The Sadism of Joss Whedon

After the first episode of the Dollhouse I was markedly not impressed. It may not ever be explicit in the plot, but it’s certainly clear external to the plot that the Dollhouse is a whore house. That’s the whole premise of the tantalizing advertising campaign. They are not delivering hostage negotiators or assassins. The hard drives in the mezzanine laboratory are full of sex kitten fantasy lives. In the flashback scene to Echo’s induction into the Dollhouse, Adelle DeWitt offers her the chance to make amends, but Echo objects that she doesn’t really have a choice, does she? It’s third-world sex slavery brought to the high-tech first world.

But I think that Joss Whedon is not confused about whether or not he’s an artist. He’s fully aware that it’s his job to turn out a product that gathers eyeballs to the FOX ad stream. And a house full of stoned-eyed, will-less, child-like babes wandering aimlessly in their yoga outfits clearly has appeal for a certain demographic. Apparently dropping the false power suite professionalism in favor of after-hours yoga-clad submissiveness is the new yuppie sexuality.

Where Whedon is an artist is that in his productions, the joke is on the studio and on us. It was no accident that the premiere of a series that’s about a bunch of sex slaves leads with an episode where one of the slaves is sent out as a hostage negotiator instead of on a sexual escapade. In the final scene where Echo goes into the kitchen to retrieve the kidnapped girl from the refrigerator, I expected the refrigerator to be upright against the wall, like refrigerators usually are, but instead it was horizontal on the ground — just like the sleeping chambers to which the Actives are sent at day’s end. “He doesn’t return them. He keeps them — until he’s done with them, or until they’re worn out,” Echo says of the kidnapper. Just like the Dollhouse will use up the Actives. The Actives are a bunch of sexual kidnap victims and episode one was Whedon accusing his entire audience of fantasizing their sexual molestation. It’s the same thing that Oliver Stone did with Natural Born Killers.

Combined with tonight’s episode, I’d say that the series is off to a pretty Sadistic start.

And is it just a coincidence that Harry Lennix, a total Barack Obama look- and sound-alike, has been cast as Echo’s handler? Does the entire country get its mind wiped clean and returned to a child-like state of naïveté after each mission? But at least we’ve got a fatherly overseer in whom we can place our complete trust.

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