From a historical perspective, even the most modern of entertainments are descendants of ancient stories and ideas. Joss Whedon’s TV series Dollhouse, though marketed as a science-fiction/spy/action series, is at heart a Gothic story, a genre that dates back to the eighteenth century, but updated to the 21st century.
To do Gothic, first you need a house. The Dollhouse isn’t the traditional crumbling castle on a bleak barren heath; it actually looks like a slightly sinister day spa, hidden beneath an office building in modern-day Los Angeles. The series’ lead, a woman codenamed “Echo” (Eliza Dushku), is one of the dolls, or Actives. They are “programmable people”, imprinted with the skills and memories to be whatever the clients need, from soldiers to sexual fantasies. In between engagements, they are kept in the Dollhouse in a child-like, amnesiac state, beautiful and helpless, their every physical need met and under constant surveillance. It’s not unlike Laura Antoniou’s underground slave training Marketplace, or the Club, an island BDSM paradise, of Anne Rice’s Exit to Eden, “...where the lights never go out and you’re never alone.” Some of the more masochistically-minded readers might be wondering where they can sign up