Monday, May 9, 2011

Response to "Dollhouse's Secret War on Women"

The user henryevilx has a satire Dollhouse music video on YouTube, in which he tries to expose Dollhouse as misogynistic by showing a montage of clips in which female characters are the recipients of aggressive action. The implication is that Joss likes seeing women get beat up and/or wants others to enjoy it. This is incredibly misleading, however, as it ignores the full context of these moments much in the style of a Michael Moore film. If you took all of the Holocaust scenes from Schindler’s List and put it to music, you can make it look like it’s anti-Semitic, but I think it’s clear in context that Schindler’s List is about the horrors of anti-Semitism and in no way promotes it. Hell, you could make Chick Tracts look like they’re promoting all the things Jack Chick considers sinful by removing the morals at the ends. Dollhouse is very much a feminist show through depicting women getting hurt and then rising up against their oppressors. It also has characters like Echo and Sierra as active fighters, and active fighters are going to take some blows now and then.

Here’s a full breakdown of the video:

We start with a clip of Ivy and Topher, in which Topher says he’ll “never trust another woman as long as [he] live[s]”. Okay, Topher is portrayed as highly immoral. The point of his character is that he starts out apathetic and slowly starts to care to the point that he has a mental breakdown because he caused so much pain and cares. At that point, at the beginning of season two, Topher’s apathy receives particular focus because he’s going to start caring in a few episodes. Finally, I don’t think he’s serious so much as complaining about Claire.

The music starts as we see a clip of Bennett slamming her head into the security monitor. You know, a self-inflicted wound. It’s supposed to come across as startling because we don’t know what she’s thinking. Bennett’s supposed to be a little out there, as well as being a parallel to Topher, who is also eccentric. Bennett causes the injury in order to get Topher on her side because she can tell he’s sympathetic to Echo at that point and would otherwise oppose her.

Next, there’s a brief shot of Dominic smacking Echo in the burning cult building. Dominic is, in fact, a bad guy. A woman (DeWitt) sends him to the Attic in a later episode.

Then we see Bennett torturing Echo. This is an act of personal vengeance based on Bennett and Caroline’s backstories, not so different from Spike torturing Angel in Buffy and Angel. These are powerful women and one of them is very aggressive toward the other.

Then we see Echo fighting the psychopath with the bow. We aren’t shown the part where she defeats him, nor do we see the earlier part in which Boyd tries to assume control and she totally rejects the imprinted brainwashing to take control herself. We just see Echo hit by a man, but that so totally isn’t the point of the scene.

Then we see Arcane smacking Echo in the Attic. It’s the freaking Attic! The Attic is Hell. It’s the Dollhouse’s endless torture simulation. Echo manages to escape from it—the first one to ever do so—because she is Dollhouse’s powerful female protagonist.

We see a shot of Dominic holding a gun on Adelle. This is after she sent him to the Attic and the Dollhouse tech went global, causing the apocalypse. He believes he would have been able to keep that from happening. I'm not really on his side or Adelle's, though. It's a meeting of two powerful people with a history. He's not just a man dominating a woman.

Next, we see Topher punch Bennett. You know, the evil manipulator trying to kill Echo. We just saw her torturing Echo, and that punch is a triumph of the L.A. Dollhouse team. There was a moment’s concern where Topher could have chosen to go along with Bennett because we know they like each other, but he chooses Echo over her. It’s a sign of character development for him in that he is able to sacrifice his lovelife to save Echo.

Next there’s a shot of Echo looking stunned with blood on her face. This is after she was struck by Cindy Perrin, the evil Dollhouse handler. We see her have a series of flashbacks of getting hit from different imprints. We don’t see the part where this makes her remember how to fight and attacks Cindy.

We then see Daniel Perrin beating up Echo. At this point, Perrin is a mindless drone controlled by Bennett, though, so it’s really just the Bennett/Echo conflict. This is what makes Topher punch Bennett in the other clip.

Next, we see Priya held in a choke hold. I think this is from “The Hollow Men”, the episode in which the L.A. Dollhouse team goes up against the Rossum Corporation in a climatic fight for the security of the world. So, this is a brief clip of that battle that takes the whole context out.

Next, we see Alpha throwing Echo off a small ledge. Alpha, as in the main villain of the first season who tried to dominate Echo, and Echo fought him off in a very feminist style. This clip shows the continuation of the Alpha/Echo conflict, which is pretty feminist in nature. Of course, the context of their relationship or what happens next is completely ignored.

Then there’s a clip of Cindy Perrin punching Echo. This is because Echo tried to free Daniel Perrin from her and the D.C. Dollhouse’s evil control. We don’t see Echo fighting back. Shortly after, Bennett tries to kill Echo and inadvertently kills Cindy via Daniel Perrin.

We see Nolan throwing Priya down on a table. This man is an evil rapist. We don’t see the part where Priya stabs him to death and Topher and Boyd help cover it up.

We next see Dominic throwing Echo to the floor. This is because Echo has just exposed him as a spy. He tries to kill everyone in the room. He does not. We don’t see the part where Echo grabs a shard of glass on the floor and swivels around to attack him, nor do we see Adelle send him to the Attic.

Next, we see Caroline slam a fire extinguisher into Ramirez’s (Victor’s handler) legs in order to trip her so she doesn’t reach a radio prominently seen in the shot. This is because Ramirez is an agent of the evil, oppressive Dollhouse, and Caroline is trying to escape and help others to escape. It’s pointless focusing on Ramirez as a woman being hurt without considering the significance of Caroline fighting her. Why is Ramirez’ whole character devalued to the traits of woman and victim, and Caroline devalued to the trait of aggressor?

There’s a quick shot of Iris murdering Lyn. This is during the apocalypse; it’s bad for everybody. She kills a man later too.

We then see Alpha attacking Whiskey in a flashback. Again, Alpha is the main villain of season one. His actions are anti-feminist, but this makes it all the more feminist when Echo rises up against him.

We next see Nolan beating up Priya. Again, she stabs him to death. And then Topher melts the body.

Then we see the cult-leader smacking Echo. We’re not shown the part where Echo catches his arm the next time he swings or when she overcomes her imprinted faith in him to beat him up and rescue his people from him.

We then see Hearn beating up November. We don’t see the part where Adelle activates her imprint and she kills him.

Next, we see Echo beating up Whiskey. Only, it’s actually Clive 2.0. That’s a man imprinted in a female Active, producing a transgender man. So, actually, this is a clip of a woman beating up a man. Oops. Also, he’s evil. Remember that clip of Arcane beating up Echo? That was Clive 1.0.

We then see another clip of Perrin attacking Echo. Again, he’s just a mindless drone controlled by Bennett. Which is why Topher punches her.

Next, we see a male Active manhandling Bennett. This is Topher taking her prisoner so she could help him fight Rossum. This is also after she manipulated Topher and tried to kill Echo. Again, she’s a powerful person and it’s disrespectful to devalue her to the traits of woman and victim.

We then see one of the robbers in “Grey Hour” smacking Echo. He is a jerk and is not portrayed positively. Echo eventually acts against him—in the tabula rasa state.

We then see Cindy Perrin hitting Echo, who sees the flashbacks of the other clip already shown. In this clip, we can see Cindy has a gun on Daniel Perrin.

Next, there’s more of Bennett-controlled Perrin beating up Echo. Again, it’s Bennett; they have a history, etc.

Next, we see Whiskey kill Bennett. Whiskey is at this point controlled by Boyd. Rossum is evil. The L.A. Dollhouse team soon fights against Rossum and Boyd gets his.

There’s a shot of someone killing a woman in front of Ballard. I don’t recognize it, but I suspect it’s during the fight against Rossum.

We then see repeated shots: Echo’s flashbacks after Cindy Perrin struck her, Dominic attacking Echo in the cult building, Iris killing Lyn, Arcane punching Echo, Bennett torturing Echo, more of Echo’s flashbacks, someone throwing Echo on a table, the robber smacking Echo, Bennett headbutting the monitor, Caroline hitting Ramirez, Bennett-controlled Perrin attacking Echo, flashbacks, Hearn attacking November, Clive 2.0 taking a swing at Echo, Dominic hitting Echo in the cult building, Arcane hitting Echo, the robber hitting Echo, and finally the cult-leader hitting Echo.

It ends with a clip of the Asian Sierra telling the Asian Ivy that she isn’t comfortable with Orientals. This one comes out of left field, not really depicting women being hit. I get that the user’s trying to say Dollhouse is racist, though. Dollhouse might be racist. I haven’t given the matter much thought. Boyd does seem stereotypical. This clip, however, is anti-racist in nature because it depicts racism as absurd. There is no reason for anyone to be uncomfortable around “Orientals”, and the absurdity of the statement is made more obvious by having an Asian person say it. It also is just a way to note how weird it is working at the Dollhouse.

This music video takes the entire show out of context. It doesn’t expose anti-feminism so much as create it by removing the feminist contexts. It isn’t feminist to remove the feminist nature and depict only the violence against women. What would be feminist is to make a fanvid depicting only the victims rising up against their oppressors. As I’ve said, reducing a female character to a role as a female victim is a huge disrespect to that character. Joss depicts women as active fighters and powerful players in dangerous conflicts. It would be misogynistic to never let any of the female characters be hurt because it would remove their status as equals to male fighters, which is pretty much what other shows do and what feminists often complain about.

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