Further musings on Firefly
July 02, 2010

I've been watching more of the show, slowly, since it still really bothers me. I know some of it is connected to the sexism issue, but after thinking about everything everyone said I think there's something else about the show that is bugging me.

I've been racking my brain for the last three days to put words to it, but the best I can come up with is that the whole thing feels extremely cliche. That would explain my feelings on the sexism, too, because cliche character types are very good at carrying social messages without meaning to.

I'm really upset that I can't put words to the feeling I get when I watch the show. It's like I keep waiting for something to happen and am continually disappointed.

It could very well be a stylistic issue or it could have to do with the fact that it was cancelled before the characters could develop and the actors could fully get into their roles. I'm going to withhold final judgement until I see Serenity, because that's where Joss Wheedon had lots of money and freedom to present what his intention for the show was.

It does bring up an interesting point about science fiction characters, though. I believe they are extremely difficult to write and difficult to act as, because their experiences are so different from our own. I think that's why so many of them come off as stiff, stupid, or just plain unrelatable.

There's a weird transition in Firefly between the earlier and the later episodes. The later episodes seem more tongue-in-cheek, almost like Star Trek meets The Heist. I wonder if that was a bid by JW to keep ratings high. There is definitely more of a formula to the later episodes with a couple exceptions.

Anyway, like I said... more musings. I only bring it up because everyone went absolutely crazy over Firefly and I've yet to get that same sense of crazed fanboyism. It could be my aversion to the whole "you can survive anything as long as you have good friends" theme which subtly runs through the show. There's a word for that theme and it's called the JRPG. I've become less enamored with it in the past few years.

Most recent blog posts from Jonathan Stark...

blood-omen blood-omen - July 03, 2010 (12:47 AM)
i like Fireflies by Owl City better :P
zippdementia zippdementia - July 03, 2010 (12:48 AM)
My theory seems to be holding. The last three episodes are better acted and written than almost any of the others. It also explains the uproarious reception the show got upon being canceled. People hate to feel like they've been cut off short. Especially in America, where it is not uncommon for shows to run for six or more seasons. It also offers evidence that shows should probably stick to no more than three seasons. Enough time for everyone to get acquainted to the characters; not enough time for it to get stale.
zippdementia zippdementia - July 03, 2010 (01:04 AM)
Speaking back to sexism, though, I do think it isn't as effective as writers think it is to show two extremes and try to prove one as setting the moral standard. Example: in Heart of Gold, having the villain be the epitome of a sexist pig and showing him force women onto him is juxtaposed with Mal having not slept with a woman in, probably, years and then taking one gently and slowly. It inadvertently puts the emphasis of sexism on the act of sex and not on the gender and social class of sex. It also goes more to show that the villain is insane than it does to show that Mal is a great man to women.

I'm reminded of the film 300, in which the crazed spartan senator is shown to be cruel and evil because of the way he takes another man's wife and Gerard Butler is shown to be the better man because his woman naturally wants his hot sexy body. It's an oversimplification of character that doesn't get across as much meaning as the writer thinks it does.
fleinn fleinn - July 03, 2010 (07:29 AM)
"It also goes more to show that the villain is insane than it does to show that Mal is a great man to women."

..thought that was the point? The villain is just invoking the "right of man" to force his will on everyone else. And he's getting people along with it as well. Other men who feel empowered, and women who like the safety and predictability of that role.

And as they point out, on the border-planets, standing on principle could quickly cost you your life anyway.

But like you say: it has nothing to do with sex or the act of sex, or even sexism. It's just an explanation of that phenomenon put in a context that - by sheer random chance - is one that will feel very much culturally (and politically) immediate to Americans.

I'm not exactly sure what you're struggling with when watching the series, zipp ;). But I'll say this much. If the series was made in Germany, the Heart of Gold villain would be a nazi, his followers would be in love with the feeling of empowerment and right. The slaves would be reluctant but always happy that at least someone else would suffer more than them (i.e., the hookers).

...there's another thing as well. If you've watched the behind the scenes bits, Joss will be talking a little about how much they had to change the Mal character in order to get him through the filter at FOX. His point is that he's not supposed to be a good guy. Like in the train job, he's kicking Crow into the jet-engine. That's not something the Mal in the story would do. Same as shoot the lawman in the head because he's out of time.

It doesn't actually fit with the soft-spoken character that mostly comes up. So I can easily see how some people might react very badly to that character - he's after all very sympathetic to the viewer (if perhaps somewhat less so to the rest of the story-characters).

And I don't doubt that the Heart of Gold episode could be interpreted as if it was a juxtaposition of Mal the great guy, against the vicious bastard who is evil, and that the only difference between them is how they have sex. But it's just missing the point. In the end, Mal just takes advantage of the situation as well, failing to live up to the facade he's build between himself and Inara.

Another thing: why haven't you mentioned Zoe and Wash? The reason they're in the series is the way their "husband and wife" role is consistently reversed. "Have you been getting my Wife into trouble!". "I need this man to tear my clothes off". It's another interesting take on it all, no? After all, if we truly hated that dominating gender-role, and wanted it purged from existence - then shouldn't Zoe be burned on a stake, for how she abuses Wash?
zippdementia zippdementia - July 03, 2010 (09:02 AM)
I think Zoe and Walsh are presented as extremes. Thus it's hard to actually glean anything substantial from their characters. Also, their relationship isn't explored on a very deep level. That might be because there wasn't time to develop it in one season, but lacking that depth they become almost parodies of their own relationship.

I think what you were saying is spot on: I think Joss Wheedon, for whatever reasons (whether self induced or FOX induced), struggled to keep his characters as consistently gritty as he might have liked. The result is that they become parodies of what I think they were meant to be.

But that's just a theory. I'm waiting until I see Serenity, where he had far more control, until I pass final judgement.
fleinn fleinn - July 03, 2010 (09:57 AM)
..you could be right that some of it becomes parody when it's not supposed to :)

I don't know. I saw the series first when it turned up on blu-ray. And that version has the Serenity episodes put in first (not the Train Job episode, which was the first that was aired). And that double first episode does give you a lot more background on the characters.. that's true.

Maybe my perception of it is different because of that.

Because Firefly really has that.. "tv-series" mood a lot of the time, doesn't it..?
Suskie Suskie - July 03, 2010 (11:43 AM)
i like Fireflies by Owl City better :P

Oh god. Please tell me you're joking.
WilltheGreat WilltheGreat - July 03, 2010 (02:32 PM)
Next week on Missing the Point, we'll be looking at...

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998-2022 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors.