Beauty and the Nine Volt Battery

Mood: Up. My move is complete and I found the coffee pot. All my hard drives survived.
On the iPod: Gabriel Yared’s rejected Troy soundtrack.
In the Backpack: Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life.

The construction of beauty, particularly as it pertains to woman, is an old topic. The myth of Pygmalion revolves around just that: a sculptor who creates the perfect woman from stone. Hitchcock covered the topic with surreal, analytical depth in Vertigo. The Stepford Wives was Ira Levine’s sci-fi/horror analysis of the myth: man’s quest to control woman by building her better, if more limited. I think Levine’s take was powerful, just avoid the recent terrible remake of the movie. And you can’t really go wrong with Vertigo, though the animation sequence dates the movie terribly. The latest person to consider this topic, of constructed woman, is Joss Whedon, in his Fox series Dollhouse.

I know Dollhouse is taking a lot of flack in the press, but I’ve decided to look at it without the filter of Firefly (which let’s face it, was pretty damn good television). Dollhouse is looking beyond just the construction of a man’s physical ideal. In Dollhouse, people can ask for the perfect anything and have it custom created for the right price.

It’s a premise with a lot of potential, as well as a horrifying possibility. We look at a future of designer genes, designer babies and the ability to alter our traits rather quickly. Plastic surgery alone offers a field ripe with story potential. Sci-fi certainly is filled with examples of the custom person, built to order. The genre is also filled with examples of the idea gone horribly wrong (Whedon used the concept in Serenity and it came up occasionally in Buffy).

But is Dollhouse any good? I’d say yes. A nice twist this week took me by surprise. A little more intrigue and a little less of the fun personality/costume changes would go a long ways to increasing the concept, but I think I can see where Whedon is aiming and I trust him enough to let him run with it.

Suspense television these last few years, particularly of the Sci-fi variety, has had some incredible examples to work with. Lost and Battlestar Galactica have both kept us on the edge of our seats. Dollhouse is hardly that level of intensity, but frankly, I need a bit more lightness. I can only handle so much of Battlestar’s weight before I want to turn to something smart but dopey looking. I’m giving Dollhouse a B, but I’m keeping with it for a while. After all, the first few episodes of Buffy were hardly instant classics.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *