(Since Dollhouse is a fairly recent show with a cult following, I would like to put a disclaimer of spoiler alert before this blog post. Thank you.)
I signed up for a free one month trial of Netflix which is quickly coming towards an end. Yet through this free trial, I have been able to watch a couple of shows that I have been wanting to watch but have not been able to. One of these shows was Dollhouse. The main concept of the show was there were people who would give five year of their lives away to a company, and these people were called Actives or “dolls.” The “dolls” were put on assignments for various reasons. Throughout its two season run, it had themes of escapism, free-will,and control.
The Actives came to the Dollhouse to escape. Anthony/Victor had PTSD, and Madeline/November had a child die. Caroline/Echo was sort of escaping but forced whereas Priya/Sierra, in being plain forced, was given the escape which made her better. The contract was for five years. For five years, a “doll” could escape all of the terrible things that were happening. The rich came to the Dollhouse for escape as well. Besides the people who came for pure pleasure, there were a couple of people who came because they wanted a loved one back. The pain of living without the loved one, both times a wife, was too great. A wealthy woman escaped death through using Echo’s body, even though it was a temporary escape. Unfortunately, the “doll state” was not all that it was meant to be, and the Actives themselves want to escape once they want to retain their free-will.
As stated above, most of the Actives come to the Dollhouse through free-will because of the escape. Yet once in the Dollhouse, all free-will was lost to the Actives,even though they were less successful with some “dolls.” In order to have all of the “imprints” to run correctly, all of the personality was taken out of the Active. Unfortunately, it well know that the “dolls” do not have free-will. This is why Priya/Sierra was sent to the Dollhouse in the first place. The man who sent her there knew that she would not be allowed to say no. He could order her to do whatever, and she would say yes. That is until the programmer “imprints” her with a personality with plenty of free-will and perhaps too much free-will. There was a person put in charge of arranging the engagements, and there was another who balanced the free-will within the Active during engagements. Though within the context of the system, the people running the Dollhouse had to run in the perimeters of the system of the company.
This leads to the themes of control. The Actives themselves are not in control of their own future. That is given to the people who arrange engagements and form the personalities for engagements. These people use the control to help the clients have nice experiences. Yet, the caretakers of the “dolls” are not totally in control themselves. Through threats of execution and firing, the executives control the houses to do their bidding. Since there is not one central Dollhouse, the executives use the Cloud, even before the Cloud was a thing, to “imprint” themselves all throughout the world. Here is where the spoiler alert comes into play. Boyd, the at first handler then head of security for LA then co-founder of the company, manipulates the people around him to bring his “family” to Arizona. He uses his control of the situations to make people all around the world to do his bidding. He causes the end of civilization for a while because of the way he controls the technology.
In its full run, Dollhouse established a believable universe that could be a warning for us today. It was a brief star on the radar that showed the inner-workings of an elaborate corporation that gave people escape while stripping free-will that wanted control.