Science Fiction Film & Television

'Not an apocalypse, the apocalypse': Existential proletarisation and the possibility of soul in Joss Whedon's Dollhouse

Science Fiction Film & Television (2011), 4, (2), 225–248.

Abstract

Since the inaugural episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (US 1997–2003), Whedon has positioned the apocalypse as a backdrop for his speculative drama, and throughout Buffy, Angel (US 1999– 2004) and Firefly (US 2002–3) he utilises it as a metaphor to reflect and critique Western culture. Dollhouse (US 2009–10) incorporates the apocalypse in similarly critical ways but extends his earlier criticism by seeking to complicate and problematise postmodern notions of the fragmented and multivalent subject. Through his depiction of dolls, Whedon explores not only the ineffability of identity but also the myriad possible relationships between body, mind, soul, culture and technology. This sophisticated investigation of identity evokes the anxiety that many feel in response to our post-postmodern, post-industrial, virtualized present entrenched in the workings of global capitalism. As a response to this anxiety, Whedon suggests that we accept ideologies that in turn force us to interpret homogenised, fabricated desires as psychological needs and consent to a form of cultural slavery to fulfill these 'needs', abdicating our ability to construct, create or find what might be called an authentic human identity, thus rendering our contemporary culture apocalyptic.

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Adorno, Theodor, and Max Horkheimer. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Trans. E. B. Ashton. London: Routledge, 1973. Google Scholar

Armstrong, Liz. 'Joss Whedon'. Viceland. Vice Mag, October 2008: http://www.viceland.com/int/v15n10/htdocs/joss-whedon-134.php Google Scholar

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Baudrillard, Jean. Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1994. Google Scholar

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Vinci, Tony