Monday, February 18, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 5

We are almost at the end of the first season. Consider for next time making some sort of statement about the first season of the show.

Levinger begins with an interesting twist as an observation: “Echo wasn’t Caroline. Echo was Echo. Caroline was Echo.” (105) Her article begins with the assumption that the series was about the Dollhouse creating slaves without identity, tabula rasa robots that are unable to be their true selves. But is this truly the case? Is this not just part of the marketing of the series?

I wonder if Levinger is reading too much into (onto?) the character of Claire. I’m not sure we are ever privy to the actual Claire, and so I’m not sure we can really speak of a loss of identity, as well as any notion of low self-esteem, etc. Claire, or Whisky, is a tragic character overall. We will see her next week in the final (unaired) episode of season 1, but you might want to contribute a comment about that character at this point.

As an aside, there are problems with Rebecca Levinger’s essay, but considering she is a high school student (or was at the time of writing it), she should be commended.

How do Saunder’s scars function? I posit that they act as an element which creates enigma. They tease a questin: how did those scars get there? What damaged (beautiful) Claire’s face? Consider, though, what I suggested above, that Saunders is a tragic character overall. Can she also be heroic, as suggested by Klein?

1 comment:

Phil Wiebe said...

I think the whole Caroline/Echo debate is similar to the Ship of Theseus paradox (for some reason, Barthes' refers to the same idea using the Argo); it's primarily a thought exercise useful not mainly for conclusions but discovering what the thinker's premises of identity are.

As for Dollhouse: it's not that evil, its primary goal (at the onset of the series) is not enslavement for malicious purposes; wiping and imprinting is just a means to an end, that end being the satisfaction of clients. By the end of the series, Rossum/Dollhouse is really a big bad slave-robot company but in the first season, it's more like a sophisticated temp agency that can provide any kind of 'worker.'

Of course, the fear of Dollhouse springs from that fact (and this was used by marketing) that the technology could be used for robot slavery.

The induced observation of Claire having no meaningful family or friends is interesting; I wonder if Whedon even thought about backstories for all the characters? Given the flippancy or nonchalance most Dollhouse staff treated imprinted dolls with, I wonder why/how (though inattentive to her work) they kept up the charade of treating Saunders like a real person, and after she discovered her doll status, they didn't just wipe and reimprint her. Maybe a bit of not entirely thought-out deus ex machina storytelling on Whedon's part.

I agree that the assertions of low self-esteem are possible but without evidence. If anything, I detect an element of bitterness or world-weariness. Inconsistent, even - in the episodes that developed Whiskey/Claire's identity before she left, I was stricken by a sense of the bizarre - whether she was trying to seduce Topher, talking down Victor, or being a fastidious doctor, sometimes I was left confused on whether it was a flashback or current, because she was acting uncharacteristically. And isn't that the thing about Dolls - Typically they don't act uncharacteristically?

In my personal viewing experience, Saunders' scars were not an enigma. In the early episode that shows a short flashback of Alpha escaping the Dollhouse reference is made to him cutting people with surgical precision - I always thought that Saunders was a victim who survived when he broke out. Turns out I was half-right; the scars were caused by Alpha, but not to Saunders but Whiskey, and that in the breakout he actually murdered the doctor.

Whiskey is a tragic and heroic character: she shows the best and worst sides of being a Doll and all places in between. I think her character is one of the most flexible among the Dolls since it is not defined by a certain idiosyncracy as the other main character dolls are (Echo's personality management/flashbacks, Victor and Sierra's love). In this sense, she is the most human.