Someone really needs to help me out here. I am lost on this one. I heard there was going to be a new show on FOX by Joss Whedon. This is the guy behind popular tween/ lonely geek fare like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and it’s film Serenity. These franchises have amassed dedicated followings among several fan groups, so the guy really knows how to milk a good thing. Problem is, all of those shows are TERRIBLE!
Stop right there if you are a Buffy fan or think Whedon is some kind of vamp/space nerd genius. He’s not. So just quit reading before I destroy your little happy place.
Buffy was first a movie, written by Whedon, about a valley girl vampire hunter and the suburban vampires she killed. It was a comedy, not to be taken with an ounce salt, but with a pound. It was like a supernatural Clueless. It even had Luke Perry for God’s sake. Luke Perry!
So Whedon’s all, “Hey, some people didn’t completely hate this crap. I should turn this into a series.” And he did, but he turned it into a darker, scarier, sexier affair. They threw in lame pop culture references and silly little Seth Green for some laughs, but it all fell flat. Besides being a girly show airing mostly in my high school years, it just didn’t appeal to my inner nerd. I kinda liked the movie, but Whedon’s short reaching “creativity” couldn’t hold out for six years plus.
So what does he do to keep it interesting? Angel, a spin off series which was a spin off of a movie he wrote. Whedon’s constant outside the box approach to cashing in really astounds me. Where did he find the courage to write the same story again?
And now a quick word on Firefly. I watched a few episodes, in order even, and you know what? I don’t care. It’s got a lot of fast talk and quick cuts, but I don’t see an ounce of originality. The one thing I heard most about this show was it was a “western in space” and how that was such a cool twist on the genre. To which I ask: What was Star Wars if not a western, samurai, swashbuckler in space? What’s any good science fiction if not a very relatable take on familiar tales-in space? Whedon’s nerd cred soared over this hash, but I call shenanigans on his brilliance.
So let’s get into Dollhouse. This review will focus on one episode in particular, but this goes for the whole thing. The episode is Man On The Street. At this point I’ll sum up the story and you can tell me if this sounds like a good idea. In a secret house somewhere, a group of supermodels are brainwashed and wiped of memory and emotion, by a group of shadowy figures who then implant new identities into the supermodels and hire them out. The models can Matrix style learn anything (including muscle memory? Is that even in the brain?) and be anybody, except themselves. Oohh, shivers.
But really, the models are hired out as sex slaves. Sometimes they’re assassins, but mostly it’s for doing the nasty with billionaires. Then they go home, have everything wiped clean and start over.
Each Doll, as they’re affectionately called, has a handler. A man handler if you will. They act as the personal bodyguards/pimps for the Dolls. They make sure the ladies do as they’re told with little to no independent thought or emotion. Umm. Where’s all the dude Dolls? I see them in the background, walking around all dopey eyed and innocent, but apparently the market for dude Dolls in LA isn’t anywhere near the market for lady Dolls. The handlers are vile actors in this stupendously silly plot, as they blindly aid in the abuse and exploitation of the hotties. Though so far they’ve only been villanized when they try to rape the Dolls themselves. Otherwise, it’s just par for the course. Maybe they thought the inclusion of a madame boss character would subdue the sexist overtones, but she comes off as helpless to change her station as any of the dolls.
There’s an FBI agent on the case, trying to find out if this is real and bring it down. He is pretty much on his own as he can’t seem to act well enough to convince anyone else he’s not a complete douche bag. He falls for one of Dolls, and things get personal. He lives out his own rescue fantasy while berating others for their depraved sex fantasies. Issues abound, but not for the super Dolls. They’re as empty as the emotional impact of this show.
In this episode, FBI guy tracks down his fantasy Doll to a house, where she has been programmed to be the wife to comedian Patton Oswalt. Well, he’s playing a character, but c’mon. It’s Patton freakin’ Oswalt.
Random Patton Oswalt video:
And the best part is, he acts the shit out of his scene. He seriously out acts and completely buries the FBI guy in the scene. It’s awesome. Easily the highlight of the show.
By the way, this FBI guy is the worst Federal Agent ever. He goes against the system. He’s a lone wolf. He’s obsessed with a potentially supernatural and highly conspired event that could rock the world. I miss Fox Mulder.
This agent also knows kung fu, as he beats down man and woman alike with ferocious attitude. At one point he’s kicking the shit out of his fantasy Doll as they spar (in a deserted Chinese restaurant, even though he just ordered food) with zero conflict in his eyes, it’s like the actor went into kill mode, Oh my God. . . He’s a doll!!
Naw, he’s just your average ass kicking Fed who tells everything about his plan to his hot neighbor, while he walks around shirtless? I know this guy is supposed to be bad ass and all, but really? He walks around shirtless in front of company? What a douche!
Ok. The real problem I have with this show is not the FBI agent. Or the ridiculous plot. It’s the sexism. Plain as day and sick as a dog, the stereotypes and prejudices are so rampant that the show is rendered laughable. I laughed out loud several times from the sheer stupidity of the characters and the blatant woman bashing that goes on.
There is a difference between the kind of social critique of a film like The Stepford Wives (the original mind you) and the misogynistic foolery of this show. We are not meant to feel pity, not completely, for the dolls. Some people on the show surely berate it as the human trafficking, but mostly the show gives a much more “How cool would that be?” attitude.
But really, even other women in the show are total drones. The neighbor, who gives into the FBI guy’s charms, blissfully says things like, “You can tell me this was all a mistake and I’ll be alright with it.”
But here’s the twist! She’s a Doll too! Wow. Top notch writing. Let’s just make every girl in the whole city a drone capable of nothing but fighting and fucking with zero consequences and motivation. Watch out FBI guy! You’re surrounded by Dolls. Well, it is LA after all. I shouldn’t act so surprised.
What it comes down to is this: Instead of a smart show about the turmoil and depravity in people or the disease that is the current day slave trade, we get ass kicking, cleavage exposing, wooden acting, and sloppy writing. Face it Whedon, this show is your worst. I’d start seriously thinking of a new spin off for Buffy. It’s come to that.
The fact that the Whedonites out there started campaigning to save the show from cancellation BEFORE it even aired tells me that these blind followers of the Joss are as disconnected to the real world as his characters.
I suppose those Whedonites are still standing behind their man. No matter how many times he slaps them in the face with his shit, they’ll keep on coming back for more. It’s classic battered fan syndrome. Thankfully, there is help out there. If you or someone you know is suffering from battered fan syndrome please visit this now. It may be your last chance.