On Dollhouse

"The Mind Doesn't Matter, It's the Body We Want"

Identity and the Body in Dollhouse

By Kate Rennebohm
“If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if nothing
we do matters, then all that matters is what we do.
’Cause that’s all there is: what we do now, today.”
 —Angel (Angel, “Epiphany,” 2-16) 

The preceding sentence will likely be familiar to any Whedonverse
acolyte. Angel’s words do, after all, sum up the
over-arching existentialist viewpoint of Joss Whedon–helmed
television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly.
A fan will no doubt be used to Whedon’s belief that good people
make themselves, and that they do so through their actions—
by always aiming to do good, even when it is horrible work, and
expecting little to no reward in return. In these shows, one’s
identity comes from one’s actions. Dollhouse, the most recent
entry to the Whedonverse, however, appears to depart from this idea. In the world of Dollhouse, characters are subject to
external influences telling them how to think and behave. Our
heroes in the Dollhouse have thoughts and beliefs planted into
their brains, so how can they “make themselves” through their
actions? How can they think and act for themselves if there is
no real “self” there? Dollhouse answers these questions through
an exploration of how the body affects human identity. By
addressing the body in ways that have been largely  …

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