Why Dollhouse is going to drive me insane in a good way

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Lets talk about Joss Whedon for a second. I first discovered Firefly about 4 years ago. Why was I so late to discover such an amazing show? Who knows. Probably the same reason why I just discovered Doctor Who. Unfortunately it was cancelled after only one season with a follow up movie – Serenity.

I was never a Buffy girl. Most likely due to not having cable until I was in middle school or not having any time to actually watch TV when it aired. My bad-ass girl show was James Cameron’s Dark Angel. I think that was my first experience with sci-fi and when I fell in love with the genre. Partially because I had a crush on Logan Cale and partially because it was one of my first experiences with a post-apocalyptic world. It may also influence my desire to live in Seattle as a bike messenger. Not really.

I am off topic. Joss Whedon. Yes. Firefly. Awesome stuff. Space cowboys! Who doesn’t love space cowboys! Cute girls, cute guys, great cast. I love Jewel Staite and her character Kaylee. Who doesn’t love the witty romance between Zoe and Wash? Again, just one season.

This post isn’t really about Joss Whedon’s works or Firefly for that matter. I want to talk about Dollhouse. I never knew about it. Had never heard of it. Probably because it started when I didn’t have a TV or Internet at home. [What! Someone in this day and age in the US can function without TV AND Internet…. crazy talk] But after returning home from watching The Avengers (which I will admit I didn’t know Whedon directed until the credits) and Cabin in the Woods (the previous week), I wasn’t going to say no to watching another series by him.

I was searching for something to fall asleep to after a long cinco de mayo celebration and it caught my eye. I can deal with Eliza Dushku. I’ve never seen her in anything other than Bring It On and her brief part in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Oh and she was the kav maga instructor from that one episode of The League. Again, never a Buffy or an Angel person. Probably because I haven’t tried watching them, but I’m sure I would be amused.

I decided to give it a shot. Can’t hurt, right?

It didn’t. Not at all. I’m not angry about the many hours of life the past 4 days I’ve spent sitting in front of my computer making my way steadily through season 1. Of course, there are only 2 seasons.

So here is what the show is about in a nut shell:

This girl Echo, played by Eliza Dushku, is known as an ‘active’. At the Dollhouse, she gets imprinted with a personality specifically made for that certain mission or ‘engagement’ as they call it. These personalities are crafted by the resident science geek Topher, played by my new celebrity crush Fran Kranz (he’s in Cabin In The Woods!). He uses various traits pulled from different personalities to make the perfect personality for the job. These engagements can be anything and are contracted by the very rich. Solving crimes, handling kidnappings, fulfilling someone’s sexual fantasy, etc. It has an ass kicking leading lady, lots of skimpy outfits for the men who love women and the women who love women, and interesting plot lines that develop throughout the season along with the separate engagement story lines.

You can read the plot summary here on the Wiki article. It does a much better job than I do but probably spoils things.

My friend sent me a link to an article about Whedon directing The Avengers. In the beginning of the article it discusses how the viewers of the show just didn’t quite get it. I didn’t actually think too much about the whole premise and how deep the show can be until reading this and then going back and thinking about it for a few hours. An episode I watched recently helped. This show brings about so many questions for me. I don’t think that the viewers who went into this after Buffy, etc thought about how brilliant the show is. It did take a little thinking and considering to dive beneath the surface. Maybe it just touched on topics and ideas that no one really wanted to think about anyway; people wanted to stay in the dark and oblivious to the situations and possible future technologies.

People will do anything for money.

Warning. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about what Whedon was thinking when he wrote the show. I’m not going to pretend I’m a sci-fi expert. What I am going to say in the text that follows are my thoughts and feelings on the show. How different topics and situations make me feel after really thinking about the situation. I could be completely wrong.

Oh and there might be spoilers.

Lets start off simple.

How much would you be willing to spend on the perfect person? The perfect date? Knowing you could only be with them for one day. Maybe you can afford to have them once a year? But even then, how lost or what kind of hole would be left after that one perfect day? Is it worth it?

As you get deeper into season 1, you find out that each of the actives or dolls was not forced into this position but signed a contract of their own free will. What would happen in your life that you would be willing to just let someone wipe your memory for 5 years and put everything – your childhood – on a hard drive for storage. And then you let someone sell out your body to do whatever it is that someone wanted. Whatever they paid for. Of course you get a doctors check up before and after every job, but that person who has you can do anything. Depending on the situation, prices are raised and there are additional charges, but overall you can be subjected to just about anything other than being killed. What would drive you to say, OK, I’m not trying anymore, please use my physical shell as you see fit.

Is there a backup? What if the one ‘wedge’ that has your true self on it is destroyed? Then what?

Moving past that, how would you feel even knowing that it was possible for your memory to actually be erased? Sure generating artificial intelligence is no longer  a faraway dream. Robots exist. I’m sure that one that thinks for itself isn’t too far in the future. [I’m terrified of robots so I don’t want to think about this] But completely erasing the memories imbedded into the human mind and putting them on a hard drive. Then using a complex formula to pull together aspects of other personalities – still making sure to include motor skills etc – to create a superhuman. Is it possible? Will this be something of the future? Will we have this before a freaking flying car?

Throughout season 1, Echo deals with some of her memories not being completely erased, whether they are hers or parts of the personality she had been imprinted with during a particular job. You hear about Alpha throughout the season. Only at the end do you find out what happened – all of the personalities that he was imprinted with entered his mind at once. It is a disaster.

What about the staff. They can’t talk about what they do. Topher and the doctor seem to live there. Actually later in the season you learn about the doctor. Anyway, they never leave. In one episode Topher takes Sierra and creates the perfect friend for himself. A girl that wants to play video games, eat junk food, play with a football, talk about science, and play laser tag [So, a gorgeous Asian version of me? Well without the football throwing skills]. Throughout the episode they cut to scenes of the two having fun and then at the end, the director of the office is talking to the director of security in one office about Topher. In the background you see Sierra sitting on a couch. The director of security, who is new to the post, isn’t aware that this is a common thing. The director assures him that it is harmless and that he only does it once a year. In the background you see him walking down the stairs to the couch carrying a twinkie with candles in it. He is celebrating his birthday. Think about it. Once a year, Topher gets a friend. Put yourself in that position. You live underground and never leave your job. You need to be there at all times. And for your birthday, you only have the company of someone you’ve created and you only have them for one day.

Makes my single trip to the zoo last year seem like a blast!

Back to the science of the show.

In episode 10 of season 1, a new question arises. What if your memory is imprinted into a new body after death? Throughout the episode various characters bring this up – what if this is how you could live forever? You could move your memory, your mind, from body to body when you were either sick of it or once it had reached ‘death’. The imprint in Echo, a woman who was killed who wants to solve her murder, is ready to return back to death. She is ready to surrender her chance at continuing to live once her time is up, but what happens when someone isn’t willing to give that up? What happens when a powerful person wants to continue their life? What happens if the organization you are working for decides that their revenue is more important than a contract and they decide to allow the richest people to take your body for the rest of their life or until they are bored with it?

What if this was used for good? What if some of the worlds greatest artists or thinkers were still alive? John Lennon, da Vinci, Einstein, Steve Jobs?

What if we went in the other direct? What if Hitler was still there? What if Jeffrey Dahmer or another seriel killer was still alive and out there somewhere in a different body leaving different DNA each time?

Dangerous stuff right there.

Throughout season 1, an FBI agent is convinced that Caroline wants to be saved. He needs to save her. She is Echo, by the way. But what if she doesn’t actually want to be saved? Someone is hacking into the system and leaving messages for him and like many pig headed characters, he isn’t listening to what they are saying. He continues going after the Dollhouse – trying to find it etc but doesn’t listen to the message. Stop trying to find Dollhouse and try to find the answer to the real question – what is the motivating factor behind this industry? Why does the Dollhouse exist?

I finished season 1 after writing the initial post here. More questions arose.

Is every essence of you actually wiped from the body? We’re talking about someone’s soul. What went into making you, you to begin with. Not just the blood and muscle, but your spiritual essence? [I really sound like I live in Cali now] Can you actually clear all pieces of a person’s being from their body, leaving just the hull? Leaving just the physical being and nothing, not one speck of life from the original master of the mind?


If my questions about the plot such as why Dollhouse really exists and why it was created aren’t revealed in the final season, I might have to write to Mr. Whedon himself and hope he gives me the inside scoop! Perhaps I’m just going insane like Topher does as you get a small grasp on in the season finale of season 1 – Epitaph 1.

Maybe the answer isn’t something that I want to think about.


2 thoughts on “Why Dollhouse is going to drive me insane in a good way

    Zach said:
    May 17, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Doll-house! Doll–freaking—house! Good show. I love how Whedon keeps using the same talent he knows and works well with.

      paperballpotluck responded:
      May 17, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Such good show. I just finished it and was incredibly sad at the end both because the ending was sad and because it was the last episode.

      ME TOO! I went and saw avengers, again, and was pointing out to my friend that Victor had a brief moment in it and the waitress from avengers – she is in one episode of Dollhouse, but will be in Much Ado. Sorry I’m rambling. 🙂

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