I really wanted to like Joss Whedon’s new forray into series television. When I heard that he would reunite with Eliza Dushku (TV’s Faith) for an ongoing weekly action-drama titled Dollhouse, I was stoked. After watching Friday’s premiere episode, I’m now nauseated.
In Friday’s episode, we were introduced to Dushku’s character Echo who due to some past sin made a deal to make it all go away. What she has to do is give up five years of her life serving a secret, private organization called Dollhouse. The catch is that she, and the other folks in the Dollhouse, completely surrender their minds and bodies. Their psyches are overwritten for each job they are assigned imprinting a personality appropriate to the job.
The operatives of Dollhouse may be assigned to some rich guy as an escort or as a hostage negotiator. When the job’s done, the operative’s mind is wiped and we’re back to a blank slate until the agent is needed again.
What I saw was a bunch of victimization.
When not imprinted with a personality, Echo wanders about the Dollhouse in a very timid, wide-eyed, subservient state. She all but wears a t-shirt asking to be victimized.
If you substitute “mind-wipe” for “rohypnol”, you have a more accurate picture of what’s happening in this show. Frankly, it’s a bit startling to see such a series by someone like Whedon who has such strong connections to female empowerment. Perhaps he plans on telling the story of women overcoming this nonsense? I don’t know.
In the show, we do see some men in the background. I was given to believe that men fill these same roles as the women, though no screen time was dedicated to it. In the spirit of more dehumanization, the “dolls” shower in a unisex gang shower and sleep in bed chambers that are recessed in the floor. And they’re sealed into them for good measure.
Dollhouse is painful to watch. There was nothing fun about the show. Because I enjoy Whedon and Dushku so much, I’ll hang around for another episode or two, but it really needs to turn around fast.
Dollhouse airs Friday nights on FOX.