's unique and valuable about it.
Adam Turl likes the show even while critiquing it as a Socialist. He knows what he'd like to see next season--but he definitely wants that season!

Also here on Whedonesque, we have a favorable review of Castle from a site that's Pretty Far Right.

Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom!
Simon, I don't think it's always that people just watch shows they don't like to complain about them, I think it's that some people (I'm speaking entirely for myself here, but I bet I'm not alone) don't only watch television to be entertained and transported and whatever else. I'm grateful when that happens, and it is my preference, but I also think about television as an art form, and one I hope to understand and make myself one day, and so I want to have a working knowledge of what's going on generally on the ground, and going into WHY something works, or doesn't. And my assumption is that a site like this one with a populace dedicated to some of the toppest-notch TV out there would probably have a few citizens who were also interested in discussing ALL television in a more nuanced way. I mean, I think that there's a difference between someone coming from an informed and supportive place saying "this didn't work for me", or "I worry about this aspect" versus a troll who's just divebombing with "wow that sucked this stuff is so bad u guyz are dum 4 liking it". You know?
human_loser: I mean, I think that there's a difference between someone coming from an informed and supportive place saying "this didn't work for me", or "I worry about this aspect" versus a troll who's just divebombing with "wow that sucked this stuff is so bad u guyz are dum 4 liking it". You know?


I dig it.
I tried to read this "article" but then I found that all the "quotation marks" were making it "impossible" to "take seriously."

[ edited by bobster on 2009-05-15 05:43 ]
"Also here on Whedonesque, we have a favorable review of Castle from a site that's Pretty Far Right. "

...for me, it is not an accident that, at the far extremes of the spectrum you start to see the same insistance that pet certainties get proclaimed aloud by the show, whether the SocialistWorker being all for ambiguity as long as there is a definite anti-prostitution statement and the dollhouse gets burnt down in the end, and the right wing thingy being OK with some weird stuff as long as their appropriate moral is firmly in place by the credits (or, similarly, the article last month from the focus on the family group)...What I can never figure out is why it is the most obvious stuff that needs to be insisted on...I mean, is there a big group of people going around saying "yay, evisceration!, yay, slavery!, and prostitution? what could go wrong with that?"

"Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom!"

Yellow? or Green?

.
What Maggie said. Good post.
I third Maggie's post.
I agree with Maggie, as well.
WSS about WMSTM.
Jumping on the bandwagon (oops, sorry, b!X, didn't mean to knock the porkpie askew) to say WORD to Maggie's post.
I trust you are all not talking about Mrs. Thatcher? :) I kid. See what happens when you go away, Saje? People hi-jack my WSStm and it becomes WMSTM - oh, well, circle of life, I s'pose :)!
We were repurposing that long before he took his hiatus.
Jeez, z, you're dating yourself. There are some members here who were born after she stepped down and likely don't know whom you are talking about.
for me, it is not an accident that, at the far extremes of the spectrum you start to see the same insistance that pet certainties get proclaimed aloud by the show, whether the SocialistWorker being all for ambiguity as long as there is a definite anti-prostitution statement and the dollhouse gets burnt down in the end, and the right wing thingy being OK with some weird stuff as long as their appropriate moral is firmly in place by the credits (or, similarly, the article last month from the focus on the family group)...What I can never figure out is why it is the most obvious stuff that needs to be insisted on...I mean, is there a big group of people going around saying "yay, evisceration!, yay, slavery!, and prostitution? what could go wrong with that?"

Quoting you a second time today, doubtful guest. I agree, but who else do the socialist workers have to root for at all on TV these days? It's not like Rosanne is still on the air. Similarly, the old school (mostly) secular conservatives, to whom Joss's work appeals in some respects? We can turn that around, Maggie. Why do we post them and comment on them if we apparently don't expect idealogues to be themselves?
I thought that was an interesting article in part since I wasn't previously aware of "Martha the Immortal Waitress" even if I keep hearing "Buffy was based on the blonde girl that always dies first in horror movies."

Some of the interpretations of stories seem to be a little off to me though, like the implicit Rowe vs. Wade thing going on with a single episode in Angel's first season? If they're willing to read abortion into-- well technically I guess they're right-- Still, it seems like they'd also note that the single most honorable non-active character in the series is Boyd, who acknowledges that they're "pimps and killers, in a philanthropic way" which doesn't seem like a ringing endorsement of the human trafficking theme.
Here I am late once again to say "WMS". Always jumping on the bandwagon after the band quits playing and goes home...
dreamlogic: I was going to quarrel with you until I read your post again and saw the "(mostly)" there.
I think it's perfectly legitimate to criticize a show for failing to realize its own aspirations. What I don't get is criticism that basically says the show should aspire to be something else entirely. If you want to watch a show about good guys taking on bad guys I would think it would be pretty easy to find plenty of shows that'd do just that. If you need shows with characters you can relate to, I think you'll find they are not in short supply. So why insist that this one show that tries to do something different try to be more like all the other shows? For me, at least, the dramatic punch I get from this show is unsettling and compelling precisely because it's coming from such a different narrative place.


EXACTLY! thank you Maggie. This is what pisses me off about alot of the naysayers who insist that the premise of dollhouse is "problematic". The only thing problematic about the premise is that it could turn off some old Buffy/firefly loving viewers.... it's certainly not creatively problematic...

and if it was given a better night, potentially people who didn't like Buffy may have given it a go and it would have grown a bigger "new" audience.

Some people seem to be wanting Joss to make dollhouse into Buffy version 2.0, but that's not what Joss is interested in doing.

[ edited by mortimer on 2009-05-15 03:10 ]
This is a straw man argument. Let's be clear- you can criticize a program for whatever reason you like, you can come here and offer your thoughts, and no one has to pay attention if they do not agree. But for Pete's sake, let's stop this incessant denial of the reasons that people don't like whatever it is they don't like, and stop telling them that their reasons just are not somehow the correct reasons.
we're not saying that. we're saying that their reasons are personal, and to do with their own tastes... there is nothing creatively wrong with the show.

[ edited by mortimer on 2009-05-15 03:29 ]
Mortimer, I'm afraid you are taking what Maggie said slightly out of context by leaving out the part that starts with the conjunctive phrase:

I grant you, it may not be commercially viable. I think the show deserves one more shot at finding its niche, and I hope it gets it. But if the price of getting that shot is becoming a whole other show, I'm not sure what the point of the exercise is. I'd rather see Joss work on a whole new premise that has more commercial upside than try to commercialize Dollhouse at the expense of losing what's unique and valuable about it.


Further, you speak as if all of Dollhouse's problems can simply be written away as, yes, the personally held opinions of certain fans. What you are ignoring, however, is the one absolutely vital problem, based upon fact, that the show suffers from: Dollhouse is failing to appeal to a wide enough audience to justify its existence to the people who are spending the money making it.

Dollhouse clearly has a problem of some type which is causing this to happen. What you are failing to miss is that some of us fans actually care enough about the show itself and the players involved that we try, through our own powers of deductive reasoning and didactic discourse, to determine the root cause of said problem and communicate as best we can possible solutions to the powers that be.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-05-15 03:48 ]
yes, but I'm not saying that it is commercially succeeding. I'm saying that it is creatively succeeding.

Plus we can't be sure which of the many reasons that have been attributed to dollhouse failing commercially are actually the reasons.

For example, just because Nick Drake wasn't selling albums while he was alive, and couldn't find a bigger audience doesn't mean that he should have changed anything about the way he writes songs in order to appeal to a mass market.

Plus, you could have made the same arguments about Buffy in the early days when it wasn't getting many viewers. Luckily it was on a smaller network that gave it a chance. Firefly wasn't so lucky.
Not obtaining broad commercial viability doesn't mean that it can't be written off as having issues related to people's personal opinions. I'm not saying it should be, just pointing out that logic doesn't live there. Also, until Monday you won't know whether its been able to justify its existence to the man with the big checkbook. In general this thread could use less "this is a fact" declarations about people's opinions and fewer assumptions about what people mean.

For the record I wouldn't say there's NOTHING wrong with the show creatively, but I would also say that there are things that are putting people off that aren't WRONG, just creative decisions that lead to a show people don't grok or aren't able to relate to or get into. The fact that people don't like it for X reason doesn't mean X is necessarily a flaw, just like the fact that people like it for X doesn't necessarily mean it's not a flaw :).
Hey Zeitgeist, I was just replying to the idea that people have put forward that the premise of dollhouse is flawed... I don't think that dollhouse is perfect in every way, but what show is?

I just don't think that there is some major flaw in the show's premise which some people have stated (not me assuming people's meaning at all). Some people don't like the premise, but it's not creatively "problematic".
It was more of a general commentary on the thread :).
oh ok... then I agree with you, haha
yes, but I'm not saying that it is commercially succeeding. I'm saying that it is creatively succeeding.

I think it is really too early in the show's story to judge whether it really is succeeding or failing creatively. There are two many questions left unanswered. Too much ground yet to be uncovered.

Plus we can't be sure which of the many reasons that have been attributed to dollhouse failing commercially are actually the reasons.

But there is nothing wrong with some idle speculation on the matter, is there?

For example, just because Nick Drake wasn't selling albums while he was alive, and couldn't find a bigger audience doesn't mean that he should have changed anything about the way he writes songs in order to appeal to a mass market.

Assuming that Nick Drake was not concerned with appealing to a mass market but was more interested in trying to stay true to himself artistically, I think you are right. Assuming that Dollhouse is in the same boat... why is it being presented to a specific sector of the tv market (one of the major broadcast networks) where a show has to have some kind of mass appeal to survive?

Plus, you could have made the same arguments about Buffy in the early days when it wasn't getting many viewers. Luckily it was on a smaller network that gave it a chance. Firefly wasn't so lucky.

Well, I certainly don't need to now since you just made them for me. ;}
Hey Brinderwalt,
I don't think it's too early to say that the show is succeeding creatively. it has been dealing brilliantly with a host of philosophical ideas. It's true that the show has only had 12/13 episodes to explore these ideas, but so far it has succeeding in doing so (although not so much in the first 5 episodes).

There's certainly nothing wrong with some idle speculation, but I was just making the point that that's all that it is (I was responding to someone who said that it's lack of viewers was due to it having flaws in it's basic premise).
Well, there is an advantage to being in the last time zone to post. I can just quote. ;)

Although, I can understand why the "identity crisis" aspect of the show could turn off some people, I must say that I love the show for this very reason.... it really is "what makes it interesting" for me... and what makes it really resonate for me.

mortimer | May 14, 18:32 CET


That's exactly how I feel. and I would have used a lot more words to say it, so extra points for staring it elegantly.

All the other stuff I agree with is too long to quote, so .... Everything Kris said, especially in the first post. And Maggie, TamaraC, sunfire, palehorse,korkster and m'cookies actual.

What I don't agree with:

I like the way he operates artistically and want his creations to succeed commercially. If something in the premise of one of his works is getting in the way of that, I don't see how that aspect can be portrayed as being anything but a negative.
brinderwalt | May 14, 18:49 CET


Not picking on you brinderwalt, you just did a good job off succinctly stating something with which I disagree. The "negative" for me would be this: if too many compromises have to be made to make the show commercially successful, I'd rather have only one season of (mostly) untampered with Jossness, than three or four seasons of dumbed-down commercially successful fare.

The day after the season finale, I had this exact discussion with the two DH fans I know personally, one of whom I watch with every week. The vote was two to one for "let Joss realize his creative vision to the greatest extent possible, even if it means only one season". And even the dissenting vote was ambiguous.

If it's a quality or quantity issue, I'll go for quality every time, even if the loss is painful.
Unless we're talking about ice cream, then I demand both. ;)
shey, that's all fine and dandy, but I am afraid we will never know to what extent "compromises" have been made and to what extent they affect the viewer. It is not enough to use post-hoc analysis to blame poor ratings on the first 5 episodes and state that "Look, see, compromise= bad program at the start." We will never know. What you see is what there is. And it is certain that in the negotiations that apparently are going on right now, there will be compromise. So: do you want DH to have an S2? If so, you will have to accept whatever compromises Joss agrees to. Or are you saying that you will not watch because Joss made compromises and it is not the show he wants in exactly the way he wants it?
Dana, I honestly don't see what your post has to do with Shey's most recent post, which does not bring up the first five episodes and emphatically does not make an absolute "compromise=bad program" argument. I believe the phrase used was "too many compromises," which is a relative term. As for current negotiations, we have no real info on what is under discussion -- overall budget? storyline? casting? And "quality," of course, could refer to both "production quality" issues (how much money is available for effects, locations, etc.) or "story quality" issues (how successfully does Joss' presentation of a season two story arc satisfy both his and the other parties' definition of a show worth doing). (I am pretty sure Shey is referring to the second issue, primarily.) Your post pretty inaccurately turns Shey's into a straw man (he is demonstrably not saying what you present him as saying), not to mention commiting the fallacy of the forced choice (the possible outcomes are neither as simple as the either/or you present, nor are they accurate representations of Shey's argument).

That said, I have a great deal of faith that Joss is unlikely to compromise his vision too greatly just for the show to survive -- I believe he is entirely capable both of making good faith changes that might satisfy fox about how the show will play out AND of walking away if he feels that the changes required would too much weaken the integrity of what he feels the show should be about. In that light, I will agree with Shey and add spin to what he says: "Joss, a bunch of us are with you on this: we want the show back, but if bringing it back means gutting too much of what made it an interesting project that so many of us are already deeply impressed by and committed to, we would understand if you decided to just let it end."
What I don't agree with:


I like the way he operates artistically and want his creations to succeed commercially. If something in the premise of one of his works is getting in the way of that, I don't see how that aspect can be portrayed as being anything but a negative.

Not picking on you brinderwalt, you just did a good job off succinctly stating something with which I disagree. The "negative" for me would be this: if too many compromises have to be made to make the show commercially successful, I'd rather have only one season of (mostly) untampered with Jossness, than three or four seasons of dumbed-down commercially successful fare.


I feel the need to point out the 'if' in my original statement.

See, in spirit I am totally with you on that. It's just that I have always found one of Joss Whedon's unique strengths as an auture to be his ability to encapsulate meaningful artistic statements into works that are commercial enough on the surface to survive. With any other creator in his field I would agree with you without reservation. it's just that since it's Joss we are talking about, I can't help but think he can successfully tweak enough commercial appeal out of the show for it to survive, or else could have started with a premise with the same artistic value but more obvious commercial appeal.
If there is any negative element in the show's premise, it is that it seems so resistent by its very nature to commercial viability without multiple seasons worth of story to get things aligned first, something which is virtually impossible to get in today's competative television market.

Update: added 'seems' to the last paragraph.

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2009-05-15 15:26 ]
well, I'll disgree, dg. I set no straw man, but was simply using shey's comments to make a point: we don't know what compromises have been made, so it seems unfair to say we would rather have a show in which he does not compromise over one where he does to make it commercially successful, as in: "The "negative" for me would be this: if too many compromises have to be made to make the show commercially successful, I'd rather have only one season of (mostly) untampered with Jossness, than three or four seasons of dumbed-down commercially successful fare."

My "post hoc" comment was designed to address the obvious come-back- people stating quite firmly the show started out poorly at its start because Joss had to compromise his vision. I only note that we see what we see; we don't know what took place before we got to see what we saw. To put it bluntly, I find comments about Joss following his unbounded vision free from all commercial considerations somewhat frustrating, because that is patently impossible. By its nature, putting it on network TV involves such considerations. Heck, putting it anywhere you wish to make money involves such considerations.
Dana, I (along with anyone who has even briefly browsed discussions of the show) am aware of the whole "early episodes" issue and the question of who, if anyone, it is fair to blame for their possible failure to achieve the level that at least some of us think was reached in the later half of the season. However, you addressed your post to Shey, and this was not an issue he mentioned in his post. Further, I (along with probably almost anyone who has dedicated much time to Whedon fandom) am aware of the interesting skill (or skillful interest?) Joss has in finding commercial ways to play out the stories and questions that fascinate him. However, Shey did not make an either/or issue of compromise or declare any such naive belief that there are no commercial or other realities to creating the sort of stories Joss does. You (erroneously, and now repeatedly) cast his post in this "unbounded vision free from all commercial considerations", language. To state that it is possible to go too far with compromises and destroy a show is not to prove oneself either naive to real world considerations or inflexible.

Here, at the end of the series, by most people's judgement, including most critics, it is clear that, for whatever complex web of reasons (including, as Joss has noted, good input from Fox), the show improved in the second half. I'm under the impression that even most of the people who are still not sold on it acknowledge it made some improvement. OK, so where does this leave us. Clearly, there is a group of some size of people, myself included, who, while they might quibble with certain things, feel that the show has "found its voice." There is at least one other big group of people that think it has not, for reasons that seem to mostly cluster either around the ability to identify with characters or around the remaining moral/ethical ooky-ness of the concept and how that affects their estimation of the characters or events. They are entitled, of course, to that view.

For those of us in the first group, the threat is NOT that there will be some notes or new brainstorming about possible directions to take the show, but that massive retooling would likely destroy what seems unique to us about this show (and, as I've already said, I think Joss is pretty damn trustworthy with eyeballing this sort of thing).

I can see three main reasons why different writers might bring up the "Heck, putting it anywhere you wish to make money involves such considerations" line, and want to address them, without claiming to know which, if any, motivate you:

(1) because the writer think we are naive to this truth. To this writer I say "thank you for your concern, but we get it!"

(2) because the writer is one of those strange people like we see commenting on TV by the numbers who truly seem to believe that there is no difference between commercial viability and other artistic goals in a series, and that a show that has bad ratings thus DESERVES (yes, I've seen it phrased that way a bunch) to fail. To that writer I say "Stay the hell away from my children, you sick pervert!"

(3) because the writer truly believes that their own aesthetic concerns (such as "identifiablity," etc) about the show are, at least in this case, so much in line with the "commercial considerations" that might be hindering the ratings that addressing the latter will likely address the former, thus improving both the show's aesthetic and and commercial success. To that writer, I say, "I believe your opinion to be sincere and valid, but I disagree with you in this instance, so I can only hope that what you hope for does not come to pass."
"They are entitled, of course, to that view." This translates into, but they are wrong, I do not agree with them and reject what they are saying. C'est le vie. I see no point in defending Joss Whedon against each and every criticism anyone might make. He's not perfect, and I don't need to be either in offering my comments. It is more productive to deal with the substance than to continueally read into my comments and position them somewhere else in order to reject them. Peace out on this'n.
I agree that reading too much into comments can be a bad thing. I think it's what I was arguing when I started this exchange. I hereby offer you my sincere expression that I do assume good intentions on your part, including, expressly, the belief in your openness and intention to discuss/debate in good faith. That said, in some discussions, there are points where, for whatever reason, communication and understanding is simply not happening between two parties, and the debate continues simply so that the failure to respond by one side will not be seen as conceding a belief still strongly held. In the interest of civility, I will acknowledge things have reached that point between the two of us, so, without any snark or sarcasm in my voice, will say that I will no longer attempt to respond to any of your postings on the site from this point on. Peace out.
doubtful guest, your take on what I was saying is right on the money. So I guess, "what you said about what I said". :)

BTW, I'm a "she". ;)

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