Consent isn’t that Complicated: Dollhouse, Slavery, and the Sex Trade Sep12

Consent isn’t that Complicated: Dollhouse, Slavery, and the Sex Trade...

Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse (or as my sister calls it, “That Porn Show”) never got the commercial success I think it deserved. Arguably much darker than Whedon’s previous fare, the ethical grey areas of the show prevented it from the more casual tones of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly—shows that allowed for a comic flair that would diminish Dollhouse’s themes—in order for it to explore topics like slavery and sexual consent. Following a group of people who have new personalities programmed into them to satisfy the needs of rich clients, the  freedom of the “dolls” to consent seems complicated at first. They have given up the use of their bodies, supposedly willingly, for an allotted time. In the main character’s case, she agrees to the terms under duress. And it’s revealed later that one of the other dolls, Sierra, was put there against her will—an elaborate trap by a rejected suitor who was intent on “owning” her. Because their purpose is fantasy-fulfillment, all of the dolls are extremely attractive. As they are often programmed for sexual contracts, they are essentially sex trade workers, slaves unable to leave or even access their original personalities. However, clients’ consciences are pacified by the Dollhouse assuring them everything is consensual, with the original owner’s persona erased from that body and exchanged for whatever the client wants. While it is people with power that organize sex trafficking, people with less privilege allow the trafficking to continue. According to Canadian laws, it is generally accepted that consent cannot be given by someone who is impaired or sleeping: “It’s a strong and clear judgment that consent requires a conscious operating mind and that you can’t either actively consent or revoke your consent in the absence of that,” says Melanie Randall,...

A Feminist Re-Watching of Stargate: SG-1, Season 1 Aug22

A Feminist Re-Watching of Stargate: SG-1, Season 1...

Stargate: SG-1 is one of those shows that sticks with me. Yet, the older I get, the more progressive I become, and I wonder if the post-gulf war, pre-911 military sci-fi stands up to my feminist, pacifist, and socialist standards. An ensemble based show that premiered in 1997 following a movie in 1994, SG-1 is carried by its four main characters. They are set up to present the fundamental conflict between scientific humanism versus militaristic forces. Jack O’Neill, retired air force colonel, and his alien buddy, Teal’c, fight on the side of militarism, whereas astrophysicist Samantha Carter and anthropologist Daniel Jackson represent scientific humanism. Jack and Military Masculinity I remember Jack to be affable, yet tough. In my rewatch, I was concerned what I perceived as tough might actually be an indication of toxic masculinity, but his humour and humility carry the show. Because he refused to blow up Abydos in the original film, we know that he doubts the chain of command, but still assumes he knows best. He is essentially date raped into marriage (a slightly more traumatic version of Daniel’s forced marriage in the original film), but despite being infected with an aging virus, he seems to treat his wife with respect. In fact, he treats all women honourably. Mostly. When forced to share a sleeping bag with Sam for warmth in an arctic climate, he says, “it’s my side arm I swear,” and comments on Sam’s crop top when she is suffering a primitive virus that makes her try to seduce him. He later says he is sad that “we’ll never see that saucy number again.” But on the whole, he is a generous, humble guy, presenting a different idea of the military as seen in other movies and in...

When Our Heroes Fall: Our Responsibility to #MeToo Jun11

When Our Heroes Fall: Our Responsibility to #MeToo...

For me, the saddest news of the #metoo movement was when Scott R Brunton accused George Takei of sexually assaulting him back in the late eighties. Part of Star Trek: The Original Series’ cast, I’ve followed Takei for his snappy memes and articles, as well as his widespread LGBTQ activism. Sadly, his name joins a long list of outed celebrities, including Bill Cosby, Kevin Spacey, Dustin Hoffman, and Morgan Freeman. It’s hard to imagine the distinguished narrator of March of the Penguins as a sexual predator, but as women continue to accuse him, he’s falling into the same category as Takei. Even Joss Whedon isn’t left out. His ex-wife published an essay back in 2017, accusing him of multiple affairs, including some with unnamed young actresses on his classic shows. I’m mindful of his admission that he identified the most with Xander, whose extended and misguided possessiveness of Buffy and his infidelity while dating Cordy stands as possible examples of Whedon’s moral code. The revelations of these men’s characters may come as a shock to me, but many people already knew. Let me rephrase that: many women already knew. The film industry is plagued with sexism; you could read it in the commodification of women’s bodies on screen long before the #metoo movement started. Women talk about these things, spread the word along “whisper networks” of who to play nice with, who to keep at arm’s length, and who to avoid entirely. Whispering truth may have been the only way to stay safe without endangering a precarious career. Living from gig to gig means that no matter what unions do, they can’t force people to hire you. What do I do when a celebrity I love and admire is outed for sexual assault? Speaking...

Community through Addiction: Angel, Spike, and the Desire for Blood Apr18

Community through Addiction: Angel, Spike, and the Desire for Blood...

When Joss Whedon took a break from Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the show’s sixth season, the writers took Willow on a dark path where she became more and more reliant on the power of magic—an allegory for addiction and recovery. But if you were paying attention, the real addicts had been there all along, skulking in the shadows, always after another hit, hiding in the very title of the show. Vampires are addicted to blood. Their thirst for it is the reason they get up, get out, see anyone, or do anything. They spend most of their waking hours stalking prey. Vamps often corner their prey in dark alleyways, a stereotypical site of drug deals, which means they often find their deaths slumped over against a brick wall—an unfortunate trope of addicts in television and film. The vamps of Sunnydale know that the Slayer is out there, but their cravings send them out into the night despite the danger. There are no “casual” vampires. No one goes on a one-night blood bender. One hit and they are hooked for their immortal lives. Vampirism turns Angel from a fun-loving Lothario into Angelus, a demon transfixed by others’ pain. Similarly, Spike transforms from an unpopular man suffering unrequited love and a reputation for “bloody awful poetry” into a being willing to kill his own mother. Through drinking a vamp’s blood, Spike and Angel contract a vampirism “disorder,” with symptoms they will manage for the rest of their lives. Even after they regain their souls, they struggle with their addiction. Angel and Shame While on the surface Angel and Spike are glossy bad boys, underneath they are men looking for wholeness that blood can’t fulfill. By the time Buffy meets Angel, he’s isolated himself out of...