20090228

Dollhouse Season1 Episode 1: The Rocky Start

I caught the first episode of Dollhouse today and. . um. . what?

One thing I'm sick of is female characters empowered solely through trauma. In this instance, it's not even real trauma. Eliza Dushku plays a young woman who has had her memory wiped so that she . . . can. . . do . . stuff. So she thinks things that are wholly untrue. . .

She's part of a company or something. This company wipes the memories of hot young women (and apparently men, but we won't focus on them because men are almost completely unattractive according to western entertainment.) so they are the perfect ________ for ________. Date for Rich dude, negotiate a hostage situation, whatever.

With the memory wipe premise, every character Dushku becomes isn't actually a person in the sense that we understand a person, and is therefore hard to sympathize with. The person we're suppose to sympathize with, and sort of do, has been erased in the first ten minutes. In the critical character introduction, the main character comes of as whiney and dull. And then her personality is replaced with someone else.

There are also ties to sex trafficking out of Europe or somewhere-with Tamoh Penikett from Battlestar Galactica investigating-something related to the main story, though the most time we spend with him is with a man who could turn out to be the show's angry police captain. At one point, he says "that's like they've been murdered. . . " which seems a really intense thing to say, because we see these people walking around.

Interesting point about death, it really only affects the people left behind. When one of the "Dolls" effectively "dies" they feel no pain, they are gone in their mind, but not their body and it is only the people left behind that feel that pain. That brings this point to the forefront, because the Dolls don't know or care that they have been have their personality/memories murdered. So if they're not actually dead, I suppose the most charges that be brought up are kidnapping and perhaps prostitution.

Naturally, I'm fascinated to see where this show goes, even if Whedon's usually great dialogue ("What am I speaking Urdu?") was supplanted by some. . . not great stuff.

"Now we have a mission!" says Harry J. Lennix (dude, seriously? It's like Anthony Hopkins appearing in a Ninja Turtles movie) which is met with "We prefer the term 'engagements.'" which STILL sounds like a military action! If you're going to have someone use euphemisms and be evil, the euphemisms be not already related to warfare or something.

In fact, you know what? Rather than half-assing the feminine-empowerment theme, instead have the entire show use code words and passwords and euphemisms generally associated with femininity? Would that make people uncomfortable? You betcha! Would it make for a better show? Probably so! All of these bizarre rites of passage that young western women go through become and elaborate code for what's happening.

Finally, HARD CORE SPOILERS:

In the first episode, the technician dude who does the memory programming gives Dushku's character a new past that involves her being kidnapped and abused in some terrible fashion by one of the villains she's attempting to take down. Now, if you program brains for a living and it's somehow illegal, wouldn't you be sharp enough to know that building post traumatic stress into someone's personality is a bad idea? Seriously, you've just made a complete liability out of a potentially perfect asset.

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