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firefly1,244 words

Joss Whedon’s Firefly is a science fiction series that lived and died on the Fox Network in the Fall of 2002. Fourteen episosdes were shot, but only eleven were aired before the series was canceled, to the consternation of the surprisingly large number of loyal fans that the show conjured up in the split second of its existence. In my view, Firefly is one of the best sci-fi shows ever, second only to Battlestar Galactica (the new one, of course, not the original, which I call Battlescow Spasmatica, just so there’s no confusion).

Firefly, like most contemporary TV, has a multiracial cast, including a white man married to a black woman (to me, that just underscores the sci-fi element). If you are going to enjoy the show, you’ll simply have to overlook that. But seven of the nine cast members are white, all of them are highly appealing. Furthermore, the substance of the series has a deep spiritual appeal to whites, for it combines two paradigmatically “Faustian” genres: the Western and the Space Opera. In essence, Firefly is a Space Western. (Cf. Star Trek‘s “final frontier.”) The genre mashup also makes Firefly a quintessentially “archeofuturist” drama.

Firefly has a number of politically incorrect elements.

First of all, the back story was inspired by the American Civil War and its aftermath, when many Southerners went West to escape Reconstruction. Firefly is set in the 26th century, after the human race has spread to another vast star system with a number of populous central planets and a Wild West of hundreds of moons. In the aftermath of a Civil War between the Alliance (the Union) and the Independents (the Confederacy), the defeated Independents have “gone West,” looking for freedom. But the centralized Alliance regime keeps extending its web of control.

The Firefly of the title is a smuggler’s spaceship called Serenity, captained by Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion. Reynolds was a sergeant in the Independents’ army (the browncoats). In short, he is a Confederate of sorts. (Fillion himself is a descendant of Confederate general Jubal Early.)

Second, the Independents fought for freedom and self-determination, and throughout the series, their values are shown to be natural and noble, whereas the Alliance is shown to be arrogant, meddlesome, and ultimately totalitarian — albeit a hidden, soft, liberal form of totalitarianism. Unlike the Confederacy, the Independents were not fighting for slavery, which seems to exist under the Alliance, at least on the outer planets, and is treated with contempt by the freedom-loving crew of Serenity. These libertarian, anti-big government, and anti-paternalist sentiments are, of course, unusual in television today, where they are usually ascribed to unsavory, villainous rednecks. (I hasten to add that this kind of individualism is inimical to the racial collectivism of the New Right.)

The Alliance is apparently a kind of One World government scheme, an Anglo-Chinese condominium formed of previously independent colonies established by the Americans and Chinese, the two nations that went on to colonize space. Or so the story goes. Of course America has no space program now, because we need to spend our tax dollars birthin’ Mexican anchor babies and giving free cell phones to Negroes. The Chinese may go forward into the Space Age, but America is going back to the Stone Age.

A third politically incorrect aspect of Firefly is its overwhelming paleomasculinity. Malcolm Reynolds is a particularly well-realized portrait of an Aryan alpha male. Although he is an outlaw, he lives by an Aryan code of honor. He is courageous, intelligent, and highly chivalrous. Although he is in love with Inara (Morena Baccarin), a high-class whore (“companion”) who travels on his ship and grants it an air of respectability, he disapproves of her life and of his love for her, so he never manages to tell her his feelings.

Inara, for her part, reciprocates his feelings and shares his inability to express them. Although the companions dress sexual commerce up in the trappings of a religious order, Inara has discovered that there is something truly sacred about sex, something that is entirely incompatible with her liberated, promiscuous, ironic, and profane existence. In the end, she leaves the ship because the only alternative is to submit completely to Mal’s strength and give up whoring.

Don’t these old-fashioned “hangups” about morality and sex and monogamy add a certain depth and drama to human existence? Ahh well, “freedom” marches on.

This brings us to a fourth politically incorrect aspect of Firefly: one can’t make a Western without incorporating a whole range of archaic values like chivalry, patriarchy, and simple politeness, which are shown in a largely positive light. A case in point: in one episode, Mal acquires a very submissive wife who cooks and serves him dinner. Following the feminist script, second mate Zoe (played by black actress Gina Torres, whom I find grotesque) is outraged when her husband, the pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk) expresses approval. In a later episode, however, after Wash has established his heroic bona fides, we find Zoe cooking and serving his dinner. And not long after that, she is talking about having his children.

Another politically incorrect aspect of Firefly is its treament of religion. Joss Whedon is an atheist, but he treats religion with the utmost seriousness. Mal Reynolds is portrayed as an atheist, but at the very beginning of the pilot, it is clear that he was actually a religious man who lost his faith when the Independents were defeated. One of the passengers on Serenity is Shepherd Book (played by the black actor Ron Glass), a traveling Christian minister. (Buddhism also continues to exist in this universe as well.) For Whedon, the significance of religion lies less in the fictions in which men believe, than in the real human needs that belief satisfies.

Joss Whedon’s other series include Buffy, Angel, and Dollhouse. He plays entirely within the PC rules of the TV industry, but for all that, he is one of its most talented and imaginative storytellers. Firefly has all the marks of a Whedon series, chiefly brilliant storytelling, light humor and irony around a core of deep seriousness and real emotional power, and great linguistic inventiveness (laconic corn pone with expletives in Mandarin), which adds an important concreteness to the alternate universes he creates. The series also has beautiful music, particularly in the last episodes.

Some series take a couple of years to work the bugs out. Star Trek: The Next Generation was a miserable thing until the third season, for instance. Firefly has a strong pilot, followed by three middling episodes and one crappy one (“Safe,” Drew Z. Greenberg’s tale of how two members of the crew are kidnapped by some savage, supersititious redneck goyim who want to burn them as witches), then it soars with episode six (“Our Mrs. Reynolds”) and never comes down. My favorite episodes are number eight, “Out of Gas”; number nine, “Ariel,” which feels like a feature film in 42 minutes; and number twelve, “The Message,” which would have been the most moving story ever told on TV — if Fox had seen fit to air it.

I highly recommend Firefly. But I warn you. If you watch it, you will not want it to end. Many of the series’ direhard fans, who dubbed themselves “browncoats,” felt the same way. Eventually their campaign to revive the series led to Joss Whedon making a feature film, Serenity, to bring some closure to the story. I will review that next.


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  1. rhondda
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I liked that show too. My kids said “mom you will really love this show” and I did. Maybe not for the same reasons they did, but that’s okay.

  2. Redcorona
    Posted March 27, 2013 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    My wife and I threw our TV out the window two years ago, about the time reality dawned on me, but before that we rarely watched it anyways. Despite that, this show came across our radar somehow and we fell completely in love with it – and were not at all happy when it ended.

    Thinking back, I have to agree with most of your points. But while the mandatory multiracial relationship is obnoxious, it is not at all conventional. A heroic, if occasionally silly, White man is married to an equally heroic and obsessively loyal Black woman, an independent/confederate herself. Her loyalty is torn between her husband and the captain of the ship who she served (master/slave?) before the war of Alliance aggression.

    • Master Dogen
      Posted March 27, 2013 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

      That’s a good point. Although all the white male characters have foibles (Mal is headstrong; Jayne is unintelligent; Wash is goofy; and Simon is effete), all of them are also portrayed as heroic. They are all brave, loyal, and ultimately effective, when the chips are down.

      There are also no “evil blonde villains” in this show. The most sinister enemies in order are (1) The Alliance, which is mostly white folks, but they are portrayed as a sort of New World Order post-racial amalgam, (2) The Reivers, where the focus is on insanity and bestiality, not any particular racial or cultural aesthetic, and (3) That one cold, calculating black bounty hunter guy who’s name I forget. That character is a sort of reverse-double-twist PC character, because he has the unrealistic scientific/cerebral cadence of so many black characters on tell-a-vision, but instead of being a doctor or political leader with those skills, he’s a heartless assassin with no loyalty for anyone but himself.

      Interesting about the show being based on the West during Reconstruction. I didn’t know that, but of course it’s screamingly obvious once you point it out.

      • Greg Johnson
        Posted March 27, 2013 at 11:06 pm | Permalink

        The garrulous Tarantinoesque black bounty hunter was named Jubal Early, after Nathan Fillion’s confederate ancestor. He threatens a white woman with rape to terrify her.

  3. Lew
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    I need to give it another chance. I was told years ago it was great by people I consider reliable, but I gave up on it after the slow development in the first 2 – 3 episodes. Your description reminds me of The Wire which also had painfully slow development over the first 3 – 4 episodes and then didn’t look back. It was some of the most compelling television I have ever seen, with no heroic themes only a straightforward depiction of urban reality with a lot of un-PC content. If I may make a suggestion, Trevor Lynch should review Downton Abbey.

  4. Daybreaker
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    I like Serenity and Firefly primarily because of the strong and pure love relationship between Simon Tam and his sister River. It is 0% ironical, corrupted, undercut or deconstructed.

    If you were making life choices based on Firefly and Serenity (and I don’t recommend making life choices based on anything “Hollywood”) you would think that the best gift you could give your daughter is a brother to stand beside her in hard times.

  5. Luke
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Any science fiction is – by definition – fiction.

    Therefore, it is not real, but only a facsimile of reality, insofar as the writer makes it so. As such, I’ve watched half-a-dozen episodes of the series, though not all of it. It has its good points, and certainly can be entertaining. If you enjoy metaphorical sci-fi wrapped up in a space adventure, this show should satisfy.

    On the other hand, if shows about Mankind’s future colonization of space appeal more to you, then this sci-fantasy series is a bit too Bradburyesque. As with Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles”, this series is neither a realistic or plausible rendition of what interstellar colonization will ever likely be, replete with its ray-guns fashioned after quirky, Old West .45’s, etc. For despite its flaws and its 1960’s era cinema-technology, “Star Trek” remains the most accurate depiction of interstellar colonization yet made. That single point is probably why it remains the definitive “Wagon Train to the Stars”, and thus the most Aryanesque for white nationalists, regardless of its “Jew actors, inter-racial kissing, et al” – all of which are far more in play in today’s sci-fi space dramas anyway.

  6. Posted March 28, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    “Battlestar Galactica (the new one, of course, not the original, which I call Battlescow Spasmatica, just so there’s no confusion).”

    “Cattlestar Overactica” was my favorite variant [note Bonanza allusion].

  7. me
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of Westerns, Trevor Lynch should do a review of THE whitest Western I’ve seen in years – “3:10 to Yuma” – starring 2 of Trevor’s favorite actors – Russell Crowe and Chris Bates (aka Batman). Most Westerns have some non-white, such as Indians, blacks, etc. Not this movie – it is nearly 100% white-casted. There was a brief scene – no more than 15 seconds or so where one will see a couple of Chinese coolies. Other than that, the entire movie is WHITE. Trevor loves to talk about Western values. This movie explores honor & trust, etc.

  8. Posted March 28, 2013 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Just checked the series out from the library I couldnt find it interesting enough to get to the third episode.

    I do like these types of things usually but found Fringe to be much more interesting.

    I also recently started watching the 24 series and am through the 6th season and in our house we like Jack Bauer even if he is a little over the top.

  9. Robert Pinkerton
    Posted March 28, 2013 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    In the feature-length film (Serenity) based on this series, The plot centers around an experimental piece of social engineering on the planet Miranda. The Alliance has introduced a drug called “Paxilon” into the colony’s atmosphere, with a view to rendering the population more docile, calm, placid, tranquil, etcetera. The actual result of the drug is softly to kill 99.5% of the population, and drive the other 0.5% raging insane beyond even murderous, the Reavers. Of course the Alliance wants to bury that mistake in silence; and bringing it out to public view is the quest in the plot.

    Now this suggests an analogy with school shooters and Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor drugs (SSRI) that seem to have been prescribed to the shooters. America drugs its schoolboys (think “Paxilon”) with unwholesome pharmaceuticals, and every once in a while gets a Reaver like Adam Lanza or James Holmes.

  10. Posted March 29, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I’d say the best thing of its kind. I’ve commented, quoted, and linked here:

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