DOLLHOUSE “The Target”: Really? We’re Doing This Now?

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It would be great if I could say that this week’s episode showed significant improvement over last week’s dismal premiere. Unfortunately, after watching “The Target” I am, if possible, even less enamored of Dollhouse.

The fact that they’ve already resorted to a tired television trope in the second episode doesn’t bode well. The Most Dangerous Game has been done and redone by dozens of TV shows over the years, from the pilot episode of Fantasy Island to Whedon’s own Buffy the Vampire Slayer and three separate incarnations of Star Trek. We’ve all seen it before, and it doesn’t get any more interesting with repetition–when it’s already been spoofed by both The Simpsons and American Dad, I’d say it’s ready for retirement. And casting Matt Keesler, late of the excellent (and tragically canceled) The Middleman, as the skeevy hunter just adds salt to the wound.

But worst of all, last night’s episode made me wonder at what point Joss and Co. stopped being feminists. When the man who once made ass-kicking young women standard television fare is now serving up an extended rape fantasy, things have gone badly wrong. And no, it doesn’t make it okay even if the victim gets one good shot off in the end.

There is one shining point of light in all this mess. The ratings for last week’s premiere were so dismal that it’s unlikely we’ll be subjected to many more episodes of this disaster.

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4 thoughts on “DOLLHOUSE “The Target”: Really? We’re Doing This Now?

  1. (And The Venture Brothers! Don’t forget The Venture Brothers‘ mocking The Most Dangerous Game! Remember Phantom Limb trying to intimidate The Monarch by hunting his former jail buddies when The Monarch came to pick up Dr. Girlfriend’s stuff? Good times.)

    I could not possibly agree with you more. Practically everything–even the Toy Story movie, for Pete’s sake–Whedon has ever written has been about the exercise of free will. Maybe he means for Dollhouse to get there eventually, but a) this is a pretty anvil-filled approach to the question, and b) the set-up of stripping people (the most prominent of which is a young woman) of free will to get there is, well, offensive so far. It’s bordering on unwatchable, and I’m feeling a little betrayed that the only reason I haven’t tipped into “completely unwatchable–move along” is because of my trust in Joss Whedon, a trust based in part on his feminist cred.

  2. Having only watched one episode so far, I wonder if this show is more about the writing process, the network TV process, than it is about women. If Echo is sometimes the hostage narrative, sometimes the girlfriend narrative, etc., etc., then the Dollhouse is the locus of narrative control. And that control works without regard to the story or characters, sometimes, and works to its own gain. Then the show becomes, in part, commentary on the writers’ strike–which I felt was also part of Dr. Horrible.

    Dushku has said it is about being an actor, for her. I wonder if it is also about being a writer, for Joss.

  3. That is an interesting possibility. Does it make Adele Dewitt the evil president of programming–the person who is willing to warp anything to any shape as long as it brings in a profit? I’m not as convinced the writer would be represented by the person who actually creates the characters in the show–the tech who almost views the dolls as playthings–but maybe I’m being too affectionate toward writers in saying that. If this analogy holds, where would a Joss Whedon place himself–as the paternal protector? The investigator trying to find something real? Or as the doll himself, shaping how the story unfolds even after all of the constraints have been imposed? Even if he is trying to talk about the art and business of writing, I’d have hoped that Whedon, of all people, could have found a vehicle for exploring that that didn’t sit so uneasily with his feminism. The whole sex trafficking angle would be more wryly applicable to a sell-out writer if the Dolls genuinely knew what they were doing (and weren’t called dolls).

    I do wonder sometimes if, when they want to talk about writing, these wonderful TV writers would be better served by writing a great book about their process. I get the feeling I’d love a book of essays on the art of television writing by Whedon, Aaron Sorkin, etc., but I’m not as enchanted by Dollhouse, Matt Albie’s Lone Writer of the Comedy Apocalypse travails on Studio 60, etc. I wonder if that’s an issue of medium–that it’s not quite as interesting to watch writing as it is to read about it? Speculative, at best, I admit.

    Also, I suppose Dollhouse carrying this metaphor would have to indicate that Fox executives were so blindingly stupid that they couldn’t even see they were being mocked…wait, I totally believe Fox executives could be that stupid. Carry on. šŸ™‚

  4. Pingback: Squee! It’s.. « TV BACON

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