Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dollhouse, Again

I'm still reserving final judgment on Dollhouse. Meaning, I watch, complain about it on Twitter, yet hope that something happens to pull it all together to make me go "wow."

There have been some good moments.

I enjoyed Eliza Dushku doing comedy in the last episode (and wish that Joss had realized that was one of Eliza's talents and concentrated on that for a series.)

Some of the conversation with widower-man. I liked how creepy the widower-man was about his dead wife. I wonder what she would think about the new! improved! Echo! Stepford! version her husband created. And I wonder whose memories/ download they used to create her.

Agent Ballard, Boyd & his investigation and apparent loyalty to Dollhouse, all good (tho it's a bit weird that we'll end up with two men fighting over what is best for a woman, Echo/Caroline).

I'm a bit surprised that some people thought that KickAssEcho was Caroline; it clear to me that she's no more than a Doll for the InsideDollhouse person.

I had predicted Mellie being a Doll; but good storytelling isn't about being "surprised", it's about how well told (and shown) that story is. What intrigues me is that I'm unsure whether Mellie was used to execute someone; or whether it was all done to set up Ballard; and if to set up Ballard, to what extent? Simply for him to trust the InsideDollhouse person, or to have him realize Mellie is a Doll (who does Ballard think killed Intruder Guy), in which case Madeline (er DeWitt) is the InsideDollhouse person.

But here is the thing with Mellie and the Bad Guy: this type of "we could discuss in circles all day long" annoys me as a reader/watcher. Oh, I'm not saying I want it handed to me on a silver platter, all spelled out. I like arguments about what a story means or what happened. I'm good with loose threads and red herrings. I'm not good with obvious manipulation by the storyteller; and sadly, right now, that's what I'm feeling.

I can see and full the puppet strings as Joss manipulates his story and his audience. The man on the street interviews? Joss telling us what he thinks we are thinking and should be thinking; ditto with half of widower-man's conversation with Ballard. To much of the "is this or is this not Dollhouse activity / game playing" falls into the same type of manipulation.

I'm still bothered by some lacks of logic that I hope get examined. Why are all the dolls so cute and fit and purty? Rich men and women have fetishes and odd desires, just like the rest of us. And isn't the burglar/spy doll who no ones remembers because they are average better than the one who should be on a cover of a magazine? I don't believe that no one wants to pay for someone beyond the Hollywood ideal of beauty.

Ah, the Hollywood ideal of beauty. That is what this show is really about, isn't it? Not about feminism (despite the Joss interviews I've stopped listening to because I don't like feeling like I'm a college freshman being lectured by a grad student). It's about industries like TV that would love if their talent (actors, directors, etc.) were Dolls who did exactly what the studio wanted them to do; and Joss's anger at Fox about this. Anyway, that's my theory.

Tho about that theory and the last could also mean that the Dollhouse is really about employers (especially the military, always the bad guy of choice for some) creating a perfect, unquestioning workforce. Hey, publishers, imagine the author who churns out bestsellers without missing a deadline or wanting to write outside their genre? Who never complains about a booksigning? This works a lot better for me than the feminism metaphor Joss tells me. (And makes me wonder what Joss really thinks about what his show is about; and what is marketing.)

Which, by the way, leads me to another point for any author. If you have to tell me what your book/movie/TV show is really about? Instead of letting me discover it on my own? You're doing it wrong.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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