Countdown to ‘Dollhouse’: Joss Whedon on women (and sex!)


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In a conference call to the media for ‘Dollhouse’ on Thursday, Joss Whedon was asked many questions that are sure to be topics of interest to some. A few of his answers:

In terms of ‘finding the show’: It was probably most similar to ‘Angel’ in the sense of what we had in our mind about what ‘Angel’ was ultimately was different than what the network did. In our minds, it was darker ... The mandate was ‘give us the world of the show and not just the structure of the show’ ... But there was some real questioning about what exactly we wanted to get at in terms of the humanity, what they do, and why people hire them, and you know, there’s a sexual aspect to it, and it makes some people nervous. Part of the mandate of the show is to make people nervous.


On humor: There is a lot of fun and a lot of humor in it. What it doesn’t have is an inherent silliness that both ‘Buffy’ and ‘Firefly’ had, and even ‘Angel’ ... This has to be a little bit more grounded in order for it to play ...

Why Eliza?: She’s overcome her homely shyness over these years. Eliza, apart from being, in my opinion, as great a star as I have ever known, has a genuinely powerful and electric and luminous quality that I’ve rarely seen. She’s also a really solid person. She’s a good friend. She’s a feminist. She’s an activist. She’s interested in the people around her and she’s got a lot of things going on.

What keeps him going? Chardonnay. Will there be a comic book? No. Topics that he’d like to address? Identity, brainwashing, and perversion.

And on the questions went for an hour or so. But the last question seemed to genuinely interest Joss in its mildly confrontational tone.

Lisa Fary with asked Joss about the Fox promo site the Echo Chamber and Joss’ support of a sexually suggestive/exploitative campaign: I do support it. I saw the photo shoot, and I mostly support it because Eliza was very comfortable with it and very pleased with the photos. She’s very comfortable with her body. The premise of the show involves these men and women being hired, and obviously some of that has to do with sex. This is something that was in the premise from the start ... I think some things will offend some people, some things will not. There are things in it that I’m not positive I support, and some of the things that bother me don’t bother any of the other writers, and that’s something that I’ve been a little bit afraid of, but I haven’t shied away from ... The idea of this show was never to play it safe ... I may have crossed the line. Let’s find out.

Staying on the sexy track, in an earlier talk with Times reporter Maria Elena Fernandez, Whedon gets more in depth on his working relationship with women on the show, and the aspect of sexuality that the show will address:

Joss Whedon: I never set out to hire women. I set out to hire good writers. The exception being that I did want women running the show. I did want them as co-exec with me. Because this premise is very delicate. There were times when I’d wake up in the middle of the night and go, ‘Oh my God, I’ve just written the sexy human trafficking show.’

It’s terrifying to me. The show in the wrong hands would just be an exploitation fest. It would be ‘Red Shoe Diaries’ without the class or panache. I want to do something that is sexy. That’s one of the things Eliza and I talked about. She’s interested in sexuality, not just ‘I’m a cute bunny,’ but human sexuality interests me. It’s part of who we are and it’s something that I’d like to talk about. That was one of the things she said before I had the idea.

And sex is not the raison d'etre of what the actives are. But it’s part of it. Everybody’s fantasy, a lot of is going to involve a sexual aspect. It’s not something I think is ugly. I think it’s true. It’s something I’m interested in and Eliza is too. But again, in the wrong hands, to walk the line between identification and objectification. Particularly with this premise. For this, I want a woman watching my back. And there are a few women I know who are great writers. Because they gotta be that. Liz [Craft] and Sarah [Fain] were the first ones I was hunting. When they got off ‘Women’s Murder Club,’ I called them that day.

They helped me break the pilot as soon as the strike ended. It’s been invaluable. And beyond that it just wound up that way by luck. But then I noticed it for the first time when I heard some girl talk. ‘I really like the cuff of those pants.’ I was like, ‘Ah, girl talk. I’m safe. I’m home.’ Actually that was me and Tim Minear, by the way.

-- Jevon Phillips

Photo: Joss Whedon - Annie Wells / Los Angeles Times. Eliza Dushku -\

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