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March 20, 2011

Some things are sacred

Joss? You are going to try and throw Christianity up against Joss and get it to stick? No. You can and should look at Firefly and Serenity through whatever lens you would like--that's all well and good. However, to skew theories and concepts by cherry-picking out of context examples and trying to make them fit into Christian theologies when the point has clearly and repeatedly been made that the characters and the writer are not Christian is insulting and smacks of grad student over-theorizing.
Firefly and Serenity would make excellent examples of Post-Colonial theory or Gender theory, possibly dozens of others. I've often considered researching linguistic theory and changes to modern language that resulted from the pop culture phenomenon of Buffy. But Mal as a Christian? No. Citing that Mal makes moral choices does not make him Christian. In fact, I would argue that part of the point that Joss is making in the creation of a character like Mal, is that morality does not necessitate the existence of a "sky bully." Mal has a very strong, individual belief system--a moral compass. His actions are guided and driven by this code of beliefs and it is not in any way a religiously inspired value system. On the contrary, Mal points out over and over that he does not believe in religion or God.
Mal: If I'm your mission, Shepherd, best give it up. You're welcome on my boat. God ain't (The Train Job)
In much the same way, pointing out the existence of evil in its characters or premise does not provide proof that there must exist a deity that either created or condemns such behaviors or situations.
One of Joss' strong suits as a writer/director is that he creates characters that do not easily fit stereotypes--Joss forces people to see gray areas between good/evil. Is Mal a good man? Certainly he cares for his crew, he has a strong code that he follows, he does what he feels is right, he is not a self-centered character. We want to like Mal. The audience is supposed to like Mal. Now, carefully look at the those qualities and apply them to The Operative. He too cares for his crew, has a strong code that he follows, does what he feels to be right and is not portrayed as self-centered or acting for his own good or benefit. Joss' most frightening villains are those who believe unquestioningly in their purpose--those who do not question. Is Mal a hero? Absolutely but he is not necessarily always the good guy. He is, after all, a thief and an outlaw and we love him more for it.
Mal. Bad. In the Latin. River, in The Train Job
Joss wants you to think. This is not theology. These are not biblical notions of good and evil. These shows would crumble in a second if they were hampered by such simplistic ideological bunk. These shows--and I will include in here, Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and Dr Horrible--all succeed because the characters are not simplistic. Of all of these characters, Buffy comes the closest to being a hero archetype and she was a female, teenage, often whiny, rebellious cheerleader. Angel? Spike? Echo? Mal? Captain Hammer? Dr Horrible? They are all more complex characters either for integrity of story, complexity of narrative or sheer campiness.

Back to Firefly--watch Jaynestown. Watch the interactions between River and Shepherd Book. Watch those interactions paralleled with the misguided worship of a "hero" by people who just need something to cling to when they are forced to live in an oppressive situation--when they are desperate for hope they will believe what they want in the face of evidence to the contrary.
If you are looking for good/evil certainly you can take away examples from Joss' work but it isn't always as black and white as it would appear and it isn't always the heroes that are good or the villians that are evil. This show is not a show that lends itself as a shining example of Christian ethics, beliefs and morality. Some things are sacred. Firefly is one of those things.

Link to the original articles (as referenced in Whedonesque) given in extended entry.


Posted by michelle at March 20, 2011 08:51 AM


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