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December 26 2013

"The Mind Doesn't Matter, It's the Body We Want" - a Dollhouse essay. This essay originally appeared in the "Inside Joss' Dollhouse: From Alpha to Rossum" anthology.

I love reading these kinds of essays, but this one has a ridiculous premise: "On Dollhouse,
this action of imprinting Dolls with various ideas, beliefs, and
patterns of behavior reflects the notion that we, the viewers, are influenced greatly by our own everyday interactions with the
world. Over the course of a day, for example, we watch television
news, we listen to our friendsí opinions, we take orders
from our boss, and we stop at red lights when driving. Much
of what we think in a day comes not from ourselves, but from
events, individuals, and ideas in the world that encourage, train, or demand that we act certain ways."

Well, not really. What we think in a day is from ourselves, period. I do not have to stop at a red light, I do not have to think about TV the same way you do, etc. It is all me, not the outside. SO the rest of the essay loses power as a result of this beginning premise. IMHO, that is.
Dana5140: Thanks. Having read little philosophy except some Kierkegaard and Feuerbach, I could easily have missed that on first reading. I'll keep it in mind :-).
That's just it. The thought of an entity controlling your emotions and "id" was a bit creepy. Then, that what Joss wanted you to think about(imho). I found the show fascinating.
You cannot separate the mind and body any more than you can go out at night and slay vampires. It's an entirely fictional premise that mind and personality can be removed or imprinted on the physical construct of the brain, but with Dollhouse, critical analysis seems to much more frequently blur the line between metaphoric imagery and the underlying concerns. I think questions about identity and loss of identity as they relate to control and programming are very relevant to Dollhouse, but trying to attach 'self' to either body or mind... it's not unlike debates about vampire demons vs. souls vs. original personalities. The mechanics of these interactions are maybe a point of idle intellectual fascination and always good for a round of character deconstruction, but for me, it's not very applicable real world commentary and I'm not sure it actually addresses a point of substance being made in the writing.
BringItOn5x5, it may be a fictional concept, but why should that mean it's not applicable to the real world? We can't programme people like computers, but that doesn't mean the questions aren't relevant. People can lose memories, people can alter their bodies, people can and do regularly adjust their behaviour or personality depending on the social context. Uncertainty about identity and the self is very real. True, the stories are all made up by a few writers. But you could same the same for any fiction, not just sci-fi.
As I said, "I think questions about identity and loss of identity as they relate to control and programming are very relevant to Dollhouse." If you're going to examine the show though, look at the underlying meaning - don't dissect the metaphoric imagery. Does 'self' reside in mind or body? That's not a terribly meaningful question since they're inseparable in practice. It has no corollary. It works however the show needs it to work to talk about the things that are important and do relate. As I see it, Echo found herself - her identity - no matter what they took from her, how she was programmed to behave or what box they tried to put her in. That's the bigger picture. Caroline's role is something of a MacGuffin - not because our minds/experiences aren't important to our sense of 'self' but because it's really not Caroline's story that's being told.

[ edited by BringItOn5x5 on 2013-12-29 22:14 ]
Ah, I see what you mean. Sorry for misunderstanding you. It's true that I initially wondered how they were going to answer the mind vs body debate, but was glad that the show never came down on one side. Although I do think it's interesting that in the end the question has nothing to do with the internal science of the show, but instead becomes about how we in the audience relate to the characters. Like how you start off thinking you're looking for Caroline but end up caring more about Echo and Dr Saunders and Mellie.

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