There was a bit of a splash last week when it was revealed that Fox might, finally, be interested in revisiting the Firefly property. The word used was “reboot”, not revival or renewal, but the company’s apparent make-or-break factor was that they would only revisit it if Joss Whedon was interested in coming back to run the whole deal. Presumably, eternally optimistic Browncoats everywhere raised a cheer of joy, their hope renewed. But should Firefly come back to the airwaves?
Frankly, I think that’s a terrible idea.
Well, to be clearer, it’s a terrible idea unless they address the various and sundry deeply problematic problems that the original series had. The issue I’m coming up against is this: I suspect that eliminating all of these problems would make a show that barely resembles the beloved-by-many original. The show suffered from a variety of racisms with a strong sexist undercurrent, and these were not so much vague issues as they were built into the worldbuilding of the show, deep down in the foundations. Let’s get digging, shall we?
Sacred trust is one of the most fundamental elements of religion, and yet it’s rarely talked about explicitly. Religious belief of any kind is built on relationships—relationships between the divine and the human, between the community and the human, between powerful humans and humans without power, and between humans of equal footing. All of these relationships are based on trust. Most religious people have some kind of trust that their God(s) won’t abandon them in this life or the next. We trust our communities to give us support when we’re in need (spiritually or materially) and we honor our obligation as a member of the community to help others. It doesn’t matter if that community is found in a one-room chapel, a megachurch stadium, or an internet forum. Religious people trust their leaders, who have been given the authority and ability to act (essentially, power), to lead their communities in responsible ways consonant with their belief system’s moral codes. We trust they won’t just make things up as they go along or abuse their power for their own gain, we trust they’ll use their education and experience and wisdom to guide others rightly. And we trust our equals to help us in the day to day lived practice of our faiths.
But what happens when that trust is broken? It’s a vehicle for compelling storytelling.
Spoilers for Game of Thrones, Firefly, and Serenity after the jump.
While Star Trek and Star Wars still reign supreme when it comes to science fiction, I have noticed that in the past couple of years, there has been a different sort of trend happening in sci-fi. Usually what we get in sci-fi media is the story of plucky humans traveling the universe and beating all the odds. Though humans are usually not ignorant when it comes to science and space travel, there are usually alien species that are much older and significantly more advanced. Many oldersci-fi stories are hopeful humanistic stories about how we are able to overcome some sort of problem despite our lesser tech, or by showing how human resourcefulness and good old-fashioned spunk make us major players in the universe despite not being as advanced as some of the older races.
We have always been fascinated with the idea that we are not alone in the universe; that there is some alien presence out there older than us, maybe watching us. We aren’t certain, but we’re confident that one day we will run into them. But as our technology advances more and more, people look up in the sky and wonder why we haven’t encountered an alien presence or why we haven’t at least seen evidence of them through our most advanced telescopes. While this hasn’t stopped people from believing in aliens, this had led to two interesting theories: that either we are alone in the universe, or maybe we’re the more advanced race. For some reason, when we are left with these theories, science fiction starts to become a little less hopeful and a little more bleak in its outlook toward humanity.
Say you’ve begun a new religion. Congratulations! Now you need followers. You could stand on a street corner and shout at people. You could serve the poor and provide for those in need, attracting people with your kindness and generosity. If you’re powerful, you could compel them by law to convert. But those aren’t very effective ways of getting your religion to spread far and wide and really stick. I know what you need: a religious text! Yes, a holy book is exactly what you need to reach people out of shouting range and to make sure people don’t garble your message in our great divine game of telephone.
Most actual, real-world religions have some kind of holy text, but it’d be a mistake to think that they all treat their text the same way, or that members of the same faith treat their same book the same way. Scholars call the way people interpret a text a “hermeneutic” (her-man-OO-tic). If you’re going to understand a religion that has a text, you’ve got to understand the different kinds of hermeneutics you might run into. To do that, I’m going to show you how similar hermeneutics pop up in our geeky fiction.
These days I try to limit the number of shows I watch, but it’s summer, most of the shows I watch are on hiatus, and a friend was gushing over this new show about bounty hunters in space called Killjoys. So, I decided to give it a shot. The pilot got me hooked. The first season just concluded and it was a fun and feels-inducing romp, introducing characters with mysterious pasts and setting up conspiracies.
A while ago we had a post discussing female protagonists who are being watched over/controlled by men/patriarchal organizations. Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Orphan Black were primary examples. Today, I would like to expand on the ideas of that post and talk about a subset of this type of female characters—female characters who are not only overseen by men/organizations (often patriarchal, though perhaps not always) but are also raised to be killers and assassins against their will. I’m a bit torn when it comes to this type of character. On one hand, these women are complex and their tragic backstories allow for character development and growth. But on the other hand, the misogynistic undertones in their arcs are troubling.
Spoilers for Orphan Black, Killjoys, Firefly, and Doctor Who below the jump. Also, trigger warning for child abuse and self-harm.
One of the most common answers to the “So what do you believe?” question is “I’m spiritual, but not religious”. More and more people are identifying as spiritually inclined without the attachments to any formal religion or philosophy. Plenty of self-identified religious folk tend to consider this “just plain old laziness”, but I think there’s something more to it. What’s making being spiritual but not religious so popular, and a successful storytelling tool?