Andrew goes into the Dollhouse with Jane Espenson

She wrote for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones, Torchwood, Star Trek: DS9, The OC, Gilmore Girls, Firefly, and Once Upon a Time. She won a Hugo award for her BtVS episode “Conversations with Dead People” and another for her work on Season One of GoT. She was nominated for an Emmy for her work on Battlestar Galactica. Besides Felicia Day – who is a geek unto herself – she might be the closest thing to a full on geek television writer. With Joss Whedon as a mentor… well DUH!

Who is it? Jane Espenson.

You may not know the name, but if you are a pop culture geek you know her work. You’ve watched her work. You’ve enjoyed her work. You’ve laughed at the jokes in her work, and cried tears with her work. Plus, she has cred in the Communication discipline, having studied and worked with George Lakoff.

And what I am reading has nothing to do with any of those things. Nope.

What I am reading is an edited book, called Inside Joss’ Dollhouse: from Alpha to Rossum. The premise for the book was simple: Espenson held a writing contest. Anyone who wanted to submit could submit, as long as it was on Joss Whedon’s much maligned and greatly praised television show Dollhouse, which aired on Fox (always a mistake Joss, always a mistake) for two years in 2009-2010. Plus, Medicinal Carrots!!

What I like about this collection is that non-academics wrote these insightful, informative chapters for non-academics. This is not to say these chapters are dumb. They certainly are NOT. There are chapters on Topher Brink’s redemption, Echo’s creation of self, Adelle DeWitt’s activities as a “mother,” Claire/Whiskey’s personality, problematic aspects of mind-body dualism, Alpha’s evolution from psychopath to hero, about how our bodies are important to our specific identities. And there’s so much more.

Each chapter made me think in a different way about the show, its creation and the characters, while making me ponder concepts about identity, technology, and our social mores. As a book by non-academics for non-academics, it is a beautiful rendering, where I did not have to get out my dictionary for every sentence, or refer to Wikipedia to understand what the authors were talking about.

As an academic and a writer, this is the kind of writing I want to be able to do: to write for regular people about cool shit.

There are 26 episodes of Dollhouse. You’ve probably spent a weekend binge-watching that much TV, so give it a shot. And then give this book a read. It’s worth it. Promise.

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