The Dollhouse Culture


I remember when this show premiered on Fox. I sat through two seasons, enraptured. Joss Whedon brought an unusual, ethically disturbing concept to the airwaves—an elite organization who provides programmable humans for a fee. The “dolls” are whatever you require, dominatrix or assassin. They agree to a five-year contract and memory wipe.

On the surface, the themes and questions it raises are obvious in moral implications… but our world has advanced since the show aired. We’re closer to creating robotic “humans” to interact with (has no one seen Battlestar Galactica? This does not end well!)… whether we want them as receptionists or sex toys or poodles. Soon, we may be dealing with these ethical debates for real. Christians must be prepared. What makes something immoral?

In Dollhouse’s world, technology has advanced to a state where humans can be mind-wiped and reprogrammed. Dolls have no control over their bodies or minds. Clients who buy time with an “active” know they’re getting a lie; they’re paying for someone to be with them who believes in the fantasy, but they know it’s a fiction. Is our modern celebrity culture any different? Celebrities sell us themselves – their personalities, their art, their bodies. They look a certain way to please us. Do we believe the fantasy, or do they believe it?


Just as none of the dolls are “loved” by the clients engaging in the fantasy, how much do we truly love our celebrities? A psychologist defined love as desiring the whole spiritual and emotional wellness of another individual. How emotionally and spiritually well are our celebrities?

A friend once said to me, “Everyone wants something from you, most just aren’t honest.” What do celebrities want from us? What do we want from them? Are we using and abusing people, without even knowing it? Are we devaluing them? Though celebrities do control their bodies, they have no control over what others do with their image. They can choose who to engage with but they cannot choose who engages with them. Many devalue celebrities into sex objects. They use them as “dolls,” only in the mind.

Can we honestly say we care for our celebrities’ emotional and spiritual wellness, or do we care more that he/she is gorgeous? How much time do celebrities spend maintaining that image? Does this drive them into emotional unhealthiness, because as they get older, they see lines appear and things fall? Do they fear their worth is tied to their desirability? It’s their choice, but how much does our receptiveness drive them to it?

Are we metaphorical abusers, just as the Dollhouse has literal abusers? Do we expect them to further our pleasure and in the process remove their humanity and right to say no?

Does it matter? Should it?

8 thoughts on “The Dollhouse Culture

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  1. Interesting post, Charity, as always. You have some fab points in this piece. Most of the time I feel bad for these celebrities because so many of them seem “addicted” (saying this from what I see in magazines to what I read in articles) to the lifestyle they’ve chosen. Whether or not this is because they chose it and crave it or feel “pressure” to keep up the pretense (perhaps some of both?), I don’t know. In the end (as it will be for all of us), that’s between them and their Creator.

    1. Human beings have a deep inborn desire to be worth something to someone, to do something meaningful. Celebrities are no different, in that they want to ensure their life matters in some way. Some of them, like Angelina Jolie, realize they can use their celebrity status to make a different with needy children around the world. They channel creative energy into that.

      Others believe more success, more money, more fame, more friends, more drugs, more sex, etc., will fill the emptiness inside… and pursue it. But many are unhappy.

      Things, the world tells them/us, SHOULD MAKE YOU HAPPY.

      And when they don’t?

      That’s when despair sets in. That’s when humans try MORE.

      It’s very sad.

  2. That’s a good point . . . oftentimes, we don’t treat celebrities as PEOPLE; just as faces on a screen. We don’t think about what they really need or how they really feel. Which is sad. Just because they’ve become famous doesn’t mean they’re not still human.

    I like your new blog look very much, by the way 🙂

    1. What really bothers me is when the level of ‘fandom’ reaches a sense of ownership over the celebrity, to the point where the fan disapproves of or chastises said celebrity for their taste in significant others — as if they have a right to have an opinion in such matters.

      (In other words, I saw an online magazine article on why Tom Hiddleston should dump Taylor Swift ASAP and my jaw hit the floor. He’s allowed to choose his own romantic entanglements. It’ll never be you, lady!)

      If you want to hit home a little harder — we buy magazines with ‘candid’ shots of celebrities in them, to stay ‘up’ on all our favorites. Our acceptance of doing so means photographers harass the celebrities we profess to ‘care about’ 24/7, to the point where nothing they do or say is private. (I have seen where some fan sites / tumblrs / blogs refuse to use any images that aren’t official releases, to avoid violating the person’s personal life. I approve.)

      Thank you. So do I! The image is from a Russian photographer who photographs people with real animals:

      1. Wow. That’s arrogance for you. I mean, honestly, nobody really has the right to dictate another adult’s personal life choices–that is THEIR business, not ours. If somebody went around proclaiming opinions of that sort about their own friends and acquaintances (ie, so-and-so needs to dump so-and-so right away), they’d be justly chastised as a gossip, if not a bully . . . But apparently, doing the same thing in regards to a celebrity is OK???? *shakes head*

        I think that’s a good idea too, only using approved photos . . . that way, you know the person in question still has some measure of control over what images of themselves the public gets to see.

        1. I think what shocked me, was the very public nature of this article. I can see someone thinking that in private, or discussing it among friends, but to issue it in public, hoping to influence the celebrity, is tasteless, IMO.

      2. Oh man, this kinda reminds me of shipping wars. Ugh. Shipping is fine, but I tend to go with canon ships because for me…it’s sort of like respecting the characters’ choices. I do like some noncanon pairings but I’m not an active shipper as a general rule. *shrugs*

        I think in fanart, it’s easy to make characters what you want them to be, because it’s a static image, rather than a full on story or film in itself, if you get my drift. Like all those AU pictures.

        Do you think a lot of this “dollhouse” mentality is in fictional fandom? And is it any better or worse? Some things to think about…

        1. You actually bring up an excellent point. I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right — shipping characters with anyone other than the original author / creator’s intended partner is taking another person’s work, and re-imagining it in your mind. So yes, you ARE using their intellectual property as your plaything.

          I often don’t mind this happening, provided the person doing the shipping doesn’t believe their non-cannon ship should receive greater respect than the original work. I’ve seen shippers give authors a bad time for not catering to their desires! =P

          I also think it’s important for the shipper to be respectful to the beliefs of the original author; I really, really don’t like it when I see ships that the author wouldn’t approve of, permeating fanfic.

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