‘I love him ... Is that real? interrogating romance in Dollhouse

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePaper


‘Like every good fairy tale, the story grows more intricate, and more divisive, every decade,’ says a reporter of Dollhouse rumours in ‘The Man on the Street’ (Dollhouse 1.6). His words might be equally applicable to the myth of heterosexual romance as tackled by the Whedonverses on TV. The Whedonverse shows offer a sustained interrogation of gender, but are complicated by the demands of mainstream entertainment. The premise of Dollhouse apparently continues both trends. Clients rent romantic and sexual fantasies embodied by a Doll and romance becomes prostitution. As Cynthea Masson points out, this led some viewers to read the show as brutally misogynistic (2010). Yet, since the Dolls have new identities downloaded for each new engagement, Dollhouse puts the notion of gender (and sexuality) as social construction and performance front and centre. However, the show’s premise also means that character development does not work in the usual ways. One means of encouraging audience identification with the Dolls and widening audience engagement with them beyond Echo, is the romantic connection between Sierra and Victor. This relationship humanises the Dolls and creates sympathetic characters. It also suggests that the Dolls retain some form of essential identity, since this romance manifests as a connection between Priya and Tony as well as Sierra and Victor. These two are the only characters for whom romance remains relatively untarnished, and their relationship also provides hope in the dystopian atmosphere of the Dollhouse-verse. Developing previous scholarship on gender and sexuality in the Whedonverses, and more recent examinations of identity in Dollhouse, this paper examines how the notion that Sierra and Victor/ Priya and Tony have some form of essential connection, that they are soulmates, affects the show’s (and the Whedonverses’) negotiation of heterosexual romance, subjectivity and free will
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2012
Event5th Biennial Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses (SC5) - University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Duration: 1 Jul 2012 → …


Conference5th Biennial Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses (SC5)
Period1/07/12 → …
Internet address


  • Dollhouse
  • romance
  • Joss Whedon
  • gender representation
  • sexuality
  • science fiction


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