Sunday, 11 November 2012

Enduring Love: Joss Whedon's 'Firefly'

10 years after network execs pulled the plug on Joss Whedon's sci-fi western, the fandom around Serenity continues to grow. 

Here's my thoughts on why this ship will never run out of steam... 

It's hard to sum up precisely why and how Firefly's avid fanbase arose, but if one thing is clear, it's that it's here to stay. Joss Whedon (Whedon, from the root word, genius) is no stranger to fan dedication, but as a lifelong Buffy obsessive even I have to admit that there's something particularly special about the story of Firefly, something that seems to go against all the rules Hollywood has developed for how one judges quality and success.

After all, this is the show that was cancelled before all 14 of its first season episodes even aired. But due to a cast and crew who fiercely believed in the quality of the material, a growing network of fans who were in love with the world, and with a little love from The Powers that Be, Firefly was resurrected in the form of feature film Serenity. At present the characters have lived on through a number of canonical Dark Horse comics series, and the incandescent light of Whedon's visionary 'verse shows no sign of going out. Here are my personal 5 favourite things I love to love about Firefly

1. A crew/family that I love. 

If Joss knows anything, it's how to create memorable characters, and each of the 9 principal leads of Firefly have their own space within their very dysfunctional family dynamic. 

Whether it's Zoe's leadership role with obvious maternal undertones, or River's childlike and often misunderstood contributions, it feels as real as any community dynamic you've ever experienced. 

2. I want to live in it.

Joss's vision of the future is so striking and compelling that I genuinely would love to live there. I want to work on Serenity, go through the highs and lows these characters experience (well, actually I'd happily be absent during any Reaver-related threats). While exploring life on other planets has always been a staple of science fiction, there's something about the Alliance planets that is so immediately identifiable. It makes sense that people will behave in the future exactly as they always have, but Whedon and co. manage to make it distinctively new in appearance while retaining the humanity necessary to allow viewers to engage. 

3. They speak so pretty! 

Some of Joss's best dialogue is showcased in 'Firefly' and 'Serenity'. Who can forget Kaylee's triumphant declaration 'I wanna live!' Or Mal telling Jayne, 'Well, my time of not taking you seriously is coming to a middle.' 

Whedon's speech sparkles with wit and intelligence, TV that's as sumptuous with your eyes closed as it is while you're watching the beautiful people. My personal favourite?

Shepherd Book [to Mal]: If you take sexual advantage of her, you're going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the theater. 

4. It made me hurt.

When you consider how short the show's run actually was, it's astonishing to consider how effectively we were made to engage with these characters and grieve for them when they passed away.

'Serenity' was heartbreaking due to the loss of Shepherd Book and Wash, two of the most popular characters in the Firefly universe. The show had a great deal of respect for its viewers, and so it was unafraid to challenge us and make us deal with real issues of loss and heartbreak. 

Even on a smaller scale, the general pain of Mal and Inara's relationship (or failed attempts at one) were so heartfelt and real, and a testament to the talents of the actors, directors as well as the writers behind the scenes. 

5. It lives on.

Despite its short life on network TV, Firefly had the last laugh as it has proved itself to be an unstoppable force. Its actors have gone on to star in many of the most popular and critically-acclaimed series of the last decade (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Castle and Homeland, and that really is only the tip of the 'berg). 

The characters survived to tell their tale in a feature film, and several canonical comic books have continued exploring the complexities of the complex universe they inhabit. A growing body of critical study has developed around the show, and its impact in the field of television studies continues to grow. 

You can't stop the signal.

No comments:

Post a Comment