The third espisode of Joss Whedon's Dollhouse airs tonight on Fox at 10:00.
The numbers for the second episode continue a downward trend, and this is very worrying.
I think it's clear by this time that Whedon is not going back to Buffy. Of course, we would like him to. But it's just time to move on. He has. We must. As media consumers, we are that most contrary of creature: we want Whedon to do something completely fresh and completely familiar. What is wrong with us?
In a post-Buffy spirit, then, here are a couple of things I like about Dollhouse.
1. Dollhouse is a great metaphor for Hollywood. This industry assigns identities for brief durations, wipes them clean, and insist that the actor start again. Very Dollhouse. So we may amuse ourselves this evening by watching for parallels and Whedonesque commentary. (The story within the story: Whedon is a third generation TV writer, so he knows a thing or two about the industry. Furthermore, he's had a rocky relationship with this industry. So he might have a thing or two to say.) I leave it to you to map out who in Dollhouse is what in Hollywood.
2. Dollhouse is a great metaphor for the actor. In Friday's episode, Echo (Eliza Dushku) is showing distressing signs of independence. The crucial moment, when she refuses the secret code word that is supposed to reassure her. Hollywood actors must often feel like their autonomy is in peril. They have so many masters: studios, agents, producers, directors, writers, and fans that the temptation to embrace independence must be very strong. (The alternative might be outbursts of the kind delivered recently by Christian Bale. There must come a moment when you' ve just had enough of being obliged to deliver note-perfect emotions on command…and while someone moves a light stand behind you.)
3. Dollhouse is a great metaphor for the contemporary individual. In episode 2, Echo is picking up stray signals ("shoulder to the wheel!") and now that many of us live an "expansionary individualism," now that many of us act as "complex adaptive systems," so perhaps do the rest of us. Indeed, this must be how trends get started. The early adopters can "just hear something" in the wind. They adopt it and if others follow suit, Gladwell's tipping point is not far off. Cultural change almost always starts as stray signals and Echo is perhaps a chance to contemplate how stray signals start.
post script: Zsa Zsa and Vivian join the McCracken Decesare household this evening. They are Siamese kittens, sisters, 14 weeks old, and by all accounts complete chatter boxes. Molly, as some of you know, is the cat incumbent. She is 4 years old and it remains to be seen how she will regard the newcomers.
For more on expansionary individualism, see my Transformations: identity construction in a contemporary culture. For more on "complex adaptive systems," see my Flock and Flow. Forgive the self citing. It saves time.
McCracken, Grant. 2008. Transformations: Identity Construction in Contemporary Culture. Indiana University Press.
McCracken, Grant. 2006. Flock and Flow: Predicting and Managing Change in a Dynamic Marketplace. Indiana University Press.