On Dollhouse

More Than the Sum of Our Imprints

By Julie Hawk
“I could turn this pebble around, examining it, for
oh, say, seven years.”
 –Joss Whedon on Dollhouse, PaleyFest ’09

Imprint 1

How does Caroline become Echo? Or, to put it more accurately,
how does Echo become? In a manner of speaking, Echo
is a “natural” cyborg. Unlike the tech heads in “Epitaph Two:
Return” (2-13), Echo needed no external hardware to enable
“upgrades.” Her microbiology, we learned from Boyd, predisposed
her to be able to integrate these imprints with minimal
psychic side effects. Echo’s metacognitive evolution was a sort
of multiplication of her “I.” Echo’s difference that made a difference
was rooted in her microbiology, but the ramifications were
seen most startlingly in her psychology, broadly defined. Her
ontology/subjectivity, her modes of relationality, and her epistemology
all shifted dramatically, indicating a co-evolutionary
process in the works. That is, she no longer had a sense of self;
rather, she had a sense of many selves. This state of affairs left her
a step above a “normal” human and two steps above the other
Dolls, who had no sense of self at all. Indeed, one of the central
concerns in Dollhouse is that the technology actually enabled a
corporation to erase the sense of self, the ego, the “I” in each
of the Dolls. And they did this in service of someone else’s “I,”
someone  …

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