It Depends on What You Pay

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Title: It Depends on What You Pay
Creator: giandujakiss
Date: 2009
Format: streaming, download
Length: 2:48
Music: "It Depends On What You Pay" from The Fantasticks, sung by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones
Genre: meta
Fandom: Dollhouse
URL: vid announcement
on Youtube

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It Depends on What You Pay is a Dollhouse fanvid by giandujakiss. It was submitted by the OTW as part of its Test Suite of Fair Use Vids in support of the Library of Congress DMCA Exemption Hearings.

Summary from YouTube:

You've come a long way, baby. This vid was originally released in April 2009, after the 10th episode of Dollhouse. Trigger warning for sexual assault.[1]

From the OTW:

"Gianduja Kiss's 2009 vid "It Depends on What You Pay," critiques the recent television show Dollhouse, a science fiction show in which a corporation erases the memories of individuals ("Dolls"), replaces them with new custom personalities, and rents them out for personal, often sexual, use. While this was meant to be a discomfiting and dystopic premise, many female fans felt that the show seemed not to fully understand that it was about rape — that memory erasing represents a fundamental lack of consent — and that rape might not be an enjoyable topic for many female fans. By remixing the show to a cheerful song about rape cut from The Fantasticks (itself a marker of something once considered entertaining and now considered offensive), Gianduja Kiss weighed in on an argument that ranged across both the blogosphere and the mainstream media, making her points efficiently through multimedia; as one feminist blogger noted after watching the vid, "The rape scenes on Dollhouse are rarely shot as rapes. They're party scenes, sport fucks, 'lurve-making'… The fanvid has to impose the horror of what's going on… because outside of the context of the show's premise, there is nothing in most of these shots to encourage the viewer to read the scene in front of them as anything other than what it seems."[2]

Because the vid relied on downloaded footage from Amazon, it has been cited as contributing to the Library of Congress' extension of the DMCA exception to include downloaded/streaming footage. Since the vid was made in 'real time' (as it aired) and was a direct critique to the show's themes, the vidder could not buy the footage through conventional means.

The vid was discussed outside fandom circles, cited in academic articles[3], and recommended by various blogs, including Angry Black Woman[4], Feminist SF[5] and Political Remix Video.

Vidder's Notes

On the song and play:

It Depends On What You Pay is from the 1960 off-Broadway musical The Fantasticks. The original production of The Fantasticks ran continuously for 42 years, making it the world's longest running musical. By 1990, however, for reasons that will be obvious when you see the vid, It Depends On What You Pay had been largely excised from the show. Recent productions of The Fantasticks either include the song with a different set of lyrics, or delete it entirely and substitute a new song in its place...In the song, the word "rape" is used as a synonym for "abduction." The singers are plotting to stage an abduction of a girl so as to provide an opportunity for her boyfriend to heroically intercede and save the day. So nothing in the show requires anyone to actually be raped, but the humor of the song was rooted in the use of the word "rape" over and over..[6]

On Dollhouse

... the show does acknowledge the problems of its premise, especially in later episodes, but then it goes and uses that kind of exploitative cinematography, and does various other things, as though it's giving with one hand and taking away with the other.[7]


At release

Now, I (as we both know), actually have come to like Dollhouse and even enjoy it (and that probably makes me a bad person), but that said: This is perfect. Perfectly gets at the heart of everything that's wrong about the show like a scalpel. Perfect song, perfect clips, perfect editing, perfect choices...[8]

"This was excellent! I loved the dark humor of it and thought the critique was apt and the editing excellent, esp for maximum creepy effect. I am still conflicted over the aims of the show and how well it pulls them off but this was great additional food for thought.[9]

"They're having a discussion of Dollhouse over on Hathor Legacy and I was about to cite your vid until I saw that somebody else had: it's just perfect. You've used your amazing skill to tenderly and ruthlessly dissect every vicious note hiding not so far beneath the surface of the show, and because it's visual, you can use the images the PTB themselves put together to make your point. Marvelously effective, and I'm so glad you took the time and effort to do it. Bravo![10]

This vid, if anything, reminds me most strongly of "Handlebars" for DOCTOR WHO (new series) and "Women's Work" for SPN as vids that so utterly rearranged the way I looked at the canon that I was glad when I realized I no longer had the time or interest in watching the series they were made about because the vids had squicked me out so effectively I'd never be able to shake the nausea in my gut while watching the shows ever again.)[11]

... the reason I had to think about it so long before commenting isn't the video itself, but my reaction to it, which was, for a little while, to be ashamed that I like the show. Because I do like it, to the point that want to write fic and make vids for it, which doesn't happen with everything I watch. At the same time, it squicks me out in a major way, because there is so very much wrong in its execution. But when it isn't trying to be what Fox wants it to be, when it shows that the Dollhouse is human trafficking, maybe at its worst, and prostitution and slavery and institutionalized rape and that it should be brought down - that's when I kind of love it.[12]

And thus are my love of music theatre and my love of angry meta vids brought together in glorious union. THANK YOU. This is, in a nutshell, the problem I have with the show: it's trying to play both sides, to have the interesting exploitation drama while the show itself is trying to sell the sex. Trying to have it both ways is really, really, really disturbing to me. (Especially the commercials with Eliza and Summer Glau. OH HAI WE'RE HOT SEXXAY GIRLS WHO KICK BUTT IN SEXXAY WAYS. Gag.) The best part about this is that this is the word that Joss, Eliza, FOX, and 99% of reviewers are trying desperately to avoid, so it is kind of the most brilliant response of all to use a song that say RAPE RAPE RAPE RAPE RAPE and rubs it in. Even more awesome in a meta way is the way that the song is used in the original setting-- that the ENTIRE POINT of having that song is to rub that word in and make the audience uncomfortable (hopefully uncomfortable with the premise of the kidnapping itself), while at the same time being a cheerful mockery of how lightly we take the whole concept of kidnapping (and, well, RAPE) and how much we're willing to romanticize it. And on the one hand, the song succeeds brilliantly; on the other hand, because it's treating rape so lightly and cheerfully, it can't possibly work. EXACTLY LIKE THIS SHOW. It's such a great combination that I'm getting sort of tongue-tied trying to figure out how to describe the sheer awesomeness.[13]

Gianduja Kiss’s vid brilliantly exposes the fact that these “dolls” have no way to consent to any of their “engagements” – sexual or otherwise – an issue the show ignores. The vid names this disturbing lack of consent for what it is – rape. This calling out of the show’s narrative is an important step in countering the current rape culture and its place in our culture of violence."[14]

I'm still baffled... As someone who spent years in film classes discussing gender issues, feminism etc. (neither of which are the topic here, but related to it)... I still find it very hard to see this major thing that's supposedly "wrong" with the show itself; its "problem" -- or whatever people like to call it. But then, I also fail to see the misogyny in something like "Y: The Last Man", so I'm probably just deluded :-P I just see these kinds of critiques of modern entertainment as having reached a point where you can't subtly debate the issues, without being accused of supporting the "wrong" side. Where every nuance has to be thrown out of the window, and the author has to spoon-feed the point to the audience, lest they decide he/she's saying the opposite of what he/she actually means. Exactly like those two slashes in the previous sentence - and this video. I dunno. I can't watch Dollhouse without having this rape and prostitution angle constantly present in my mind. Guess it's not as obvious as I think. Maybe Dollhouse's model reader is too hidden for mass media, and that's its problem. :-P[15]

This is a great video. I agree with everyone else saying that it is not saying anything that the show itself is not saying; that is to say, it's not really a critique of the show so much as a (partial) articulation of the show's point. Also, I'll just add that this is not the first show to address the evil that people do without giving the audience a good-guy hero to latch onto. "The Sopranos" springs to mind. The things that are different about "Dollhouse" is that everyone was complicit in this evil operation from the very beginning, and the audience was given no indication that any of them were "really" better than it. Also, it doesn't fit easily into a genre (like mob movies) where we are used to seeing bad guys who we like nonetheless[16]


Love this calling out of everything that was problematic about that show. It always got under my skin that the protagonist's basic state is compliant/passive/empty and no matter how much agency she takes on in her personae, the character we're supposed to root for is regularly returned to that vulnerable state, and that as viewers, we're made complicit in the abuse of the various characters.[17]



  1. ^ GiandujaKiss Smithee,in the YouTube description. Published on Oct 26, 2013. Accessed 07 October 2018.
  2. ^ Test Suite of Fair Use Vids, accessed November 8, 2012.
  3. ^ Rebecca Tushnet (2013) Judges as Bad Reviewers: Fair Use and Epistemological Humility, Law & Literature, 25:1, 20-32, DOI: 10.1525/lal.2013.25.1.20
  4. ^ The problem with Dollhouse is not that I don’t understand subtlety dated April 28, 2009.
  5. ^ Working in the Dollhouse archived link dated April 29, 2009.
  6. ^ from the LJ vid announcement.
  7. ^ from the LJ vid announcement.
  8. ^ feedback at the DW vid announcement; WebCite.
  9. ^ feedback at the DW vid announcement.
  10. ^ feedback at the DW vid announcement.
  11. ^ feedback at the DW vid announcement.
  12. ^ feedback at page 2 of the LJ vid announcement; WebCite.
  13. ^ feedback at page 2 of the LJ vid announcement.
  14. ^ Dollhouse – It Depends on What You Pay at the Political Remix Video blog dated July 24, 2009.
  15. ^ comment at the Whedonesque Forum dated April 27, 2009; WebCite.
  16. ^ comment at the Whedonesque Forum dated April 27, 2009.
  17. ^ Comment on YouTube. Published sometime in 2017. Accessed 07 October 2018.