There are several things you can count on seeing in a series created by Joss Whedon. There will be witty banter. There will likely be some awesome fight scenes where a woman kicks ass and takes names. There will often be a brunette who, beaten down by society, will at some point wander around in bare feet. There will be absent fathers. But Whedon's work also continually and interestingly explores the idea of institutionalization as a form of controlling and punishing women.
I don't imagine many of you are Dollhouse viewers, not least because the new series by Joss Whedon of Buffy and Angel fame had a rocky ride of a first season. If you gave up on him, I have a new mantra for you: Joss is always worth the trouble. Joss identifies as a feminist, and indeed, before anybody scoffs or points to Buffy's short skirts or what have you, I encourage you to read this.
That said, Dollhouse ain't perfect, on feminist or any other grounds, frankly. I only managed to stick it out through its initial rough patch on faith alone. See, Fox forced Joss to retool the show and rearrange some plot development early on. This led to some awfully confusing early episodes in which the network's desire to sell the show as Sexy! seemed at odds with Joss's own plans. The premise of the show being a brothel staffed by people who have, literally, had personality lobotomies, this isn't just in bad taste - it is bad marketing.
I promised that one of the themes we'd be exploring in this blog is bad movies with feminist potential. You see, in my research I've found that some of the most interesting female characters, particularly female action heroes and/or proto-feminists, are to be found in some of the most poorly-produced movies. Considering this, it is perhaps ironic that many better funded action films with A-list actresses have been flops.
Since I've been able to spend a lot of time with popcorn and a notepad, throughout the summer I'll share with you some of the most empowered (if all too often also problematic) women of the best low-budget classics of sci-fi, horror, blaxploitation, and action in a series of Grrrl on Film Cult Movie Posts!
Joss Whedon's Dollhouse premiered last week, and The Box breathed a sigh of relief. I've been waiting so long to see Eliza Dushku kick ass and smart off in the style of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of ass-kicking in the first episode. Or smarting off, for that matter. Maybe that's because Dushku's character, Echo, is without a personality for most of the time...except when she's imprinted with perfect abilities and sent on missions without her knowledge.
A series about a woman with no autonomy doesn't sound like it's going to win Joss Whedon another honor from Equality Now, right? But then again, all of his shows feature leading ladies who are good at things against their will…