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Todd Solondz's Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy

by Michelle Robinson

This student project studies the various stages of dark fantasies in director Todd Solondz's films, including Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, and "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction" in Storytelling. These stages will include the pre-fantasy, the pure fantasy, and the post-fantasy reflection. Additional commentaries will be provided by students in the course “The Film Director as Public Intellectual” at UNC Chapel Hill (Spring 2014)

Todd Solondz's Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy

by Michelle Robinson

This student project studies the various stages of dark fantasies in director Todd Solondz's films, including Welcome to the Dollhouse, Happiness, and "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction" in Storytelling. These stages will include the pre-fantasy, the pure fantasy, and the post-fantasy reflection. Additional commentaries will be provided by students in the course “The Film Director as Public Intellectual” at UNC Chapel Hill (Spring 2014)

Abducting Popularity in Welcome to the Dollhouse

by Bryant Clements

Dawn’s trip to New York, and subsequent fantasy sequence, serve as a critical and revelatory moment in the emotional development of her character within the context of the narrative. Dawn and Missy, her younger sister, are portrayed as having an antagonistic relationship throughout the film; however, Dawn is always the one being punished for the disputes, while her younger sister remains perfect and unblemished in the eyes of their parents. The strained sisterly bonds are escalated when Dawn’s blatant choice to withhold information from her younger sister results in Missy’s abduction. Her trip to New York, as portrayed in this clip, seemingly serves as a redemptive moment for Dawn, as she plans to ameliorate her mistake by rescuing Missy; however, once the fantasy sequence is revealed, Dawn’s ulterior motives become evident to the audience. The foundation of Dawn’s adolescent motivations are revealed in the “Special People Club” at the beginning of the film, as she tells Ralphy “[she] want[s] to be popular.” Since Dawn’s apparent act of heroism in New York transitions into a sequence of family, friends, and classmates professing their love for her, it may be inferred that her actions were not motivated by distress over her sister, rather the belief that rescuing her will gain her praise and popularity. Since this fantasy sequence is presumably occurring within Dawn’s mind, it gives the viewer a direct glimpse into her psyche and motivations, which reveals self-interest rather than familial concern. While she holds herself in high repute, as this dream sequence attests to, the rest of the world views her as an outcast, and treats her as such. As with Dawn’s previous attempts to do the right thing in the film, including alerting her teacher about a classmate cheating on a test, her good intentions backfire and ultimately garner her scorn and chastisement. Dawn believed that running away to New York would earn her respect and attention; however, it ultimately solidified her status as a “loner” to her parents, as they were not at all concerned by her sudden disappearance. As Solondz explores the various stages of fantasy in his films, this sequence serves as the visual manifestation of Dawn’s internal dreams and desires to be popular.

Blurring the line between fantasy and reality

by Laurie Beth Harris

In Dawn’s dream scene in Welcome to the Dollhouse, Todd Solondz reveals the things Dawn wants most from people — to pay attention to her and love her. By starting the playing out of her fantasy while Dawn is asleep on a New York City street and woken up by her sister’s screams, Solondz blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Up until the point where Dawn’s mother runs up to her on the street, Solondz presents the scene in a way that could be viewed as reality. There’s no background music to indicate that it’s a dream, and the events of rescuing her sister seem possible, if not a bit unlikely. As soon as the music comes in and people start declaring their love for Dawn one after another, it becomes evident that this sequence is actually a fantasy and dream of Dawn’s. The over-the-top classical music removes the string of people telling from the reality of Dawn’s life, emphasizing its place as part of her dream. In addition, none of these people in Dawn’s life have expressed their love for her at any other point in the movie. Solondz presents clip after clip of a medium close-up shot of all the people in Dawn’s life that she wants to love her, saying just that. It ranges from individual people, like her mother and father to a big group of people in the lunchroom at school, emphasizing how much Dawn wants to feel “popular” and loved in all areas of her life. The sheer number of people Solondz includes also suggests that it might not necessarily matter who the person is. Dawn simply wants everyone in her life to love her, regardless of who they are.

Welcome to the Dollhouse: Dawn's Fantasy

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Dawn dreams about the praise she will receive after rescuing her kidnapped sister.

from Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)
Creator: Todd Solondz
Distributor: Suburban Pictures
Posted by Michelle Robinson
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