Film & TV

Character Study: ‘Welcome to the Dollhouse”s Heather Matarazzo Revives Dawn Wiener

Film & TV

Character Study: ‘Welcome to the Dollhouse”s Heather Matarazzo Revives Dawn Wiener

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Todd Solondz’s Palindromes opens up with a funeral for Dawn Wiener, the painfully awkward heroine of his earlier film, 1995’s Welcome to the Dollhouse. We’re told in that sequence that Dawn went to college, became pregnant and committed suicide—but not so, says Heather Matarazzo, the now 29-year-old actor who won an Independent Spirit Award for playing her. Turns out that Dawn’s death was far more complicated.
To whom it may concern,

If something should happen to me, I want you to know it wasn’t suicide. I write this because of the escalating threats I’ve received since I came to be with child.

There is one thing that I have wanted more than anything in life, and that is to have children. I saw the way my parents behaved, and I never want to be like them. I want the opportunity to have a family, to raise my children, and to tell them how much I love them every day. That’s all a child really needs, aside from food and clothes, and stuff.
So here I am in college, finally finding my niche and spreading my wings, when I meet Tim, who’s tall, athletic, and cute. We dated for a while, and then I found out I was pregnant. I freaked out at first—having a baby in college wasn’t the plan—but I knew that I wasn’t going to give this child up. Tim wasn’t too happy about it, and neither were my parents.

I didn’t budge, and I’m still not budging, which is the reason why I’m writing this letter. I found out recently that Tim has an ex named Amber who is supposedly super-crazy, and it could be a coincidence, but an Amber just added me to Myspace (I always accept new friend requests), and on top of that I’ve been finding severed baby-doll heads in my bed.
That could also just be karma coming to bite me in the butt.

So if I do die, please know that I didn’t kill myself. I would never do that. I survived the torments of school, and finally got free of that town. Plus, I have a baby on the way whom I’ve already named Octavia, if it’s a girl, and Smith, if it’s a boy. I don’t want to know the sex until it’s born.

I hope that I’ll look back on this letter one day and laugh, realizing that I’m just being paranoid, but I really must say again, if I should die, please look to Amber.
Very truly yours, Dawn Wiener