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February 06 2010

Dollhouse started with desire, but ended with paranoia. A one week post Dollhouse finale article by io9. Comments on the evolution of Dollhouse into an apocalyptic future. Compared with Firefly, being a show that was canceled too early and stories were left untold. Includes some Caprica spoilers.

[ edited by Sunfire on 2010-02-06 02:22 ]

I enjoyed it greatly. A few claims seem to be a stretch, though. It's nice to see this as kind of a counterbalance to the previous ("Heroes and Villains") Dollhouse critique I linked to. It was the best of Joss shows, it was the worst of Joss shows, and now we have years to figure it out.
Yeah some reachy stuff. Like
And yet, the needs of having a weekly "happy ending" meant we had to root for the clients who hired Echo's prostituted shell every week.

Hmm, really ? Can't say I spent too many episodes rooting for the client, nor do I think that was the intention (though from 'Echo' - and even 'Ghost' - it'd seem it was more the original intention). It was a relief to see that from 'Man in the Street' onwards (i.e. once Joss was apparently making more the show he wanted to make) the clients were often presented more sympathetically. That ties in more with his stated original intention of showing it as everyone being both exploiter and exploited, of desire and fantasy just being part of the human condition rather than telling us good people have "good" desires/fantasies and bad people have "bad" desires/fantasies.

Also not sure how actively anti-corporation it was meant to be, to me it was more just very pro individual and nowadays, in the West, corporations are the handiest "go to" baddie when it comes to anti-individualism (30 or 40 years ago, certainly over here, it would've been the government so we had a lot of dramas about government cover-ups or the corrupting influence of serving the state). Though I also don't think there's much love lost between the creators and corporations either.

I agree though that the broad arc was probably roughly the idea all along, it's just the version we got was highly compressed. And there're some nice turns of phrase in there too (even if I don't necessarily agree with the actual point the phrases are making ;).

(and re: BSG and God, it's not a hint in any way IMO, the show basically outright states its position. Which was fine with me BTW, I just think claiming it's presented as particularly ambiguous is a big stretch)
I certainly wasn't rooting for the clients at any point. I doubt that was ever the purpose (at least I hope not), and any illusion of that was a result of FOX's early meddling.

And how could anyone have hope for any show where almost half the season was taken up by a bunch of pilot episodes over hope for a series with a good back story and ongoing ark.

Articles like this remind me that Dollhouse could have been an even better show. It could have had many more great stories in-between "The Hollow Man" (and before) and the Epitaph episodes if things had worked out on all fronts. If there had been a way for the stories to be told the series would have been so much stronger. But alas, at least we got a real ending, and gotta be grateful for that.

[ edited by activebrowncoat on 2010-02-06 11:46 ]
With the exception of the odd "rooting for the clients" bit, this is another excellent piece. io9 has put out some of the very best articles on Dollhouse.
Glad I'm not the only one still in mourning over the show's demise. :(
Let's have an 'in fairness to Fox' thing again - I don't think they wanted people to root for the clients'. In fact, wasn't it them who wanted the focus away from the clients? And then Joss tried to bring it back with Joel Mynor? (Who some people felt, you know, sorry for).
It's intersting to me hat people could not root for Davina and her father or Susan from "Briar Rose". For me, not all engagements had an ick-factor to them (except for the per se-ick factor of the premise of course, but that's a completely different topic).
Let's have an 'in fairness to Fox' thing again...

It's also simply "fairer" to reality. Watching 'Echo' it seems Joss clearly wanted the clients to be closer to the centre of the story and also more sympathetic, maybe even people we should root for (like the young woman being pressured/conned into porn). Watching the episodes after he apparently had freer rein to tell it as he wished, they're mostly more sympathetic (a grieving widower, an innocent murder victim, a traumatised young girl etc.). It's the episodes that Fox apparently interfered with most that have the least sympathetic clients (a misogynist killer, a spoiled brat singer, a man commissioning a bank robbery, a cult leader).

If you blame Fox for interfering in the first 5 then you can't also blame them for trying to make us root for the clients, that position is internally inconsistent.
Well, then I blame whomsoever idea it was for trying to make the clients sympathetic. They failed, to me anyway. The stuff that went on inside/to do with the house was always more interesting then the stuff that went on outside/the client of the week stuff.

And well, FOX, will always be to blame for f'ing with Dollhouse in a myriad of ways, so no, no fairness to them.

The only people I rooted for were those who were helped by the Dollhouse, but didn't know that was the case. Davina, but not her father. He was shady and had obviously used the Dollhouse for the dirty stuff. Susan, but she didn't hire the Dollhouse and she didn't know that she was being helped by the potential future her.

Kinda rooted for Perrin. He was a unique situation because he may have initially hired the dollhouse to change himself, he was no longer the client. He was under the control of Rossum who were looking for someone to manipulate.

Always rooted for the dolls, so in the case of Margaret, it was more of a rooting for Echo than for the client situation.

Guess I'm kinda heartless and apathetic, in the not feeling sorry for the creeps, kinda way.
Well, then I blame whomsoever idea it was for trying to make the clients sympathetic.

As I say, that'd appear to be Joss (since his original pilot - pre-meddling - had at least one sympathetic client).
One of the commentaries on the S1 DVD had some interesting comments from Joss about clients and how everyone has things they would want Topher to give them or take away. I don't think clients were meant to be unsympathetic and I'd be disappointed if they were.
Alright, if it was Joss who wanted us to have sympathy for the clients, I blame him for that aspect. The show was so much better when it stopped being about that.

Ha ha, I guess I'm mostly alone in not feeling for the clients. Oh well.
I don't think clients were meant to be unsympathetic and I'd be disappointed if they were.

Exactly Sunfire, it'd be much too simplistic, not in keeping with the show's grey perspective at all. Some were of course but some/most weren't.

Just to be clear though, there's a distinction for me between 'sympathise with' and 'root for'. Many of the clients were sympathetic in that I understood why they did what they did and felt bad for them about what caused them to hire a doll. But I still didn't usually agree with them doing it or want them to persist in doing so - if I was rooting for them in any way it was for them to overcome their need for a doll in the first place.
Yeah even Joel, who was utterly sympathetic and amazing, was not someone I would root for. He creeped me out more than the less sympathetic clients because he was so easy to like. His motivations were very sympathetic, but his actions were really disturbing. I think that's more effective storytelling than making him easily disliked.
So I guess we're saying we might have rooted for their objectives rather than the person. Because honestly, there were clients that we would have been unapologetic in "rooting for" given that context.

Gabriel Cristejo from Ghost, Susan from Briar Rose, and Margaret Bashford from Haunted (who comical in a way is only trying to fulfill a last wish and that's it.)

I think the rest fell into the extremely gray area.

BTW, I really wish we could place moratorium on bringing up the theist leanings of the BSG storyline (I'm specifically talking about articles here) as it is becoming extremely tiring to read. It always puzzles me just how angry it made some people. It always seemed like a well thought out, logical mythology for the show to deal in and have actual conflicts with. After all, it might be the first SF show I can remember that actually chose to deal with it head on rather then relegate it to some off-hand remark like "well some people believe X."

[ edited by azzers on 2010-02-06 21:33 ]
I would have appreciated more focus on the clients in a way that we got on Joel Mynor. In reality, he's probably the only client from the first few episodes that we're going to remember a few years down the road. Oh yeah, and Nolan.
Azzers: well, there's Deep Space Nine which actually had a planet's "gods" as characters and then examined those implications.
I'm curious about what Joss intended by the client thing too. I'm aware that was always something of an intention with them that might not have played out, but when they actually did have some shots at it, it didn't seem too effective to me.

Joel Mynor was sort of unreasonably sympathetic but maybe that was since they got Patton Oswalt to do it. I also sort of liked Haunted but that could partially be attributed to how clever a gimmick it was for an imprint (and she wasn't exceptionally a great person) but for that and Miss Lonelyhearts, otherwise they all seemed less real than even the empty shell actives and all mostly served plot roles/holes as jerks. I mean the client with the most repeat engagements on screen was a total non-entity/personality to me aside from how I didn't think he was quite bad enough to deserve exploding.

By the second season though when they'd got the chance to look back on things they still went with that terrorist arms dealer guy, which at best might have been exciting for BSG fans. Or that absentee father who couldn't deal with his dead spouse but that only came in sort of an exposition dump with him acting unusually sketchy. I was sort of intrigued by the whole serial killer mistake but that was more of a neat plotting/sci-fi/acting exercise than caring about the other BSG alum who technically was the client.

I still sort of wish they'd had the chance to do that one romantic comedy styled episode or at least devised some sort of bizarre client that would have been interested in a burlesque dancing chessmaster like Dushku wanted to play. I know they wanted to get in the cliffnotes version of their bigger story arc but despite that it's such a cool concept they kept only hinting at. Like exactly who and why someone got that prim British Asian woman concerned with Orientals even though it was a spankable/not-racialist issue, or what sort of man/woman would pay exceedingly high rates for Victor's leather chaps-- assuming that wasn't Miss Lonelyhearts.
True, but that is an instance of the show allowing the viewer to see behind the curtain. The thing that differentiates BSG is that the question is always present and never answered.

If one chooses to believe it is God interceding in BSG, it is at the exclusion of other rational although alien possibilities. The second option being precisely what Stargate, Star Trek, etc. have dealt with in spades and is in no way ruled out from BSG.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-02-07 01:14 ]
If one chooses to believe it is God interceding in BSG, it is at the exclusion of other rational although alien possibilities. The second option being precisely what Stargate, Star Trek, etc. have dealt with in spades and is in no way ruled out from BSG.

In no way ruled out ? C'mon, pull the other one azzers, it plays Jingle Bells ;). Only in the sense of, to paraphrase, "Any magic is indistinguishable from sufficiently advanced technology" surely ? Maybe but that's surely not the most parsimonious or plausible explanation (in context) ? God exists and is active in the BSG universe, to me there's very little wiggle room - we can't be absolutely certain but only in the same sense that we can't be absolutely certain in our world either (that the opposite's true I mean. IMO ;). It doesn't make me angry though, personally I thought it was refreshing and pretty brave for a sci-fi show to go down that route (or in other words, absolutely par for the course with BSG).

[ edited by Saje on 2010-02-07 11:37 ]
And if you were going to ask me, I'd say that God exists in BSG. But again, my emphasis was on the intentionally unresolved nature of it. Even things as odd as "you know he doesn't like to be called that" at the end seem thrown in there to intentionally suggest ambiguity.

In differentiating BSG from previous Sci-Fi shows, the difference has always been that the lens tended to always pull back to let you see the man behind the curtain. That's what I thought was genius about it, not being theist but by simply denying the viewer anything other then the presence of a miracle and forcing them to draw their own conclusion.
I guess i'm still a bit puzzled by the distinction you're making azzers. If you accept that miracles definitely occur in the show and you accept that miracles, by their nature, mean the presence of (a) god then how can you still say it's intentionally unresolved ? Forcing someone to draw their own conclusion would be unresolved but forcing them to draw one conclusion is surely about as resolved as it's possible to be without having a character explicitly state, "God exists in our universe, it's definitely not aliens etc." ?

Even things as odd as "you know he doesn't like to be called that" at the end seem thrown in there to intentionally suggest ambiguity.

Hmm, interesting. I'm pretty sure Mind-Baltar actually says something like "He doesn't like that name" (don't have access to the episode right now) but it's after Mind-6 talks about God AND his plan. So it could either be referring to God (maybe saying "It's God but not as we know it" - e.g. maybe 'he' isn't an appropriate pronoun - or even just referring to the religious idea that the actual name of God is sacred and shouldn't be spoken) OR it could be meant literally and saying, "God doesn't like to call it a plan" i.e. implying that it's "just" reality unfolding as far as God's concerned, rather than a series of conscious steps/manipulations. But I never took it to be saying "It might not be God at all", again, that interpretation just doesn't seem as parsimonious given what we've seen beforehand.

(in the cold light of day I thought of spoilers so invisitexted some of my post BTW)

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