Movie Review: the Dollhouse

So again, I find myself reviewing an entire series and not just a single episode or movie. We had a couple unexpected snow days that shut down my entire area and left me nicely housebound for a bit. I decided to rewatch both seasons of the Dollhouse.

I don’t know of anyone else in my social circles who enjoyed this series. This is rather interesting to me because I very much enjoyed it. Granted, the idea of the Dollhouse is rather creepy and unnerving, but I thought the story was done rather well.

The idea is that there is a large corporation that manages houses of dolls – people who sign their lives away for a period of five years or so in order to fix mental or emotional distress in their lives and earn enough money to make them part of the leisurely rich once their contract expires. The dolls are then implanted with full personalities to make them ideal partners for whatever rich people can afford to spend on them. Most of the scenarios involve a romantic element of some sort, for the obvious reason that intimate relationships are difficult for just about everyone on the planet in some way. Rich people can never trust that the people they’re with are with them because they love them and not just for their money. Normal people worry that the person they’re with isn’t genuine, or they don’t have the capabilities to actually meet and engage with people who would be ideal for them. This is a universal human issue. Relationships and dealing with people is hard, no matter who you are. So this corporation develops technology that allows you to choose what you want for your fantasy scenario.

This is one of the few times where I feel the need to talk about the talent of the actors and actresses involved in the making of the show. Usually, I just let the characters tell the story and I don’t particularly care about actors and actresses, but in this case, I think not discussing the talent of those involved in this show would be negligent on my part. I was also a bit jealous because there were so many personalities and so many costumes and roles to play. Like when Sierra comes back in from an engagement and she’s like a dame from the 1920s. She had the beautiful ballroom gown and the mannerisms and the just fabulous way of talking. Or when Echo was a near-sighted profiler with asthma. My favorite was easily Victor, though, if for no other reason than when he was Kiki and then again when he was Tolpher. Such a talented actor.

Some of the darker aspects of the story, to me, involved how the aspirations of an idealist caused the end of the world. While it is entirely likely that the Rossum Corporation would have eventually developed the technology required to start doing mind-wipes of normal people, I don’t think it would have happened nearly as quickly if Caroline/Echo hadn’t been something of a catalyst. Caroline found out about the really bad experiments the Rossum Corporation was conducting and made it her personal crusade to bring them down, but she didn’t really understand exactly what the full plan entailed. She was so focused on doing what she thought was the right thing that she inadvertently steered them straight towards the end of the world. It’s kind of like the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy where because you believe something will happen, you work to prevent it. And then you find out that if you hadn’t shown up in the first place, things wouldn’t have gone wrong at all.

I wondered at several points as I watched the series whether I would volunteer to be a doll or not. There’s a lot that goes on in my head that I sometimes think I would be better or happier without remembering. All those little chunks of everything that makes me who I am. And then I wonder if anyone would notice if I disappeared for five years without saying anything to anyone. In some ways, the idea of being a doll is greatly appealing. To forget all the crappy things I’ve done and the terrible ways I’ve treated so many of the people who matter the most to me. To maybe have brain people actually be able to fix whatever it is that’s wrong in my head. Even the thought that maybe if I was a doll, someone out there would be paying huge sums of money to be romantically involved with me, that I could be someone’s fantasy. The thought that there could be someone out there who wanted me on any level, even if it is just a fake scenario, might almost be enough to push me into volunteering.

But that’s completely unrealistic. I am me. I wouldn’t know how to be anyone else. I know that would be part of the programming, but some stupid part of me keeps believing in the hope that maybe someone out there will want me for me. That maybe I can have a happy ending or a happy long-term adventure. I don’t know why I allow myself to believe in hope when it has only caused me so much pain, but I am that scary idealist.

I guess these are some of the really big reasons why the Dollhouse was such an interesting story line to me. I am the idealist with the hope of making the world a better place, but I’m also a doll with the hope that me just being my best will make it so I can have a better life where people take care of me and tell me what to do and all I have to do is show up and I’ll be desired and loved.

The end of the series was a little bit odd, though, once it was in the future and the world had effectively ended. That part of the series appealed to the secret desires of our current population that wants to see the world end. You have all those post-apocalyptic stories about zombies or aliens and humanity’s battle just to put itself back on the map. In a lot of ways, that kind of life seems so much easier to us than our actual daily lives. I think we all secretly hope for a world where it’s obvious who the bad guys are and where we never have to pay rent or work in a cubicle.

I can see why this series didn’t last very well during its run on television, though. The story was entirely too complicated and too tightly woven to be suitable for anything other than a marathon-style of viewing. Waiting a week between episodes and months between seasons meant that a lot of information was likely lost on the viewers and all those tiny connections couldn’t be made very well. It works great as a series when you can watch the whole thing all at once, though. And I really liked how I didn’t have to deal with a “previously, on the Dollhouse …” line except for the last two or three episodes. I really dislike it when I’m watching a marathon and they insist on recapping all the things I just finished watching not two seconds ago.

That’s both the scary part and the neat part about this series. I was left with a powerful desire to make sure that I am taking care of and living my own life the way I wish. Overall, I enjoy this series greatly and will probably continue to pull it off the shelf and rewatch it every couple of years or so.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
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