Is Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse A Statement About Prostitution?

Published 6 years ago by , Updated July 14th, 2011 at 2:08 pm,

joss whedon dollhouse tah moh penikett nycc 2009 fox 2 Is Joss Whedons Dollhouse A Statement About Prostitution?

I always figured I would hate Joss Whedon, which is surprising based on the fact that I have enjoyed most of his work.  After seeing him speak at the Dollhouse panel this weekend at Comic-Con I can say for sure that I actually really enjoyed him and wish him no malice.

While promoting his new Fox series Dollhouse, Whedon managed to be both funny and insightful about his show, making it as a creative person in the entertainment industry and life in general.  In fact probably more so than any other panelist.

The most interesting point that Whedon made about his new show, Dollhouse, was the unlimited possibilities associated with characters that quite literally have their mind wiped when their job is done.

These for-hire bombshells show up with a blank slate, perform the task they are hired to do – which can vary from being the perfect date, cracking safes or fulfilling the sexual fantasies of whomever they’ve been hired to please.

It’s an interesting premise as the “Dolls” are being hired to complete assignments without the ability to ever be able to acknowledge what they’ve done after their mission has been completed.  The premise alone will open the door for a variety of story lines and issues to be dealt with.

dollhouse poster Is Joss Whedons Dollhouse A Statement About Prostitution?

Whedon said that Eliza Dushku’s character, Echo will deal with a lot this season, and mainly with issues that are painful. I suppose painful is one way to put it based on the fact that sometimes the dolls or ‘actives’ will be pimped out for various reason and then have their memory erased.

This sounds a bit like a night of heavy drinking… Only no one will chime in to tell you what to be regretful about. I’m really excited to see this all play out.  Is this the ultimate form of feminism? To go beyond your ability to make decisions by giving implicit authority over your memory to someone else?  Or is it truly a basic form of prostitution, selling a woman for a multitude of reasons, including sex?  I guess we’ll have to wait and find out.

Dollhouse premieres on the Fox network on this Friday, February 13th.

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  1. Been excited for this one since Vic’s post way back. Good to see Joss’ work again, especially after the horrible thing that is Sarah Conner Chronicles.

    You brought up an interesting point towards the end, definitely this story leaves opportunity for two extremes. Maybe some outside source, one preferably with morals, affects what’s going on? Hard to say without seeing the show yet.


  2. Hmmm I might have check this show out. I knew I came here for a reason.

  3. How is going “beyond your ability to make decisions by giving implicit authority over your memory to someone else” the ultimate form of feminism? Not being critical, I’m very curious about this.

  4. ‘Dana? My Dana is in trouble? NO!’

    I agree with Oren, this Feminism/prostitution angle from the post might be a little too much looking into Dollhouse. However, I am just glad Whedon is back with a show and Eliza is on a quality program.

    Wouldn’t it be such a great gag at one point in the show’s run, Eliza’s Echo character discovers her past and she finds out her name is Dana and she is the daughter of a Computer Salesman named Harry. Then Schwarzenegger makes a cameo appearance. HAHA, I know, too much but it would be such a great gag!

  5. They don’t even need Arnold. They could merely suggest her name is Dana or that her father is a computer salesman. Fans of True Lies will immediately pick up on it, lol.

  6. True, but, it would be nice and hey, Arnold on TV is a plus in my book!

    OR, have Tom Arnold come in and say: Hey, you stole some money from my pocket! I want it back!

  7. And I am glad the author wishes Joss Whedon no malice…What the hell was that? Why even bring something like that up? Oh just for the record, I wish her no malice..Still scratching my head on that one

  8. Don’t worry greenknight, I wish you no malice either. :-)

  9. The thing I like about Dollhouse is how much the symbolism of the show and premise actually work on multiple levels. They played up the existentialism a bit before it came out (“Who am I?”), but you can find themes ranging from feminist themes (she’s a talented girl who’s apparently easily moldable… so of course she gets exploited endlessly), to parenting (the relationship of handlers to their actives; Boyd and Echo in particular remind me of the relationship between Giles and Buffy back on BtVS), to acting or writing (“different personality every week”; both Joss and Eliza have noted it “sounds like my life!”), mankind’s destructive and exploitive tendencies which yes, includes prostitution… and arguably date-rape as well (well, they are altering the actives’ minds, and mind-altering substances = date rape in the real world…).

    The Dollhouse appears to be about 80% high-tech whorehouse, to be honest… if you don’t think that can be applied as a “feminist” theme, I’d wager you don’t recognize the difference between endorsing a concept and exploring it. 😉 Also, I would wager that you hadn’t noticed how much the Companions in Firefly were an obvious examination/critique of what legal, socially-acceptable prostitution is really like (Inara did NOT seem very fulfilled by her profession to me, but since we never got to see much of her story and Whedon’s holding it back on purpose, it is hard to tell).

    I will admit that it is not as well made as some of his other work has been and it took longer to really grab me; I was hooked from the first episode – despite the flaws – in Buffy, Angel and Firefly, whereas it took a second episode of Dollhouse to really show me, “yes, this series has potential, and I can care about some of these characters”. I think the pilot is a bad introduction to the series, actually, especially with the truly horrid cold opening that honestly should have been cut; the acting is terrible in that scene and the dialogue is mostly pretty stilted and gimmicky and the whole thing was obviously stuck in there because the net wanted some filler and a more up-front revelation of the plot/premise.

    However, I like how the show as a whole feels like it’s moving quickly (given episodes are generally fast-paced, there’s usually a little hint as to the greater plot or Echo’s original identity or both, etc.) even though it’s really just being a horrible, flirtatious tease. I get the feeling that this show will get more interesting as it goes along.

    Thankfully, I think rumors of an early demise are, while not necessarily unmerited (any other day except Friday or Saturday and those ratings would make for an instacancel), slightly overblown. The pilot got 4.72 million viewers according to initial Nielsen ratings. Reports that ratings were “spiraling” seem a little hysterical, given that the number then given as evidence of the “spiral” were… 4.4something. Dude, that’s LESS than 300,000 fewer estimated viewers! Without counting the Hulu ratings, either, which probably add at least a few thou if not a million or so. Yeah it went down, but most series ratings go down from the pilot’s and it really wasn’t by like a million or two viewers or anything. I think people are just starting to act like vultures, hovering and predicting it’s going to die just so they can say “I told you so”. I just hope those same voices don’t do what real vultures do when they get impatient, which is peck the eyes out of the victim just to make sure they die! (That is, I hope that all this “omg it is soooo canceled” chat doesn’t prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy)

    Because I really do think this show could get pretty entertaining. My favorite show ever? Probably not. But entertaining? Interesting? Hell yes it could. So I will be disappointed if it gets canned early, and I will definitely keep watching for the time being.