Did the audience fall asleep? For a little while

Nowadays, everybody knows Joss Whedon as the director of The Avengers movies but a couple of years ago he was just the freak who created one of the coolest TV’s heroines: Buffy Summers, the vampire slayer. Some (few but passionate) others will remember him as the man behind the cult hit Firefly. But who remembers him for Dollhouse? Who has even seen Dollhouse? Now, it is the moment to reclaim it.

This show tells us the story of Caroline, a mysterious character who agrees to give five years of his life to a secret and global corporation known as Dollhouse. This company wipes the minds of its ‘workers’ in order to insert different personalities and skill sets in their bodies according to the clients’ needs. In other words, it turns desperate people into whatever some wealthy guys wish.

The narrative of the first 5 episodes was too self-contained, the adventure-of-the-week sort of episode with, perhaps, a glimpse or two of what was under the surface. Nonetheless, if you had a little Faith (and you should! you are watching her in every episode!) the next episodes would knock you out of your socks due to an addictive and deep cyberpunk tale of postmodern identity, feminism and capitalism.

Whedon does not try to impress his audience with all the possible readings of its show, instead, he tries to make sci-fi fans happy with episodes full of action scenes, tech, conspiracies and mysteries. The missing piece, the usual sexy, bold but secondary girl (see Black Widow), is now a powerful and confident woman who fights against a patriarchal society which tries to manipulate her by creating her own –postmodern– identity.

Dollhouse was not an easy job for Whedon and his team. FOX did not like the pilot episode so they had to shoot another one filled with more action scenes. Later, they asked the plots not to be overly complicated so casual audiences could watch it whenever they felt like it, and, at the end of season one, they decided to cancel it. The soulless executives from FOX realized another episode was needed to close all lose threads, the famous ‘Epitaph One’, in order to sell a DVD package with the complete first season. Whedon answered this request with 40 mindblowing minutes that allowed us to see how Dollhouse’s tech changed the future of humanity.

This was n´t the end though. Fox surprisingly ordered a second and last season without having broadcast the real season one finale, a phenomenon that originated two kinds of viewers: the ones who watched ‘Epitaph One’ having bought the DVD or by illegal channel and knew how humanity would end up, and those who did not. Thanks to this, television scholars who study TV narrative structures like J. are also fans of Dollhouse.

If Buffy The Vampire Slayer was a story about the coming of age of a group of friends and how they dealt with their responsibilitoes in a fantastic and neo-gothic context, Dollhouse is a cyberpunk story about who we really are and how far will we go in order to protect our individuality.

The Homecoming Queen

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