I am aware that this is my third post that refers to some sort of strong female character in a TV show, but I felt that this was a special case since it involves writer and director, Joss Whedon. A few years back in 2009, one of the most interesting shows I’ve ever come across premiered called The Dollhouse. It was written and directed by Joss Whedon and involves a woman named Caroline who, in hopes of exploiting a corrupt corporation, gets captured and forced to participate in future-day type of prostitution. Basically, these people, whether they consented or were captured like Caroline, get their minds wiped and have clients’ significant other personality preferences input in their brains. Then, for a set amount of time and money, these “Actives” become whomever the client desires.
However, Echo, Caroline’s Active name, becomes increasingly aware of the mind swipes and manages to retain bits and pieces of each personality she receives. As the show goes on, she succeeds to input her original personality and put into perspective her initial goal of taking down the corporation. The entire series was very short-lived so Echo was forced to mature incredible quick. There was no opportunity to see Echo grow at a gradual pace. Thus, the full effect of what The Dollhouse was supposed to bring upon the viewers was altered.
The point of bringing up this show and character was to analyze and classify Joss Whedon’s view on feminism through his portrayal of Caroline/Echo. He developed her as strong, independent, and someone capable of overcoming almost impossible feats, like being able to retain memory during mind wipes. However, the people programming her, watching over her, and using her for their own personal gains were all men. What does this say about Joss Whedon? He claims to be such a feminist but what feminist is he really? He is willing to create a female character that succumbs to many men several times over the course of the storyline. Yes, Caroline/Echo has a unique and powerful ability that sets her on the road of strength, but each episode became harder and harder to watch as a viewer due to her constant degradation to men. I know that Whedon was trying to create a show that every man and woman could enjoy but I feel that he unknowingly reiterated everything in Caroline/Echo that most feminists are against. He may be making an effort to move a step forward but if his way of pursing it “moves us two steps back,” then what good is he really doing? The show was cancelled, but consider: If the show was still going on today and Joss Whedon continued to make Caroline/Echo seem ultimately inferior to men, then could his show really be viewed as feminist? If not, what about the other shows is written for? Does Joss Whedon really seem like a true feminist?