Why Firefly?

GeekMom TV and Movies
Image: Fox

It may come as a shock to some that I don’t like sci-fi. Well, strike that. With the exception of Star Trek and the original Star Wars, I don’t like sci-fi and, for some hardcore sci-fi fans, it could be argued that both of those are entirely too mainstream and commercialized to boot.

This is not an arbitrary decision based on non-exposure either. I’ve read AND watched Dune and didn’t like them. I’ve been given a chance to try to read Foundations and while I couldn’t get through it I have no desire to try again. (This is unlike my keen desire to finally make it through Lord of the Rings. I love the book, I love the writing, but Tolkien is, um, verbose. Don’t shake your head at me, you know full well what I’m talking about! I will read it. Eventually.) I’ve others under my belt and am just not thrilled by them. It’s no reflection on the books, subject matter, or fans, it just not my thing.

So it was not a stretch for me to have absolutely NO interest in Firefly. In the early days, my heart strings were tugged just a bit by Joss Whedon’s name. I was and still am a Buffy fan. I didn’t hear about Firefly until long after it was taken off the air and the more I looked the less interested I was; Whedon’s involvement alone couldn’t manage to sway me. First, it only made it one season. No show worth its salt can only last one season. And last, two words: Space. Cowboys. Really?

I knew others absolutely loved the show, others including close friends of mine. I never said it was a bad show, just not one I was interested in watching. These same friends poked, prodded, pleaded, begged, bribed, and eventually threatened to feed me to Reavers (this made no sense to me at the time) until I agreed, half-heartedly, to finally watch the show. I found a box set of the entire series plus the Serenity movie in my hands before a week had elapsed on my begrudging “Ok, fine.”

So, being a woman who stays true to her word, I popped the first DVD in, started the first episode and was confused as hell. On my friends’ advice, I watched them in sequential order, as the show was designed to be aired.  Seeing as a certain network apparently chose to experiment with playing series out of order, the show suffered. Knowing this going in, I figured watching the first episode would make sense since I had the benefit of watching it, well, first. It didn’t. I spent the whole thing staring at my TV, one eyebrow arched, and my head tilted to the side, trying every which way to make sense of what I was seeing.

Then the episode ended. And I immediately started the second. Normally suffering from that much confusion and having no idea what the point or purpose of the storyline was would have been enough to make me tap out the next round. But I found myself drawn to the characters. I didn’t know any of them… but I wanted to.

I really wanted to know how happy, bright, slightly crazy Kaylee ended up a mechanic. I had to figure out why I seemed to like Mal when everything he did really should have annoyed me. Simon and River were a whole other mess that my brain had to figure out. It wasn’t an option, it was a mission. Jayne cracked me up for so many reasons. And how did “warrior woman” Zoe end up with Wash? Not that I had a problem with Wash personally, as my geek crush on Alan Tudyk expanded a bit. I hadn’t realized he was a part of the cast. The more I watched, the more things made sense, as is normally the case.  (The episode “Out of Gas” helped tremendously.)  But instead of the intrigue wearing off as my questions were answered, it only grew. I wanted more. I felt the addiction forming before I’d made it halfway through the episodes, not to mention the movie, Serenity.

Due to parental obligation it took me a over a week to finish the series, being forced to wait until after bedtime to indulge and needing to remind myself nightly, that I too had a bedtime. I loved, and craved, the show but it is definitely not appropriate for my three year old. I watched each episode, soaking it all in, pleased by the appropriate level of drama balanced by comedic relief. (I heart Alan Tudyk, might have mentioned that already.) Witty sarcasm and clever dialogue plus an ingenious little bit of plot and subplot development appeased the writer in me. Horseback riding, old fashioned guns, and badly mangled southern drawls appeased the Oklahoman in me.

However I re-watched the entire season this weekend while my daughter was with her dad for Father’s Day. It was glorious although being the sympathetic viewer/reader I am, I’m struggling with using proper English today. It should be said that Nathan Fillion has been added to my list of geek crushes and that I’ve decided I will never buy an album featuring any music of Joss Whedon. I love him. But not as a singer. For you fellow Firefly virgins, he composed the opening theme song.

I’ll not publish any spoilers in case you are not yet a Firefly fan and have been considering giving it a shot. I highly recommend it and I’ll give you a few good reasons.

It only made one season. It was a brilliant season and it was not the show’s fault it got canceled. It was the network’s.

While it is sci-fi, it has a good basis in reality. That’s always my struggle with sci-fi. I’m entirely too logical to accept the surreality necessary to enjoy sci-fi. Firefly handles this well.

Two words: Space. Cowboys. Yeah, really.




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30 thoughts on “Why Firefly?

  1. My husband & I did not get into Firefly until after seeing “Serenity” and a sneak preview in Boston. The next day I picked up the box set, and were hooked.

    If you’re into comics, I recommend the graphics as well.

  2. Welcome to the Browncoats! Glad to have you. I saw Serenity in theatres but didn’t know there was a show before that. I didn’t watch a lot of tv when I was a teen so I completely missed it. However, the same thing happened to me; my friends gave me the dvds to watch and it was like magic. I was hooked! I’m now a huge fan as well, so much so that I’m tempted to pick up today’s shirt from teefury.com.

  3. I was cajoled into watching Firefly based on my Joss Whedon obsessiveness, post-Buffy (which I also refused to watch till after it was already off the air and am now a huge geek about.) I was pleasantly surprised. I now have everybody at my work watching Firefly. Haha! Success! (Sidenote-I’m also in OKC!)

  4. I also was begged to watch it by a friend of mine. Fantastic. All it did was once again be angry at tv execs for putting crap entertainment year after year on the air and cancelling good storytelling like Firefly.

  5. Being a Sci-Fi fan has nothing to do with Dune. I never got that book/movie either. Despite my dad’s obsession with it. I *heart* Firefly!

  6. I find that the majority of people who aren’t fond of Sci-Fi suffer from the same misconception: Star Wars is not Sci-Fi. (I never actually got into Dune, so I can’t speak to that; my apologies to Frank Herbert)

    I know, I’m throwing myself to the wolves with that statement, but it’s true. Science Fiction at its core requires that the reader/viewer is able to trace a clear path between the present, and the future that the writer has foreseen. The fictional world is an extrapolation on the world as we know it.

    In the words of Robert J Sawyer (sfwriter.com):
    “There is always a way to get from our here and now to the setting of any science-fiction story (usually by making reasonable advances in science and technology as time marches on); there is never a way to get from our real world to the setting of a fantasy story (magic simply doesn’t work in our universe).”

    And in the words of Rod Serling:
    “Science fiction makes the implausible possible, while science fantasy makes the impossible plausible.”

    The disconnect that happens is when you cannot grasp that link between here and there, when it is impossible, rather than implausible.

    And to bring it back to Star Wars – “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” George Lucas put it right up front – this is not our galaxy, this is not our future. Ergo, Star Wars, and a number of other impossible “Sci-Fi” romps are actually Science Fantasy. Now, that’s not to say that the Star Wars movies aren’t fun to watch, nor the books to read, nor the games to play, but strictly speaking, they’re not Science Fiction. When re-examined as half science, half fantasy, they’re a lot easier to swallow.

    And welcome to the Browncoats.

  7. @Kurt – Thank you so much for that little lesson! I actually did not know that but I can definitely see how that thread weaves itself through the sci-fi and sci-fantasy I’ve been exposed to. Still not a fan, not so much because of the outcome, but that road from present to imagine future is still too bumpy, asking me to accept too much, for me to endure. As a historian I end up too critical of their interpretation of the past (even if that past hasn’t happened yet); even when presented in the broad and forgiving light of fiction. I get caught up in figuring out why and lose interest in the story itself. Ironically I read primarily historical fiction. Go figure.

    In other comment news – Thanks for welcoming the newest browncoat into your ranks. Pleased to see so many Jen(n)’s in the room. And Cassie, in the words of Badger “Nice to see someone from the old homestead.” (Shindig)

    (You know its bad when I’ve already begun quoting them…)

  8. I am very lucky that I was able to just this week introduce my 14 year old daughter to Firefly. And she loves it as much as her mom does!

  9. I used to be like that. I thought sci-fi was only pew pew lasers and stuck to fantasy alone. Then I watched Stargate SG-1 and my world was turned around 🙂

  10. That is one of the things about Firefly that I’ve always appreciated– so many sci-fi universes show a sort of cold, sanitized, high-tech world where people seem to have dropped anything remotely “old”– delight in real food or clothes, religion and other cultural things that started long ago, what have you. I love how the universe in Firefly is real and lived-in, and how people are still people and still delight in the same things (even when they get stuck eating protein rations for weeks, they don’t LIKE it as much as a treasured bit of fresh produce), and people haven’t dropped traditions, although new ones have evolved, and music has continued to be passed down over centuries– which only makes sense. I especially appreciate how it is clear this high-tech sci-fi culture is mostly just for the Haves– the Have Nots still make do with what they’ve got– that’s right accurate social commentary.

    Also, it’s all just a whole lot of fun, isn’t it.

  11. I love that the browncoats are still a growing mass. Shiny! But don’t totally give up on Joss and music without watching “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog” first. It’s only 45 min and a google search away.

  12. “That’s always my struggle with sci-fi. I’m entirely too logical to accept the surreality necessary to enjoy sci-fi.”

    And yet you’re willing to suspend disbelief when reading about a bunch of 2-4ft humanoids and their pointy-eared, ageless companion on a journey to dump an indestructible invisibility ring in the heart of a volcano in the middle of a world war involving green-skins and walking, talking trees.

    I believe your problem is not with logic, actually.

    1. Whoa, slow your roll bud. My imagination works fine. The stories aren’t my problem nor are the creatures (or creations) in them. My problem is the logic of how we control gravity in space and travel faster than light and harness lasers in a controlled manner to create weapons and balance out the problem of the weight created by the amount of fuel necessary to make such long trips. You use most of your fuel covering the weight of the fuel. Its a conundrum that we in modern times haven’t resolved yet. In a lot of Sci-fi and Sci-Fantasy books, I’m asked to simply absorb that we’ve conquered those problems and I get caught up in trying to figure out why. Firefly isn’t any different. I’m still required to deal with a future where those questions have been answered but it matters less thanks to the characters and storytelling in this instance.

      I never said sci-fi was bad. It’s a fine genre with a lot of brilliant pieces and works. I just said that I personally didn’t like it. Fantasy I can deal with for the most part. Its a flaw but everyone hast them. Just my personal taste & quirk I suppose. You can question my tastes all you’d like and are welcome too. Won’t change them.

  13. Jenn, do you think you’d enjoy Sci-Fi more if more of the protagonists were of the female persuasion?

    1. I can’t say that its necessarily the male or female thing so much as the gravity in space thing or humans living on planets 300 trillion miles from a star (heat, light, a very specific balance of atmospheric gasses and conditions, these things we fragile humans need to survive). I get caught up arguing with the author-in-absentia in my head.

      1. Ah. Not all science fiction is set in a ‘galaxy far, far away’, though. Some of them are set right here. Have you tried Isaac Asimov’s stories, for example? And then there’s the most famous story by Octavia E. Butler — Kindred — that deals with the here and now as well as the past.

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