'I love him ... is that real?': interrogating romance through Victor and Sierra

Lorna Jowett, Sherry Ginn (Editor), Alison R Buckman (Editor), Heather M Porter (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapter


‘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, which forms the focus of this paper. Victor and Sierra have not been analysed in the same way, or to the same extent as other characters in the show. Their 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. In some senses, therefore, they, and our response to them, seems to contradict the overall message of Dollhouse, and established Whedonverse tropes and themes. Developing previous scholarship on gender and sexuality in the Whedonverses, and more recent examinations of identity in Dollhouse, this paper explores 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
Title of host publicationJoss Whedon's Dollhouse: Confounding Purpose, Confusing Identity
Place of PublicationLanham, Maryland
PublisherRowman & Littlefield
Number of pages225
ISBN (Print)9781442233126
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

Publication series

NameScience fiction television


  • Dollhouse
  • television
  • romance
  • heterosexuality
  • representation
  • science fiction
  • subjectivity


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