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Joss Whedon's Dollhouse

Confounding Purpose, Confusing Identity

Edited by Sherry Ginn; Alyson R. Buckman and Heather M. Porter

Although it lasted barely more than a season, Dollhouse continues to intrigue viewers as one of Joss Whedon’s most provocative forays into television. The program centered on men and women who have their memories and personalities repeatedly wiped and replaced with new ones by a shadowy corporation dedicated to “fulfilling the whims of the rich.” This chilling scenario was used to tell stories about big issues—power and resistance, freedom and servitude, class and gender—while always returning to its central themes of identity and individuality.

Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse: Confounding Purpose, Confusing Identity, Sherry Ginn, Alyson R. Buckman, and Heather M. Porter bring together fourteen diverse essays that showcase the series’ complex vision of the future. Contributors probe deeply into the fictional universe of the show by considering the motives of the wealthy clients and asking what love means when personalities are continually remade. Other essays consider the show’s relations to politics, philosophy, and psychology and its representations of race and gender. Several essays explore the show’s complex relationship to transhumanism: considering the dark potential for dehumanization and abuse that lurks beneath the promise of turning bodies into temporary vessels for immortal, downloadable personalities.

Though a short-lived series,
Dollhouse has been hailed as one of television’s most thoughtful explorations of classic science fiction themes. As the first serious treatment of this landmark show, this collection will interest science-fiction scholars and Whedon fans alike.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 254Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-3312-6 • Hardback • May 2014 • $85.00 • (£54.95)
978-1-4422-3313-3 • eBook • May 2014 • $80.00 • (£52.95)
Sherry Ginn teaches at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. She is the author of Our Space, Our Place: Women in the Worlds of Science Fiction Television (2005), Power and Control in the Television Worlds of Joss Whedon (2012), and The Sex Is out of This World: The Carnal Side of Science Fiction (2012).

Alyson R. Buckman teaches American studies, film, popular culture, and multiculturalism in the Humanities and Religious Studies Department at California State University, Sacramento. Her work has appeared in the journal Slayage as well as the anthologies Investigating Firefly and Serenity, Sexual Rhetoric in the Works of Joss Whedon, and The Joss Whedon Reader.

Heather M. Porter is a line and coordinating producer in reality television. A Whedon scholar and charter member of the Whedon Studies Association, Porter has presented at all five Slayage conferences. She is currently coproducing a documentary examining the academic study of the works of Joss Whedon.
Introduction: Fantasy Is His Business, But It Is Not His Purpose: An Introduction to Joss Whedon and His Storytelling
Alyson R. Buckman

Part 1. Self and Identity
Chapter 1: “I’ve Watched You Build Yourself From Scratch”: The Assemblage of Echo
Michael Starr
Chapter 2: “We Are Not Just Human Anymore”—Accepting the Posthuman Future
Meg Saint Clair Pearson
Chapter 3: Anamnesis, Hypomnesis, and the Failure of the Posthuman in Whedon’s
Margo Collins

Part 2. Ethics
Chapter 4: ‘What about the laws?’—Regulation and the Celebration of Resistance
Tom Garbett
Chapter 5: Somebody’s Asian on TV: Sierra/Priya and the Politics of Representation
Ananya Mukherjea
Chapter 6: “In my house and therefore in my care”: Transgressive Mothering, Abuse, and Embodiment
Samira Nadkarni
Chapter 7: “I possess the means to satisfy my vagaries:” What Motivates the Dollhouse Clients?
Heather M. Porter and Sherry Ginn

Part 3. Structure and Form
Chapter 8: “Who Did They Make Me This Time?”: Viewing Pleasure and Horror
Bronwen Calvert
Chapter 9: “I love him . . . Is that real?” Interrogating Romance Through Victor and Sierra
Lorna Jowett
Chapter 10: The Theatre of the Self: Repetitious and Reflective Practices of Person and Place
Joel Hawkes
Chapter 11: “We’re Lost. We are not Gone”: Critical Dystopia and the Politics of Radical Hope
Derrick King
Chapter 12: Welcome to the
Dollhouse: Reading Its Opening Title Sequences
David Kociemba
Chapter 13: Ritual, Rebirth, and the Rising Tide: Water and the Transcendent Self
Ian G. Klein

Series Episode List
About the Contributors