Yet another Whedon peeve [1]: “What is that? Why is it beeping?”

[Post contains spoilers for Dollhouse episode 4, unrelated to the serial plot. THERE ARE SPOILERS IN COMMENTS.]

Hey Joss Whedon, Mr Feminist Icon dude, can I have a word in your shell-like?

There are fields of endeavour in which the vast majority of the experts are women. Those women possess knowledge gained through years of study and experience, and they bring something very worthwhile to the world. One of those fields of endeavour is midwifery.

When you’re attempting to portray a woman acting as an expert in that field, one of the better ways to do so convincingly is to hire an actual expert for an hour or so to cast an eye over your script. I’m led to believe this is standard operating procedure for TV producers who aspire to a modicum of quality in their art. It also tends to be a rather good way of not making an arse of yourself, as you did this week in the Dollhouse cold open.

This is assuming that you want us to believe that Dollhouse actives are actually programmed with expert knowledge and skills, which seems to have been the setup so far. On the other hand, if what you wanted to convey was “All the midwifery pseudoknowledge Echo was programmed with came straight out of a bad 1990s sitcom”, you did so very successfully.

(Whedoniocy! Now with pointless, gratuitous butch-dyke quips! HiLARious!)

Achieving a modicum of verisimilitude is not that hard. It’s not that expensive. And it wouldn’t have compromised your precious storyline in any way.

[1] Do we need an acronym for this yet? Cos I love “YAWP”. Very Dead Poets’.

Categories: arts & entertainment, gender & feminism

Tags: , , , , , ,

20 replies

  1. yeah that whole thing really bugged me. I know he didn’t write that episode but he still has control over what goes in and that was just stupid. Besides the fact that they could have neturalized that comment easily. when the dad asks “does that mean she’ll be a lesbian” Echo could have said something like “If that matters than you shouldn’t be having a child” easy and quick, but no.
    I felt the whole point was just to show her in some type of situation that doesn’t involve someone trying to kill her or sex

  2. Now, if it’s just Echo, the mother and the father there, why the hell do they need a sheet over the mother’s lower half?

  3. Now, if it’s just Echo, the mother and the father there, why the hell do they need a sheet over the mother’s lower half?

    Because That’s How Childbirth Is Done. Same reason why she’s lying flat on her back with her legs in the air doing coached Valsalva pushing with a continuous electronic fetal monitor on.

  4. I was completely weirded out by that part. And why someone would hire an Active as a midwife in the first place, wtf. You could get the most expert midwife in the world for considerably less money, for starters.
    Of course, I was completely weirded out later on by the sheer inconsistency of Echo’s behavior during the remote wipe.
    [Spoiler black-on-blacked out; those using screen readers or email comment subscriptions or similar, please be warned about comment spoilers. ~L]

  5. ETA: Ack, didn’t think of spoilers. Feel free to edit my last, L and T.

  6. I think this scene is a metaphor for Whedon feminism. He wanted to do the right thing superficially, but in the execution he failed.

  7. I watched the clip (I haven’t gone out of my way to find Dollhouse since Ep02) and yeah… what was the point of having an Active for that job, unless there was something very shady going on that no one was supposed to know about.
    Sadly, I’ m writing a paper on infanticide right now, so that’s where my mind went.

  8. hellonhairylegs, got it in one, I think.

  9. Here Here!

    Was it only me? I totally thought Echo was supposed to be giving some woman head. It was ground breaking TV for 9 seconds. A women receiving sexual pleasure from, not only not a penis or a man, but another woman! Totally something Joss Whedon would try if he could get away with it. And honestly, I’ll take Dollhouse over most of what’s on TV these days.
    But I digress… Totally unbelievable that they would hire an active to be a midwife. And the odd handling of Echo while she was wiped on the job also a tad disappointing.
    Overall though, not so bad. I’ll still support the show, Whedon and his endeavours.

  10. Was it only me? I totally thought Echo was supposed to be giving some woman head.

    It wasn’t only you – the opening was designed to make us think the birthing woman was in sexual ecstasy. (It sorta recalled the Tara/Willow scene in Once More With Feeling, I think.)

  11. Is anyone on this thread still watching Dollhouse? I just caught a trailer for (what I assume is) next week’s episode, and it looks like it’ll be my *favourite!* t.v. trope, Disability Drag! Woo hoo! It looks like they’ll use Science! to make Echo blind. Link here:
    I don’t have t.v. (and can’t seem to use any workarounds for Hulu) so I’m mostly wondering if someone who is still watching could mention if people other than Echo are shown with disabilities, which is the implication in the trailer.

  12. I’m still watching — for all of its faults, I’m finding it to be a very interesting interrogation of objectification and human commodification (esp. with regard to women).
    To me, the trailer seems to imply that they’re going to send her into a religious cult who will accept her because her blindness will be “healed” — if all goes according to plan. I didn’t get the impression that there will be numerous people with disabilities featured (although I guess there could be other people turning up to be healed), and I very much doubt that it’s actually going to attempt to realistically portray living with a disability in any way.

  13. I’m watching, Anna. So far we’ve had a girl in a refrigerator (um, literally), constant rape as a plot-point-aside, a ditsy passively-suicidal self-obsessed female pop star, and now disability drag? Awesome. Can we has blackface next? Or maybe a silly pseudoJamaican accent?
    Oh, and the actor who plays Mellie – Miracle Laurie? Was set up in the casting notes as “heavy”. (Read it recently in two different places, can’t find the cite now.) I guess that’s Whedonheavy, as in Amber Benson “heavy”.

  14. I’m with you Beppie on the ‘interesting interogation of objectification and human commodification’. Wildly Parenthetical and I have plans to tag team post on the show and the ideas it’s throwing up and calling into question.

  15. FP, that sounds really cool. I can’t wait to read them.
    To follow that completely, I may work harder to find a workaround to watch the show. 🙂

  16. Yeah I feel kinda awkward about it since I know it’s pissing people off. But the thing is I think it’s doing many things at once. For instance. The girl in the fridge. She was kidnapped and we saw that what we thought was a hostage situation was not simply that. The girl in the fridge? Is it not perhaps a hat tip to the noted comic strip phenomena of women ending up in fridges? She didn’t stay there either. And she wasn’t put there for our sexy titillation, or as finally getting her comeupance, the whole scene evoked horror. The same guy that put her there with the same intentions as when he’d put the girl who was now Echo’s implanted personality in there was foiled – by an old victim long forgotten to him, a victim confronting him from beyond the grave, through the body of another woman. Is that not an attempt at some justice for victims who are understandably broken by their traumatic experiences – women who can go on to carve out careers and full lives but still be haunted. We had a victim fronting and besting her attacker in a way that she couldn’t in real life whether due to the ongoing trauma or the lack of a physical opportunity. *She* did this, and the body of another allowed her to. And on other fronts, what does that scenario do to ideas of physicality, to the mind/body split, to individuality? She stood in front of him and she was terrified but she did what she needed to do. And she/Echo got the girl out of the fridge.

  17. I’ll be following those posts closely, FP. 🙂
    I think something similar was going on with the passively-suicidal pop-star, in that her own passivity was set up quite explicitly to reflect (or perhaps, more appropriately, to “echo”) Echo’s passivity in her mind-wiped state. It’s not like this was done subtly, so that viewers with sharp analytical skills would see it, while the rest of the population watches on in happy ignorance — Whedon was clearly trying to make A Point — and as I saw it, that point was that idealised constructions of femininity are just as fake for women who try to live up to that sort of pop-star/supermodel image as they are for the Actives.
    I also find the way that the amount of exercise that the Actives do in their mind-wiped state (isn’t there a special word for that?) — Echo talking about swimming thirty laps, all that time she spends on the treadmills, the rabbit-food lunches, in conjuction with the way that Echo is implanted with a bunch of different TV/film tropes for female characters that are supposed to seem “effortless”, when they are really only something done for short periods of time, and can only be done after hours of exercise, strict dieting, etc.

  18. I did not see that singer as ditzy. I thought she was a young woman who had been taught what to strive for and had great success in it. She played the game exactly as she was supposed to – and the objectification of it was killing her. She couldn’t feel a thing, and seemed disgusted with it all – the game, the towing the line, herself, her stalker, the whole shebang. Her speech? About being required to rebel, but just enough? About having to play the game/sing the song, EXACTLY as it’s scripted for her by the patriarchy if she wants to Be Hot Singer? About being grown in captivity? Contrasted with Echo’s scenario? Followed up by a girl who wasn’t tough like Echo’s character of the week, or the singer, who wasn’t all pornified, or strutty or self confident? A ‘regular’ star struck girl? With a gun to a head and a man demanding that she sing his song or he’d kill her (sing it exactly as it’s scripted or suffer the violence)? Is that not some pretty full on tackling of women’s situation within patriarchy?

  19. I’m obviously just Not Getting It.
    Stuff like the midwife crap and the constant rape just uses up all my goodwill and benefitofthedoubting, I think.


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