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11 March 2009 @ 12:25 pm
Dollhouse (not the Ibsen... although I wish it was)  
ruuger is running a poll over here about Dollhouse, and I thought I'd transplant my overly long comment into my own journal and see if anyone else wants to agree/disagree with me. 

So here are the problems as I see them:

1) Joss is known for cleverness, and none of that is evident on this show. Even if you don't like them, Buffy (for sure), Angel (to greater or lesser degree) and Firefly can all be recognized as (for lack of a better word) clever. And there is no evidence of that so far in this show - no witty repartee, no nods at the audience because he's playing with tropes (be they western-gun toting ones or lone-angsty hero ones). And I think that I was willing to have a lot of patience with some of the other things he's apt to do, if he was trying to do it while being clever.

2) Joss does better with ensembles. Even Angel really hit its stride when it was more than 3 people who were part of the mission (at least, that's my opinion :D). this is NOT an ensemble cast - they can't be, because they can't even remember each other to BE an ensemble. And the supporting characters, while interesting, don't an ensemble make.

3) This feels like straight up sensational TV. I didn't watch Pretender/DarkAngel but I did watch Alias and it seems to be in the same vein - there's the hot chick who does cool shit and a bevy of hot chicks around her, and some hot men too (hey ladies, we haven't forgotten you!) and that's IT. And said hot chick can't figure out her own issues and needs the masculine to help her and bang!wham! there's a show. Now, you could argue Buffy was like that in certain respects (look at who saves her life in season one... etc) but it had the cleverness to also be about the cheerleader who can kick ass, so I was willing to forgive it my misgivings.

4) Ok, I know this is probably me and not many others, but OH MY GOD THE CAMERA WORK IS LAME. What happened to the Joss who wanted to play with angles to create different moods? He did it in Buffy and he did it a whole ton in Firefly and he loved his long shots and what happened to that guy behind the camera?? because it's not here. This thing is so standard in terms of the camera work that it BUGS me.

5) Another thing that has continued to bother me is the way in which Joss and Co have pumped this as being "risky" in that it makes us all uncomfortable about human trafficking.  I call BULLSHIT.  So far it hasn't made anyone uncomfortable about human trafficking, because it's too busy being bad to plumb those deeper questions.  And when it has tried to do a "moral of the story" discussion it's been so blatant I felt like I was in a South Park Episode with Stan and Kyle telling me exactly what they learned today.

That all being said, I'm still watching it. There's nothing else on Friday nights. I watch other things (90210 anyone?) that I think are LAMER than this, amazingly enough, and I don't mind wasting my time with it in the hopes that it might get a little better. I don't think it'll get picked up for another season, and I'm not sure it needs to. I am so bummed that Eliza doesn't seem to have any ability to act like different people, because had she been better I might have been more willing to forgive parts of the show (but she's sadly NOT. I keep hoping, but... yeah).
EB: Queen of the Social Lepers: Jack/Jackelizabuffy on March 11th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)
That sucks that it sucks. I haven't watched any of it, nor am I really inclined to, which is even sadder, given the fact that Joss gave me my first true fandom love.

And you watch 90210? Really? *is speechless*

my monkied brainkatekat1010 on March 11th, 2009 02:37 pm (UTC)
it does. those who were given preview copies of the season (shills, i suppose, for the dollhouse) say it actually picks up after episode six, so who knows, it could get better? i just keep waiting for my ratio of "i'm entertained" to "i'm annoyed" to switch from 40:60 to theother way around.

and yep! i watch a WHOLE TON of crap... 90210, American Idol, Survivor, CSI: LV, Hell's Kitchen, Tool Academy, Rock of Love Bus (i know, ack), Heroes, Fringe, and i think a couple more, but that's what's on right now. you know the TV is always on in our house :D
gray_ghostgray_ghost on March 11th, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
Damn - I really needed a new show to download once Battlestar goes off the air =(

And you watch 90210? omg Kate. Put a rock through your TV. Now. Don't think about it. Just do it.

my monkied brain: _against the wallkatekat1010 on March 11th, 2009 03:05 pm (UTC)
dollhouse is so not going to satisfy you - sorry tyler.

yeah yeah yeah. i've needed to put a rock through my TV since i actually watched temptation island. and that was in LA.

twilightofmagictwilightofmagic on March 11th, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)
I was almost roused by last week's ep to write a commentary, but...I dunno...didn't. The gist of it would have been that the T and A'ness was simply coming across as straight, non critical sexploitation. Eliza's 'I'm too sexy for my tiny little tee' style--the arched back to thrust her breasts out, the huge, pouting lips--and the porno fantasy costuming and camera work all pander to the thing it presumably is aiming to undermine. So far, it looks like a straightforward chicks with guns (or crossbows) flick. I'm still holding out for a turn of such magnitude that it retrospectively throws these early episodes into a new perspective, a critical one, but so far it's just coming across to me as slightly grubby male fantasy. Which I think would horrify Joss, if he thought that's what it seems. But then, why is it presented as it has been so far.

Like you, I keep hoping.
my monkied brainkatekat1010 on March 11th, 2009 08:08 pm (UTC)
i've felt much the same way - the show is not exciting enough emotion in me to seethe either - I mostly talk it over with my housemate and boyfriend, and then its onto the next task.

simply coming across as straight, non critical sexploitation.

THIS. I absolutely agree with this, and you said it so eloquently. Part of the reason why I a disgusted by the pop-star episode was that at the same time there was trite dialogue about how the pop starlet didn't get to rule her own life (as blatant as we can get meta about the dolls) she was standing front and center and the camera was focusing on her breasts and midrift-skin shown in the tiny performance bikini. I want something that will undermine these issues, not reinforce them (like when Echo 'saves' the popstar so she can keep being a doll in the limelight. OMG kill me now)

I wonder if it would horrify Joss? When his interview with NPR seemed to run right around the issue of playing to male/misogynist fantasies I kind of assumed that he didn't get what the problem was. But perhaps I'm being too hard on him.
twilightofmagictwilightofmagic on March 11th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
He's a guy who's taken the Women Studies courses. He knows the theory and explicitly tried to put into practice the notion of female empowerment, though in a rather simplistic way. However, I didn't hear the NPR interview. The nuisance with those things is you can't fast forward to relevant bits (or can you?) I'd like to hear what he said. But unless he's got some huge trick up his sleeve about this show, it sure looks as if he's playing to the male/mysogynist fantasies. In effect, it's even more perverse to stroke the fantasy while purporting to undermine it. Argh, I can't get a bead on this thing as I know he's really smart, not just by reputation. I believe he's really as smart as he's believed to be. I don't think he hasn't thought through the dangerous shoals of what he's doing. He has, hasn't he? Gahhhhhh!
my monkied brain: faith - good to be bad [ntm]katekat1010 on March 12th, 2009 02:02 pm (UTC)

And here's the transcript of the NPR interview so you don't have to fast forward through anything at all. the most frustrating part to me is here:

Jacki Lyden asks Whedon to explain how a show starring a young female character who has no free will isn't the ultimate misogynistic male fantasy.

"I won't necessarily say that it isn't that," Whedon says. "The fact of the matter is that, in the wrong hands, it is a completely misogynist thing, except it's happening to men as well — but what we're trying to do is take someone's identity away in order to discuss the concept of her identity."

Half the time I think his answer sidesteps the question, and instead pretends that the interviewer was asking about the missions as the ultimate misogynistic fantasy. OTOH, the interviewer WASN'T asking that, and the latter half of his sentence indicates that he's thinking of the entire show... and seriously he does NOT get points for suggesting that just because it's happening to men as well means it's no longer misogynistic either.... that is a very 'post-first-college-class-on-feminism' kind of response.

I really want him to be really smart too. REALLY. but am having serious problems keeping the faith. (ha.)
twilightofmagictwilightofmagic on March 12th, 2009 03:19 pm (UTC)
Yes, the 'happening to men too' bit is the standard defensive move on the part of anyone not wanting to address the real issue. Thanks for finding the link. It was very interesting and I should listen to the audio clip so I can get tone of voice as well. This bit

I knew that would be the toughest room I would ever sit in," Whedon says. "What I basically told them was I was examining the idea of fantasy, and some of the stuff that would happen would be good, and some of the stuff that would happen would be kind of awful, and that the whole point was going to be to blur those lines, to take what we want from each other sexually, how much power we want to have over each other."

He starts off addressing the question by displaying his bona fides--his intention to address the misogyny by showing it, not averting the eyes from it, and then wanders off. the whole point was going to be to blur those lines Blur the lines of what? It's not clear in the context. Is he now in the territory of wondering how permissible or not is it to take what we want from each other sexually, how much power we want to have over each other.. It's not clear why he wants to blur those lines for either artistic and/or thematic reasons.

He doesn't address the question of why Dushku is presented in such a lascivious way. He could present the realities of the way women are represented in entertainment without making it pornographically glossy. Once again, it seems non ironic. Or is his artistic sophistication so high that he completely enters the production of gloss, submerging the critical intention, in order to disrupt it once the audience is drawn in to complicity.

Ummm. I dunno. It's only TV after all. On a big network, the heart of Wolfram and Hart. Heh, is he Angel? Has he disappeared into the machine and ummm...lost his identity? Okay, going to stop now. I feel a hysterical giggle rising.
berahtberaht on March 11th, 2009 10:00 pm (UTC)
I watched the first episode and haven't gotten around to seeing any of the rest.
my monkied brain: xander - chagrinkatekat1010 on March 12th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
yeah. i think i'm still watching because i'm lazy and want TV. but they do say it improves after episode 6, so who knows?
WickedFox: B&Gwickedfox on March 11th, 2009 10:17 pm (UTC)
I agree with every point you make but the one on camera work made me smile. I loved listening to Joss commentary about how he went for long shots and how Buffy was unique in that the writer could actually control the camera work. It helped define the more theatrical style of the show early on. Dollhouse is not a Joss show. It's a show with Joss' name linked to it. It worries me he'll end up like George Lucas. I know that editing of the show is probably taking away from the overall storytelling but I'm not feeling the love. Heck, I'm hardly feeling the interest. And I'm sad to say Eliza is rather poor in it.
my monkied brain: faith - dance-cartoonkatekat1010 on March 12th, 2009 01:53 pm (UTC)
*grin* I knew I wasn't the only one! and it really does make a huge difference, right?

I agree though - Joss may be at the helm somewhere, but it doesn't feel like a Joss show.

It worries me he'll end up like George Lucas.

shudder. perish the thought. although you know some people probably already feel like he's down that road.

And I completely agree with you about Eliza - I really want her to be better! I hope! but .... nothing.
visualthinker11 / radio_silent: dollhousevisualthinker11 on March 12th, 2009 12:57 am (UTC)
i haven't been considering the camera angles, but that's a GOOD point. i'll be checking for them now...
...but i definitely agree with point #2. so very much. it seems like dollhouse has been building an ensemble cast already, though, even if they aren't represented in the credits- i'm more interested in boyd and sierra and dr. sanders than echo, probably.
my monkied brain: faith - good to be bad [ntm]katekat1010 on March 12th, 2009 01:57 pm (UTC)
maybe you can find something that i haven't seen, too? because i will be honest - the last episode I watched over the top of my computer screen. And I agree with you that they're building an ensemble with all the side-characters, but the problem is you have to have a heart to go with that, and right now we've got empty mind wiped girls. :( i really loved Sierra in the last episode - that actress actually seemed like she did *change* when her personality got instilled, and she was fantastic as the super-thief. But the show isn't structured around her, sadly.
visualthinker11 / radio_silent: dollhousevisualthinker11 on March 13th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC)
yeah, and it's also weird because normally the main character on similar shows is either new to the organization, leading us in (er, gwen on torchwood and rose on doctor who, and jaye on wonderfalls is new to her powers) or they undergo a major change that makes them think differently about what they do (sydney on alias, buffy) from the very pilot. and they do both of that on dollhouse, where sierra is gwen/rose/jaye, and echo is sydney/buffy. only unlike those latter two characters echo can't even realize that she's changing the way she thinks about the dollhouse... and her past storyline as caroline is not depicted deeply enough to inspire audience sympathy that way. caroline is not even a main character, and it would be interesting if the show had considered that and stressed the importance of the completely original individual she once was rather than whatever amalgam of personalities that will form the eventual aware and concious echo. : P