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?