Author Archive

I thought it was interesting how much the interviewed “civilians” in Dollhouse differed in their opinions on whether or not the idea of a dollhouse was ethical. Some people went as far as to say it’s functionally the same thing as slave trade, while others were more of the opinion that it’s a pretty sweet deal—you get to hang out with rich people, eat for free and never work a day in your life (sort of). I have to agree, while I don’t wish we had anything like the dollhouse in reality, the job itself definitely has some perks (such as not having to work). However this comes at the cost of independence, and I’d certainly never want to trade in my memories and ability to form new ones just for an easy life. Regardless, this got me thinking—would the fact that the “dolls” agreed to take up the position (though it’s unclear if they can even do this) make the practice more ethical?

It seems reasonable to have this type of service if people choose to become a doll—it’s just a job (albeit a strange one). I’m not sure if it’s OK to consent to something like this, though. It seems in episode 6 that the dolls’ old personality and memories are all removed from their minds first thing, so that they become a new person in an old body. This subject also came up a bit in our discussions of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom—are you the same person if you lose some or all of your memories? If in the process of becoming a doll you lose all your memories, are you still yourself? If not, can you consent for whoever’s the doll now?

I don’t know how I feel about someone agreeing to become a doll on the terms that their mind/brain/personality won’t have to experience what their body does. It’s hard to tell if becoming a doll and having dolls around is ethical—can you consent to get rid of your mind and put a new one in there, then have it work as a modern slave of sorts? Regardless, it would certainly be strange to want to lose all your memories and at least some of your personality. I wouldn’t want to lose any of my memories, even the bad ones, because each memory is part of who I am. And if you didn’t lose your “self” in the process of becoming a doll, who would want to do the things the dolls are sent to do? Maybe if you could erase the memory of the experience after it happened, but then for one thing you wouldn’t really be the same person anymore, and for another you’d be really unethical because you’d go around killing people because you can forget about it more completely and easily than most. So I think I am anti-doll on a personal level as well as ethically. Out of curiosity, would any of you be interested in becoming a doll and, if so, why?

Another possible ethical concern with the practice of having dolls in society is that they are allowing for “real” people to develop questionable ethics. If you knew that the dolls had consented to become dolls, would you feel better about using them in ways you wouldn’t “use” normal humans? I think mutual respect is something that holds society together in a way, and I’d be worried about how having dolls around would break that understanding.

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As I was finishing Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, it came to my attention that I had developed a strong affinity for Jules. I really hadn’t noticed how much I was rooting for him until page 183, when that plebe Kim told Jules “Don’t stay here and don’t come back. Ever,” with “an evil look on her face”. How dare she, after all that Jules did for her! But then I started thinking…what had Jules done for her, his ad-hoc and Disney World as a whole?

He definitely is passionate about his ideas and the Haunted Mansion—it seems he is often sitting around his abode brainstorming ways to make the ride better and faster. However, it is at times unclear whether his passion is for the ride or the Whuffie. For some reason I thought that he did not care if people thought worse of him for his Whuffie, but while I was looking for supporting evidence I ran across these moments…

(pg. 188, after Jules “bottoms-out”) “Scared. I trembled when I ascended the stairs to Dan’s room, when I knocked at his door, louder and harder than I meant, a panicked banging.”

(pg. 85, when Jules discusses his new plans for the Mansion) “Think of the Whuffie!”

It seems more likely that Jules is, as most of the Bitchun society, preoccupied with gaining Whuffie and finds himself completely lost without it.

It would have been one thing if Jules had waged war on Debra’s ad-hoc, attempted to destroy the Hall of Presidents and embarrassed his ad-hoc in public (in the end lowering their Whuffie, counterproductively) if it had been for the love of the Mansion, but perhaps it was for the Whuffie instead.

While I’ve been empathizing with Jules, he’s been wreaking havoc on Disney World for selfish reasons. Why try to keep the Mansion project to yourself when you could team up with another ad-hoc (Debra’s) to make better and faster improvements? That would even be the more Bitchun thing to do—anything that increases productivity. Instead Jules does what he can to get credit for any success.

Despite all this, I was and continue to be team-Jules. Did anyone find themselves empathizing with Debra, Lil or Dan instead? When I think through it, any of these characters could be the protagonist—perhaps Doctorow’s novel was from the perspective of the “bad guy”.

I was curious if Doctorow meant to do this—did he know that non-Bitchun readers would unconsciously side with the least Bitchun character? Even though he seems Whuffie-obsessed, Jules is the only character who refuses to dead-head on airplane rides and use a back-up when he’d risk losing memories, much like most of us said we’d do given the same choices. Does he intend for Jules to be the “hero”? If not, what point is he making by showing us how stubborn we are about our habits (that we would side with the antagonist simply because we can relate to him best)?

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In Chapter 7, Le Guin gives us some interesting insight into the role of women in Urrasti culture through Vea Doem Oiie. As Vea tours Shevek around Neo Esseia she shares her experience with the propertarian society on Urras and a woman’s place in it.

Ever since his conversation with Kimoe about the status of women on Urras, Shevek has been under the impression that, according to the Urrasti, women were significantly inferior to men. Kimoe’s simple disbelief that he could ever consider women equals – “You can’t pretend, surely, in your work, that women are your equals?” (Le Guin, 17) – erased all hope Shevek had that Urras and Anarres could relate on this point. Given this, what I found most interesting about Vea’s interpretation of a female’s role was that she believes them to be, in fact, superior to men on Urras. According to Vea, “women do exactly as they like” (Le Guin, 214). And this isn’t limited to dressing up, hosting parties and sleeping until noon (as I have been led to believe by previous encounters with Urrasti women). As Shevek so deftly puts it – what is it they do? “Why, run the men, of course!” (Le Guin, 215). Vea paints a picture of women who seem to be content with compliance, because they secretly know that they control the men in other, less overt ways. The difference between men and women is not that men are more important to society or dominant over the women, but that the two genders become “self-content” in very different ways. While this seems like a great balance (the men get what they want but the women are all happy appearing inferior), I still feel like I would be uncomfortable in a situation such as this. What do you all think – is the pleasure of being self-content worth the price of others thinking of you as a subordinate? If you’re self-content, does it matter if other people think you’re inferior?

Vea’s assertion becomes a bit less convincing when, later in the evening, she is talking physics with Shevek and some of his peers. After attempting to enter the conversation, a man discredits her point and she is “relieved to be put in her place” (Le Guin, 224). It doesn’t seem that she is content to seem inferior while secretly be in control in this situation, she is just more comfortable being in “her place”, which happens to be on a lower intellectual plane than the men.

And so Le Guin presents a philosophy of Urrasti women (as delivered to us by Vea) that seems to contrast the action we see later in the chapter. Do you see some way the actions and words of Urrasti women in practice hold to the theory Vea presented? Also, we’ve seen that on Anarres things aren’t really as equal as they seem – the women scientists are never quite as smart as Shevek needs them to be. On the other hand, women on Urras seem to be very successful at what they do (even though it is not the same thing that men do). Which society do you think is really more equal between the genders? And this is quite broad, but what message is Le Guin trying to send by presenting women in these ways?

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It struck me that Star Trek Episode 28, “The City on the Edge of Forever”, seems to present two different perspectives on the problem of free will. For much of the episode the fearless spacemen Spock and Kirk seem to be at the mercy of random actions of others – they have no control over their fate. However, when it comes down to saving their future world, the characters have a miraculous ability to use their wills to push fate in one direction instead of another. This theme of fate versus free will is explored through a few interactions in the episode, particularly those regarding Edith Keeler.

When Kirk and Spock first land on Earth, circa 1930, they seem hopeless and lost. The men can do nothing but try to survive in the foreign environment and wait for Dr. McCoy’s arrival.

“There could be some logic to the belief that time is fluid, like a river with currents, eddies and backwash.” (Spock)

“And the same currents that swept McCoy to a certain time and place might sweep us there too.” (Kirk)

“Yes that is true captain, we have no hope.” (Spock)

This image of time as a river furthers the idea that Kirk and Spock are pawns in the story, completely at the mercy of fate. The sweeping “current” of time carries them along wherever it may go – you can imagine the men bobbing along in the river with little ability to pursue their own agenda.

Fate again triumphs over free will when Kirk and Spock discover that Edith Keeler’s survival will determine Earth’s future.

“She has two possible futures then, and depending on whether she lives or dies, all of history will be changed. And McCoy…”

“Is the random element.” (Spock)

They do not acknowledge that they have any control over whether or not Edith dies – just that their fate hinges on this event. If Edith does not die, “history will be changed” and their future will disappear, as it did in the beginning of the episode. These two brief exchanges seem to establish the idea that humans cannot use their free will to shape the future.

At the end of the episode there is a complete reversal of the idea that humans are fated creatures – suddenly it is up to Kirk to make the decision that will determine the future. In the words of Spock, Kirk can “…do as [his] heart tells [him] to do, and millions will die who did not die before.” Far from being a pawn at the mercy of chance, Kirk can now use his free will to choose life or death for Edith. Not only is he the master of his own fate, but also that of Edith! I think this image of man as a free agent seems very inconsistent with the idea that man is at the mercy of fate that was established in the beginning of the episode.

This episode seemed to tackle a lot of themes – did anyone else notice this tension between free will and fate? Could Kirk have chosen to save Edith? How do you think time is portrayed in the episode, and how does this play into the character’s ability to control their lives?

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I hope you’re all having a nice long weekend! My name is Carmen and I enjoy Indian dancing. I have little experience with science fiction but I’m looking forward to exploring the genre and becoming a well-versed Star Trek fan this semester!

Until Wednesday,


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