Dollhouse Renewed? Why not Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles?

June 22, 2009

Fox Networks decided to renew Dollhouse for another 13 episodes but canceled Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  I’m less then thrilled about this decision.

Links Referenced in Video:

Update: There are some really great conversations about Dollhouse on The Angry Black Woman “The problem with Dollhouse is not that I don’t understand subtlety” and on Feminist SF “Working in the Dollhouse”

Also please check out this amazing fan vid about Dollhouse It Depends on What You Pay.   Brilliantly edited by Gianduja Kiss to expose some of the more controversial aspects of the show.  Word of warning, it’s kind of intense.

** This video is available to be translated into other languages by volunteers like you.  Please visit the subtitling page on Universal Subs and click TRANSLATE to get started.

 

 

Video Blog Transcript

I just found out that Dollhouse is being renewed by Fox for another season.  It’s a Joss Whedon TV show so I wanted to give it a chance when it first started.  Dollhouse is a show about a bunch of people who get there brains wiped and then new personalities and experiences and memories get put into their heads and they can exist as that person for X amount of time and they get hired out by clients to perform various tasks.  Most of the “engagements” are men trying to fulfill a fantasy.  Dollhouse is really a glorified brothel, Dollhouse is really misogynistic, I don’t know what other word to describe it as.  There is a big issue that has really been raised about whether this is rape or not.  It’s been talked about a little bit online but the show hasn’t dealt with this issue at all.  So they sign these contracts saying that they’ll be in Dollhouse for X amount of years and their conscious mind isn’t around so they can’t consent to every single engagement that they go on.  Now if you can’t consent then that would be rape right?

In Dollhouse we as the viewer are supposed to condemn the dollhouse, we’re not supposed to like it, we’re supposed to think it’s morally and ethically wrong to do these things to these people yet we identify with all of the characters in the dollhouse.  So Boyd the handler, you think he’s pretty cool because he seems to have issues with what’s going on, yet he still continues to work there.  The woman who runs the place, towards the end of the season we start to get more of an emotional grasp on her and her character gets more complicated so we become even more entrenched in who she is not, you know, not hating her.  Tofur the crazy scientist, you totally think he’s funny and witty and smart and goofy, you don’t really take him too seriously.  If we’re not supposed to like dollhouse, which I think we’re not supposed to then why are we sympathetic with all of the characters inside of the dollhouse?

Joss Whedon on Whedonesque.com was quoted as saying that part of the pitch to renew for a second season was that they were going to go in the direction of the season finale.  I think we have enough crazy, serial killing, murdering men on television that we don’t need to add to the repertoire with dollhouse.  The season finale was just blah cover my ears cover my eyes, I didn’t want to watch a single other episode of Dollhouse after that.  It was just so grotesquely violent, it was unnecessary, it’s this crazy maniacal guy who was damaged by the dollhouse (which were sympathetic to right) doing all these crazy things so now he becomes the enemy and the dollhouse is kind of in that grey middle zone area.

This news is troubling in that I really didn’t want Terminator: the Sarah Connor Chronicles to get cancelled.  I thought it was a really good show.  I felt like the story line and the characters were really complex.  They made complicated relationships between each other and the characters evolved in interesting ways that I thought could grow over another couple of seasons.  Also the show is based on the Terminator movies which most of us have probably seen which are kind of big macho fests about you know, gore and violence and blowing things up and robots, the whole sci fi chase scene thing.  But Sarah Connor, although it had those elements, was actually really smart.  It fused together the action part of the sci fi genre but it also brought in character development that I thought was really well done.  The show is also mostly about a woman, she’s an independent, tough, single mom that’s trying to protect her son.  The other main character on the show is a representation of a teenage woman who although she’s a robot you still see as young female.  She’s empowered, she’s smart, she’s strong, these are all good things to have on television I think.  I think looking really critically at a show why Dollhouse is being renewed and the Sarah Connor Chronicles are not… the Sarah Connor Chronicles really took its time and sometimes it was a little slow moving because they really did a lot of character development, and really built up a story line so you really became attached to what was going on and really invested.  Where in Dollhouse you met a new character every week.  It wasn’t really super complicated, you didn’t have a lot of character development.  There were a few things here and there where the main character, Echo started to remember her old past but even then it wasn’t that interesting and it was kind of the same old same old.

There was a really interesting article in the Washington Post that talked about how Dollhouse was produced by Fox and aired on the Network of Fox so they have more invested in that financially and can make more profits.  Where Sarah Connor was produced by Warner Brothers aired on Fox, there’s not as much financial investment.  I know that Joss Whedon is capable of writing really good quality television that’s critical and analytical and has social commentary while still being entertaining and fun.  So I don’t know why he can’t do that again.

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8 Responses to “Dollhouse Renewed? Why not Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles?”

  1. Thanks for sending me this link on Twitter. I think you really touched on one of the big reasons why Dollhouse is still around and SCC was canceled, in that Dollhouse is the same old formulaic story again, while SCC was trying to do TV differently and tell an actual story.

  2. The explanation I have read about these cancellation decisions (and I wish I could find a link!) is that, ratings being more or less equal, the issue is about who produces, owns, and distributes each property.

    My understanding is that Dollhouse is a lot cheaper for Fox to retain because they aren’t also producing it, whereas they forked over both production costs and distribution costs for Sarah Connor.

    This explanation makes a lot of sense to me. I think Hollywood is driven much more by money than by any other concerns.

    admin Reply:

    I think that it’s actually the other way around (if I remember correctly) – Fox produced and aired Dollhouse where Fox only aired TSCC (it was produced by Warner Bros.), which actually means that Fox makes more money with Dollhouse since they own all the rights and can keep the costs lower among, I’m sure may other reasons. I believe this article talks about that briefly: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/tvblog/2009/05/fox_execs_keep_playing_with_do.html

    Ya, the way that networks decide to pick up, keep or cancel shows is really telling of how the corporate structure works. It is all about selling us (the viewer) to advertisers… good shows, bad shows… at the end of the day none of it really matters, which is why we keep losing the shows that are even remotely interesting! ACK. Might be a topic for a vlog.

  3. I haven’t watched either of these shows yet, but I looked up a bunch of stuff on Dollhouse after watching your post. It seems to me that Joss Whedon refuses to take responsibility for any sort of interpreted misogyny, claiming that as a writer/director that’s not what he meant. I think I’ll watch season 2 just to see where it goes. But really, if there was going to be some breakthrough episode where on of the “actives” starts remembering their past life and their experiences, and maybe shows emotional outward signs of victimization or something…I don’t know, but I’d think they’d want to put that in the first season somehow!

    Will you be watching season 2? Maybe we can skype and watch together!

  4. Very insightful commentary in this video!
    Good work.

  5. Thanks for making me want to watch The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I always skidded around that and now I am really interested and will check it out as soon as possible. Thanks :D

  6. [...] Frequency video – Dollhouse Renewed? Why not Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles? about the first season of the show. This entry was posted in vidding. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  7. I think what I love about your website was epitomized in this episode. Prior to hearing what an objective viewer would think about the show, I loved Dollhouse. The thought went-oh, I love Whedon, I love Dushku, they both seem on the up-and-up, Dollhouse is feminist. Except it’s not. Now I can’t really see it with the preconceptions I had before. Thanks for making me open my mind just a little bit more.