Slamdance 2019: Dollhouse

A still from Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture.

Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture is blatantly transphobic in its efforts to take a satirical look at misogyny.

Writer-director Nicole Brending examines the life of fictional child star Junie Spoons by way of Behind the Tinsel.  It’s clearly a satirical take of Behind the Music or similar series.  While this format works, it only does so to an extent.  Brending does not even allow the film’s subject to tell her own story.  Instead, this job belongs to other people, including those who know her.  This includes mother Patricia, former record label executive Terry Mayweather, expert Dan Snotgrass, ex-boyfriends, publicist, and the like.  In addition to the interviews, we get the typical news clips and even interviews with Diane Sawyer.

I get what Nicole Brending is trying to do here.  We see how women do not get the same opportunities as men in the industry.  This is especially true when it comes to the opportunities for women behind the camera.  I realize that the misogyny exists.  Trans-misogyny also exists in how transgender people are treated.  Despite all of this, Brending’s film seems to imply that transgender women are men.  All one needs to do is take a look at the entire second half of the film.  This is the part of the film in which trans Junie Spoons is front and center.  Sadly, this part is where Brending loses me.

The following text is taken verbatim from the end credits:  “Even though this film depicts the actual, crazy shit that people do to women, the characters represented in this film, including those based on real people, are fiction.”

Do you remember Chris Crocker?  He’s the guy who uploaded the Leave Britney Alone video on YouTube.  What Dollhouse does is spoof that video buy having some guy named Larry upload a similar one.  In this case, it’s Leave Junie Alone.  While they should have just ended it here, Brending decides to take things to an edgier place.  It turns out that Larry thinks he’s really Junie Spoons.  He goes as far as undergoing electrolysis and a number of elective surgeries.  While Crocker has explored gender identity, it’s nothing like what’s depicted in the film.  To my understanding, Crocker never underwent surgery or told the world that he’s really Britney Spears.

There’s a whole “trans celebrity community” depicted in the film.  It’s nothing like actual transgender celebrities who I wish had a bigger profile when I was growing up.  No, we’re talking the likes of a white boy who thinks he’s Rihanna and goes so far as to start the process of changing his skin color!

While satirical look at American popular culture may be just that but the results are blatantly transphobic.  I’ve watched films that have been borderline or mildly transphobic.  What Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture does is take home the prize for being strikingly transphobic.

CAST:  Nicole Brending, Sydney Bonar, Aneikit Bonnel, Erik Hoover, Peter Ooley, Adam Sly

Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity from American Popular Culture screens during the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival in the Narrative Feature program. Grade: 1/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.