Combating Dystopia.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Pop Dystopia -Dollhouse

Ah, this modern world. What did I do before I could live stream all manner of films on Netflix? (In a few words- suffered pop- cultural insignificance)

There are a few series' I've been absorbed with since the beginning of my summer doledrums. One of which is absurdly underrated the Joss Whedon/Elisa Dusku vehicle Dollhouse. Graced with a slew of aston
ishingly fluid actors, the series offers a fascinating premise- in a world where science and technology can offer you anyone at any time, and the personality is a rewriteable program, of what value is the self? By the end of season 2 a few things were evident-
  • a.) Evner Gjokaj has an absolute chameleonlike ability to mimic anyone and is perhaps one of the finest actors I've ever seen in this or any role. (And I won't lie, he's obnoxiously cute.) See exhibit A.
  • b.) What we know, and what we think we know about nearly every character in this show is challenged and thrown on its ear at least twice, and some of the character choices and dynamics are constantly evolving, much like the "soulless" characters gradually developing sense of self.
  • c.) Amy Acker and Elisa Dusku are pitch perfect and this series offers the actors so much depth and range that its quite captivating to watch them stretch with their characters.
  • d.) The entirety of the series operates in a consistent universe of moral ambiguity. Many of the Dollhouse staffers, and those that employ them operate with a very checkered, tenuous grasp on the morality of what it is they do. The justifications and rationalizations that allow them to continue the work they do often requires a fascinating degree of logical contortion which is mined to amazingly interesting effect as the series progresses. The line, and how often the handlers and staff of the Dollhouse are required to cross it in order to provide services, is obscure and being made fabulously wealthy at the expense of human experimentation has an emotional cost nobody can ultimately walk away from.
  • e.) The Dollhouse's matriarchal dynamic under the machiavelian Adelle Dewit is worthy of considerable exploration. Everything she says or does is deliciously calculated and enthralling to behold.

How does it relate to dystopia? So much of the individual human experience is born of the self, and the self is largely a concept popularized by John Locke. The childlike "alters" are docile, pliant and ultimately ghosts of their former selves, but its fascinating to see the will of their selves try to assert itself despite the constant reprogramming. As the series progresses, we learn the human and societal costs of imprinting new personalities upon individuals: the utter loss of civilization. Its a grim prophecy, but one that has underpinnings of philosophical thought.

The quest to find oneself is never as literal as it is for the show's focal character Echo, and watching her slowly develop the skills and ability to claim ownership of her own identity is incredibly winning stuff. Its difficult not to be drawn in by the incredible monochrome of the corporate greed and sci-fi run amok, and as per any Joss Whedon vehicle, impossible not to feel genuine attachment to the flawed, lovely characters that people that world. If the technology existed that could rob us of our own identities and rewrite us as it was needed, I dare say it would be used for benevolent aims, and the end senario dystopian landscape painted while grim, is probable if ethical checks were not in place to prevent abuses. Without the ability to know our own minds, our own hearts, we become lost. The series does a phenomenal job of connecting the audience to the idea that our identities, our personalities are priceless treasures, and that the drives to be true to the self are profoundly strong. I find this to be one of the most compelling (and sadly overlooked) series I've had the privilege to devour. I couldn't reccomend it more highly. It was on FOX so it was likely never going to get the treatment and audience it deserves, as, lets face it, FOX has a knack for squandering its shows potential. (Family Guy, Firefly, Futurama etc. ) But its compelling, weighty, mind expanding stuff and one hundred and ninety percent worth serious consideration.

The Intro for the show captures the lilting, haunted aspect of the show and underscores the shows decadent greyscale quite well. And its super pretty so give it a look.

1 comment:

  1. And now 100% guaranteed to be continued...Joss Whedon is finishing it up in Comic Book form (like he did with Buffy Season 8 and Angel Season 6). So more Dollhouse for all!