Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dollhouse Is Feminist (Part 12: 1x10)

(Written for the video version)

Before talking about the tenth Dollhouse episode, I’d like to talk for a moment about fanvids. Fanvids are a selection of clips taken out of their narrative and put to music and arranged in a way that brings new context to them. Though most people use them to celebrate their favorite media, some use them to make political statements. There are some political fanvids I find very nice. Then there’s the fanvid “Dollhouse’s Secret War on Women” by henryevilx. I recently responded to this with my own fanvid “Dollhouse’s Overt Warrior Women”.

I did my best to match up the clips with my fanvid. A woman goes down in his, and a man goes down in mine. A woman tortures a woman in his, and a man tortures a man in mine. A man tosses a woman over a railing in his, and a woman tosses a man over a railing in mine. Etcetera, etcetera, and so forth. A lot of these are even the same fights. He just shows the man beating the woman because of some idea that gender equality is anti-feminist if it involves violence. This is foolish. Gender equality is feminist, period, and the narratives these clips come from are often feminist with a man victimizing Echo and Echo taking him out. If you notice, a few of these show the women killing the men attacking them.

I know feminists look at this guy’s fanvid out of context and believe that it’s an accurate representation of the show because this kind of thing is their only experience with it. While the clips are all real, the context they are given is false. Likewise, my fanvid is false out of context of his fanvid. An MRA could easily use mine on its own to say the show is anti-man. Neither are true. Do not take fanvids as accurate representations of shows. You’ll be missing a whole lot of context that you’ll only get through watching the original material. This is why a lot of people are angry with Michael Moore, you know.

As for the tenth Dollhouse episode, “Haunted”, there’s honestly not a lot of feminist content. Not because it’s antifeminist or anything like that, but just because it focuses on different things. It’s a filler episode that foreshadows the season finale with the concept of a woman getting her brain scanned and then having the Dollhouse imprint an Active with her after her death, and the episode really just plays with that philosophical issue.

Like most of these engagements, Echo is victimized by a man, who she then takes out. It’s a bit different because it’s a transhumanist murder mystery, though, and it’s a little less linear. Your mileage may vary on how entertaining the mystery is, but I like it and think the one-shot characters are interesting enough. There is a thing about how the dead woman Margaret favored her son more than her daughter; she thought his career had potential and hers was just a pipe dream. Margaret in Echo learns to respect her daughter more and tries to make amends for her crappy parenting. Margaret is consistently respected as a strong woman, if not a well-liked one, and we see that she’s one of Adelle’s only real friends. Margaret knows she can’t hide from the Dollhouse, so she goes back to return the body she borrowed. Adelle cries as she watches her friend die.

Ballard’s subplot is actually more relevant than the main storyline. He struggles with pretending to date Mellie with the knowledge that she’s actually an Active there to spy on him who doesn’t know she’s an Active. He gets prints off of her wine glass and gets his friend at the bureau to search the FBI’s database. The search brings up a file on a person who looks like Mellie, and then another person, and several more load quickly before all the files are automatically deleted. There’s definitely a conspiracy going on.

Ballard gets home to find Mellie waiting for him. She’s recognized that he’s unenthusiastic about their relationship, and she says that she’s willing to do whatever it takes to make it work. She says it’s not necessary that he return affection yet and she’ll do whatever he needs, echoing what Adelle says the Dollhouse is for. Ballard then decides to use Mellie for sex. He’s forgotten that she’s a victim and instead dehumanizes and objectifies her because he recognizes her as an Active and sees her as unreal. This is a mistake, of course. She’s artificial, but not unreal, and the body still belongs to an absent personality. In the morning, he recognizes that he compromised his morals and essentially became a Dollhouse client, which greatly disturbs him.

In the first episodes, it looked like Ballard would be our generic male hero going out to rescue the damsel in distress. Now he’s getting corrupted and dehumanizing the Actives in the same way as the Dollhouse. He can’t be taken as an infallible voice of reason. This will be looked at more in the next episode.

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