We’ve seen it all too often before in modern times. Our world and pop culture centers quickly around the next entertainment sensation, only to drop them like a bad habit and monitor it for our enjoyment along the way. To say every media outlet (including us here at the Pop Culture Cosmos) has been guilty of doing just that would be an understatement to say the least. Much of the last fifty years of this societal wrong doing is detailed in the film Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture (2020, Rock Salt Releasing, 75 Minutes, Directed by Nicole Brending), which is available now on Amazon, InDemand, FlixFling, Fandango, Vudu, and Vimeo on Demand.
Told in an extremely crass and graphic style with modified (sometimes horrifically) fashion dolls that evoke Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s Team America: World Police, Dollhouse is a bleak portrait following the rise and subsequent fall from grace of pop star Junie Spoons. Junie’s tale is told through a mockumentary style combining elements from VH1’s Inside the Music, 60 Minutes, TMZ, to Inside Edition as it showcases the media’s cellacious attempts to follow every aspect of her life. It details in greater excess how the press became much more aggressive as Junie’s life began to spiral downward. With Spoons’ character clearly being influenced by everyone from Paris Hilton and the Kardashians, to Britney Spears and Patti Hearst, her career and life in the film follows an all-too familiar path that leads into a wild excess of self-destruction.
From graphic sex tapes to an O.J. Simpson-Ford bronco chase to being kidnapped by a Siamese terrorist organization, Junie’s descent borrows from so many negative elements of our modern culture that the film struggles at times to keep centered on the larger message that it’s trying to convey. It strays off that narrative even more in the third act when the movie shifts to a new character who will go to any (including surgical) lengths to become Junie Spoons and on a gay couple whose auction purchase viewers won’t soon forget. But mixed within the constant barrage of borrowed influences are scenes of spot-on story telling that provide moments of true clarity on the evils of our society. A particular high spot is the creation of a Junie Spoons Frogger-style video game in which the player tries to evade the paparazzi while dodging through traffic, which unfortunately leads to an ambulance ride for an epic fail. Junie’s life is a synopsis of so many tragedies we’ve seen and followed before with a parent looking to exploit her at every turn, misogynistic and abusive lovers leading to one bad decision after another, and pysochotic fans looking to get (sometimes literally) every part of her they can get.
Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture much like its title leaves no doubt as to why it exists. This movie is a response to the way our media and our culture can dehumanize our stars and tear them down just as quickly as they can build them into larger-than-life idols. Nicole Brending’s in-your-face take will be too heavy-handed and have too much adult-oriented content for many viewers out there who just don’t (or won’t) get what the movie is trying to say. For others, it will be the ultimate one hour and fifteen minute middle finger to our society that will also remind them about the tragedy of human exploitation.