"When faced with a problem you do not understand,
do any part of it you do understand; then look at it again."
~(Robert A. Heinlein - "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress")

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Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Zen of Firefly and Serenity ...

"... I aim to misbehave."

Last night I caught a midnight showing of Serenity (2005) at the River Oaks theater, and was pleasantly surprised to find quite a crowd awaiting.

The movie amounts to an additional, closing episode of Firefly (2002);  one of my all-time favorite cancelled-way-too-soon future-fantasy series (no way can I consider it as "science-fiction"; the actual "science" in it would rattle around in a thimble.  But to fixate on that is to dismiss Picasso because "the eyes are all wrong").

While not attempting to equate creator and writer Joss Whedon with Picasso, his characters and dialog are what make the series and the movie such a treasure.  I never get the impression he takes himself too seriously, but I suspect he has a personal philosophy he takes very seriously and that it is part and parcel of that dialog.

Shamelessly cannibalizing from my own post Thoughtcrime ...
Nathan Fillion as Malcolm Reynolds -  Poster from
Brad Kozak's Freedom of Speech Evidently Has No Place In a University.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds (the dude in the poster), and his motley crew make a pretty much off-the-books living by using their "Firefly" class cargo ship to transport various and sundry items and passengers to other worlds. On learning that one of his passengers has smuggled aboard his sister (a greatly sought-after fugitive from the oppressive Alliance) and berating said passenger about them being an albatross he just doesn't really need at this point, the passenger openly wonders about being killed in his sleep, prompting Mal to clarify things a bit.

River Tam ...
Summer Glau as River Tam - from angryzenmaster.com
(22 Jan 2012OOPS! - Maybe not. See Addendum and Correction below)

... is the sister mentioned above, a prodigy raised largely by the state from infancy, combat-trained as a "living weapon", and groomed to be a psychic.

The doctor in charge of that grooming notes to a visitor (not knowing that the visitor is really her brother come to rescue her), "Key members of Parliament have observed these demonstrations, and are in full support."

Afterwards, the operative sent to deal with her escape says to that doctor,
 "You know what your sin is, Doctor?  Pride!"

Replaying a record of that conversation, he continues ...
"Key members of Parliament. Key. The minds behind every military, diplomatic and covert operation in the galaxy, and you put them in a room with a psychic."

So, this battered waif has been carrying a boatload of memories not hers, that she doesn't want and that the Alliance is terrified of her revealing.

Malcolm and crew help her to find out what they are, discovering an entire world that has been depopulated in an OOPS!!! resulting from the best of nanny-state good intentions.

Malcolm is determined to get the word out on this secret, reasoning ...
"Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better. And I do not hold to that. So no more runnin'. I aim to misbehave."

Before the movie has even reached the main title sequence, River has flashed back to a class as a young girl, where a teacher is explaining the history of the Alliance and a student asks why there was even any resistance to it in the first place.

Young River replies ...
"We meddle. People don't like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think, don't run, don't walk. We're in their homes and in their heads and we haven't the right. We're meddlesome."

The teacher's response is absolutely perfect nanny-state rationalization ...
 "We don't tell them what to think. 
 "We just show them how!"


22 Jan 2012 - Addendum and Correction:  A visitor emailed this to me ...
Dear Sir, I arrived at your blog via chaos manor and while I have bookmarked said blog to read more later. Dispite how much it appears I may agree with you on any number of things I'm unfortunately compelled to point out that it's my belief that the photo of Summer Glau as River Tam is in fact from the Sarah Conner Chronicles not Firefly. I could be wrong and if so I offer my most sincere apology.

To which I replied ...

You've nothing to apologize for.

The website on which I found the photo said it was Glau as River Tam, but I HAVE wondered about her appearance.

I didn't consider the Sarah Conner Chronicles (which I loved) because I mostly remember her in jeans and a leather jacket.

She's listed as appearing in another Joss Whedon show, "Dollhouse" and I wondered if the picture could in fact have come from there (she seems to be in a LOT of things where she winds up holding a gun, don't she :-)

I'm going to see what I can find that I'm SURE is her as River Tam. You could be right about it being from Sarah Conner Chronicles; I don't know yet. But I suspect that you are dead right about that photo NOT being from Firefly.

Thank you for writing. I always appreciate input.


Ok, then.  Lets see if I can do better this time.

Our first introduction to River Tam occurs at the end of the first part of the two-part opening episode of "Firefly".  That episode is also named "Serenity".  In it, Malcolm opens up the cryogenic box that Doctor Simon Tam has brought aboard, to find out why they have a government agent on their asses, revealing ...
River Revealed - from screened.com
Malcolm: "Huh!"

"The waif" - Doesn't she look like she wouldn't (couldn't) harm a fly? ...
from polyvore.com

And here she is in "living weapon" mode (in the movie "Serenity") after she's gone out to say "Hi" to a bunch of invading reavers (they be the ones on the floor). ...
from instapunk.com

I like these pictures.  I just hope I haven't strayed too far from the whole point of this post, which amounts to a "Don't meddle!  Just leave us the Hell alone!" philosophy, which I truly believe the series and movie embodies.


Anonymous said...

This movie is on my list for the most influential and excellent movie to be released in the last decade.

You've quoted what I consider to be the fundamental lessons involved. Look at that; A movie that isn't nihilist tripe.

Whedon is an excellent writer, and no, he doesn't take himself too seriously, which makes him endearing.

Anonymous said...

I also found your site by way of Chaos Manor and just wanted to say that I am happy with the show ending the way that it did.

Everything about it was perfectly awesome. If fit had gone on they would surely have jumped the shark.

Paul Gordon said...

If fit had gone on they would surely have jumped the shark.

You could be right. I never got into Joss Whedon's long-running shows ("Buffy" and "Angel") so I don't know what his track record is inn regard to that.

I DO recall these not-so-subtle hints from Nathan Fillion's current show ("Castle", which I love) ...

In one, not too long ago, his character mutters something in Mandarin Chinese and Detective Beckett inquires, "Exchange student? Right?"

He replies, "Nope. Got it from a TV show I was fond of."

Much less subtle, the Halloween episode in 2010 opened with him wearing the full Malcolm Reynolds outfit, including the gun, and his daughter Alexis asks, "What are you doing?"
Castle: "Trying out my Halloween costume."
Alexis: "And you're supposed to be ...?"
Castle: "Space cowboy."
Alexis: "1. There are no cows in space."
"2. You wore that 5 years ago. Isn't it time to move on?"


Lee Keller King said...

The photo of the gun toting Summer Glau must be from Sarah Connor Chronicles because (1) Summer's character in Dollhouse only had one usable arm, and (2) River Tam never looked that sophisticated.

I also was not a regular watcher of either Buffy or Angel, but I've become a Joss Whedon convert (through Dollhouse, back to Firefly via Netflix and on to Serenity).

(Another Chaos Manor fan)


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