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Firefly, Serenity, and Liberty

Posted by Richard on September 7, 2005

While some of us were glued to the weather and news channels this past week, the official new Serenity movie site appeared, the trailers became available, and the September 30 opening date moved closer.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Serenity is the feature film based on the short-lived Joss Whedon TV series, Firefly. Fox mishandled the series terribly in 2002, airing the episodes out of sequence and moving it around in the schedule. When it unsurprisingly failed to attract a large audience, they canceled it after 11 episodes. But the fans were rabidly loyal, and it’s become a cult classic. The DVD set (which includes 3 never-aired episodes) has sold over 200,000 copies. The entire cast and crew were so loyal and committed to the series that they all signed on for the film.

If you’re a fan of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), you know what to expect — intelligent scripts full of clever repartee, interesting and quirky characters, fine acting, and engaging storytelling. Firefly was also the most unusual science fiction series ever. It’s set 500 years in the future and there are countless inhabited planets, but there are no aliens. And at the edge of civilization where the spaceship Serenity operates, there’s a decidedly Wild West flavor.

Firefly also had a strong libertarian streak, as Sara Hinson noted:

… The series’ central theme seems to concern the ineptitude of strong central government and its tendency to oppress and stifle rather than free or secure. As Mal says, "That’s what governments are for, [to] get in a man’s way."

Through Mal and his crew Whedon asks us to consider: What does freedom mean when the nearest government agent could be millions of miles away? Like the nineteenth century American West, civilization on the outer rim of the "verse" depends not on bureaucracy, but on natural law and contracts.

Precisely because the centralized law is the very force that Serenity escapes, Mal must hold his ship afloat through a very rigorous sense of duty and loyalty; his crew is his life, and to defend them, he would do just about anything. Because of their basic human decency, Mal and his crew embody the responsible spirit of freedom.

I can’t recommend Firefly strongly enough, and I’m not alone. At Amazon, over 1500 customer reviews give it an average of 5 out of 5 stars. Get the DVD set of all 14 episodes (plus extras) or check out a few episodes on the SciFi Channel — they’re airing it at 7pm Eastern on Fridays. (If you do the latter, be forewarned that it’s easier to get into the series with some episodes than others. If you watch one and it doesn’t grab you, give it another chance. The characters grow on you as you get to know them.)

And of course, go see Serenity when it comes to a theater near you at the end of the month. Talk is that if it does well, there may be two more feature films and/or a new TV series.

How can you not love a series with this kind of dialog:

Jayne (a big, mean, ugly man): Well, I don’t like the idea of someone hearing what I’m thinking.
Inara: No one likes the idea of hearing what you’re thinking.

Mal: We take it to Whitefall, maybe talk to Patience.
Zoë: Sir, we don’t want to deal with Patience again.
Mal: Why not?
Zoë: She shot you.
Mal: Well, yeah, she did a bit.

Saffron: I do know my bible, sir. On the night of their betrothal, the wife shall open to the man as the furrow to the plow, and he shall work in her, in and again till she bring him to his fall, and rest him then upon the sweat of her breast.
Mal: Whoa! Good bible.

Wash: Little River just gets more colorful by the moment. What’ll she do next?
Zoë: Either blow us all up or rub soup in her hair. It’s a toss-up.
Wash: I hope she does the soup thing. It’s always a hoot, and we don’t all die from it.

Jayne: Don’t see much point getting involved in other people’s troubles without an up-front price negotiation.
Zoë: As I said, no-one’s forcing you to go. This job is purely speculative.
Jayne: Good. Don’t know these people, don’t much care to.
Mal: They’re whores.
Jayne: I’m in.

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2 Responses to “Firefly, Serenity, and Liberty”

  1. Baird Crevan said

    Man, too bad Saffron totally made up that quotation from the Bible.

  2. rgcombs said

    ”Man, too bad Saffron totally made up that quotation from the Bible.”

    You mean that isn’t from the Book of Mormon? 😉

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