On Dollhouse

"We're Not Men"

By Lillian DeRitter
Topher: I guess we have our own little conspiracy,

Boyd: Don’t call me that.

Topher: We’re not friends?

Boyd: We’re not men.

–“Echo” (unaired pilot)

When Boyd and Topher argued about the ethics of Rossum
in Dollhouse’s unaired pilot, “Echo,” Boyd ended the argument
with, “We’re not men.” In context, this line could mean
several things, from “We aren’t brave enough to stand up to
what we’ve created” (Boyd’s apparent implication) to “The
power we’ve gained makes us gods” (Topher’s possible understanding
and, in light of Boyd’s position as the true Big Bad, his
likely meaning). Yet this conversation stands in for a broader
line of discourse than an argument about the ethics of brainwashing.
In fact, “We’re not men” suggests the very quandary
faced by many male characters in the universes Joss Whedon
has created.

While examining gender roles, the writers of Dollhouse could
rely not only on conventional cultural expectations regarding
those roles, but also on the expectations of Whedon fans, who
have plenty of character archetypes they have come to expect.
The most obvious of these archetypes is the Supergirl, typified
by Buffy Summers, River Tam, and now Echo in Dollhouse, but
we also see some of the same male archetypes surfacing in each
new world. There’s the lovable, often emasculated, and strangely
technically competent friend who’s constantly putting his foot
in  …

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