By Lisa Fary
I just got off the phone with Joss Whedon.
OK, there were other media outlets on the conference call, but still. I was on the phone with Joss Whedon. I’d started panicking a bit because it looked like we were going to run out of time before I got to ask a question. I was lucky enough to get the last question in and asked a question submitted by QuoterGal.
Pink Raygun: The Fox promo called the Echo Chamber features Eliza Dushku nude and looking sexually available with the tagline “get to know Echo intimately”. Readers at Pink Raygun are interested to know if this is a standard hot babe come-on or a sexual objectification trope being set up for subversion. Do you fully support the promo and could you explain a little either way?
Joss Whedon: Nice. Finally, something that’s more awful than me saying “Wake up and smell the Acker.*” I absolutely think the question is valid and my answer is a little bit vague. I do support it. I saw the photo shoot and I mostly support it because Eliza is very comfortable with it and is pleased with the photos. She’s very comfortable with her body.
The premise of the show involves these men and women being hired and obviously some of that has to do with sex. That was in the premise from the start, it came from that conversation with Eliza. She wanted to talk about sexuality in whatever show she was doing, not just by virtue of her being hot, but by really examining human sexuality and how it drives us and why it’s important to us. The idea of objectification versus identification, things that I’ve been working on all the time.
I didn’t actually know that tagline was in there, I just knew they released those photos, but it brings up what is ultimately the touchiest issue of the show: are we actually making a comment about the way people use each other that is useful and interesting and textured or are we just putting her in a series of hot outfits and paying lip service to the idea of asking the questions?
I think there are going to be things that people react to differently. Some things will offend some people, some things will not. There are things in it that I’m not positive I support and some of the things that bother me don’t bother any of the other writers. That’s something I’ve been a little bit afraid of, but haven’t shied away from because part of the point is to look at these grey areas and see what of this is innate in us, what do we need from each other, how much do we objectify each other, how much to we use each other – both men and women – and what is actually virtuous.
One of the problems I ran into early on, and this is the only real dissonance between me and the network. was that they didn’t want to deal with these issues. Having bought the show, they didn’t want to deal with the idea of what they are now clearly marketing, the sexy side of it. It’s a classic network problem; you want to evoke this, but then they don’t want to say anything. They don’t want to be specific about it. So, we’ve struggled with that. We’ve struggled with making sure that the show doesn’t, by virtue of playing it safe, become offensive. Because the idea of this show was never to play it safe. The idea was always to be in your face about it.
So, the answer to your question is kind of both. It is just a standard, scantily clad babe come on, and it is ultimately a deconstruction of shame. But, not so much that I would say it’s just done ironically and therefore I am blameless. We are absolutely saying that Eliza is a sexual creature and people desire her for that reason. The idea is to get the audience to look at their own desire and to figure out what of it is acceptable and what is kind of creepy. In order to do that we go to a creepy place sometimes. I’ll be interested to see if people find it empowering or the other thing. I may have crossed the line. Let’s find out.
Moderator: Do you have any closing remarks?
Joss Whedon: I think that one was it. Thanks and I hope you like it and stick with it. Ultimately I’m really proud of it, however confused I may sound. It fell together very beautifully for me and I can’t wait for people to see it.
[*Whedon said this in his response to a question from Rachel Bishop about casting. Rachel and I have determined that he was referring to Angel vet Amy Acker, who plays Dr. Claire Saunders on Dollhouse.]
Lisa Fary’s early exposure to classic Battlestar Galactica in 1979 is largely responsible for her lifelong interest in science fiction and her childhood ambition of being an intergalactic space cowgirl. She thinks diagramming sentences is a fun alternative to Sudoku.
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