When one thinks “queer TV,” Joss Whedon’s short-lived series Dollhouse (Fox, 2009-2010) is unlikely to come to mind, as it is perhaps most well-known for the feminist lampooning it received for seemingly romanticizing the non-consensual sex work of its programmed human “dolls”or "actives." Furthermore, gay and lesbian characters appear only in casual asides or brief suggestive flashbacks. In the second season’s seventh episode, “Meet Jane Doe,” Echo (Eliza Dushku), who has begun purposefully slipping into the personas of her past imprints and putting their varied knowledges to use, tells an accomplice that the Dollhouse made her, among other things, “at least seven times gay.” And yet, despite seven out of thirty odd engagements being a surprisingly high ratio, we are never privy to any substantial narrativization of Echo’s lesbian experiences. Instead, I locate Echo and the series’ queerness in the hopeful glimpses she provides into another way of living both with and against the technology at hand and the potentiality felt therein. In doing so, I take inspiration from José Muñoz, who claims that “[q]ueerness is not yet here” precisely because it is that “thing that lets us feel that this world is not enough."
Later in the same episode, Echo uses the collective intelligence of her many personas to break Galena, an abused undocumented Latina immigrant, out of prison. In order that we might feel how Echo practices her resistance, Dollhouse simply but ingeniously refashions the graphics and sounds that it has been using all along to demonstrate its imprinting and erasing technologies. The fragments of memories that we are accustomed to seeing rush back from the screen as they are pulled from a doll’s head, instead rush forward, images of Echo as her past personas blending with that of her in the present, bits of her sonic memories mixing with one another simultaneously. While she shifts between these personas, it is clear that she does not become any one of them. Upon arriving at the criminal, Crystal, that we know to be in her mind, Echo iterates Crystal’s catchphrase, “blue skies,” under her breath before proceeding to instruct Galena as to how they are going to break out, not in the persona’s recognizably southern accent but in Echo’s more neutral voice. Thus, through fairly basic means, the series accomplishes the substantial task of relating an alternative form of subjectivity while also advocating for coalition across causes.