Thursday, August 15, 2013

On Love and 'Firefly'

SPOILERS for FIREFLY
(and also for Serenity)


So I'm totally a Browncoat- prolly not a shocker (although I don't berate or negatively judge anyone  that doesn't think Firefly shouldn't have been cancelled). While traveling last week (a bus to Seattle), this song came up on my MP3 player, and by golly, I thought it was perfect for the two unresolved love stories from Firefly:


Perhaps just a little more  form Kaylee's perspective (the "like a child" line is why), but basically, the general idea is sound for all four characters in those subplots- they obviously do think about the other person and desire them, dream about them, etc., but it doesn't get worked out by the time we reach the last episode they aired*.  So all the questions don't get directly answered- it's insinuated everyone in these entanglements is doing what Sarah is asking about each other, but we're never given confirmation. And there's never any idea of whether Sarah gets an answer from the object of her affection by  the song, just as the show leaves us hanging. So what she's asking, as well as how she never gets an answer, both make  it perfect.

(Also, the style fits the music from the show to a T, eh????)

Love is a major theme in the show, though, and outside those romantic messes. Think about it.

The crew loves Mal. Aside from when Kaylee says  it flat-out, it's still obvious. For example, when  Jayne gives River and Simon up to the feds, his guilt when it's all said and done doesn't come across as guilt at having betrayed them, but rather at having betrayed Mal. Jayne and every other person on that ship cares for Mal deeply, and while, "Because he's my captain," or the like gets tossed around a lot, you know there's more going on when watching them- they trust him and do what he says because they love him. Another example, Zoe- the bond  they  share from the war means their feelings run deep, like the blood they both spilled together on the battle field. Simon may not really seem too sure about his feelings for Mal, but he and the rest of the crew feel very deeply for Mal, regardless. And some of this, I think, comes from how they also know that...

Mal loves his crew. He's exceptionally protective of them, and you could argue that's just his job, sure. Yeah, okay, but that would be far too flat for even a minor recurring character on a Joss Whedon show, let alone the main character in a series by him. There are far too many times where he shows genuine distress at the thought of any one of them being  in danger, or comes to their defense. Romantic feelings for Inara aside, there are a few times, particularly in "Shindig," where he comes to her defense when others would insult her for being a Companion, which is very much the way family or close friends are with one another- it's okay for me to make fun of my siblings and call them assholes, but nobody else had better do it, too, otherwise they face my wrath. And his loyalty to River and Simon is telling, too- they're fugitives of a far more severe degree than he and the rest of the crew was before they came aboard, and his consistent support of them and the danger he puts  himself in time and again for their sake says he cares about them in more than a captainly capacity. Now I understand you could argue against this by citing all the times he threatens members of his crew, but you could also use that as evidence in support of his love for them, too, so it goes both ways.

Jayne and Kaylee are like Wonder Twins. Seriously, in some of the extras and in the ten year anniversary special, this gets discussed by the cast and crew. They have an adorable brother-sister thing going on that gets shown in a few ways, like how they tease each other but smile the whole time (except that one time Mal kicks Jayne out during dinner). Or when Jayne is sitting outside the sick bay as Simon is operating on Kaylee. What makes this special is they're such an odd pairing. The mega-macho, kind of bloodthirsty, greedy Jayne with the spunky, ever optimistic, gentle Kaylee. I mean, Jayne masturbates with his guns, while Kaylee can't even fire a pistol, and they're that close to one another. It's just a great bit of relationship building one wouldn't necessarily expect. Joss is good at that, though- they aren't the only ones in the show like  that, such as...

Jayne and Shepard are bros. C'mon, they're work-out buddies! It's hilarious and awesome, again, because they're pretty  much opposites. You could say that's just because they're there, but I think Jayne genuinely cares about Shepherd. This is pretty evident when they show up on Haven (in the movie) and he shows his gentler side with the kids and by playing guitar (swoon- I do love a macho man that can be nice to kids... and plays guitar? Oh dear...), and then in how upset he is when Shepherd is killed (and when Mal suggests they use the bodies of everybody there to turn their ship into a Reaver one). And Shepard genuinely cares about Jayne, too, if only because he's friggin' Shepherd Book. It's sort of his job to love everybody, but again, I think this runs much deeper, such  as...

Inara and Shepherd are another odd couple. The scene where he comes to her, essentially asking forgiveness, says it all. That sets the groundwork for them, and while they don't really have much  time onscreen alone with one another, any time they do, it's obvious they share a complex bond and find comfort in one another in ways the other crew can't do with them (or each other). Inara has an exceptionally close tie to...

Kaylee and Inara are another sibling setup. They hang out together on the ship. Inara does Kaylee's hair in a very older sister/ motherly way. Kaylee notices when Inara is hurt  and tries to make  her feel better. Theirs is pretty straight-forward, but sweet- you can tell they need one another. Inara needs someone she can relax with, and Kaylee needs someone to cuddle with. It's totally sensical. They have their little girl-time moments, like when...

Kaylee is like River's older sister, too. River freaks Kaylee out a few times, but in the end, she still tries and shows that she cares- playing jacks with her, for example. Kaylee does her best to get along with River, even though she sees River do some pretty weird/frightening things in a few episodes (poor Kaylee...). And even though Kaylee clearly has feelings for River's brother, Simon, I think there's more to it than Kaylee trying to impress him. Still, you can't deny that...

Simon and River love each other kind of dangerously. This gets said pretty bluntly by the Operative in the movie. But we never really needed his exposition to hit  us with a hammer of subtlety- it's obvious. Simon gives up a career as a surgeon to rescue  his  sister. He goes on the run with her, and he certainly seems entirely resolved to let someone die in order to protect her,  even if  it means going against his creed as a healer. And River, she'd probably revert to super-soldier mode if she thought Simon needed it- Hell, that's pretty much what she does at the end of the movie when she locks herself in the room with the Reavers (holy poop, that slow-mo of her fighting them, then the shot of when it's over and then the wall blows in and the Alliance soldiers find her... I mean... wow... that's why I named my dog after her!). Simon and River love each other so much they'd die for one another. And I'm sad to say it's refreshing that Joss never implied anything incestuous between them, but it is- under a less skilled hand, it would have felt icky to watch them together. But instead, it's painfully beautiful. Just like...

The love all of the characters have for the ship. Serenity the ship is a character with no lines, but lots of personality. And I think every single human crew member, at least once, says something about how they care for the ship, shows affection in some way. The times where Kaylee speaks to her are exceptionally poignant. Serenity is  the heart and soul of the series, and  it's obvious anyone  working on her loves her deeply, including...

The crew behind the scenes. As in the writers, producers, and of course Joss himself. He said his heart was broken when the series was cancelled,  and  that even making the movie couldn't quite heal that. And I dig. Again, extras point to when the series was canceled- the funeral scene at the end of "The Message" was really everyone, cast and crew alike, saying goodbye to the show. Even the music in that scene, it was a sendoff, filled entirely with love and devotion. And their willingness to continually come back to it and talk about it- having their own Irish wakes again and again over the series... That's not really normal. Not in a bad way- rather, it demonstrates how Firefly was far, far more than just  a paycheck for every person involved in the creative process of the show. Joss says that when he writes shows, he tries to write the construction of families- and I'd say he definitely accomplished that onscreen, but it's pretty evident he  did  that offscreen with Firefly, too. As awesome and cult-following-ee Buffy and  Angel were, you don't really hear nearly as much  about big cast and crew reunions, you don't get anniversary specials for those shows. When Joss goes to cons, he goes for Firefly. And that has a lot to do with...

The fans love the show somewhat viscerally, at times. The fandom of Browncoats can get pretty loud. But they do good things- that Wiki article references some of the charitable causes Browncoats work for across the U.S. And it all comes from their devotion to and love for the series. It connects with people on a level far beyond your average TV show. And I think, unlike some franchises, it's well-deserved. People relate to these characters not because they're flat or a Mary/Barry Stue they can insert themselves into, but  because they're so rich and  deep and have real qualities we can all relate to. I think it's common for Browncoats to, at least subconsciously, figure out which character they're most like (or most unlike) and then grow attached to that character or couple of characters. I mean, I think I'm a cross between Kaylee and River- hopeful, bubbly, and kind of naive, but also experienced, protective, and a little broken. And that makes me love those two almost as if I've met them and have known them for ages- again, I named my dog after one. I'm not weird, I'm not abnormal for this. It's just how Firefly fans operate- we love it the way  we'd love a real person. 

I think Firefly teaches us the truth about love: It can be both beautiful and dark, uplifting and burdensome, delightful and painful. I think the most important lesson Firefly teaches us- through the characters and through the fans loving the show- is that a love that's worth it isn't easy. Love is hard, you have to work for it. Simon has to fight to keep River safe; Mal has to control his own emotions in order to protect the crew; we fans have suffered  the loss  of the series and relive its cancellation every time we close our DVD/BluRay/Netflix/etc. after watching the last episode; etc. But we keep on loving it, because damnit, however painful the reality may be, the joy we get of reliving those moments with the characters and Serenity, ostensibly with Joss, make  it very, very much worth it. Love isn't perfect, but Firefly itself is okay with that, proud of it- and we, Browncoats, are, too. 


*I'll admit, it also fit my own personal life for a while, although I was quicker to realize  it about Firefly- I didn't make the connection about my own life  until after talking to the object of my affections about my feelings. When I was "told true," it didn't turn out very well for me. Go figure.  Maybe I'll wax philosophically/introspectively later. 

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