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October 11 2010

Eliza Dushku on Dollhouse. It's an extended interview taken from the recent SFX 'Worlds of Whedon' special.

Few things make me happier than Eliza's very vocal and consistent appreciation for Joss.
He is one of the only people who can dance six hours straight with me.


I wonder what his dance of choice is... I wanna see him dance the rumba.
DOLLHOUSE SPOILERS


I know I must be late to this realization, but when I read Eliza's description of Dollhouse, and how life was asking her to play different roles, it was the first time it occurred to me that Echo was the "true" personality.

The idea being that Caroline was the personality she developed or created over her life in order to get by in life prior to the Dollhouse, but that it was just another manufactured personality. And that Echo was her "true" self beyond or before all the life experiences created the Caroline personality.

Had other people already gotten there? Or am I way off base?

:-)
I wonder what his dance of choice is... I wanna see him dance the rumba.


Personally, I am hoping for the Dance of Joy. That's right, six hours of it.

[ edited by Alpert on 2010-10-12 01:56 ]

The idea being that Caroline was the personality she developed or created over her life in order to get by in life prior to the Dollhouse, but that it was just another manufactured personality. And that Echo was her "true" self beyond or before all the life experiences created the Caroline personality.Had other people already gotten there? Or am I way off base?
:-)
StalwartTrue | October 11, 23:00 CET


Can't speak for anyone else but this was my interpretation, from very early on. And realizing this was when I fell totally in love with this show.
It still breaks my heart that we didn't get a chance to see this incredibly complex idea fully explored over a good long run, because I feel sure that Joss & Co. would have done it justice. :_(
I'd considered that as well and I'm not sure how I feel about it. On one hand it's interesting to view Echo as the "pure" personality, with Caroline being a result of all her life experiences and opinions up to that point. On the other hand, I'm a big proponent that that's all there is - I don't believe in souls; you are just the sum of your life experience. I agree with Shey, it's a pity we'll never get to see Dollhouse delve into this (I would have killed for an episode on the same level as 'Objects in Space').
Well, I don't think I believe in souls. But... I'm keeping my options open for more data. I do think that there is more to us than our life experiences though. I think our brains and bodies come hardwired with preferences and tenancies and talents. I guess that would be the "nature" portion of our being. (Nothing to do with souls there.) I think the experiences we have then interact with our natures and develop and modify what we start out with. So I believe--for what it's worth.

Maybe we will see Dollhouse explore the "incredibly complex idea" in the upcoming comic now? The portrayal of inner states in comics is one of my very most favoritest things. In fact, I think it's one of the things that comics can do better than film.
Yeah Shea, when I saw this interpretation I felt an ache of disappointment that this concept didn't have a chance to be more fully explored by Joss and Co. because it is so rich in potential.

Dollhouse always felt to me like a more focused exploration of the ideas Joss worked with in previous series, probably most explicitly in "Who Are You?" (Buffy S4, Ep16) but obviously elsewhere. And those ideas have always been one of my favorite parts of his work. But this "true original self" idea seems new for him, and he was just getting warmed up when they pulled the plug...

On another note, what do people think Eliza would say if she weren't being so "diplomatic" when she says:
the show they thought we were making wasn’t the show we thought we were making

?
I think she might say Fox wanted "edgy" until they saw what "edgy" actually meant (they meant "edgy for a network TV show [i.e. not edgy]" and Joss/Eliza et al meant actually, y'know, edgy). 'Cept she might say it with a bit more venom ;).

Was Echo the "true self" ? If "true" has some value judgement attached then no IMO. If it means, basically, "pre-experience self" then yeah (quite clearly IMO, there doesn't really seem any other sensible way of viewing it since she's in Caroline's body so the nature part is the same, only the nurture part has - apparently, as far as the dollhouse knows - been excised). Blank-slate Echo was what you might call the "proto-self" i.e. she was Caroline without the influence of her life experiences (good and bad) but to me there's absolutely nothing truer (in the sense of more essential, purer) about that being than Caroline (or final, post composite event, post moral compromise Echo) in the same way that my 15 year old self wasn't a "truer" version of me than my 25, 35 etc. year old selves. There isn't some "Pure Me" template sitting somewhere that current and past "Me"s can be compared to and judged against (though there're plenty of alternative "Possible Me"s, even if thinking about them too much may not be all that healthy psychologically).

Keep taking parts of your "you-ness" away and you don't end up with some essential you, you end up with a being that either doesn't function at all or functions nothing like "you" - as a wise human once said, we're kinda like Van Halen in that respect ;) - though I think how much you can take away and still be you (or even human) is quite an interesting question, one that the show touched on a few times (in recent TV 'Dexter' and 'Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' have asked the same question from slightly different angles).

(and I certainly don't believe in a soul in the religious sense of some essential you that survives corporeal death. Evidence may come to light that changes that but for right now, bunkum ;)
On another note, what do people think Eliza would say if she weren't being so "diplomatic" when she says:

No idea what Eliza would say, but based on what I saw: They looked at what was being produced, and certain employees panicked and bolted on supporting the project - forcing it to Fridays and forcing the idea into over-development hell.
Any news yet on when this will be available in the States/ if it's already available here?
Saje: I'm intrigued by your points about "true" selves.

I guess I come at it from the perspective that we are all born with a certain nature, a predisposition to be a certain way and that if we were to develop in an ideal environment we would come to fully express that nature. And when I say ideal environment, I'm not talking about one without challenges, because I think those help us become what we can be. But I do mean one in which we don't get messages that certain aspects of ourselves are unacceptable. In other words the challenges can be things that help us discover our strengths and don't need to be challenges to who we are (e.g. that it's not OK to be gay or sensitive or loud or strong or smart or uncoordinated or athletic, etc.)

I think we are all given these kinds of messages in some ways because we are surrounded by others (teachers, parents, peers, siblings) who have their own discomforts with and prejudices about the way a person should be that may not match who one actually is.

So we learn (or decide) to hide those unwelcome aspects of ourselves and this distorts who we become, the personality that we "create" so that it is less "true" to who we had the potential to become. Or we overcompensate and exaggerate those aspects that others are rejecting and distort ourselves in a different way.

Until I read this interview with Eliza I had thought of the Doll state as just a generic blank that Topher had programmed (and I think he thought of it as just that) out of which Echo happened to develop (I know I'm leaving a lot out here).

But I'm now wondering if part of Joss and Eliza's idea was that each blank slate/doll was unique in that it was the purer expression of the person, unaffected by all the compromises we make in ourselves to get by in the world. Yes, the dolls were infantile and malleable, but this was because they had been reset to their personality starting point, their omni-potentiality. And that this starting point (e.g. Echo) was more true to who she was than Caroline, which was a distortion of her potential.

gossi: Thanks for the perspective. Too bad those Fox employees were so far from their "true" selves that they couldn't allow the full expression of what Dollhouse had the potential to become.

:-)
And that this starting point (e.g. Echo) was more true to who she was than Caroline, which was a distortion of her potential.

Well, I kind of agree up to this point StalwartTrue. It's just that I don't think the "starting point" is a personality in any meaningful sense, not a "truer" version of who you could become because it's nothing like who you could become (and because who you could become is impossible to predict from the initial conditions), not even really a person in the sense we think of it. Personality (to me) isn't a fundamental essence, it's a - very - tangled feedback web of your genes and environment so the idea of a personality without experiences is basically meaningless, personalities can't (and don't) exist without experiences (or at least if they do i've never met one ;). In a sense, we're ALL "composite events" because every experience (including everyone we meet, particularly the people we "internalise" to some extent) shapes us.

But if you mean something more like "Our experiences can damage us, warp our outlook from what it may have been without those experiences" then yeah, I agree that initial Echo is probably closer to Caroline's body's "default state" than final Echo or Caroline, it's almost tautological in fact. I.e. I totally agree that how we're treated (by teachers, peers etc.) has a huge effect on how we turn out and that sometimes (maybe often ?) that treatment can detrimentally alter your outlook from what it may have been had that treatment been different (that's the "Possible Me"s thing I mentioned above). Add to that your response to that treatment (which is partly predisposed by genes/bodies) and people's response to your response and so on and it all gets a bit complicated (did I mention "tangled" ? ;).

But is that initial state "truer" or "purer" ? Not to me because no functioning personality could ever be entirely "untainted" by experiences and as soon as you add those you don't have the "default state", she was always going to be changed, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse because otherwise "she" wouldn't even exist (if I was a thoughtless boy but a less thoughtless man is the thoughtless boy a "truer" or "purer" me because he was less formed by experience and more by his natural instincts ?).

To me the dollstate IS a generic blank BTW, it's just that the individual's "nature" portion (i.e. their genes/body) means that each generic blank develops differently (because they're in different bodies). The premise of the show hinges on that difference (on the idea that you can't "wipe away a soul") though I think it's unclear whether Joss means to equate genes/bodies with an essential soul.

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