I love Firefly. I haven’t watched any Buffy (or its spinoff) to date, approved for various reasons (mostly an irrational dislike of Sarah Michelle Gellar), but I’ve seen Firefly and I thought it was an awesome show. Joss Whedon is the creator of both of those series, plus the movie Serenity (based on the first episode of Firefly) and a new series that started last Friday on FOX entitled Dollhouse. Some think he’s a genius; whether he is or not, the general hallmarks of his writing (as far as I can tell) are great one-liners, humor, weird random things happening, and hypothetically strong female characters. The show is available at the moment on Hulu.com, and I’m sure there will be reruns in the future.
Dollhouse starts with an older woman trying to give a younger woman all the information she needs before she signs a release form. We’re informed that it has to do with wiping away one’s entire personality, and I doubt there are very many people going into the show who didn’t read the press releases that have been coming for a year now. The base idea is that there is a group of scientists who have discovered how to erase personalities in women and implant them with new ones, either from a single person or a conglomerate. These women are
used hired by men with insane amounts of money for nearly everything: assassins, secret agents, and whores.
Honestly, if I didn’t know it was by the same guy who did Firefly, I wouldn’t feel that compelled to watch any future episodes. One reviewer on Hulu compared it to Alias, only with them implanting the personality rather than Sydney (Jennifer Garner’s character) being a good actress/secret agent. That’s basically it, plus some awful psycho-sexual dynamics that make things awfully uncomfortable for me. There wasn’t any of his signature humor, and none of the characters were interesting enough to provide what would seem to be a future storyline.
There was a doctor with scars on her face whom they tried to make interesting, and a handler who was an ex-cop who actually was slightly interesting, but I didn’t really care about either of them much at all. The rest of the characters were either blank-slate females, the arrogant men who run the company (plus the token hard-as-nails woman at the top), or red-shirts who will never show up in another episode. (Well, all right, there was an FBI agent, but he was so generic that I think they took him out of his stock-character box that day.) Eliza Dushku’s acting was good, but not good enough to carry an entire series. What with the whole revolving-personality thing, I’m sure she’ll have to be a great actor in the future to play other roles, but again — I don’t think it can hold an entire series.
Lastly, the disdain and low regard in which women are held through this entire pilot rather disgusted me. The women who are the agents (or whatever) are generally desperate — at least, if Echo’s (Eliza Dushku’s character) story is representative. They’re all, of course, supernaturally beautiful (which doesn’t make sense — real secret agents are supposed to be average-looking, so they get lost in a crowd) They are being used in nearly the worst way possible (as another character points out, they’re basically being murdered) and despite what these women may or may not have been in the first place, now they’re whores. (Not to be offensive to actual sex workers, but these women are, in fact, also hired to be the perfect romantic/sexual partner for however long the man can afford. It was in the first part of the episode.)
Mr. Whedon’s ambiguity on the subject — but they’re doing good!/but this is horrific! — and the fact that he even chose to make a show about it in the first place kind of disgusts me, and unless the entire place gets taken down in a blaze of glory and they manage to re-implant all the women’s original personalities, I don’t think I’ll be particularly satisfied. Also, why can’t they do the whole process to men? I’m sure there’s a perfectly good and logical reason for this *cough*, but it makes the dynamic even worse for me. One would think that an infinitely reprogrammable man would be just as useful as an infinitely reprogrammable woman, but they only have women — only beautiful women — who lounge around getting massages and wearing tank tops with no bras. And I’m supposed to believe that these are strong female characters because they kill people occasionally? Really, it just sounds like one of Mr. Whedon’s top sexual fantasies, and I don’t even know that I want to see any more of it. 2/5 stars.