Saturday, May 09, 2009

The Dollhouse Metaphor

Did Joss Whedon and Eliza Dusku play a prank on Fox by getting them to air a show about how bad the TV industry is?

I tuned in this morning to watch the Dollhouse (season/series?) finale (loved it). This show is rumored to be on the brink of cancellation, so I wanted to find out what other people thought. While I was looking around (mostly on IMDB and Twitter), I found out that there have been some rumblings with Eliza Dushku and her contract with FOX.

And then it hit me.

The whole show is a metaphor for the television (and movie) industry. I don't work in the industry, so I apologize if it was obvious to everyone else.

The main character of the show, Echo/Caroline (played by Dushku), is a young woman whom we know little about. For unknown reasons, she enters into a five year contract with this agency. Her memory is wiped clean and she becomes a slave of the agency. She periodically gets an "engagement" where she is imprinted with someone else's personality (or a hybrid). During each engagement, she becomes someone else for the duration of that scenario. When it's over, she returns to the Dollhouse, and has her memory wiped until the next engagement. Furthermore, Echo (and the other dolls) are expected to behave like soulless zombies between engagements. Once her contract is up, Echo is supposed to be free to return to a normal life.

Eliza Dushku is under contract with Fox right now. She can't make a show with another network. She just has to keep trying on different role after different role on Fox until her contract ends. She was in Tru Calling which got canceled, and apparently had a spot on a show called Nurses, which never aired. Now she is executive producer on Dollhouse, but still stuck with Fox until the contract ends. They take her out of the dollhouse, dress her up in pretty clothes, and give her a new character.

The real irony here, is that despite my admiration for Joss Whedon's body of work, I really did not like this show when it first started. The premise seemed to be a hybrid of Alias/La Femme Nikita like with a new mission every week (I like procedurals less and less). The formula has worked (Alias, X-Files), but I felt that there really needed to be strong characters and an some overarching theme (see Alias, X-Files). I asked, "How can I bond with a character if she changes each week?" That's when the metaphor really hit me...

We follow celebrities around from TV show to TV show to movie all the time. We follow them on Twitter and in magazines. We don't really know what these people are like, but we follow them. I don't really know what Angelina Jolie is like, but I will check out movies that she's in, even though it's a different character each time. And I have started to realize that the same holds true with the Dollhouse. The dolls, Echo, Sierra, and Victor, are still interesting as characters...especially since the show has started to imply that there is some quality in that doll that continues to persist despite the role that he/she is playing.

It was also reported that Joss and Fox butted heads on what the show should be during the first five episodes (the mission-of-the-week episodes that I hated). Looking back at episode 6, when Joss supposedly reasserted his creative control, the show began to feel much more like a Joss Whedon show.

Hopefully Fox will let the Dollhouse live. But even if they don't, I think Eliza and Joss got a good jab in at Fox.


Abby said...

Yes Fox going to make the Season 2 of Dollhouse,thats a great news for me as I am a great fan of Dollhouse :)

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