Monday, January 28, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 2

Does the episode “True Believer” argue anything about the nature of religion? Is Dushku a believable blind woman in this episode? Is everything physiological (or is it, is everything psychological)? That is, is everything of ourselves able to be controlled psychologically (or physiologically)?

Is it important for us to understand the significance of a name like “Rossum” and its origins (if this is actually its origins)? I suppose that we must also consider the use of any sort of “compare and contrast” exercise as well, though that is perhaps beyond the scope of this current study. Feel free to comment anyway, should you wish.

As Alvi points put, Dollhouse is an interesting series in the Whedon oeuvre, precisely because the Davids therein are well-entrenched in the Goliath of Rossum. And that is what makes the show so difficult for some viewers, I think: viewers are introduced to protagonists that are actually antagonists. Alvi also suggests that Goliath wins in Dollhouse, at least for a time.

Please comment.

1 comment:

Phil Wiebe said...

"True Believer" is fairly ambivalent about religion. Joss Whedon, a card-carrying secular humanist, suggested that he wanted to make an episode that depicted a cult not as basically irrational but with a developed point of view. As far as execution, he portrayed positive sides to the cult (compassionate, good members) and also depicted hostile reactions to the cult from the townspeople and ATF as negative. Nonetheless, an underlying suspicion about organized religion and a critique on the validity of religious belief vis-a-vis potent neuroscience were present in the episode. I would like to say Dushku is a believable blind woman because I didn't disbelieve her performance, but I have not known many blind people so I'm not really qualified to judge the realism.

Psychological v. Physiological: This is a classic dichotomy. Is it really mind over matter? Such as been the trend of idealism, rationalism, and existentialism, to name a few. Or is the mind just another slavish aspect of a physical body, as might be claimed by materialists or realist. As Morrissey put it so succintly in The Smiths song Still Ill: "Does the body rule the mind, or does the mind rule the body? I don't know." I want to say that the psychological facultiess are capable of exerting more influence over the physical, but it cuts boths way. I think both realms are coagents; Dollhouse is a critique of thinking that everything can be controlled through the mind, and that failure to account for the physical results in cases like Alpha or Echo behaving in unexpected ways.

I think conjecture on the allusive background of Rossum is enriching to the Dollhouse experience but not critical. If Joss Whedon thought it was important for the astute viewer to understand the subtext and foreshadowing from the name Rossum, I think he would have emphasized it rather than passing it off so quickly with a tantalizing, vague comment. If anything, it's a well-done Easter Egg for fans of the show who are dedicated enough to do some research.

In Dollhouse, every major sympathetic character outside of Ballard is complicit with the Dollhouse and by extension Rossum. There are no good guys here, in the sense of moral purity and nobility of purpose. It's infighting between bad guys and less-bad guys all the way down, which I think is commentary on human nature. Indeed, humanity as a whole is 'the bad guy' by the end - Goliath wins and loses - there is no actual win state for anyone.