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Film / Welcome to the Dollhouse

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Welcome to the Dollhouse is a 1995 film by Todd Solondz. It stars Heather Matarazzo in her breakout role, as well as being Solondz's breakout movie as a director.

Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo) is an unpopular, unattractive seventh grader whose family treats her as just as much of an outcast. She has great difficulty making friends and is almost always the target of cruel and isolating behavior from her peers. At home, she is the least favorite of the three Wiener children, a fact that is often exploited by her younger tutu-wearing sister Missy (the apple of their parents' eye) in order to get her in trouble. Dawn goes through life in a quiet and awkward state of mind.

One day, Dawn's older brother Mark brings over a high school senior named Steve Rodgers to tutor him in exchange for Steve playing in Mark's band. Upon meeting, Dawn becomes infatuated with the older boy and develops a crush on him. Things get even more complicated for her as one of her classmates Brandon antagonizes her more and more, mostly because he has feelings for her.


While Palindromes is considered a nominal sequel, Wiener Dog was released in 2016.

Not to be confused with the TV series Dollhouse.

This film provide examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: They're either sadistic like Dawn's mother and teacher or ineffectual like her father and principal.
  • Alpha Bitch: Lolita and Cookie at school, Missy at home.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Dawn, mainly.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Missy herself at the end, obviously.
  • Bare Your Midriff: The outfit Dawn wears at her parents' anniversary party.
  • Berserk Button: Don't call Brandon a retard.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Missy.
  • Black Comedy: Darker than the darkest death metal band playing in a pitch-black abyss populated by Eldritch Abominations who hold teens in a state of And I Must Scream while shouting "bloody murder" in a collective groan composed of the cries of dying children. Ah, The '90s...
  • Black Comedy Rape: A number of examples. Brandon arranges ahead of time that he was going to rape Dawn and they reschedule when it doesn't work out the first time. He doesn't actually go through with it.
    • Missy is kidnapped by a pedophile neighbor. He doesn't seem to have done anything to her, however, beyond filming her pirouette in her tutu.
    • Mary Ellen Moriarity, a girl who spoke at Dawn's school about the dangers of talking to strangers, was kidnapped while memorizing her lines for "Hello Dolly." It is also hinted that she may have been raped.
  • Black Sheep: Dawn.
  • Butt-Monkey: Dawn is a rather dark, humorous example. Extreme is not strong enough a word.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Unlike her tormenters, Dawn pays dearly the few times she tries to fight back, as when she gets in trouble with the principal for hitting a teacher with a spitball meant for Brandon. Her odious mother actually tells her that she has no right to fight back.
  • The Charmer: Steve.
  • Classical Anti-Hero: Dawn's an insecure and unloved Pinball Protagonist who's trapped in a downward spiral of misery who's either unable or unwilling to improve her situation.
  • Crapsack World: Well, it is a Todd Solondz movie.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Implied to be the way Dawn sprained her finger. Or so she wants Steve to think.
  • Downer Ending: In the end, nothing at all has improved for Dawn, and she's in the exact same miserable state as before.
    • Made even worse in the semi-sequel Palindromes when it's revealed that Dawn killed herself in the end.
    • Averted in Wiener-Dog, which through a Retcon or Alternate Universe, throws her massive bone and implies she may very well be on the way to getting her happy ending. Dawn has grown up, gotten a steady job as a veterinary nurse, and managed to reunite and reconnect with Brandon.
  • Dreadful Musician: Mark and his band.
  • Eating Lunch Alone: Dawn is rejected from every table in the school cafeteria, the scene to purely encapsulate the mood of the movie it was used in the trailer as well.
  • Extreme Doormat: Dawn couldn't stand up for herself.
    • She does try to on a couple of occasions but just gets in worse trouble.
  • Family Portrait of Characterization: In one scene, a portrait of the Wiener family where they are posed properly (if with an artificial air) is shown. In the background we can hear Dawn arguing with her parents; in contrast to their well-dressed selves in the portrait, they are dressed in gaudy clothes.
  • For the Evulz: Seemingly the raison d'etre of anyone who makes Dawn miserable. For instance, the whole reason why Lolita wanted to watch Dawn take a dump was simply because she could.
  • Handsome Lech: Steve.
  • Henpecked Husband: Dawn's father comes across this way. When he tells her to listen to her mother and "make things easier on herself," it's as though he's speaking from experience.
  • Hope Spot: Ironically, Missy's abduction. For a little while it even looks like Dawn is now appreciated by her family at least, and Dawn herself seems to be resolved to take her life into her own hands.
  • Humans Are Bastards
  • Imagine Spot: Used when Dawn goes to New York after her sister is kidnapped. She imagines finding Missy and her life instantly improving.
  • I'm Going to Disney World: In a brief phone conversation between Dawn's mother and an unknown friend, it's brought up that Dawn is supposed to be going on a trip to Disney World with the school glee club, and to the mother's bewilderment confides in her friend that she doesn't understand why Dawn would apparently NOT want to go on the trip. In the end, Dawn is on the school bus with the choir traveling on the interstate. Though it's not said where it was going, it can be assumed that Dawn was forced to go to Disney World with her classmates after all.
  • Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Everything Dawn wears, but a lot of the other characters too.
  • Jerkass: Most of the characters, to inhuman extremes.
  • Kids Are Cruel / Teens Are Monsters: Dawn's classmates. And, of course, Missy.
    • Lolita. One wonders what the other kids see in her.
  • Kubrick Stare: Lolita gives a particularly frightening one during her introductory scene.
  • Junior High
  • Longhaired Pretty Boy: Steve.
  • Loser Protagonist: Again, Dawn.
  • Love Hurts: Dawn and to a lesser extent, Brandon.
  • Love Triangle: Brandon likes Dawn. Dawn kind of likes him, but is completely infatuated with Steve.
  • Loving Bully: Brandon torments Dawn because he likes her.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Missy.
  • Meaningful Name: The Alpha Bitch character's name is Lolita.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Dawn.
  • Nerd: Mark, who is called the "king of nerds" by one character. His friends are pretty nerdy too.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: In the semi-sequel Palindromes, Mark has wholeheartedly embraced nihilism.
  • '90s Anti-Hero
  • Not So Different: Dawn picks on Missy much as her bullies pick on her.
    • Even worse is the way she turns on her only real friend, Ralphie.
  • Parental Favoritism: Dawn's parents, especially her mother, adore Missy and prefer her to the other two kids.
  • Photos Lie: The film opens with a close up of a family portrait of the Wiener family in which everyone is beaming happily at the camera (poor Dawn especially).
  • Precocious Crush: Dawn was crushing hard on Steve, despite him being much older than her.
  • Sadist Teacher: Dawn's teacher who gives her a detention for no good reason and makes her read out loud an essay to the class about grade-grubbing.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Beautiful!: Steve who is a self-absorbed, inconsiderate thief.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Despite all her trials and tribulations, Dawns' situation has not improved by the end of the movie. She's just as miserable as she was before. When you take Palindromes into account, it becomes a Shoot the Shaggy Dog story as Dawn's life only gets worse before she finally kills herself.
  • Shrinking Violet: Dawn again.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Steve.
  • The Sociopath: Lolita.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Pretty much deliberate, as the movie is a Black Comedy based on bitter Irony. Playing heavenly Solveig's Song to what the viewer must think is a prelude to a rape is outright jawsdropping... on the second thought, rather brilliant.
  • Spoiled Brat: Missy yet again.
  • Stepford Suburbia
  • Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Dawn herself in the movie's loose sequel Palindromes.
    • Maybe now, they will leave you alone.
  • Two Decades Behind: In the it's still The '80s sense.
  • The Unfavorite: Dawn and, at least in relation to Missy, her brother Mark.
  • This Loser Is You: Poor, poor Dawn.
  • Unfortunate Implications: In universe, Dawn and Ralphy's club "The Special People Club." Pointed out that it's a club "for retards."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Missy didn't appear in the sequel.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Missy.


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