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December 07 2009

"If they can't remember, they can't enjoy it." Maclean's argues that no one would ever want to become a Doll, apparently for the reason I've quoted for the post title here.

I think this reviewer missed a few eps.
Not really a good argument, IMO. The show has frequently suggested that most people choose Dollhood in order to escape something worse--and that they expect to leave freely after five years, with their former problems magically erased, with lots of money, and with the benefit of tons of yoga and spa treatments.

If your problems were bad enough, and if you didn't know that some of your engagements would be hazardous or ethically problematic, that would totally sound like a good solution.

All that aside, I don't think Joss et al. ever intended us to envy the Dolls. In the show as originally conceived, I think we were supposed to (at least sometimes) envy the clients; but that part of the premise got lost along the way.
The conceptual problem is this: the way they’ve set it up, there is absolutely nothing fun about being a Doll.

No there really isn't. They're mindwiped indentured servants*. It's how the likes of Echo, Alpha, Whiskey and others try to escape from this, is what makes it interesting.

*Or given what Adelle said in the last episode, they're really slaves as they will never be free even when they leave the Dollhouse.
Wrong. I'd want to be a doll so that I would not have to be me.

And most of the people who might not want to be a doll, well, they would still not object to have some painful memories erased, I guess and if they had those erased they would still be themselves, granted, not their through experience matured selves, but their former selves, but they'd still be themselves. So I guess most people would like to stay awake (as Echo puts it on the show recently), but they'd probably still like to take advantage of the tech that is behind everything.
The author, Jamie Weinman said, "I’m sure I’ve done it on occasion, but I just don’t care for “this show would be better if it were some other show” posts."

This is clearly one of those occasions.
A few eps short of a season. ; >

And btw, I don't think the show is confused about what it's supposed to be. I think:

1) originally - episodes 1-5, for instance - FOX was confused about what it was supposed to be
2) many viewers had and have very strong pre-conceptions about what it should be
3) a show can have different flavors and facets and aspects and blended styles without being "confused" about its "identity". Much like people, in fact.
Also was thinking...
The question that comes to mind is, are Dolls really people? I would argue that since the original body owner's consciousness is gone, they cease to be a person...they are more of an instinctive animal. They react instinctively (like a dog or any other "dumb animal") and its their only option. They might be "free thinking" but only within the context of their implanted persona.

Does this mean that the Dollhouse is playing god? And not just because they are changing people's identities but because each time they create a new persona from a mix of other people's "parts," one could argue, they also creating a new soul that will ultimately just be bottled up somewhere in a hard drive.
What I will give the author is that the dolls not really having an enviable life could be a reason why others tuned out. So many of the ads made being a doll look cool, look exciting, look fun, when really the show presents it as something completely wrong. The show touches on some real issues and gets very dark, and too many people just want their shows to be fun with little thought involved.

But besides that, not really much of a leg to stand on, and certainly not something I would reference in the future.
I'm confused. Of course no one can enjoy being a Doll. No one signs up because they want to enjoy being a Doll. He's arguing a point that no one's making. Isn't that a straw man?
I think another thing worth mentioning is Echo/Bree's line about "her bad guys being badder than my bad guys." While the two-parter on Friday did have a very conspiracy theory thriller feel to it, the apex of the episodes for me was the realization that the LA Dollhouse, while morally grey, seems to be a much lighter shade of grey than the DC 'house.

Angel didn't always feel like the same show. Season four's epic arc was a departure from its usual structure and the trip to Pylea at the end of season two was vastly different from its noir roots. Part of my draw to Dollhouse was the diverse format in which the show tells its stories.

To go off what Polter-Cow said, why point out the elephant in the room when no one's going to remember it was ever there?

[ edited by CrazyKidBen on 2009-12-07 23:56 ]
If only these Faustian scenarios came with glossy brochures to convince me how fun they'd be.
Bahaha- Well Ms. DeWitt, what you're describing sounds fun enough, but will I get to take an album of photos with me at the end? I want to remember all that crazy fun my body was having.

Yeah, I would absolutely become a doll on the condition I would have no memory of those five years. The assload of money is reason enough for me.
I think the writer's argument is more that if the Dolls cannot enjoy themselves, then viewers cannot either identify with their enjoyment or envy them for their evil no-consequence lifestyles. Two points though: one, I don't think the only way to relate to a story is by identifying directly with the characters, and two, I think there is rarely a direct correlation between character fun and audience fun. There are more diverse ways to enter and enjoy a story.
I'm with you on that, Bigsofty. I was just making a similar point on another thread. It seems to tie in with what QuoterGal was saying about the distinction between what the show is and what people expect it to be. At this stage of the game, I don't think anyone's in it for the shiny, sexy action-adventures. This is not a vicarious living sort of series.
It was a shame they sorta tried to sell it that way - hitting the "cutting-edge science in a house full of full of hot chicks!" vibe. Ooooh. Motorcycles and hot chicks and guns and stuff.

As JAYROCK touched on, they spun it as vicarious thrill ride with hot sexy fun and some folks thought it failed because it wasn't.

Anyhoo, if I needed only enviable protagonists to involve myself in a work of fiction, there's about a kajillion eleventy billion favorite books of mine that would have to fall to the wayside immediately.

And I'd have missed one of the points - that by learning to see and identify the humanity in the tricksiest of us, I can feel and understand the humanity in all of us more fully.
I think it's more that if they can't remember, they can't enjoy it more than once nor learn from it and grow. Because pleasure exists in the moment and memory of pleasure is always trying to recreate that feeling of ecstasy that cannot be truly captured again, merely echoed within you.
Yeah, that's absolutely a strawman. No one actually wants to be a Doll for the fun of it. The draw is that they'll fix your problems/cure a mental illness/deliver a dumptruck full of money to your frontyard. And unlike other forms of "fixing" problems, you'll have no memory of it afterward.
You know, I've long felt that the whole "the Dollhouse concept is confusing and one of the things keeping people from getting into it" is kind of untrue. I mean, it's really NOT that complicated a concept (they have the technology to erase and implant personalities; they use it to rent out custom-made people). It's way less complex than a lot of other recent shows (certainly BSG and Lost) that have had success.

On the other hand, this is making me doubt that.
It's correct insofar as viewers can't help thinking of this, but wrong within the context of the show being about people wanting to escape soemthing alreadyd readful.

And nothing was ever "dropped from" the concept of vampires in the Buffyverse. If he emant Spike and Harmony, they are better seen as anomalies, odd individuals in a population of over 900,000.

[ edited by DaddyCatALSO on 2009-12-08 02:19 ]
Boat, missed. Shessh....

[ edited by Shey on 2009-12-08 06:15 ]
I'd like to be a conscious autonomous spirit in possession of the composite of 30+ personalities, all with their own skills, knowledge, experiences and perspectives; able to flip into martial arts mode at the thought of a canteen, crack safes or respond to the needs of my local conservative politician in less time than it takes to say "chafe".

A frequently raped pancake obsessed mind wiped slave to an evil multi-national corporation bent on destroying humanity? Not so much.
I thought the DVD extras actually did sort of play up the appeal of the tech. Not only is it a way to escape your own life (whether by open choice or not) but they kind of did suggest the opportunity to retain some of it like muscle memory or that ventriloquism upgrade Topher offered. (Not to mention that whole creepy spa environment thing even if you wouldn't remember it.)

However, in the update when the writer makes the argument that no one can relate, I don't quite get that. He? She? I can't tell from the name but the writer undermines the argument he/she set up in saying it's not good but still fun for people to be locked into roles. I was under the impression pretty much everyone in real life is forced to take on a role or persona based on what others expect. If this is somehow a good thing (falling on a pre-set concept rather than having to figure out ourselves) then that's basically the exact appeal in Dollhouse too. If it's a bad thing then that's the exact same thing the actives go through...

Also that actor fallacy thing I don't get either. Yes they may like the idea of being versatile and getting to take on these different roles, but some other party nearly always typecasts them in a certain role or public image is quick to categorize people. Hugh Grant was nearly always the modern foppish dandy in every movie, Lucy Liu is the token exotic Asian[-American], Dushku is always the sexy activist tomgirl (on the show and in press)...
This article is wrong-headed in pretty much every way IMO. It's not the imprints that are the vicarious fantasy aspect of the show, it's watching Echo become someone, it's every time she makes a choice, every time she stands up for her own right to exist that we cheer because it reminds us of what we value about ourselves (individually and as a species).

And if you compare being a Doll to being an actor, an analogy the show has encouraged, it’s pretty obvious that the parallel doesn’t work at all (actors become other people because they like it).

Well, IANAPsychologist but I think a case could be made that at least some actors are also avoiding something about themselves by becoming other people, just as the actives are avoiding something about themselves by signing up (those that did sign up anyway). The complexity of that interaction between what we want for ourselves and what we can't avoid wanting because of how our experiences have shaped us is one of the things the show looks at.

To me, this is just another article which basically says "This is a show about ideas rather than making the viewer feel good. Which is A Bad Thing™". Well, I agree with the first sentence in that statement, not so much the second.
I finally watched public eye and left hand (arm?) and I have no doubt it was my favorite two part mini-arc in the entire series. The Topher scenes were priceless (Enver is one hell of an actor), the references to Melli's activation as a sleeper was great and Summer was...perfect, the Sen. Perin reveal was great, etc. etc. I loved them.

I assume this has been discussed in the "for discussion of the ep" thread but they felt like a real and true verse episodes. The whole season has been great but these were enthralling and amazing. The kind of episodes that get people talking.

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