Dollhouse – Why All the Hate? (TV)

I interupt this gaming blog to talk for a minute about TV, and in particular Joss Whedon’s new show, Dollhouse. Warning: The post contains broad spoilers of the first 3 episodes.

Now I’m just an ordinary viewer watching the show as it airs. I haven’t had any sneak peeks or read any spoiler sites or anything like that, and I’m going to share some assumptions here. I may well be proven wrong. but I’m willing to risk it.

So first of all, I’m enjoying the show so far, and hope that it makes it for a long run. But if you don’t like it, I can respect that. Everyone has different tastes, and in particular this show lacks the humor that most Whedon shows contain, which might put off some Whedonverse fans.

What I don’t get, though, is that section of the audience that seems to actively hate the show. Not only do they not want to watch it, they want it to go away; they don’t want anyone else watching it, either. 

That puzzled me so much that I’ve been trying to understand why. Most of the hate seems to surround the way women are treated in the show. One comment I read said “Every time Echo sleeps with a guy, I feel like she is being raped.” A few other comments reflect the same feelings to a greater or lesser extent; that what happens to the “dolls” here is really uncomfortable, and most of them that we’ve seen so far have been women. 

I don’t disagree with these feelings.

But I think what these viewers don’t understand is that Dollhouse HQ (the organization) are -not- the good guys here. They are at best morally ambiguous, and more likely just plain evil (that remains to be seen). The fact that Echo does some good while she is out on a mission is more or less a side-effect of what the company does. We see the ‘good’ missions but the bread & butter of the firm seems to be prostituting these “dolls” to the filthy rich. Yes, it’s dehumanizing, criminal and uncomfortable. That’s the whole point. We’re supposed to hate Dollhouse HQ and want it to be brought down!

My guess is that Echo is going to be the rogue agent that eventually hooks up with Alpha to try to tear down Dollhouse the Organization.  She’ll have help from Dr. Saunders (Amy Acker’s character) and the protection of Langton, her handler. The “good guys” in the show are Ballard (the cop trying to expose Dollhouse), Echo as she starts to retain her memories, and Boyd Langton. Maybe Sierra as well?  

I just think the viewers who actively hate the show somehow think we’re supposed to be rooting for Dollhouse HQ and that seems like a vile thing to ask us to do, and so they attack Whedon and the show. But that, to a certain extent, exposes the problem with TV these days. No one has any patience. Everything has to be explained in the first episode or else people form assumptions that they are unwilling to let go of. If you watch the way most of the Dollhouse staff treat the “dolls” it is really clear that these are bad, or at least heartless, people. I guess Whedon needed to spell that out in the first 5 minutes of episode 1 in order to avoid offending viewers?

I wonder if these same people wanted The Sopranos taken off the air? Probably not, because it was immediately clear that the Soprano characters were criminals and so viewers knew what to expect. 

Dollhouse has the potential to be a pretty complex show. Imagine Echo, having her memories wiped over and over, but learning somehow to hang on to some piece of herself, and struggling to figure out what’s happening to her and how to escape. Imagine Langton growing more and more attached to her and trying to operate from the inside to help her, while Ballard gets closer and closer to the truth. There’s a lot of good material to mine here, if viewers give it a chance.

But I don’t think they will. Which is a damned shame.

8 thoughts on “Dollhouse – Why All the Hate? (TV)

  1. People (as a whole) are idiots. People with a manufactured cause are blithering idiots. I’m not rabid but I’m pretty girl-power and if these people can’t see the screamingly obvious ambiguities in the base setup… But of course they do see them (if they don’t, that’s just sad) and ignore them, because to acknowledge them would deprive them of their shrill platform. Having a platform and being shrill about it is what these people live for. Pfeh.

    That said, regarding Dollhouse itself… The *core* concerns and ambiguities are nicely set up. I’ve found the accompanying episode-plots a little lightweight (the first was the best, IMO, the second was predictable but served a Boyd-Echo bonding purpose, the third was almost boring but that’s because I have ZERO interest in being a backing singer to a Beyonce-clone), but this is Joss Whedon — it’s not going to be Ulysses, it’s going to be Buffy/Firefly/newspin on his old themes. Since I like how he deals with the themes than interest him (usually with tongue firmly placed in cheek and with tons of oblique references for clever fans to catch), I’m fine with that. Nobody needs James Joyce 100% of the time.

  2. I actually think they did kind of go out of their way to point out that the Dollhouse weren’t the good guys. I mean, when they are all standing around going “gosh we could go to jail for this” and “you say we are helping people, that’s how you justify this to yourself” I think its clear that they are definitely in a very dark end of the morally gray.

  3. The goverment at some level knows about the Dollhouse and in fact a couple of the Dolls will be sent overseas in an upcomming story line.
    It supposed to get better starting with episode 6.

  4. I think it is really good thus far and I have to say there are some people that just love to hate and complain about everything, the same goes with Doctor Who fans of which I am one but there are a group that have to critique everything and complain, it is as if they would prefer there being no Doctor Who or in this case Dollhouse at all.

    As a female that is a strong feminist I think to lay blame for your dislike of Dollhouse on the grounds that the woman who are the dolls are raped is shortsighted, yes it is uncomfortable but isn’t that the point I would be worrying if we all thought it was okay. I think Joss is great and is a very creative man so lets forget critising the show if you can do better get off your creative butts and write something that does not make you think or question anything and lets not show any horrible stuff on TV or perharps instead of dissing the show watch something else..

  5. Well I agree with most of what is said here. Dollhouse has potential. Still it’s a little slow right now, I would have to pick up the tempo.

    I don’t agree with alpha becoming one of the good guys. I rather see him as an outside piece that can show up anytime to cause trouble.

  6. I agree with you. I like the show and I think people should give it a chance. However I am very strong women and girl power orientated, and usually Joss Whedon’s shows have that, but in Dollhouse so far it is not evident.

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