The Significance of the Serenity Crew

Whitestar

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After watching Firefly and Serenity on DVD again, I've come to better understand the characters and their significance to the show. In the very first episode, we're introduced to Mal, who is a very good leader, tenacious and a firm believer in God, the latter being the most importance to him. However, within moments, he and what's left of his platoon badly lose the war against the Alliance due to superior firepower. Six years later, we see Mal as a cynical, bitter, and sad individual. He's a defeated, broken, and very lonely man who has lost faith not just in God, but in human beings, especially himself. When he hired his crew, he did so for various reasons.

For instance, he hired Zoe as his second-in-command because she was a fellow soldier who fought with him in the war against the Alliance. He keeps her around because he needs someone who has been in the same boat as himself from a soldier's perspective, and have at least one person who will remain fiercely loyal to him without question. He keeps Wash around because he needs an excellent pilot, as well as someone with a sense of humor. He keeps Kaylee around because he needs a great mechanic and someone to remain hopeful. He keeps Simon around because he needs a doctor who can patch up his crew in his dangerous line of work and help him heal from within. He keeps River around because she's a mindreader and needs someone who possesses a sense of wonder. He keeps Book around because he needs someone who has faith and also serve as his conscience. He keeps Inara around because he needs to love and to be loved. He keeps Jayne around because he needs the extra muscle when the going gets tough, and while Jayne is a self-preservationist, he has also shown to be unexpectedly generous at times when it involved the safety of the crew. The Serenity crew has become Mal's family and it is through them that he ultimately pieces back together his broken life by rediscovering the things that he lost: loyalty, humor, hope, peace of mind, sense of wonder, faith, love, and generosity.

That's my two cents. :)
 
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Joel007

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I've heard it somewhere before that the crew of serenity all represent parts of Mal that he's lost. It one thing that makes the episodes and film so interesting. Most character studies have each character with one trait blown out of proportion, so the viewers can immediately identify with it, and see how it affects the people around them. Firefly has complex characters who each have a variety of opinions and conflicts. While they may appear at first to have a single characteristic which is their "niche" in the show, several of them can unexpectedly share the same attribute (i.e. naiveté or lateral thinking), causing them to conflict and/or support each other. This makes them more believeable.
Mal is very similar to Pratchett's Granny Weatherwax or Commander Vimes. They're fundamentally good people who want to be bad, since their independant nature causes them to rebel against both good and evil. In the things of importance, they'll eventually choose what's best for others, as their generous nature remains intact.
I wanna watch it all again now :D
 

Carolyn Hill

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I agree with you two: Whitestar, your sense is more than two cents; and Joel, you're right that the multifaceted nature of all the characters makes them believable.

I wonder, though, about your analysis of Simon, Whitestar. I don't see Simon as someone who helps heal Mal's insides--at least, not more so than any of the other characters helps Mal heal psychologically. Maybe what Simon represents is family itself, the importance of family, in his determination to help his sister. Simon is willing to yell at Mal and get up in his face about values in a way that the other characters don't usually do, sort of like a brother might.
 

Joel007

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Simon is the one longing for home, another thing that Mal has lost: he lives on and for Serenity. All Mal cares about is keeping her flying, he has no other home.
Simon also adds to the integrity, but there are many voices who act as the conscience of the group. I think that Simon's role is actually reminiscent of the traditional 'mother' role put as a male persona to throw us off the scent. Traditionally the character longing for constants, stability, and security would be a female/mother role. Also it was usually the mother who would patch up the kids in a household injury situation :) Simon cares for River as a big brother, but you could easily alternate that with a mothering position, they would appear very similar.
What do you think?
 

Whitestar

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I agree with you two: Whitestar, your sense is more than two cents; and Joel, you're right that the multifaceted nature of all the characters makes them believable.

I wonder, though, about your analysis of Simon, Whitestar. I don't see Simon as someone who helps heal Mal's insides--at least, not more so than any of the other characters helps Mal heal psychologically. Maybe what Simon represents is family itself, the importance of family, in his determination to help his sister. Simon is willing to yell at Mal and get up in his face about values in a way that the other characters don't usually do, sort of like a brother might.

Well, based upon my observations, I have found Simon to be a level-headed individual, who possesses a certain kind of calmness. In addition, he is quite mature and wise for his age (except when it comes to dealing with women) which makes him suitable to provide additional advice or counsel, especially now more than ever since Book is now dead. As for Simon symbolizing family for Mal, well, I've come to think of the Serenity crew as Mal's family, its what makes him whole, not a particular crew member. :)
 

Sahnny

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Yeah, every Firefly Character represents something Mal wants, has lost, or has failed to do.

Although I must disagree on the Simon point. He doesn't want to go home- he wants to protect his sister. Simon's need to protect his sister is akin to Mal's need to protect his platoon back in Serenity Valley- comething he failed to do.

The ship itself represents Mal's home. As the ship is very much a character in its own right.
 

Steve Jordan

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Another take on the Firefly crew is that they are a future-day retelling of the Robin Hood legend, to wit:

Mal = Robin
Inara = Marion
Zoe = Will Scarlett
Jayne = Little John
Book = Friar Tuck
Wash = Alan-A-Dale
Kaylee = Much, the loyal simpleton (Richard Carpenter version... or, if you prefer, one of Robin's anonymous "Merry Men")

River Tam, in a way, plays much the same role as Carpenter's Herne the Hunter, the mystic guiding force behind Robin or simply as Mal's conscience. Her precog and intuitive abilities have aided the crew in making the right decisions.

Simon could be seen as the embodiment of the "poor and downtrodden," good people struggling to survive, that Mal/Robin is bound to help.

And Serenity itself is Sherwood Forest, a place where Mal and his crew can live their lives free of Alliance interference.
 

clovis-man

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Another take on the Firefly crew is that they are a future-day retelling of the Robin Hood legend...

I like this scenario. Seems to fit quite well. My own take has been absorbed from a notion espoused by a UC Santa Barbara film history professor. She feels it's patterned after the 1939 John Ford movie Stagecoach.

Character parallels:

Mal = The Ringo Kid (John Wayne)
Wash = Buck (Andy Devine)
Inara = Dallas (Claire Trevor)
Simon = Doc Boone (Thomas Mitchell)
River = Lucy Mallory (Louise Platt)
Book = Samuel Peacock (Donald Meek)

And of course, Serenity is the stagecoach.

Other character comparisons would be too much of a stretch. But the notion is fun. I think Joss Whedon's vision incorporates much more than this, but it's a good starting point.

Jim
 

BladeOfFire

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River Rules!!!! She is my favorite character, even though she is a little cracked.
 

Steve Jordan

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I like this scenario. Seems to fit quite well. My own take has been absorbed from a notion espoused by a UC Santa Barbara film history professor. She feels it's patterned after the 1939 John Ford movie Stagecoach.

That's a good one, too. I think it's indicative of how certain common archetypes tend to reappear in literature (and film and TV). In this case, considering Whedon's "SF western" theme, Stagecoach may be more directly appropos than Robin Hood, but I think both share similar elements. And Stagecoach's subplots of characters dealing with their own issues, while staying together during the ride, is probably closer to Firefly's subplot themes.
 

Boaz

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Another take on the Firefly crew is that they are a future-day retelling of the Robin Hood legend, to wit:

Mal = Robin
Inara = Marion
Zoe = Will Scarlett
Jayne = Little John
Book = Friar Tuck
Wash = Alan-A-Dale
Kaylee = Much, the loyal simpleton (Richard Carpenter version... or, if you prefer, one of Robin's anonymous "Merry Men")

River Tam, in a way, plays much the same role as Carpenter's Herne the Hunter, the mystic guiding force behind Robin or simply as Mal's conscience. Her precog and intuitive abilities have aided the crew in making the right decisions.

Simon could be seen as the embodiment of the "poor and downtrodden," good people struggling to survive, that Mal/Robin is bound to help.

And Serenity itself is Sherwood Forest, a place where Mal and his crew can live their lives free of Alliance interference.
Yeah, I realize I'm replying ten years late.... I've been busy.

Steve, The connection to Robin Hood is obvious.... after you've made it for me.

I like it.

There are a number of older versions and newer takes on Robin Hood. But the story of a man (pushed to financial and geographical extremes, fighting for justice, and defending the oppressed while striving to build an honest and caring extended family/society) rings true.

I suggest that Simon is also a Friar Tuck character. He gave up his structured societal employment (suckling on the governmental/Roman Catholic teat). He saw the need to rescue and restore River. Although I see her as the defenseless (poor, widows, orphans)... I can see your argument that she represents the mystic force of nature... after all her name is River.

I've always heard that Stagecoach was the template for Firefly, but I think you're much closer to the mark, probably hitting the bullseye with Robin Hood.
 

Overread

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I think it takes pointers from the Robin Hood concept and you could say that Mal is a recreation of Robin; however I think that I wouldn't try to tie hte rest of the cast to the rest of the Robin Hood world as the links get a bit hazy and mixed up.
I'd also say Jane isn't Little John as Jane continues to battle Mal through the series. Whilst he respects/fears Mal and won't turn on him to his face he will turn on him at nearly any opportunity he can get.


Jane, for all his simplicity as a character, is actually one of the deeper character I think. Partly because of the whole crew he's the least strongly established in himself. Most of the others are pretty well established on who they are - even if there is mystery around them, they are self confident and defined (even if characters like Kaylee are somewhat innocent to the universe in some respects).

Jane though is slightly different and is almost totally akin to Mal from another angle. Broadly speaking he's selfish and self centred; yet its clear he sends money home to his mother without duress; is capable of empathy with others as shown in the Mudders episode; broadly speaking has good intentions so long as they don't get in his way (several times he states how he actually respects Simon for his choice, but repeats in those same instances that that respect doesn't trump the fact that Simon and River are a direct threat to the rest of the crew - and Jane of course).
I always felt it a shame we never got see more of Jane establishing himself and seeing where he went as a character; esp since he was a reliable wild-card in many situations that threw the unity of the crew at an angle (so often with small cast programs the core cast are strongly united).
 

Toby Frost

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I agree: I felt the most sympathy for Jane, partly because he was a normal, flawed person (albeit a violent criminal as well), partly because he was funny, and partly because he had a normal human reaction towards the irritating psychic waif. Unfortunately - and otherwise I think Firefly is very good - River is a great big Troubled Mary Sue, and hence anyone who opposes her has to come to grief.
 

Overread

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I think River never really got to develop - the closest we got was the Film and, for the purposes of a film, that accelerated a lot of things beyond what is healthy (though honestly did really well at it all thing told).

She is somewhat a Mary Sue though, but I think that given proper time in the series to develop we'd have seen less of that. Plus, in theory, we'd have seen others of her kind. Chances are that others who made it through the program and didn't escape might have been sent after her as well and we never resolved the to men with hands of blue either (who I rather liked as I thought they had a really hard role which was basically "suit with medical gloves on" and yet pulled it off and looked suitably sinister and creepy)
 

Boaz

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Overread, Robin Hood is not a perfect analogy. I really think of Jayne Cobb as an Orc. He's big, he's strong, he likes eating, he likes drinking, he likes fighting, he likes sex. He needs enough money to indulge in more fighting and sex. His greatest skill is self preservation.

Favorite Jayne quotes...

Shiny. Let's be bad guys.

She's in congress?!?!

You know what the chain of command is? It's the chain I go get and beat you with 'til ya understand who's in ruttin' command here.

What month is it?

Looked bigger when I couldn't see him.

That's why I never kiss 'em on the mouth.

Can I start getting sexed already?

What we need's a diversion. I say Zoe gets naked... I could get naked.

Ten percent of nothing is, let me do the math here, nothing into nothing, carry the nothin'...

Here's a little concept I've been working on. Why don't we shoot her first?

(pretending to read Simon's diary)"Dear diary: Today I was pompous and my sister was crazy. Today we were kidnapped by hill folk, never to be seen again. It was the best day ever."

Ain't logical. Cuttin' on his own face, rapin' and murdering... Hell, I'll kill a man in a fair fight... or if I think he's gonna start a fair fight, or if he bothers me, or if there's a woman, or if I'm gettin' paid... mostly only when I'm gettin' paid. But these Reavers... last ten years they show up like the bogeyman from stories. Eating people alive? Where's that get fun?

Little Kaylee here just wishes you was a gynecologist.

What'd y'all order a dead guy for?
 

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