Thursday, March 14, 2013

Dollhouse - Week 7

This post is later than usual, and for that, I apologize.

Tami Anderson suggests that there are many stories in the series, including the following:

- the stories of those who would be dolls
- the stories of those who would play with dolls
- the stories of those who work with dolls
- the stories of those who would save the dolls
- the stories of those who would be free

The last category seems to include all of us that live in the "real world," outside of the actual narrative of the television series.

How are we to take this sort of academic study of a television series? In a way, it seems to be too earnest of a study, to utopic in response to a televisual narrative. That is not to say that I think that the televisual narrative is powerless or ineffective, but I do wonder if Anderson is suggesting too much. On the other hand, she is perhaps suggesting too little. Of course, the dolls are us; this is not a big stretch if we consider the place of popular mediated culture in our society, as a product and reflection of ourselves. Anderson quotes Perrin saying, "We can decide who we want to be." (172)

This is not completely true in life, though. We must consider societal forces in our formation; there are limits placed on us on who we want to be. Some of Anderson's sentiments seem sappy at best, but perhaps I am simply betraying my current state of mind. What do you think?

Future History is an interesting idea. Have you ever read The Shape of Things to Come? I remember watching the black-and-white film as a teen, enjoying it, though finding it a bit long. Two questions:

Strayer writes, "Despite the show's very humanist ending, I see the Actives not as unfortunate, lost victims of the past, but as the architects of human history." (186) Care to comment on this?

She writes, "Rather than asking the age-old question, 'Do humans have free will?' the show seems to ask, 'Why are will, desire, and action only applicable categories for human subjects?" (186) She is referring to technology here, as taking an equal(?) role in the creation of history with humanity. Is this a completely preposterous notion?

As an aside, I am listening to the new David Bowie album; I like to think I know something of Bowie, as I wrote my Master's thesis on his work in the mid-1990s. (I should clarify, I wrote the thesis in 1999-2000, based on his work in 1995, and am considering revisiting it for a future book). I think the album is certainly his, but I think it is uneven. This is not that unusual; his last album Reality was like this. It does have a particularly strange aura about it, maybe because it comes after some years of inactivity. It seems dark (which I always thought was a good sound for Bowie), but dark in a strange way. These are early morning thoughts, so I will leave it there for now.

1 comment:

Phil Wiebe said...

I honestly wasn't sure what to make of this essay. There did not seem to be an overarching claim or premise to it. The Dollhouse is full of stories, yes, but what kind of point does this observation make? If anything, this essay was more of a highlight reel and recap of the different kinds of stories you see in Dollhouse.

These stories do produce an interesting amount of 'play' between their scripts. Ostensibly, the show is about the exploits of Dolls, but these exploits only become meaningful in the face of those who hire the Dolls. Those who work with Dolls provide the 'omniscient narrator' and commentator roles to the story and provide the majority of the world's setting information. Those who would save the Dolls provide the requisite narrative arc conflict, presenting the big clash of antagonist Rossum versus the protagonists, while the Doll stories provide the little arcs. The stories of those who would be free seems to encompass all of the above; every character is looking for a kind of freedom from something.

I agree that overall this study presented too much and too little. The parallels it drew too real life were too utopian. As far as being what we want to be, I think we see here Whedon's existential bent relaying one of the great tensions of existentialism, that between free will and facticity - some things are determined for us, but it always our choice to decide how we will work within their limitations.

I never read The Shape of Things to Come, but future histories are always interesting for their speculative daring. That said, I prefer alternate histories of the past.

I suppose the Atives are the architects of human history in every sense: their existence resulted in the downfall of civilization, their actions ultimately redeemed it, and their memory will preserve all of history (even beyond oral tradition, since their memories can be extracted).

I do think applying will, desire, and action to technology is a textbook example of a category error. When Ballard said the Dollhouse was a 'bad place,' Alpha responded that it was a 'good place; bad people, maybe.' Technology is only an amplifying catalyst that plays with the will, desires, and actions of sentient entities.