Viking Night: Welcome to the Dollhouse
By Bruce Hall
June 21, 2016
What follows are just a few of the things I remember from junior high school.
I remember how strange it was to no longer have a “homeroom.” I remember how the halls seemed big and wide like the ones on Star Trek, so I quietly pretended I was Captain Kirk as I walked around between classes. Now that I think about it, that may be related to the trouble I had making friends. And speaking of friends, the dynamic of each class was very different, because you had a different group of acquaintances in there almost every time.
I didn’t truly realize how monotonous elementary school had been until I was a year or so removed from it.
Which reminds me - I remember how cool it was to have my own locker. This was a first for me, and it felt like getting my own tiny apartment. So, not unlike today, I took great pride in my space. Also not unlike today, when someone wanted to send me a message, they filled that space with silly string and wrote “fuck you” across the front with shaving cream. This was all part of a process, and eventually I arrived at the realization that the tribes we’d previously divided ourselves into contained too many blurred lines. In junior high, we were finally sophisticated enough to split into rudimentary social subclasses. We could finally begin the wondrous transformation into the petty, selfish, pre-pubescent little monsters we were always meant to be.
And with that, many people began a lifelong process of self-loathing - all because of the way they looked one summer when they were 12.
That’s how I remember it, at least. I look back on junior high school the way most people look back on their last colorectal exam. If you are also part of this demographic, you will view Welcome to the Dollhouse with a mixture of morbid curiosity and detached amusement. Have you ever found yourself sitting at an intersection, unintentionally staring at the homeless man with his dog standing on the median? Before you know it, you’re dissecting things about him. How did he get there? Was he in the war? It was raining a half hour ago but he’s not wet. Where was he? Do he and the dog eat out of the same can, like Mad Max?
That would be awesome.
Don’t interpret that as schadenfreude - there’s no pleasure in seeing the situation. But it’s enough to make you stop and think about how fortunate it is that you are where you are, and not where they are. So take that feeling, and pretend the guy is actually dressed like Mad Max and his dog, because that’s his way of making lemonade out of lemons. So as you smile and chuckle a bit, even as you pity him, it feels like less of a moral compromise. This is how I felt as I watched this film - for the first time since it came out in 1995, I might add. Not that I remember much about it; the 1990s were a dark time for me. One thing I did not forget was Heather Matarazzo as the most ironically contemptuous, potentially dangerous 12-year-old I’ve ever seen.