A review of a seemingly little-known science fiction film called ‘Serenity’. Serenity is the creation of Joss Whedon, who is also the creator of the TV shows ‘Buffy’ and ‘Angel’. I didn’t follow either show, but occasionally tuning in, I found the dialogue and plot lines to be good.
So when a friend of mine bought the DVDs to the precursor of the ‘Serenity’ film, which was a TV series called ‘Firefly’, and loaned them to me, I was interested enough to give them a try. I ended up watching 14 episodes in about 3 days.
The TV show aired on Fox in 2002 and was cancelled before its first season was through. Its creators blame ‘reality tv’. In fact it was quite demanding of the audience.
The series and movie are of interest to me because, like any pop culture, I impose my own political views on it. The premise of the show is that, 500 years in the future, an ‘Alliance’ has ‘unified’ all of the inhabited planets (inhabited by humans, there are no alien races) of the galaxy in a massive war. On the other side of this war of ‘unification’ were the ‘Independents’, or ‘browncoats’, who fought for – well, independence, presumably. Among these independents was the main character of the show, captain Malcolm Reynolds, and his first officer, Zoe. Six years after the war ends, the show’s action starts – with the two of them and a handful of others doing small-scale smuggling operations and other little jobs and avoiding the Alliance.
It was so interesting to me because the captain is a character with really profound principles who had given up on the possibility of changing the world – the time for fighting had past, and he had to accept that his side had lost. Given the way the alliance forces look and act, the ‘independents’ had a kind of anti-imperialist flavour, to me. So how does one live one’s principles if one has already fought and lost? It’s interesting to watch it all play out.
The movie, ‘Serenity’, seemed to me in some ways to break with this a little. I hadn’t seen this break until a friend called attention to an ‘inspirational speech’ the captain gives the crew before they embark on a risky conflict with the Alliance. A friend of mine suggested she could almost see the American Flag unfurling in the background as the captain finished his speech. I didn’t see it that way and I’m still unsure whether that was there somewhere in the writer’s consciousness. From a war of colonial liberation, I wondered whether I had to recast the war between the ‘Alliance’ and the ‘Independents’ as a historical parallel with the American Civil War. That makes the captain an ex-Confederate soldier – which, for someone like me, makes him somewhat more difficult to identify with or admire.
The series, and the film, remain ambiguous enough that I believe one can impose one’s own politics on them. Like ‘Lord of the Rings’, which I know in some respects is probably a white supremacist fantasy about beating back the brown hordes – respects I decided I would ignore so that I could enjoy the story and the film.
If anyone’s watched it, I’d be curious what you think.