Saturday, September 26, 2009

Is Fox Playing With Dolls?

Ian wrote an excellent post reviewing the Season 2 premier of Joss Whedon's Fox series Dollhouse. While still paling in comparison to the brilliance of Firefly and creativity of Buffy the vampire Slayer, Dollhouse has the seeds of a great series. The unaired 13th episode of the first season, "Epitaph One", especially, is a knock-out, nearly perfect television episode that launches the series ten years into the future and 10,000 brilliant degrees deeper into the shows potential trajectory. Season 2 is expected to show much of what leads up to Epitaph One.

I posted a comment on Ian's blog, and decided to re-post it here for any of you that might be Dollhouse folk. I have some issues with how the series has been going, that were still present in this Season 2 premiere. I hope it's just the dregs of Fox producers' requirements on the show that will hopefully become unnecessary as the show gets better and better: more Joss, less Fox. Here's my response to Ian.

"I also was very very pleased with the season 2 premiere. Especially, since I re-watched 'Epitaph One' right before and there were totally references to that episode (or rather, this episode foreshadowed Epitaph One's events)- particularly Topher saying "I know what I know"

What did hugely disappoint however, was the Echo/Jamie Bamber sex scene which felt totally gratuitous since we didn't know or care about those characters- just felt like awkward, un-sexy "SEXY" scenes. Would have been better if it just showed the married couple together in bed the next morning, then cut to the shot of Ballard alone on the stakeout sofa. Would have said so much more about the relationships- without the grody muscle make out scenes devoid of feeling or intelligent storytelling.

Also, I have PROBLEMS with the whole Ballard beating up Echo to trigger her into being a weapon/defending herself. I just don't think its okay or acceptable to show men brutalizing women. Culturally, its just way too loaded to have that be part of entertainment.

But those are issues that are pretty connected to the shows themes- and someone could argue that my discomfort is what was intended- but if so, those scenes are so poorly integrated compared to the rest of how the show works. Basically, those feel like the "FOX" scenes; violence and sex for entertainment, rather than as truthful storytelling. I'm not against violence and sex in film- but is it honest? These scenes felt pornographic, in the sense of being objectifying and without integrity.

Hopefully Joss will hold down the fort and keep it about character and narrative from here on, not just ex-Battlestar Gallactica actors getting down and dirty.

And Amy Acker astounded me. Utterly".

1 comment:

Ian said...

I too had issues with Ballard's actions to make Echo remember. In fact, I don't know how exactly he knew a violent strike would jar her personalities into alignment with each other. I would have liked to see him grapple a bit more with that decision.

You're right, it is connected to the narrative, but I'm not sure of Ballard's actions were well enough distinguished from the head-table-slam Jamie Bamber's character did to Echo to be deemed acceptable.

The sex scene was definitely gratuitous-I mean, we kind of "know" how a wedding night is supposed to go right?

On top of that, even though the dialogue later made it explicitly clear that there were no microphones in his house, the way the scenes were intercut-the warm, yellow tones of the lovemaking session and the cool quality of Ballard's isolation still lent a sense of voyeurism and uneasy proximity to this private moment. That said, is any sex act the actives perform really "private"?

All that to say, Ballard's actions in this episode further contributed to viewing his character as having an unhealthy obsession with Echo. Neither the violence nor the seeming objectification of Echo's body were justified, narratively or culturally.

I'm not on his side.

Amy Acker's? You bet.