Briar Rose Learns to Read

November 14, 2009

arch window

Echo:  Can i?  You keeping that book?

Susan:  I’m fixing it.

Echo:  I see that.  They call that “editing.”  You could make a living at it…  You really hate that she didn’t save herself, don’t you?

In front of a lovely arched window, Echo sits down with Susan, a girl who was orphaned and abused as a child.  Susan is crossing out lines and pictures from a book, Briar Rose.  Susan doesn’t like the story, which is a Sleeping Beauty story.

Briar Rose happens once upon a time, when a much wished-for princess was born and for her christening all the fairies in the land came to give her gifts and blessings – beauty, grace, kindness, discernment, and so on.  Everyone except for a jealous dark fairy, who cursed her with a prophecy: on her 15th birthday, she’ll prick herself on a poisoned spindle, and drop dead.  Thanks to the efforts of a good fairy, the spell was ameliorated: a slumber of a hundred years, from which only a kiss of true love would wake her.

It came to pass, of course.  The princess pricked her finger on a poisoned spindle, and she fell asleep, as did the entire kingdom.  Briars grew all over the castle, making it impossible to enter, for the thorns offered certain death.  The years passed, a prince with a pure heart braved the treacherous path, and succeeded in entering the castle – indeed, the briar vines opened up for him without resistance.  His kiss awakened the princess, as well as the whole kingdom.

Susan:  This is crap.

Echo:  I’m sorry?

Susan:  Crap.  Don’t you know what that means?

Echo:  You don’t like the story, but the others are listening, so maybe we can talk about this afterwards.

Susan:  The spell was for a hundred years.  So he shows up on the last day and takes credit for saving her?

Echo:   Okay.

Susan:  She knew the curse.  “You will touch a poisoned spindle on your fifteenth birthday.”

Echo:  Right.

Susan:  So if it’s me, I’m not exploring the castle on my fifteenth birthday groping any spindles I find lying around, especially when I think she might have had a vague idea of what the hell a spindle is!

Echo:  I don’t think her parents told her about the curse.

Susan:  If she knew, maybe they could’ve hid her.  Or, she could have just… run away!  Or what about this, she could have just woken herself the hell up!

A spindle is a pointed rod around which newly spun thread is collected.  Spinning fibers into thread may be one of humanity’s oldest technologies.  It is also one of our oldest metaphors.  The Sisters Fate are said to spin the thread of our lives, weaving each line into a tapestry, and then cutting them off at our deaths.  So it’s very appropriate that the “dark fairy” gives a prophesy or a fate to the newborn princess, a prophecy involving something like a spindle.

Echo’s engagement with Susan is much like a prophesy itself.  As Topher explains it, Echo has been imprinted with a modified scan of Susan herself – a future version of herself who has healed from the horrors of her childhood, who has stepped into a meaningful life… and who has become a master of her her own fate.

To do this, in a sense, is to experience a form of sleep, a kind of death.  To change is to die, and to be reborn into someone new.    The Sisters Fate live outside of time, and to get outside of time takes an experience of dying.  It takes a different perspective.

Echo:  It’s okay to get rescued by someone else if you’re young or small or you just can’t do it yourself.  Hey, you know this story?

Susan:  Yeah.

Echo:  Read it again, okay?  But this time, think of yourself as the prince!

Susan:  I didn’t save anyone.

Echo:  Hey, remember what you said – the prince shows up at the last minute, takes all the credit… that means Briar Rose was trapped all that time, sleeping, and dreaming of getting out.  The prince was her dream.  She made him… she made him fight to get her out.  (pointing at Susan) Prince.

Myths are stories that never happened, but are always happening.  This allows myths to be read metaphorically, and so the way to read myth personally is to put yourself  in everyone’s shoes.  We are all Briar Rose, and we are all the Prince, and even all the ancillary characters, too.  Each of them has something to say about who we are, and what it means to be human.  They are archetypal.  Echo tells Susan that it’s time to stop limiting herself to the perspective of the sleeper, and to take on the perspective of the savior – who is willing to suffer the thorns for his love.

I am reminded of the story of Jean Houston, world traveler, doctor of religion and philosophy, and contemporary of Joseph Campbell (whose Heroic Journey monomyth stands as a sort of gestalt of myths the world over.)  Like Campbell, Jean Houston suggests that the way to read myth is precisely in this metaphorical way.  She’s gone a step further, suggesting that to “live mythically” is something that can be intentionally done, with transformative results.

jean_houston

She’s had a remarkable life.  At the age of six, she had a religious epiphany, a numinous experience of communion with the Universe.  As a teenager, she met the Jesuit philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who taught her not only the concept of entelechy (the future patterns of our unfolding, like moths from caterpillars) but also an idea of the entelechy of mankind and the Universe.  Teilhard suggests the emergence of a global “noosphere”, a sort of group mind or collective consciousness, which might be kin to the “waking” of Jung’s collective unconscious. Teilhard calls this convergence The Omega Point, which he equates with Christ.  Jean’s take is a bit different, for she incorporates all myths:

“The gods are not schizophrenic like humans are.  The polarities and seeming splits in their nature are more on the order of a healthy polyphrenia.  Their multiple selves serve them according to the needs of any situation.  They can also elevate us into the One and know that oneness as their true condition.  Knowing the One, they can step down into the many – thus their polyphrenia, their wide play of attributes, their many selves.  This protean skill is one that humanity awaits and, perhaps, in our time is moving towards.  What myths tell us about the polyphrenia of the gods may be our evolutionary portion as we humans move into our next stage of becoming.

People may thus… develop a different psychological structure.  Instead of having a dominant self or ego, they will learn to keep a large cast of characters active, calling them to stage front to fit the occasion.”

Finally, Jean has reported several experiences similar to Susan’s meeting her “future self.”  On more than one occasion, Jean has felt a future version of herself communicating to her in her mind’s eye to help keep her on her path of becoming – from overcoming depression in college to barking out commands to her father as a child so as to avoid an imminent car accident.  Susan’s future version of herself suggests that Susan identify with the Prince of the story – and so Echo has become the “prince” who offers rescue from without for the sleeping beauty, laying down  a thread by which Susan might remove herself from the labyrinth.  With that in mind, let *us* look at the perspective of the archetypal Prince in the Dollhouse.

paul

Paul:  All dead ends.  The farther I reached, the worse I did.  But then, they came to me.

Loomis:  Your neighbor?  The one you finger-printed?  You’re certain now she’s –

Paul:  A Doll.

Loomis:  Well, I was going to say, “a victim.”

Paul:  I followed her to 23 Flower.  The Dollhouse!

Loomis:  You just… flashed your badge, swooped in on them like Prince Valiant?

Paul seems our obvious candidate for the Prince Charming who seeks to swoop into the Dollhouse to rescue his sleeping beauty, Caroline.  He’s been searching for the Dollhouse all season, and has been thwarted at every turn from crossing that threshold.  Until now, he has been the frustrated hero.

What does it mean to be a hero, mythically speaking?  As Joseph Campbell puts it, the journey of the myth is a metaphor for the journey into one’s self, for finding within some key that unlocks one’s own unfolding, one’s entelechy. The Journey has a familiar structure:  the Hero hears a Call to Adventure, and with the help of a mentor or some supernatural aid, overcomes the Threshold Guardian to enter the Special Place, where fantastic events occur.  The Hero gives his life and experiences rebirth on the road to recovering a Boon, a special treasure, which he must take out of the “other” land and Return to the Ordinary World.

So, considering Paul’s Heroic Journey, he heard the Call at the beginning of the series, a Call to find the Dollhouse.  He hasn’t been reluctant, but he did require some “supernatural aid” to find it: both November and Echo have been programmed to deliver surreptitious messages to him.  From this aid, he figured out that November as Mellie was a guardian to the threshold of the special place.  To get to the Dollhouse, he has to get around her.

Paul:  You’re in my way.

Mellie:  You’re under a lot of stress.  I’ve been smothering you.  I… I’ll back off.  We can take a break.  Probably a good idea.  But just a break is all we need.  Can you talk to me, anyway?  You think you can’t trust me, and you’re right to pay attention to that feeling, but you need to make sure you’re laying the blame where it’s supposed to be.  Look at me!  Look at the real me, and really think about whether I’ve told you anything I didn’t believe with all my heart.

Paul:  You know… you just said exactly what I needed to hear.  And that’s why I’m leaving.

Paul’s figured out how to break her programming.  He’s realized that she is perfect for him, and that for that very reason she can’t be real.  By breaking up with her, he’s able to get her to return to the Dollhouse.  He follows her, and figures out that the Dollhouse is “invisible”, that it has to be underground, hidden, covert.

The address he finds for the Dollhouse is 23 Flower, and that is an interesting address.  23 is a “calling card” number for the followers of Eris, the goddess of discord.  One of their teachings regarding the number 23 is that it can be found anywhere, and made relevant, given enough ingenuity and creativity on the part of the interpreter.  It’s a principle of associativity, where “connections” and “meaning” are understood to be thre creation of the observer, rather than an ontologically existent property of the Universe.   The number 23 is one of the Lost numbers, btw.  “Flower” street ties back into the theme of the episode, Briar Rose (and “LaFleur” is an alias taken by one of the Lost characters known for his con-artistry.)

Paul needs one more “mentor” to get in, a man known as Steven Kepler.  Kepler designed the Dollhouse architecture, so Paul goes to visit and forces him to get inside through a secret passage – air ducts, of course.   When they finally get inside, Paul declares: “It’s real.”

crossing

Paul:  Oh my god.  I know that guy.  Lubov!  My whole life.  My whole life isn’t real.

Paul sees the Dollhouse as real, and his own life as unreal – which is due to the Dollhouse.  This show is chock full of such lovely contradictions.  And look at how carefully the shot of Paul’s entry to the sleeping pods is arranged.  The crossing lines of light.  This is one of the thematic structures of Dollhouse (and certainly Lost) – that there are two sides, with intersecting trajectories.  Shortly before this shot, Kepler calls Paul “my tall man”, and I wonder if that’s a reference to the Phantasm series of movies, which features a villain named The Tall Man.  He occupies dreams, pulls people through mirrors, and he’s got this floaty silver ball that can kill people.  Just last week, in the season premiere of V, we saw Alan Tudyk playing a bad guy, whose side employed a flying silver ball that kills people.  Interesting coincidence?

Paul isn’t the only prince in this story, and Echo isn’t the only sleeping beauty.  November is also a sleeper, and she eventually ends up being the one freed by the dashing prince.  Yet this isn’t the end of Paul’s Heroic Journey.  No, he’s just begun.  He’s just entered the Special Place, which has its own set of rules that he must learn.  Having passed through the Threshold, and recognizing his life isn’t real, Paul’s next step is not taking the Boon (Echo) and leaving Paradise.  No, Paul now has a Road of Trials in front of him, where he will learn to confront his own issues that he may be truly transformed before his own Return later on down the line.

So who is *really* our Prince?  Who are we and Briar Rose supposed to empathize with now?  It’s not an easy answer.

alpha tree

Adelle:  Alpha?  Just like that?

Dominic!Victor:  He used to sign his stuff in art class like that.  They thought it was a fish, but it was his name over and over again.  The first sign something was different.

It’s a telling name, Alpha.  The First – Buffy fans take note!  But also, consider the appellation of Christ from Revelations 1:8: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.”  Alpha has been a running story from the very beginning, when his file showed up in Adelle’s office.  He’s the one who sent pictures and video of Caroline to Paul.  He’s the one who tricked Paul into being a distracting decoy, a shield, so that Alpha could make off with his princess – whom he dubs Omega in the end.

Alpha was a creation of the Dollhouse, and in a way the creation of Topher (who is without Christ.)  But Alpha has come all the way around.  He now knows the ins and outs of the Dollhouse, its architecture and policies, and he’s even built his own Chair.  He learned remote wiping long before Topher.  My friend Natasi points out that both Alpha and Topher use graffiti:  Alpha’s lair has chalk drawings all over it, and Topher’s “crypt” in Epitaph One is similarly adorned.

Alpha:  What was that name again?

Paul:  Stephen Kepler, is that you?

Alpha:  Well, there’s a lot of aspects to that question.

When Alpha is first presented to us, he has taken the name of Stephen Kepler, and that’s an interesting name.  Johannes Kepler was a 17th Century pioneer in the scientific revolution.  He provided some of the earliest descriptions of the laws of planetary motion, laws which led to Newton’s discovery of universal gravitation.

Alpha:  They told me this was going to be the New Eden.

Indeed, the notion of mathematics governing the universe was pivotal to the emergence of Science, yet for Kepler this was a reflection of God’s intelligible Plan, discernible through reason.  In the Dollhouse mythos, Stephen Kepler is the Designer of the Dollhouse, or at least the architect of its invisible and sustainable life-support system.  Alpha is quite aware of his environment, too – he spits back out the coffee in a coffee mug labeled “Coffee From Hell,” and voices ironic distaste for Paul’s plan to dress him up like a Doll.

bunyan

Adelle:  If Alpha is in Tucson… god!

The “message” Alpha sends to Dominic on the data stick is a picture of a Paul Bunyan statue in Tucson, Arizona.  Paul Bunyan is an invented myth of the North, a giant man who felled timber (a staple of housing) and fought the oppressive British.  Tucson means “(at the) base of the black (hill)”; the city is also known as Old Pueblo (old house) as well as City of the White Dove.  Adelle says “The Center” is located near Tucson.  So, Alpha is positioned as a mythic Creator, of himself as well as of houses, who describes the Dollhouse itself as “shell” and later as an “oyster”, from which one might metaphorically procure a Pearl.  An insane Demiurge might be a more appropriate description, though.  Alpha slices up people in the name of “art”, much as our own world doles out tragedy and suffering in spades – and yet he says that each wounding is unique, a gift.  (Take note that Alpha isn’t the only one who trucks in knives – Echo deduces that Susan is holding one, too.)  So Alpha embodies both “white” and “black” polarities, if you will.  Being in an ironic position, he gets lines like, “We suffer from unsightly visibility.”

Boyd:  Who else would be trying to contact you covertly?

Dom!Victor and Adelle:  Alpha.

It’s been priceless listening to this story again, focusing on Alpha.  Just about everything he says has a covert meaning!  His first scene, as Kepler with Paul, is amazing.  He tries to explain away the marijuana plants as “carrots”, the food most popularly associated with rabbits.  Back in 1×07, Echoes, Echo was embodying Alice, who went down the rabbit hole as well as through the looking glass.

Alpha describes most people as making “carbon snow angels,” so imagine angels made out of carbon, out of soot.  Black angels, we are.  Fallen.  Not Snow White – which is another sleeping beauty story.

Alpha:  I think that once we die out… in a couple hundred years… Earth is going to have a People Day.  To remember us.  One day a year, She is going to laugh and laugh and shake our bones.  Recycled urine?

Alpha predicts a quick demise for humanity, which seems to bear out in Epitaph One.  Of more interest to me is the juxtaposition of urine with a Goddess.  I’m reminded of a creation story from Gregory Maquire’s Wicked.

“In one form or another, we all know some of the origin myths that predate the Oziad,” said Tibbett, throwing his blond bangs back with a theatrical flourish.  “The most coherent one has our dear putative Fairy Queen Lurline on a voyage.  She was tired of travel in the air.  She stopped and called from the desert sands a font of water hidden deep beneath the earth’s dry dunes.  The water obeyed, in such abundance that the land of Oz in all its febrile variety sprang up almost instantly.  Lurline drank herself into a stupor and went for a long rest on the top of Mount Runcible.  When she awoke, she relieved herself copiously, and this becamse the Gillikan River, running around the vast tracts of the Great Gillikin Forest and skirting through the eastern edges of the Vinkus, and coming to a stop at Restwater.  The animals were terricolous and thus of a lower order than Lurline and her retinue…

The animals had come into their being as rolled clots of earth dislodged from the exuberant plant growth.  When Lurline let loose, the animals thought the raging stream was a flood, sent to drown their fresh new world, and they despaired of their existence.  In a panic they flung themselves into the torrent and attempted to swim through Lurline’s urine.  Those who became intimated and turned back remained animals, beast of burned, slaughtered for flesh, hunted for fun, counted as profit, admired as innocent.  Those who swam on and made it to the farther shore were given the gifts of consciousness and language.”

Maquire’s creation story is also a story of the ascent of consciousness, an ascent that necessarily involves great struggle and self-reliance.  Dollhouse follows suit, chronicling the expanding consciousness of Echo through her experiences from the Chair.

Alpha:  I also have POM.

POM is pomegranate juice, and the pomegranate is most famously known in the story of Hades and Persephone.  Hades, Lord of the Underworld, seeks a mate and decides on Kore, the daughter of the earth goddess Demeter.   Having stolen her away (some say Kore left of her own volition), Demeter’s sorrow brings on the first winter.  Hermes is sent to bring Kore back, but before he can do so she’s eaten six pomegranate seeds.  She becomes Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, where she spends half of every year tending to the dead.  The other half of the year she spends above ground, with her mother, giving us our yearly summers.

So, Alpha’s offer of pomegranate juice is prophetic, not only of his intentions to make Echo a queen, but also, perhaps, of Paul’s eventual decision to join the Dollhouse.

perseph

Paul:  I told you, you’re not in trouble.

Alpha:  Oh, you are naive.  They will kill me, and you, and kill me again.

Alpha is right.  Paul is naive – and wouldn’t you know, given the opportunities afforded by the Chair, it’s possible to die more than once.

Alpha:  We could take some time.  We could prepare, we could get some supplies, we could get some rope – rope is always good!

Alpha is right.  Soon, Paul will be wishing he had some rope, to descend into the Dollhouse.

Alpha:  We’re all just cells in a body.

Paul:  Cells in a body?

This is a gestalt metaphor,  and as such is predictive of what Alpha will attempt with Echo.  Recapitulating his own experience, he will give Echo an experience of “group consciousness.”

Alpha:  The stairs lack risers.

This is a good one!  Alpha talks about how he’s scared that someone will reach through the openings in the stairs and grab him; later, Echo will grab Paul’s ankle while he fights Boyd on the stairs.  There’s another sense to Alpha’s comment – he notices that there’s  no one immediately ready to “ascend”.  No one makes it up the steps the rest of the episode, not until Alpha leads Echo up to the Chair.    The stairs lacking risers isn’t just a prophecy, it’s a metaphor.

Alpha:  Cool off!  Think!  Compose yourself mentally.   Prepare.

Alpha is telling Paul to wait before charging off to save the sleeping beauty, but this phrase is also in keeping with the metaphor of Briar Rose.  The whole point of Briar Rose’s “sleep” of death and rebirth after grasping a special spindle is precisely to gain the perspective necessary to become an agent of her own Destiny, which she is both composer and composition.

Alpha:  I told you I’d come rescue you.

Echo:  My prince!

ascend


Dollhouse Belonging

October 28, 2009

Am I the only one who is thrilled that Dollhouse is on hiatus for a month?  The nice thing about it, from my perspective, is that it will give me plenty of time to write some more about the lovely Season One episodes.  It gives the community another month to drum up some more support for the show… time that might be best spent singing praises, if we want this small opera to continue!

If Belle Chose was like a dose of LSD, then Belonging has to be a nice pinot noir, smooth and heady without unnecessary adornment.  It has some crisp layering, and nice little details, like the posters of lost dogs behind Priya as she stands there at the beach with her hand-painted Polaroid camera.

Back in Needs, we discovered that Sierra got the opportunity to exercise some wish-fulfillment, and this led her to the penthouse apartment of Nolan Kenard, who openly mocked her as she tried to confront the man who enslaved her.  That episode pays off in Belonging, which unfolds the whole story.

priya art 1
Priya Tsetsang was doomed from the start, let’s be clear.  This is bad luck, becoming the target of the powerful son of powerful men who refuse to accept any other reality than their own.  At first Nolan thinks he can convince her through an elaborate charade, staged by the Dollhouse – and at first I thought Echo was recruiting *for* the Dollhouse, a riff on the Story of O.  However, Dollhouse delivers myth, and the myth plays out as it should: the budding artist does not fall for the powerful patron, but the earnest art critic dolled by Victor.  The Dollhouse produces actual true love, not the fake true love sought by the client.

When Nolan’s ploy fails, he resorts to violence:  restraining and dosing Priya with drugs to strip her of her sanity.  She begs Topher to save her, and he’s more than happy to take her to the Dollhouse.  So this is now a Heroic Journey for Priya.  She has left the ordinary world of selling art on the boardwalk; she has entered the Special Place in search of a boon, even though she’s not aware of it.

sierra art 2

Sierra’s road of trials are centered around rape.  She was raped in more ways than one by Nolan, but also by her handler in the Dollhouse.  And really, there’s a certain aspect of rape — of being subject to a force of power-over — that is part and parcel of myth.  Stepping into myth can be like stepping into a river, it can be that overpowering.  I think it’s important to convey that sense of being raped in myths that deal with death and rebirth, for dying is the most powerless experience one can have… and yet it’s also sexual, this becoming detached from one’s self and converging with all else.

Anyways, being treated as a belonging comes out in Sierra’s art, which is now dominated by negative spaces.  Victor thinks just getting rid of the black ink will make Sierra feel better, but this is the simple thinking of an innocent.  (Check out the statue of a person with an empty space in her torso in the middle of the art room!)  Echo realizes that Sierra’s art is a crucial knowing, and enlists Topher – who has been slacking from his mythically appointed role as a savior.

He restores Priya to Sierra, and sends her off to deal with her nemesis.  Deal with him she does, knifing him to death in a glorious fury.  She rises, and now her own shadow becomes convergent with her art, the art she made before she was ruined by blood on her hands.  In Belle Chose, Echo retains a bit of “negative space” through her salvation; in Belonging, Priya *becomes* her own negative space.  I love this juxtaposition, for Priya has become like art herself… and isn’t that a lot of the attitude that Alpha had towards people?

Or is her becoming a “negative space” a reflection of how Nolan beheld her?  She ends up killing him, but this is surely the entailment of Nolan’s own perspective, that people are “belongings”.  He doesn’t see the person of Priya, he *won’t* see her person, for he can’t stand how she contradicts his own understanding of himself.

topher eye
Topher:  It should work.  Well, it doesn’t work.  It works in theory.  Alpha got it to work through a phone, nonetheless.  Are you comparing my intelligence to Alpha’s?  Well… you’re talking to yourself like he does.  That’s!  Ha ha!  A very good point.

Here is the other side to seeing people as belongings.  Topher declares that he is not a bad man, and he seems to have a genuine sense of compassion about him.  And yet, he does see people as Dolls — he *makes* them into dolls.  How can he do this?  Unlike everyone else in the Dollhouse, according to Adelle, Topher’s morals have not been compromised because he never had any morals to begin with – oh, she’s so good at getting him to do what she really wants!  Recall in the very first episode, Ghost, he declares (quoting Shakespeare) that there is no good or bad but thinking makes it so.  Topher – a shortened form of Christopher, but without the Christ – is much like Alpha and Nolan, but like Echo he has some empathy to go with his self-hatred.  He *wants* to be good, even though he doesn’t really believe in such a thing.

He properly comes to understand that he doesn’t have a God’s eye view of his own activities when he discovers that he was conned into bring Priya into the Dollhouse.  Goaded by Adelle, he lets himself be used well:  Priya is restored, and frees herself from a situation where she otherwise had no power.  Unable to live with her actions, she submits to the Chair and is returned to innocence.  On top of it,20her Heroic Journey is closer to fulfillment, for she has found her boon: the man she loves, Victor, who loves her back.  So Topher really did save her, in the end.

sierra grace

I mean, think of it this way.  Had there been no Dollhouse, Nolan probably would have resorted to something more crude and barbaric, like kidnapping Priya and eventually murdering her.  Because of the Dollhouse, justice is eventually meted out to one deserving of it, and a soul enters a place of true belonging, next to a loved one.  This is truly a moment of grace.

So this is Priya’s fate.  Her name comes from Sanskrit, and it means “beloved.”  Priya’s destiny is love.  She likes birds, she paint birds, because they’re beautiful.  Birds are also symbols of freedom, of going wherever you like.  Priya, once free, becomes bound to love.
belonging

More shocking than how perfectly Dollhouse delivers myth must be the revelation that Echo is now reading.  Boyd sees her picking a leaf, sees her reading a book, and goes to investigate.  In her sleeping pod, he finds the book.  He misses the *writing* she’s been doing, on her glass coffin lid.  Mythically speaking, I shouldn’t have been shocked.  Echo has become self-aware, and an exercise like *writing* — for Dollhouse is a written show — is a perfect metaphor for expanding consciousness, and even self-authorship.

There’s another sense of “reading” going on here, beside literal reading.  Boyd has “read” Echo, he’s successfully ascertained that she’s different from the other Dolls, and in a very particular way.  He confronts her about this, and she evades his questions: Echo is now reading Boyd, reading his sense of disapproval about her “activities”.  Yet for all her awareness, Echo still doesn’t realize how vulnerable she is to being surveilled, to being eyed, even though she correctly senses that most of the Dollhouse staff are just as asleep as the Dolls.

Why won’t they wake up?  There’s a storm coming.


The Apocalypse of Belle Chose

October 16, 2009

The Apocalypse of Belle Chose

blackboard

I have loved justice and hated iniquity, therefore I die in exile.”

I have to wonder why Professor Gossen has this quote on his blackboard for a lecture about medieval literature.  The Canterbury Tales, for example, occur three hundred years after Gregory’s death.   His stor y (link) doesn’t seem particularly remarkable.  He and the Catholic Church were in a power struggle with King Henry IV – Gregory excommunicated Henry twice. Much of their conflict was about money and authority, not so different from Bradley Karrens, the man with the money to have the Dollhouse at his beckoning.

Both kings and clerics represent instances of institutional power and domination.  Today we try not to be ruled by kings or clerics, though we struggle and muddle our way through figuring out other forms of power and hierarchy.   Gossen tells us that back then, people didn’t have as much a sense of self as we do today.  What does it take to develop that sense?  Is that a key to reclaiming power?

The pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales were on their way to a shrine of Thomas Beckett, the murdered Archibishop of Canterbury, who was also involved in a power struggle with a king.  The Canterbury Tales, however,  are not about Beckett, but about the pilgrims.  They each have their own stories to tell, and they are on this journey together.

I would argue that Dollhouse is based on the Heroic Journey.  Hearing a Call to Adventure, the Heroes are led from the Ordinary World into the Special Place; through the help of a Mentor or some other supernatural aid, they face their Threshold Guardians and cross over into the metaphorical Belly of the Whale, where they experience death and rebirth.  A road of trials awaits, meeting the Goddess and atoning with the Father, and in some Inner Sanctum an Apotheosis is realized.  This confers upon the Hero a “boon”, some sort of prize to take back which will heal their land.  Some kind of Rescue or Magic Flight is needed to Return.  The Return is not easy, for the Hero would often prefer to stay in the Special Place, and upon returning they often find that they are misunderstood.  They have to become Masters of Two Worlds in order to release the boon, upon which they are finally Free to Live.

So, with that in mind, let us take a closer look at the Heroic Journey of Echo.

adelle watches

To really understand Echo’s journey, we may have to start by looking more closely at Terry.  Look closer.  Yes, Adelle is watching the split screen interrogation.  She leans in, because she wants to get into not just Terry’s head, but Paul’s head.

Look closer.  You are watching me as you read, as I am watching Adelle as I write, who is watching not just Terry but also Paul, and Paul is watching Terry, and Terry (through Victor) finally sees his own body from the outside, even sees his uncle watching his body.  When Terry finally sees himself in Paul’s tablet, he mutters “goodness gracious.”  Indeed.  Like driving a ball through a tunnel of croquet wickets.  Terry is finally aware that he’s having an out-of-body experience, and having had his entire ground negated by Paul (this is not where you’re at, not who you’re talking to) it must be pretty alienating for the young man.  He is not in his own head.  Not in his right mind, we could say.

How did he get this way?  He got hit by a car, to start with.  Well, more of an ending than a beginning, really.  But before that, how did he get this way?  We know so very little of Terry Marion Karrens.  We know he has two sisters, a mother and an aunt.  We know he has a very powerful uncle.  What about his father, though?   We hear boo about the father.  No father for Terry.

When Paul first starts interrogating him, he challenges Terry’s gender, and in a sense this is a challenge to Terry’s identity.  It may always have been his challenge.  No father, an uncle who owns part of a Dollhouse… and a feminine name.  Terry’s surrounded by women his whole life.  How does he figure out who he is?  How does he form his identity?  Not having a male role model, Terry goes negative. He doesn’t strive to be male, but rather “not female.”  I wonder if this is why Terry has no empathy: he’s figured out that empathy is “female”, and he’s not female, so he has no empathy.  Is that how it went?

By having no empathy, Terry comes to see people not as people, but as objects.  Dolls.  I wonder where he got *that* idea.  So he sets up this ritual with “dolls” as replacements for the women in his life.  Now “they” are… toys?  I don’t think so.  Why doesn’t Terry use mannequins?  Why does he need “real people?”  His confession to Paul may give us an answer:  No one pays him any attention, he says.  No time for Terry.  He feels… invisible.  He believes that he hasn’t been seen.  What Terry wants, desperately, is to be seen.

whore

And yet, he can’t bear to be seen.  He certainly can’t bear to see himself.  And when he finally does get a look in the mirror, he realizes that he’s no longer the Terry he used to be: now he’s a woman, an incredible woman.  And because Terry  hates women, he writes “Whore” on the mirror.  It’s like the snake of his hatred, which had been directed outwards, has finally come back around and curved into himself.

Kiki: Okay, so I probably never shoulda taken this course to begin with.  But I figured, it’s Mid-Evil lit.  Not Advanced Evil.  How hard could it be?  So I skipped Intro To Evil, or whatever.

So what is the cause of human evil?  Evil is a tricky concept.  Usually when we talk of evil, we talk of people suffering and dying at the hands of another.  How does this happen?  How does this not happen?  Through empathy, which gives us the feelings of another (gets us into someone else’s head) we can predict the consequences of our actions and recognize our impact on other people.  We take them into consideration.   To hurt another is to inflict pain upon ourselves, when we’re empathic.  So empathy is the source of Good, and the lack of empathy is the source of Evil.  Hypothetically.

Echo is the opposite of Terry.  Terry has no empathy, while Echo is all empathy.  Echo remembers everone – she saves everyone she’s ever been.  Echo isn’t just able to slip into someone’s head, she’s able to slip someone’s head inside of her.

Up until now, this has been the very identity of Echo.  She’s a Savior, and as a Savior she wants to save everyone.  But when Terry enters her head, she has a problem.  How does she empathize with someone who has no empathy?

And yet, she’s able to do so.  See, Terry never uses the parts of the brain where empathy is engaged.  This “empty space” isn’t empty for Echo, though – if anything, she fills it completely.  Maybe this is where she resides, for that matter.  Anyways, in the battle between Empathy and NoEmpathy, Echo temporarily emerges victorious.  Yes, Terry is in charge at first, though perhaps not as completely as we thought.  Professor Gossen got exactly what he *needed*, mythically speaking.  He thought he was stepping into a myth of his own choosing, his own Canterbury Tale, but as we saw from the Briar Rose fable, those who would take up the role of a Fate – those who would write themselves into myth, or weave their own threads from spindle and wheel – begin that journey by losing consciousness, through a Fall.  So really, Echo uses Terry to accomplish what Kiki could not, namely delivering to Gossen what the myth requires.

When Terry!Echo gets back to the cages where the women have just escaped, another blow is dealt – a croquet mallet knocks out Meghan.  And then Terry is ready to bludgeon another woman when Echo’s empathy finally triumphs: she wakes up, confused, “Did I fall asleep?”

awake

However, Terry isn’t gone, and Echo knows it.  Through her empathy, she realizes that Terry will hurt and kill these other women, and that he’ll keep doing it again and again.  And she says that he “can’t” stop.   We can believe this, for Terry has had a “second chance,” and he’s used it to do exactly what he did before.

So, Echo can see Terry’s memories, and feel his thoughts, and in so doing she comes to a solution: she must sacrifice herself.  Robin, the mother, prevents the other woman from carrying out the deed, and this too is an example of empathy.  To convince Robin, Echo uses her own empathy to select and speak the memories that will touch Robin, that will give her the courage and knowing to bash Echo’s brains in before Terry returns.  Echo speaks of Robin’s son, and says that it’s because of him that she was chosen… and this makes me appreciate the switch between this episode and the last one, for in Instinct Echo learned what it means to have the feelings of a Mother.

sacrifice

In her moment of self-sacrifice, Echo has a Deus Ex Machina encounter:  she is suddenly saved by Men In Black, who rush in to stop any further violence.  However, this has a longer-term implication for Echo.  Her “perfect empathy” and desire to save everyone are now in conflict, because how can she save someone who is her antithesis?  The MiB don’t allow her to bow out.  She is wiped, and in the process she is forced to assimilate that which is not her.

A lot of our characters have been compromised by the day’s events.  Adelle finally stops glossing over what she means:  she passes judgment, without ambiguity.   And yet she does so in exactly the way she needs to to keep her hands clean, for she’s been watching Paul and she’s learned something about Paul:  Paul has no problem exercising power over someone else when he finds himself in a situation that is not ambiguous.  Paul, the shining white knight, ends up ending Terry’s life.  Echo wanders in, and says that she thinks he dreams; Paul says “not anymore.”

last rabbit

So Echo watches Terry die, and finally we get our moment of Grace.  Echo, who is all empathy, has empathized with Terry, who has no empathy, and she has intergrated him into herself.  As a messenger of Myth, Echo has given Terry exactly what he needed:  He needed to be witnessed by his mother.  He needed to be seen by the Divine Feminine.  He also needed to understand what it means to not have empathy – for to not have empathy is to have no connections to people.  It is to be alienated, alone, and sooner or later (usually sooner) it means being dead.  So Terry finally comes to see himself, through the Empty One, who must now acknowledge a new emptiness – that of not having empathy.  To really have empathy for Terry, to really understand him, Echo must use her newly acquired “not-empathy-ness”.  The double-negative yields a double positive:  Goodness Gracious.  And so Mercy and Justice kiss, for Terry has received both.   He’s been judged, and he’s been saved.

She retains her ability to save and redeem.  She is not “tainted” by Terry, she is not robbed of her ability to empathize.  Rather, her empathy is enhanced and elevated, for now that she understands “not empathy”, she has a Choice that surely eluded Terry Karrens.

Echo’s Heroic Journey

Echo is our hero, and for her the Ordinary World is not our world, but the world of the Dollhouse.   She begins as if she were Eve, wholly embodying the Divine Feminine.  She is innocent when she says, “I’m wet,” though we and Paul recognize the double meaning.  Echo hears a Call to Adventure, which in this case is an engagement with Professor Gossen.  Gossen is her Mentor, who instructs her (or reminds her) to claim her own Power, which is the power of the Divine Feminine.  In the “belly” of his Office, Echo experiences death and rebirth:  Kiki dies, and Terry is reborn.  This happens because of a “crossover” event, and as such represents a Crossing of the Threshold.

Echo now enters the Special Place, which in this inverted journey is *our* world.  Her road of trials is short and quick, a car ride to the Cages, which are the Inner Sanctum of the journey.  She has her moment of Apotheosis: the Doll overrides her imprint, and steps into willing self-sacrifice.  Her Rescue is effected as divine intervention, giving her the freedom to Live.  She returns to the Dollhouse with a Boon: an understanding of Justice, which requires “not empathy”  as well as “empathy” regarding the interactions between two other parties.  Echo demonstrates that she is a Master of Two Worlds, through her use of irony: Goodness Gracious.

iron 1

All this comes at a price, though.  The likes of Bradley Karrens are now more keenly aware of the possibility of “immortality,” and they have the power and money to make this happen for themselves.  More importantly, Topher has learned how to perform remote wipes and imprints.  These two things surely lead to the Apocalypse witnessed at the end of Epitaph One.  It’s inevitable, though.  Much like entropy – oh, didn’t you see the posters for a band called Entropy in the disco?  Might have to watch it again…


Belle Chose Belle Chose

October 13, 2009

(read part 1)

(read part 2)

adelle watches

Terry: I demand my phone call.  I want my attorney present.

Paul: No attorneys, No phone calls.

Terry: I know my rights.

Paul: And no rights.

Terry: You are in big trouble.  When my family finds out what you’re doing, you and your entire department –

Paul: This isn’t a department.  And I’m not a cop.

Terry: What is this place?

Paul: This is the place you’re not in, and I’m the guy you’re not talking to.

I love that Adelle watches this conversation unfold in front of a Buddha head.  The influence of Eastern thought on our recent mythologies *is* something to behold.  In the late lamented Firefly, the future is a time when the East and West have long since merged; characters swear in Chinese.  Over on Lost, “science” has been wedded to “dharma”.  In this day and age, Buddhism is often pointed to as a religion that even atheists can embrace, and there’s several reasons for that.

So what do I mean by “Eastern Thought”?  It’s not easy to spell out, and considering the numerous texts out there which attempt to do just that, I’ll have to let it suffice to highlight a couple of concepts relevant to reading Dollhouse.  The first, as alluded to by the title, is the concept of “Emptiness”.  It’s not the easiest concept to describe, as it has no material referents.  In the West we often equate it with boredom, wanting, apathy… or even being devoid of spirituality.  In the East, on the contrary, Emptiness is seen as a vehicle for liberation.

It revolves around the notion of Essence.  In the West, our very language is oriented around Essence, as though people and things had a “causal nature” that not only describes who and what they are, but constitutes the “driving force” that makes everything what it is.  This is not something we can prove, though, and the other position to take is that Essence is a fiction – it’s a product of how we make sense of the world, not the world we make sense of.

In Dollhouse, there’s all kinds of references to Emptiness.  Dolls are treated as empty vessels or blank slates.  Paul uses the power of “not” to destabilize and derealize Terry as he interrogates him.  And really, the whole episode clamors with such allusions.  Just about every scene has some kind of negation in it, pointing to not how things are, but rather how they are not:

Terry:  This is not how we play the game!

~~~

Adelle:  Any progress on locating our troubled, missing employee?

Boyd:  She’s not really missing, is she?  She left.

Adelle:  I call that missing.

Boyd:  I call that leaving.

~~~

Adelle:  How’s the patient?

Topher:  Not complaining.

~~~

Topher:  Could also give him a man-reaction.

Adelle:  I choose not to hear that.

~~~

Kiki:  Don’t ya just feel like dancing?

Paul:  Not overly.

~~~

Kiki:  Normally at this time I’m in yoga disco.  My body’s just programmed to do this.

Ivy:  She’s not wrong.

~~~

Paul:  How long is this going to take?

Franklin:  Changing their insides is nothing.

It’s really quite relentless, and I could fill up this page with more examples of this sort of dialogue.  Which I’m not going to do.   I’d much rather point out how Bradley Karrens tries to manipulate Adelle through lies of omission, and how Terry’s lack of empathy drives him to exercise power over women.  Bradley’s worry stems from the missing women, but Terry claims he doesn’t know them.  And of course, so much of what Topher does, he has no idea of the ramifications.

Meanwhile, the professor Gossen is going on about how some important medieval authors have no concept of self-identity.  Twice, Kiki calls Chaucer “Chauncy,” and I can’t help but remember the Peter Sellars movie, “Being There,” which is about a man so simple that it seems he barely has any awareness at all.  All he talks about is his garden, and gardening, and soon he’s seen as a genius because everyone is taking everything he says metaphorically – in part because it’s impossible to figure out what he might mean when taking anything he says literally. The simpleton ends the movie by walking on water.

kiki mirror

Franklin:   Echo?  Echo?  Who’s doing that?  I am.  Right.  Okay, so, not exactly a rocket scientist.  Normally that would be irony, but around here, one never knows.

I love our new salon manager!  In case we missed it, Dollhouse is loaded with irony, in many different forms.  In general, irony is employed to say one thing and mean another.  In the Dollhouse, Franklin might meet an Echo who is a rocket scientist, and yet she wouldn’t be a rocket scientist as far as Franklin is concerned, because he knows whatever Echo is she’s still a doll.  Or a prize.

Adelle:  Why Mr. Langton, have you no charity?  We’re working to reunite a desperate family with a wayward loved one.

Boyd:  And by “wayward” do you mean they’ve been looking for him since he skipped out on his last bail hearing?

Adelle:  A bail hearing on a minor matter which has since been resolved.

Boyd:  And by “resolved”, do you mean –

Adelle:  Yes, yes, a judge was bought off.

Not the most typical example of irony, but it’s a good start.  Adelle has this lovely habit of veiling her words so as to gloss over the moral implications of her choices.  Topher does it too, not so much in his choice of words, but how he chooses to frame the implications of his actions.

Irony is sharper, though, when what’s meant is the opposite of what’s said, and here the power of negation comes to full bear in Dollhouse.  But not only negation: sometimes it’s possible for us to know the opposite of something not in its negation, but through a polarization.  Not all opposites are negative.

tao

The obvious polarity explored in Belle Chose is that of gender.  Strictly speaking, gender isn’t something that has “negation” built into it, but rather polarity.  The opposite of female isn’t “not female”, but rather it’s connected to another positive: male.  The “irony” of the situation in this episode then comes from showing us a male personality in a female body, and a female personality in a male body.

Other kinds of polarities are shown.  Terry builds his croquet course inside a building, yet he pretends that they are outdoors.  Terry blames the women, but Paul reverses this by averring that Terry brought this on himself.  Topher says they can’t do a remote wipe, and Adelle reminds him that Alpha’s already done it.  Topher claims that “reversing the signal and sending a purgation tone” will do the trick.  Gossen claims that Kiki is in control, but really he’s in control… and then this is reversed, when Gossen pretends to give up his power, only to have it actually taken from him when Echo reveals not Kiki but Terry.  Echo says she’s wet, while Topher says he can induce a man-reaction.

I spent so much of this episode laughing, because the reversals keep coming relentlessly.  And then they start marrying these oppositions, and using them for connection.  Oppositions become connected and fused.

Paul:  I don’t see a pattern here.  For some reason, you do.  Who are these women?  Who are they to him?

–> cut to lecture hall

Professor Gossen:  They were, in a real sense, nobody.

They do it again, when Terry describes the women in his family as “whores”, and then we cut to Gossen saying, “No, she’s not a whore.”  To which Kiki responds with a definition of “whore” that somewhat aptly describes Alisoun’s behavior, not to mention Gossen’s.  Oh, but the layering is exquisite!  Alisoun is the most well-developed character, and so is Echo, except she’s not a character (and Kiki is anything but well developed.)  Gossen says Alisoun is self-aware, not defined by men, while Kiki is not self-aware, and has been completely defined by a man.  Echo, on the other hand, has emerged as someone who *is* self-aware, at least in context with the rest of the Dollhouse.  Furthermore, Echo has power that no one else seems to have (save Alpha): she can resist imprinting, she remembers who she’s been.

So we have all kinds of double-entendres, double meanings, and with it there’s this notion of duplication. One thing becomes two, and in Belle Chose we see all kinds of repetitions.  Not just the repitition of one thing canceling another out, this conjoining of opposites, but thematic and literal duplication.  Terry is copied from one body and put in another (and another).  Terry’s head is pushed down by Paul, then Terry pushes Bradley’s head down.  Terry is in two car accidents.  Topher’s computers go out twice – and then the flashlights come out in the Dollhouse, a visual twinning from a scene in Epitaph One.  Kiki dances at the Dollhouse, with Gossen, and at the disco.  We even get two good references from the name Kiki which depict powerful, independent women:  Kiki’s Delivery Service, an anime film, and Kiki de Montparnasse, born Alice Prin, a successful artist in her own right.  “Goodness gracious” is repeated over and over.  The yellow croquet mallet is used and reused as an instrument of violence; Terry mentions putting umbrellas in drinks, but he also uses one for “shade” in his croquet simulacra.  Boyd “translates” Adelle with the pattern of “by X you mean Y?” twice.  Terry makes “copies” of his family, and the Dollhouse makes copies of people’s fantasies.

Given a second chance, Terry does what he did before.  He chooses to re-enact the same pattern of suffering that has been running through his head over and over and over again.  This is much like the Buddhist concept of the uncontrolled cycle of death and rebirth.  The point is to get off the wheel of suffering, and one way to do that is to recognize what is not.  Another is to draw together these oppositions and fuse them together.  There’s always more than one side, and yet sides are an illusion, so it’s all One.

So the undercurrent of sex in our Dollhouse is most apt:  A man and woman come together, and through their physical coupling another smaller coupling is realized:  23 pairs of chromosomes fuse together, and then start replicating over and over again, and in the empty space of the belle chose, whether by accident or design, a miracle occurs.

~ jane ~

twin mirrors


Belle Chose the Rabbit Hole

October 11, 2009

(read part 1)

I have to say, the episode vexes me and enlivens me, at the same time.  I’m twisted up in knots, and I’m a mess to untangle.

Like a good student, I will start with my sources.  Why did the professor have to assign this Chauncy fellow, who can’t even spell?  At first I look over the Wiki, and read what other people have to say about The Wife of Bath.  This morning, though, I read the story myself.  I am Psyche – I have to know the face of my lover, even if it means explusion from Paradise.  I admit I’ve cheated – I’m reading a “modern translation” side-by-side the original, for the Middle English is too much for me, especially first thing in the morning after an evening’s romp.

Oh, why yes, we made love last night!  We’d been teasing each other throughout the day.  Friday night wasn’t going to be the night.  He’d worked hard that day – Harley is a carpenter – and his vitality was low by bedtime.  And I was feeling, frankly, conflicted, having just seen Belle Chose.   My noggin was too revved up to get into my body that night.  All this and the day’s teasing made for a delicious escalation of tension, leaving me well and truly hungry for my man at night’s calling.  We make love, and I imagine receiving divine gnosis as I’m receiving him – he is Christ taking his bride, and this makes for quite a rupture of joy.

So I’m reading the Wife of Bath’s Prologue this morning, sipping my coffee, and I realize I’m not quite sure what to make of the text.   I hear the words of Gossen, of Kiki, of other bloggers.  I’m hearing the voice of Alysoun,  but also the voice of Chaucer.  So many voices speaking through one character.  I put myself in the story, to see how it feels.  I am the Wife of Bath, and I’ve made my way through the world by virtue of my sex, and what I’ve learned because of it.  Alysoun justifies herself through carefully selected Biblical passages, allegories, and first-hand experience.  She has many ways of knowing.

Having read the prologue, I now understand the choice of title for this episode of Dollhouse.  Belle Chose, from bele chose, “lovely thing.”  The bathy girl-power: my vagina, coochie-snorcher, vulva, quim, pussy, cunt, lips, hole.  I’m speaking the words now to reclaim their power, my power.  “Belle chose” occurs twice in the prologue, showing two ways we use power, and how they are related.

What ails you that you grumble thus and groan?
Is it because you’d have my cunt alone?
Why take it all, lo, have it every bit;
Peter! Beshrew you but you’re fond of it!
For if I would go peddle my belle chose,
I could walk out as fresh as is a rose;
But I will keep it for your own sweet tooth.
You are to blame, by God I tell the truth.

Gossen tells his class to review the Economics of Love, and so we must consider this first type of power, which is power-over.  It is the form of power most blatantly displayed on Dollhouse, and in this episode.  The professor has purchased “love”, or so he thinks.  He is such a contradiction.  He exercises power-over, in order to indulge his own sense of power-under.  He wants to be dominated, but only on his terms.  He is caught up in a master/slave dynamic, but he’s also speaking truth to the nature of sexual lust, for it often comes unbidden and with an urgency that is hard to deny.  This internal desire is externalized or projected onto an “object of lust.”

This is mirrored in how Terry has approached playing with dolls.  He takes women against their will and paralyzes them, puts them into position as if they were mannequins, and then he performs his rituals.  This stems from his own sense of powerlessness among the women in his life.  A good deal of that stems from his lack of empathy – he can only focus on himself, and when he is not in focus he feels like nothing.  It isn’t made clear to us whether Terry can’t use empathy (due to brain damage, for example) or that Terry won’t use empathy, by his own selfish choice, but regardless it’s true that Terry doesn’t employ empathy, and this is ultimately to his detriment.

This separation of self and other, without empathy, seems to be the basis for objectification.  And once people can be painted as objects, they can be monetized.  It’s no coincidence that our professor is named for an economist.  Hermann Heinrich Gossen writes that scarcity is a precondition for economic value.  Now, look at the economics of the Dollhouse.  It’s run by powerful people, who use money to circumvent authority, to pay for exemptions.  Adelle takes care of the business, a business she says is about fulfilling people’s needs. The reason there is a Dollhouse in the first place is because of scarcity.

When we consider the balance of scarcity in human desire, it’s easy to see in economic terms who has power and who doesn’t – men have greater sexual desire than women, both in terms of the urgency of the lust as well as the frequency at which it’s experienced.  Hence the Dollhouse has need of more women, though some Actives are men.  But this goes beyond sex: what is the scarcity that Dollhouse fulfills?

But in our bed he was so fresh and gay,
And therewithal he could so well impose,
What time he wanted use of my belle chose,
That though he’d beaten me on every bone,
He could re-win my love, and that full soon.
I guess I loved him best of all, for he
Gave of his love most sparingly to me.
We women have, if I am not to lie,
In this love matter, a quaint fantasy;
Look out a thing we may not lightly have,
And after that we’ll cry all day and crave.

So Alysoun learns the source of her power, that she has something someone else wants that they aren’t getting.  She learns how it feels to be wanting, and not getting what she wants.  This creates within her a growing desire, and it’s interesting how this plays out with her fifth husband and beyond.   Jenkin has the ability to deny his own desire; he has discipline.  However, this creates resentment and anger, and he projects his own self-domination onto Alysoun, claiming her possessions, violently controlling her body, and subjecting her to a litany of misogyny.  He taunts her by reading to her stories of women’s vices, and mythically:  Eve, Pasiphae, Clytemnestra, and so on, all examples of “women ruining men.”  She tears out pages from his book and they come to blows, and his is mightier.  Only when he fears she’s dead – and hence empty – does he repent, and the balance of power is restored.  Alysoun wakes up… and I’m reminded of Briar Rose.

Alysoun is a widow again, but now she has been changed.  She is no longer in the throes of this power-play.  Now she is on a pilgrammage, and she holds her own with the other pilgrims.  She has one of the most well-developed personalities, as Gossen avers, and she is a storyteller in her own right.  Her stories – for she tells more of herself than she does in her tale – are about the emancipation of women, and that this is a precondition for love.  Indeed, it is a condition for living mythically.

And so we come to Gossen, who has cast himself as Chaucer, and hired out Echo to be his Alysoun.  He is stepping into the myth that he cherishes, and this is the need that the Dollhouse fulfills.  However, Gossen does not realize the price.  He thinks he is in control, but he is not, for stepping into myth is a surrender.  He thinks he will be sexually fulfilled – that this is his surrender – but he doesn’t understand that you can’t just jump to the end of the story.  Well before apotheosis, one must surive the Belly of the Whale which confers death and rebirth.  Gossen is stabbed in the neck and falls.

Gossen wants to be Chaucer, but this is not how it begins.  Had he really known his fairy-tales (and does Kiki know them better for mistaking Middle English with hobbits?) he’d be on the path of Briar Rose, who reaches for the spindle – a tool of Fate and hence authorship – knowing full well that the thorny path of surrender that awaits.


Belle Chose a Briar Rose

October 10, 2009

I watched last night’s episode with a dizzying array of emotions.  I laughed hysterically through much of it.  I felt nauseated, and turned on, and entranced.  I was scared, and I experienced utter joy when my vision of how the episode had to play out came true.  And now my head is swimming with how amazingly well-crafted and intricate this episode is; I’m on my knees.  It’s going to take multiple posts to talk about it, because there’s so much here, and I really want to talk about it.

Earlier in the day, I’d been thinking about Briar Rose, and how Echo tells the girl Susan that there’s more than one way to read a fairy tale.  Rather than imagining yourself as the sleeping beauty, why not be the rescuing prince?  The girl reads the story again, this time not with digust but rather glee and passion, for now she can see herself as someone with agency and power; she can imagine saving herself.  Echo, mind you, has been imprinted as a future version of Susan, so this is perhaps more literal than we might think.

This reminds me of how I was taught to read myth.  Myths are stories that never happened, but are always happening.  Everything in them happens for a reason, and everything *in* them has a meaning.  They are told over and over again because they speak the truth about the patterns of human life.  Every character is an archetypal aspect of yourself.  To map yourself personally to universal myths is to live mythically, to experience communion, and to see the road before you.  It’s almost like experiencing time-travel, as Jean Houston says, where your future self communicates to your present self, to help you find your path when you are lost.

The story of Briar Rose in this context is very interesting, because Briar Rose is cursed and blessed to prick her finger on a poisoned spindle.  A spindle is used for making thread, and thread is used in making tapestries.  The tapestry is a metaphor for Fate.  The kind of self-awareness it takes to see Fate, indeed to put yourself into it, it’s not unlike dying or losing consciousness.  Or sitting in the Chair.  Her future self is the Prince, and her entire kingdom gets the message when she gets the message, a kiss.  She saves herself through self-love, but also love of the Other, for she is also not the Prince.

So I’m watching Belle Close realizing that Echo is remembering all the people she has been, that she literally steps into their stories (or rather, they step into her) and that they change her.  She’s like a tapestry, weaving every thread she touches into her being.  She saves them, in a sense, and it seems without reservation.  We’ve seen this over and over in her.  As Caroline, she tried to save the animals from being science experiments.  She tries to lead the Dolls out into the light.  As Eleanor Penn, she saves the kidnapped girl.  Her facility for this is rooted in her empathy.

Disconnect

In Epitaph One, we see a Flash from the Chair.  It’s a FlashForward from our perspective, but a FlashBack for the little girl who’s experiencing the memory as Caroline is transferred to her body.  The Flash is a conversation between Adelle and Caroline.  Caroline has returned to the Dollhouse, breaking a hole through a concrete block wall.

ADELLE: You’ve come to save the innocent lambs?

CAROLINE: They’re not lambs, DeWitt. I think I’ve mentioned that before.

ADELLE: What about the rest of us, Caroline? Are you going to save us, too? Or have you come to kill us?

CAROLINE: Can you give me a reason not to?

ADELLE: I’m not going to plead with you. Your mind’s made up.

CAROLINE: Yes, it is.

Caroline has a coldness to her that I’ve never seen in Echo.  She’s judgmental.  Adelle knows it, and Caroline has no reservations about it.  This scene has felt very “off” to me, until Belle Chose.

The Garden of Eden

At the beginning of the episode, we get into some really juicy dynamics.  Paul is looking for Echo in the showers, he’s echoing her name (did anyone else notice the twin mirrors?) and then he sees her naked.  He looks down at her naked body, once, and to his credit keeps eye contact with her the rest of the scene.  He’s uncomfortable, the way guys are when they’re trying to be professional and respectful.

Paul:  Would you like, ehm…  a…  towel?

Echo:  Yes.  Thank you.  I’m wet.

She is unabashed and without shame.  Topher, on the other hand, gets embarrassed just saying “man reactions”, which is itself a dampening of more robust terms like “erections” or “hardons.”  Echo smiles a bit as she says it, and I wonder if she’s aware of the double-entendre.  She looks down at herself, and then at Paul’s crotch.  She doesn’t go any further with it, though, and soon she’s ready for her next treatment.  She’s not trying to exert any power, nor does she cast any judgment.

And it’s been said (especially by Topher) that there’s no judging in the Dollhouse, but it means something different as understood by a Doll.  Dolls aren’t fallen; they don’t know how to judge.  The people who run the Dollhouse, on the other hand, are quite familiar with judgment and attempt to gloss their activities with a relativistic spin.  Adelle sugarcoats the new patient, and Topher paints himself as a humanitarian.  Some withdraw, like the handlers who treat their work as security guards at the mall.

The Snake

Echo, now Kiki, is blithely unaware of all this.  Her engagement is with a best-selling English professor.  She primps in the mirror, half-aware, and soon she is off to have her shiny clean mind filled with the delicious golden apples of her most beneficent charmer, Edmond Gossen.  He spins a tale of empty-headed medieval writers, and implores his students to explore the Economics of Love through Chaucer.  Kiki becomes his star pupil, receiving instruction on how to be the perfect Alice.

So, I have to say, I loved this whole scene, even as I found it disturbing on several levels.  Unlike Kiki, who’s in over her head, I find it pretty easy to compare The Wife of Bath’s Tale to this Dollhouse tale.  The professor uses it as a metaphor to instruct his pupil.  And here’s where I feel the fireworks:  the smudged blackboard (our “clean slate” and a reference to the pilot episode) has Pope Gregory VII’s dying words on it.  This opens up a whole line of connections to religious and secular authority, and how the divine is mediated between social institutions and indidivudals.

Even Kiki’s name has a plethora of venues to explore.  Kiki’s Delivery Service, the story of a young witch coming into her power, which is a function of her belief in herself.  Or the 1931 move Kiki, about a fired showgirl who’s in love with her boss, Victor – and Echo has been juxtaposed with Victor throughout the episode.  How about Kiki de Montparnasse, the self-made artist, model, and singer who was born Alice Prin?

Alice in wonderland, more like!  This episode could make for several dissertations, if I put my mind to it!  So many ways to make sense of it all, so many connections, such rich irony and structure and resonance.  It makes me excited, and this is where I converge and diverge with Kiki at the same time.  I’m in the position of student, but I’m turned on by the knowledge of my professor and learning what he knows, not by the prospect of an A on my paper, an A that only means I know how to use my sex.

Echo’s been cast as Alice before, mind you.  In Echoes, she’s the Doll who breaks her programming because she sees an emergency on the news that resonates with her life as Caroline.  She leaves her client tied to the bed, and goes exploring the campus of Rossum, gaining entry through a “rabbithole.”  That psychedelic episode showed us yet another glimpse of Echo’s desire to save, but coupled via FlashBack with Caroline’s own judgment of the corporation, which uses knowledge as power, and exercises power without apparent empathy.

So is it time to go down the rabbit-hole again?  I hope you think so, because this is just the beginning.


Dollhouse – Ghost Revisted

October 9, 2009

Adelle:  Nothing is what it appears to be.

From the very beginning, we are warned that Dollhouse is deceiving.  We are being set up to be tricked.  We are being conned.  Cogito Ergo Sum.  And yet, there is truth to be found in this story.  Dollhouse is epic mythology, and myths are stories that never happened yet are always happening.  The truth of Dollhouse is not on the surface, but underneath, not in its historicity but in it patterns.  We will be challenged by irony, and informed by metaphor.  Adelle is speaking to us as much as she’s speaking to Caroline.  Through polysemy, we can receive divine revelation, because we have a choice in interpretation.

Adelle offers Caroline a clean slate, and this is our next metaphor.   John Locke proposed that we are blank slates, ready to be scrawled on by experience, and as Caroline rightly points out, once the scrawling begins, something is left behind.  The mind – the slate – will be wiped clean, all shiny and new, by Topher’s magic chair, but as we will learn, technology has its limits.  There’s a ghost of what was there before, left behind, and that ghost is its own causal force.

Adelle makes an offer Caroline can’t refuse:  what if actions did not have consequences?  The answer is Epitaph One.  (By the way, I happen to have Adelle’s tea set.  It’s lovely.)

Our next scene tells us more of Dollhouse’s conventions.  Echo accuses Matt of cheating.  Likewise, our writers will be cheating.  They will introduce us to people who can change on a dime.  They don’t even have to know whether a character is or is not a doll – anyone can be revealed as a doll through clever writing.  Anyways, Matt accuses Echo of being a sore loser, and Echo claims, “I’ve never lost.”  I have my own theory that Dollhouse is inspired by Whedon’s experience with Lost.  Lost also begins with John Locke and Tabula Rasa, and employs the same trick of pulling the camera back to change the context and framing of the events depicted; everything change.  This is not unlike the children’s toy called Jacob’s Ladder, which flips back and forth incessantly.  It’s also alluded to at the end of Epitaph One, as Caroline leads people out a window (through glass) and up a ladder into the sunlight.

Matt tells Echo of their agreement that there were no strings, and Echo quips that their rules have already changed: they also said no ropes, but that didn’t last.  Matt says, “Yeah!  I remember… I remember it all.”  Echo claims she’ll never forget, but of course she will.  This conversation turns ironically as she’s taken away in black van and given a treatment, wiping away all her memories.  And here’s how the Jacob’s Ladder works:  in the Season 2 premiere, Echo now claims that she remembers everything.  She’s learned to resist imprinting.  The series premiere becomes inverted by the revelations of subsequent events.

Matt waves goodbye to Echo, and he describes his encounter to a friend, likening Echo’s departure to that of Cinderella.  Reality changes at the stroke of midnight, chariots become pumpkins, and princesses become handmaidens.  It’s not really midnight, it’s five o’clock, but the lack of historicity highlights that the truth is in the metaphor.  Echo *is* Cinderella, metaphorically speaking.  And isn’t it delicious that this scene takes place at a Chinese restaurant!  Eastern philosophies will also be in play in Dollhouse, especially Joss’s adored concept of “negative” or empty space; consider Hush or The Body from Buffy.  Is the body an empty shell, a blank slate?

Echo:  Maybe I shouldn’t go back.  The last thing I want to be is clingy…

Lost is predicated on the myth of the Eternal Return, and one its primary catchphrases is “go back”.  To “go back” is a loaded phrase; it has many meanings.  On the Island, to “go back” doesn’t just mean returning to a previous location, but returning to a previous *time*, and this is accomplished through dying.  It’s not unlike the Eastern concept of reincarnation.  We repeat an endless cycle of  birth, death, and rebirth, a cycle of suffering born of attachment.  So Echo’s comment is really quite funny – can she let go of her attachments and exit the cycle of suffering?  In a manner of speaking, yes she can, thanks to the Chair.

The Chair is an invention of Topher Brink, and I just want to say that I love this name for this character.  His technology takes us to the brink, literally on the edge of apocalypse.  The other thing about his name is that it’s a shortening of Christopher.  Topher is an “incomplete” name, it lacks Christ, and this is an apt description of Topher Brink.  He may well be the AntiChrist, metaphorically speaking.

Topher:  Hello, Echo.  How are you feeling?

Echo:  Did I fall asleep?

Topher:  For a little while.

Echo:  Shall I go now?

This is another of Dollhouse’s metaphors, encoded into the rituals of the Chair.  What does it mean to be asleep?  What does it mean to be awake?  Which is better?   Jacob’s Ladder is a metaphor for the numinous experience of Enlightenment, which may well be convergent with the Buddhist experience of the Godhead.  In a sense, the Dolls are closer to God than those who run the Dollhouse.  The Dolls live in paradise, a place before or beyond the Fall (which is why the Dollhouse is a place without “judgment”, and Topher will invoke Shakespeare a bit later claiming “there’s nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.”)  The Dolls are souls without the baggage of ego, without the illusion of a constructed personality, and possibly without “thought” as we understand it.

“Shall I go now?” evokes a similar phrase that is invoked on Lost.  In Lost, Christian Shephard magically appears on a freighter to tell the character Michael that he “can go now”, just before the freighter explodes.  Another character, Miles Straum, tells the ghost of poor woman’s dead son that he “can go now” as he exorcises the spirit of the drug dealer.

To “go now” is a phrase given to those who are dead, in the new mythology, and so it is with the Dolls.  They are zombies, as Caroline describes later.  They sleep in coffins with glass lids embedded in the floor.  And yet being dead does not mean being gone; Dolls are dead but they are also still here, they are alive.  Later we will discover that an experience in the Chair is like dying.  Adelle says your life will flash before your eyes; Paul complains that being wiped is like being murdered.  Even a dead woman comes back to life, if only for a while, in order to solve her own murder.  Again, this is an allusion to Jacob’s Ladder, or Enoch’s Ascension – the experience is like dying, like sacrifice.

Echo:  I can’t remember what fell on me.

Claire:  Does that bother you?

Echo:  Should it?

Claire:  We’ll look after you.

Echo:  Does someone look after you?

In her Doll state, we see the natural expression of Echo.  Echo is empathic.  She feels what other people feel.  She has compassion.  She touches Claire’s scars, and Claire recoils.  Claire has been scarred, she is no longer perfect, she is flawed.  She’s also put off by Echo, and leaves her to go set up a massage; Echo wanders up to the Chair, where Sierra is getting her first traumatic whipe.  Topher claims that they are making her “better, but Echo recognizes that “she hurts,” again showing us that she has some soul to her.

Contrast this behavior to what Paul Ballard will say.  He is being grilled by his bosses, while we see him boxing in a juxtaposed flashback.  Ballard is deceiving his superiors – he claims that it won’t be a problem to “back off”, but his boxing match demonstrates that he is not the type to back off.  Ballard is concerned about the imprinting process he’s heard of, that one’s personality is removed completely for another; he likens it to people walking around having been “murdered.”  He’s right – they are zombies – but he’s also wrong, because there’s still someone there.

Davina: I don’t understand.

Gabriel:  You don’t have to understand.  You just have to do as I tell you.

So there’s this dynamic of parent and child in a lot of religion.  God is conceived as Father, and we get a taste of one version of this conception through a daughter and her father.  In this example, the Father is supposed to be obeyed.  He is the source of authority.  Just do what you’re told, follow the plan.  Davina calls her father a “tyrant” at the end of their phone conversation – notice that this version of God is not present, though Gabriel offers Davina a “present” for finishing her homework, and that “present” is knowledge.  Knowing comes from study, from reading.  And in the Eastern mindset, it comes from “being present.”  Davina doesn not receive knowledge from her father, but rather direction.

Davina wonders aloud if she can cheat.  She could pretend that she’s studied, that she knows, and her father wouldn’t know.  He disagrees, claiming that he could see it all over her face, even if she was sleeping.  This is an all-knowing father.  Well, so he thinks: his daughter is kidnapped (in a body bag) right out from under his nose.

Gabriel asks Adelle to deliver him a negotiator, someone to save his daughter.  He wants it to go like “clockwork”, a word he repeats twice.  His savior will be someone from the Chair, someone modified to suit his needs, and this may be a nod to A Clockwork Orange, which also features “social programming”.  The little girl must be saved… and this is echoed and reversed in Epitaph One, as the savior of humanity is imprinted into the body of a little girl.

Back to Ghost:  The little girl is kidnapped by a man calling himself Mr. Sunshine, which sounds near enough like another version of God.  In some Gnostic myths, what we know of as the Universe is actually the product of a mistake.  An Aeon, Sophia, gave birth on her own – without a partner.  Her son is the insane creator demiurge who made a universe of imperfection and suffering.  Mr. Sunshine is a source of pain and suffering.  Later we will meet Alpha, who is also a creator of pain and suffering, himself the product of a “mistake”: composite imprinting upon a broken Doll.

Echo: I’m Eleanor Penn.  Our mutual friend referred me.

Gabriel: I’m sure he did.  I’m a little surprised, though, that he sent you.

Echo: I’m good with people.  I put them at their ease.

Gabriel: In my experience, a beautiful woman never puts anyone at their ease.  Fatherly types do that.

Eleanor!Echo does not put the fatherly type at ease.  On the contrary, her crisp and evocative manner is striking and startling to him; he’s turned on.  She is the embodiment of the male conception of female power; she is a creation of Topher’s.  She isn’t there to administer justice, which is reserved for patriarchs, but rather to facilitate an exchange – again, we are warned not to attempt “judgment” on the Dollhouse.

Eleanor Penn is an interesting name, especially in light of “our mutual friend.”  The story byDickens features cascading reveals, changing aliases and confidence games, a doll’s dressmaker, and the theme of spiritual rebirth amidst the pressure of social roles; like Dollhouse, it was published serially.  Our Mutual Friend is also a book featured on Lost: Desmond David Hume plans to read it on his deathbed, and in it he find a key that ultimately sends him back in time.  He meets Eloise “Ellie” Hawking an interventionist who convinces him to make the same painful choice he made before, to preserve his path to the Island.  After the time-travel event he is reborn, literally naked.  Eleanor Penn, also called Ellie, is also a sort of interventionist dropped deus ex machina into the drama of Gabriel and Davina.

Gabriel reacts sexually to Eleanor Penn, he is too distracted by her beauty.  He would prefer someone like Edward James Olmos, who played Admiral Adama in Battlestar Galactica, another epic mythology that deconstructs patriarchal culture.  Echo counters with superior knowledge: she’s done this her whole life, and she knows from experience that a “fatherly type” would *not* be as likely to save Gabriel’s daughter from these sort of kidnappers, who are so brazen as to steal her from bed.  However, it will be Eleanor’s personal experience with one of the kidnappers that brings salvation, for Eleanor has been created from several peoples’ memories, one of which identifies the child abductor among Mr. Sunshine’s gang, the one with psychosexual motives rather than financial ones.

Topher:  You see someone running incredibly fast, the first thing you got to ask is, “Are they running to something, or are they running from something.  And the answer is always both.  So these personality imprints, they come from scans of real people.  Now, I can create amalgams of these personalities, piece from here or there, but it’s not a Greatest Hits, it’s a whole person.  Achievement is balanced by fault, by a lack.  Can’t have one without the other.

Topher’s philosphy of personality creation is also the philosophy of character creation in postmodern drama.  The flawed hero is much more interesting and believable than one who is “perfect.”  So Eleanor is nearsighted – and this is a metaphor for the lack of perspective she actually has regarding her identity, not to mention *our* lack of insight in what Dollhouse technology actually entails – there is so much we just don’t know.  Eleanor also has asthma, which is the focus of a deception in Lost’s eighth episode, Confidence Man.

Eleanor: You have to trust that I’ve done this many, many times.

Gabriel: I have to trust that, right.  Yesterday you weren’t a nurse or a clown in the circus.

Eleanor: What?

Gabriel: You’re the best.  The best one they could send.  Why is that?  What makes you so good at this?

Eleanor: I don’t have any hobbies.

Eleanor is also programmed to have had the experience of being the victim of child abduction.  This “flawed” childhood turns out to be the perfect solution for solving Davina’s case, for this memory leads her to realize who she’s up against.  She is simultaneously running towards something and away from something; she is *crossed*, she can embody contradictory positions.  She is perfect and flawed, and perfectly flawed.

She has done this many many times, and yet she has never done this before.  Both of these statements are true, but they are true in different ways.  The persona of Eleanor has been constructed with many many memories of saving abducted children, but Echo has never done this before.  And yet we know now that Echo is perfectly suited to saving people, so she is a perfect match for hosting Eleanor; future knowledge changes our interpretation of the picture.

And isn’t it neat that “being your best” is such a common theme running through the limited consciousness of so many dolls?  Echo is “made” the best by Alpha, by virtue of his “breaking” Whiskey, who was the best until then.

Lubov: You’re about to make a very bad mistake.

Yes, we are.  Lubov is the man Paul Ballard grills, hoping to get information on the Dollhouse.  Unknown to either man, and unknown to us, Lubov is actually Victor, a Doll.  We have all been deceived.

Echo is deceived into believing she’s Eleanor Penn, raped as a girl by a man who claimed he was a ghost, and you can’t fight a ghost.  Her repeated uttering of, “Is it bigger than your thumb?” shows us the dolled-up negotiator as the victim of child abuse, and challenges viewers to check their voyeuristic enjoyment of the show.

We have to consider Echo’s “ghost”.  Her soul.  Her ghost is strong, and resists Boyd’s triggering phrase to have a “treatment.”  Dollhouse has its own “treatments”, slang for doctoring scripts, and that treatment is to conjoin contradictory perspectives and directions.  Echo has a ghost strong enough to faintly resist imprinting: her desire to save the girl gives her the strength to deliver key information to Boyd, even as she succumbs to her programming.

Boyd: You cannot wipe her right now.

Adelle: I can do any damn thing I see fit.  Echo botched the engagement.  She jeopardized this entire operation.

Boyd: You botched it, Miss DeWitt!  You gave her the memory of an abused girl, and you put her face-to-face with her abuser.

So again we have a person in Authority who has made a mistake, who has botched something.  And yet this is not a mistake, for it’s exactly what was needed to create a happy ending.   When are mistakes no longer mistakes?  What makes us think in terms of errors and accidents, anyways?

Boyd:  We have a mission!

Adelle: We prefer to call them engagements.  You have not been here as long as some of the others, so I will overlook the error.

Engagement is an interesting word.  It has other meanings besides encounter, happening, or appointment.  It comes from Middle English, to pledge something as security for repayment of a debt.  This is exactly the context presented to us in the first scene:  Caroline is pledging her body – and with it her soul – to the care of Adelle in exchange for not having to face the consequences of her actions.  Adelle is helping her to get off a hook of some sort or another – indeed, Caroline’s “error” will be overlooked for her pledge.

Engagement also connotes betrothal, which is the focus of the Season 2 premiere.  This is also a metaphor for a primary treatment in Dollhouse narration, that there are two polarities conjoined into one.  Everything has a second meaning; this is true for myth.

Eleanor realizes that there is a “second” schoolteacher, that this is the informant of the group who knew of Davina in the first place.  Davina’s schoolteacher is named James Shepherd, another ironic religious invocation.   Then we learn that the person whose brain scan gave Eleanor the memory of the child abuser commited suicide a year ago.  A part of Eleanor is nearly literally a ghost resurrected with the opportunity to avenge her own trauma – a theme revisted in Haunted.

She confronts the abuser, reminds him that she was left for dead in a river, but she wasn’t really dead.  And now *he* can’t fight this ghost, as she successfully recruits one of the other thugs to turn on his partner.  The abuser is shot dead.  And then in a lovely bit, Eleanor tells Davina that they are “going now,” and that they’ll be okay.  The man who turned on his partner encourages them to “go now”, but then another Doll blasts through the front door and the redeemed kidnapper perishes.

Caroline: I’d like to take my place in the world, like Mrs. Dundee said.  Global recovery, doctors without borders, the world is in need of some serious saving.  And I want to travel, travel around the world as I save it.  In a private jet, that I pilot and design… I want to do everything.  Is that too much to ask?

In the final scene, a man watches Caroline’s college yearbook videotape, amidst the cut up bodies of her family.  The man is Alpha, whose file Adelle hands to Dominic, asking how they’re going to “contain” him.  Alpha means “first”, and as such occupies a position at the beginning, the position of creation.  In the pilot episode of the show, we have a little bit of everything.

from The Gospel of Thomas:

Jesus said, “Recognize what is in your sight, and that which is hidden from you will become plain to you.  For there is nothing hidden that will not become manifest.”

“On the day when you were one you became two.  But when you become two, what will you do?”

The disciples asked, “Tell us how our end will be.”  Jesus replied, “Have you discovered, then, the beginning, that you look for the end?  For where the beginning is, there will the end be.  Blessed is he who will take his place in the beginning; he will know the end and will not experience death.”

“When you make the two one, and when you make the inside like the outside and the outside like the inside, and the above like the below, and when you make the male the female one and the same, so that the male not be male nor the female female; and when you fashion eyes in place of an eye, and a hand in place of a hand, and a foot in place of a foot, and a likeness in place of a likeness, then will you enter the Kingdom.”

Jesus said, “Show me the stone which the builders have rejected.  That one is the cornerstone.”

Jesus said, “Whoever believes the All itself is deficient is himself completely deficient.”


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