I tried to avoid spoilers all week across the internet so that I could watch it myself and make up my own mind. I didn't though, avoid various hints about the feminist reading of this show and of Joss Whedon so I must admit that did colour my viewing.
I have to admit that I am interested and will be watching the next episode. I always think you can't judge a pilot, just like you can't judge a first date. You gotta show up, be polite, laugh when it looks like you're sposed to, check out y'all speak the same language and then come back next week and see how it is when everyone is a bit more relaxed and has lower expectations.
So ... Dollhouse. I'm interested in the concept and where it goes.
Watching from a feminist perspective ... I never really found Buffy or Firefly that anti-feminist in message. So I was interested in discussions that looked at Dollhouse as being so. Yes women are being used as pawns, as weapons - in exactly the same way as the slayers in Buffy and as River in Firefly. But in both those shows, ultimately, the weapons went rogue - they became self aware and self sufficient and threw off and turned on those who tried to profit and use them. Women are subjugated and abused, at least in terms of power, by men or by agencies run by men but ultimately they get overthrown. The little tiny, pretty woman discovers her power is hers and hers alone to choose to wield how she chooses. And mostly, ultimately, they use that for good.
So ... I can see the discomfort in watching this first episode of Dollhouse - my those skirts were short!! And I would like to point out the costume faux pas of the open shoe for the serious, prim Miss Pen character. And also the whole total disempowerment of the girls in the Dollhouse - no privacy for showers, everyone treated just the same, much kinda like they were in a prison really - everyone shower, put clothes on, walk in a line to bed, go to bed at the same time, no real social interaction. They are all female shells of people, and get personalities inserted to be the person that the agency requires them to be and then stripped of it as soon as the "engagement" is done. Like they aren't real people. That final scene when they go to bed was really very upsetting.
That's kind of the point though, I would have thought? You have to establish the scene, the normalcy first, provide friction and motive to rebel against. Gotta have something at stake first in order to have something to lose.
The bit that I thought was particularly interesting was when the persona implanted into Echo recognised her abuser. The story took on a whole added level. And even in *that* small story, the abused small girl, once disempowered by this horrible "ghost", who in real life had killed herself because she could never escape what happened to her, got the chance to face her monster and stood him down. Called him for what he was and was in a position to throw off the power he still had over her. And rescued the little girl he was about to abuse. That seemed to me to me a really interesting little facet to the plot.
In summary: yep, I'll be back. Fox don't axe it yet!