Note: I was going to write more and proofread this better but since it is turning out to be extremely distressing (It puts me in a mood where I hate my own gender and putting all of us in to a state of suspended animation only to be removed in order to proved genetic material needed for the continuation of the species seems like a perfectly reasonable solution to issues of gender inequality) I’m just going to leave it at this for now.
One of the many things that perplexed me about Joss Whedon’s reputation after watching Dollhouse (along with his being a good example of feminism writing, or of good writing period) is the idea that his work is morally complex. Many people have said that Dollhouse exists in deep moral gray area. I could not disagree more. Dollhouse, exist in moral black and white but is pretentious enough to think it is grey merely because it characters are sympathetic. News flash: Just because the person committing a moral indefeasibly act is not twirling their mustache as they do, it doesn’t make their actions grey. I’m sure there are plenty of murders and rapists, who had really nice sides, who may have even been great fathers, husbands, whatever. However, if you where on the jury and had indisputable evidence that the individuals in question, committed these acts. Would you say, “well there is a lot of grey” because of that? No, you wouldn’t. Yet we call Dollhouse morally grey; let take a quick look at the morality at work here:
We have an illegal human trafficking organization that sells brainwashed people to be sex slaves, and (in effect) involuntary solders etc. Whose staff self-indentifies as murders and pimps and who helped cause the apocalypse (Or at least that what Epitaph One appears to be about; I’m not going to pollute my mind by watching any more of this trash; also this is all based on season 1 I’m not going to watch seasons two for the same reason). Grey? I think not. This is as black and white as it gets folks.
Yet, Dollhouse is called grey. Why because as I said above the perpetrators aren’t always twirling a mustache; may commit a few good deeds along the way and *gasp* at times feel remorse for their actions. This doesn’t change a damn thing, however, they are still committing undeniably black moral acts. In the real world if we had these people paraded in front of us I would, hope most would see the simplicity and lock them all away for life. My morality is not swayed by mood lighting; yet this is how the supposed morally complexity of Joss Whedon’s work(1) functions. Take black actions have them be committed by complex characters and call it grey. This is an attitude that needs to die. I don’t mind complex characters I welcome them but we must not confuse the complex of the human condition with moral right and wrong.
People applaud Joss Wedon for his work I don’t however because this type of attitude occurs in the real world to damaging effect. Take the case of Roman Polanski; He anal raped a 13 year old girl while she was under the influences of drugs (a morally black act) and yet we have people rushing to his defense and to me they sound very similar to the defenses used to somehow call the morality in Dollhouse grey. But he is an artist (the he is sympathetic and isn’t twirling a mustache argument(2)), but the victim might have enjoyed it (the doll aren’t really being raped argument); he just got carried away made a mistake (the Ballard just got carried away argument); the it wasn’t rape-rape argument (the what Ballard did wasn’t as bad as what Hearn did argument). I’m sure Joss would find Roman Polanski deplorable but if Paul Ballard is any indication if he were a character in his work he would be the hero that magically saves the day. The critics would then praise Joss for his complex work and feel for sympathy for the moral complexity of this characters plight. *eye roll*
The counter argument to all this is that Joss is simply showing us rape culture; the problem becomes in defining and framing it as complex and grey he is not rebuking it but joining in it.
First, I’ll quote this from my first posting on Dollhouse:
Someone told me something more or less like this in response to my complaints about Omega: What do you expect them to do scream rape is evil; why can’t they “broaden or complexify” the issues? This the writers are directly reasonable for this, they created ambiguity, they wanted this. Problem is rape is evil, very, there is no complexity there is nothing to broaden. What the characters on this show do isn’t complicated they are rapists getting us to feel sympathy with the rapists because he is stressed about work (Ballard) or lonely (Adella) or mourning his wife (that internet guru in Man on the Street) crosses a line, it is making excuses, it is contributing to rape culture. Let me put it this way if someone made a show where “A Modest Proposal” wasn’t satire but a realistic solution to societies ill would that show be praised as brilliant and challenging? If we made a show where African Americans are shown as being slaves working for white masters doing manual labor (note that there no black dolls on the show), even if they thought up of some plot deceives to try and rationalize it (or as some would say “broaden or complexify” it). Would we praise it and honor its creator for his work on race relations?. No, it would be rejected by society
Take note of the structure of this person’s defense, every one already knows rape is evil and Joss’s great contribution to the world is to “broaden” and “complexify” that. Later during the same conversation another poster defended Dollhouse on the premise that people know rape is evil and uncomplicated in the real world thus there no harm in indulging in a little fantasy. Within this context I disagree, the assertion in the above argument suggests otherwise. The hundreds that have openly support a man who raped a thirteen year old practically prove otherwise. However, more to the point the very fact that people debate the morality of it suggest that the viewers believe there is at least some relation to reality. For example, no one would read say an actual rape fantasy story and come out saying as the above poster that it can broaden or complexify the assertion that rape is evil. People even thou defending it as such aren’t treating it as pure fantasy but as a work of fiction with legitimate moral questions. Again, in the same conversation some one said that the point of fiction was to “defend the indefeasible”; other things that defend the indefeasible: propaganda; rape culture.
Rape culture thrives when we make excuses for the perpetrators; it thrives when we call black and white situations, grey. It thrives in inside one the fundamental premises under which Dollhouse operates that there is moral grey area to what were watching. The false concept of “grey rape” exist in the real world and must be removed from our society’s collective mind; Dollhouse does not forward this interest it actually feeds a desire to make situations grey. Rape culture thrives in “grey area”.
Joss’s excuse that dollhouse isn’t a feminist work is a cop-out. As I detailed in my first post about Dollhouse up to Briar Rose the show was deeply flawed but on the right track. Briar Rose ending in a logical place if one believes Joss cares about getting rid of rape culture, Ballard is reduced to the status of the horse Alpha rode in on. Joss could have easily left it there, and have successful made a statement about the white knight complex and rape culture but instead Omega undid everything the show built up on ;made Ballard into a white knight and made every single women on the show look like an idiot, usually in a way that make Mr. Rapist look better. I won’t deny that the writers may have gotten some things right but as I said the whiplash effect from going from Blare Rose to Omega makes it far worse than a more direct blow would have.
We may not have mind-wiping technology yet but there are plenty of Adele’s, Ballard’s, Boyd’s, and Tropher’s in the world we call them rapists, pimps, murders etc. and there are also people who called their actions grey. We don’t need media that teach us to feel sympathy for deluded White Knight Rapists; we need media that teach us to feel righteous anger and disgust at their actions; not sympathy. As the amount of lunatics, rushing to defend Roman Polasiki demonstrate there is already enough people who think rape exists in grey area without “feminist” writers being paid (and praised) to sitting around and think of way to make it seem even greyer.
- This isn’t the only example either, I gave Joss a second chance and was again deeply disappointed [↩]
- even thought in his case he was [↩]