Changes, they are a comin’.
I’ve avoided posting anything because I have very little to post…book-wise. I initially intended this to chronicle my journey from blank paper to published book. While that’s still the goal, I’ve learned that publishing moves glacially. Thus, if I’m going to continue to write shit, I’m going to have to branch way out.
So the first thing I’m going to write about is Dollhouse.
I’m a Joss Whedon fan. Have been since Buffy. I remember the first time I saw an episode of Buffy. I was getting ready to go clubbing for the night and I flipped it on. They fought vampires…with a bazooka. I was hooked after that. Whedon has this ability to take you places you never thought you’d go, and Buffy before clubbing became a routine.
I missed out on Firefly when it came out (due to being poor) but I found it on DVD and love it. So I was wicked excited about Dollhouse. Like most other good fanboys, I kept hearing the grumblings from the intermawhozits about Fox meddling – something they promised not to do. And that scared me. It’s also why the first episode was pretty blech. But the second episode…well that’s a whole ‘nother story.
It had all the trademark Whedon wit, the complex morality, and the story that took me somewhere other than where I’d expected. And I expect that it will only get better from here. Joss is a man whose best work revolves around complicated people and their complicated relationships. Those things take time to develop. And develop they will. So it comes as a shock when casual viewer and fanboys alike are deriding this show. And I think I know why.
Morally questionable. That’s what the show is all about. No one knows who to root for. There isn’t anyone to root for. Every character is dirty somehow. Echo’s the active, being sent on missions, some of which involve sex. We could root for her, but not only does she not have a personality, but she has a past, a reason she became a doll, a reason that may not be on the up and up.
The dollhouse is obviously not something we root for since, they obviously work in some shady and downright despicable areas or morality. Places normal people don’t want to have a light shined on.
Echo’s handler is someone we want to root for but he’s an enabler. He protects her, yes, and he’s a semi-father figure, yes, but he also takes her to and from the engagements, thus he’s complicit in every morally gray thing that she does and is done to her.
And we simply don’t know enough about the FBI Agent to root for him yet. He wants to find the dollhouse, but why? Hopefully we’ll find out.
So people watch an hour of this show and they feel dirty, they feel complicit. No matter who they relate to, they’re forced to question their own morality. Would THEY ever pay for an doll? Who hasn’t thought about it? And there’s no moral center on the show for them to cling to. No sane voice in the darkness.
Take another morally gray show: Battlestar Galactica. Over its run, every character has done questionable things. Ron D. Moore took us to all those dark places – airlocking Cylons, secret tribunals, insurgency, etc – and we let him because at the end of the show, we can cling to one simple fact: humans are good and Cylons are bad. At the end of the day, the series began with the wholesale extermination of the human race, so no matter how far they’ve come or how much the fleet realizes they’re similar, the Cylons are grayer than the humans. Cylons bad, humans good.
Dollhouse, so far, has no overriding moral anchor. And that’s okay. It’s okay because life rarely has such an anchor. People will argue that they would do the right thing, but Dollhouse questions that statement. Would you do the right thing? If you were Echo’s handler, should you take a moral stand and leave? Possibly leaving her to a worse fate? Are you a sicko for buying a doll? Even though they became dolls of their own free will?
They’re all questions I wish I could answer. They’re questions I’d like to explore more with Whedon. I hope he gets the chance. Unfortunately the ratings suck and Fox has an itchy cancellation finger AND a terrible track record with Whedon. I guess only time will tell. Until then, I’ll keep watching. I just hope it will keep making me squirm.