Let’s Do the Twist Again

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August 4, 2014 by JImbo

firefly poster

Why Joss Whedon Named His Show “Firefly”

This is going to sound all fanboyish, but this is EXACTLY why I loved the show “Firefly.” Science Fiction? Westerns? Politics? Done INTELLIGENTLY?
Yes please!

While many shows are said to have this or that message, Joss Whedon is not shy about his motivations for making TV shows and movies. He is a curious soul and likes to create things. He likes to explore new ideas, but also old themes.

Media always reveals something about the society in which is resonates. That is nowhere more true than in Science Fiction. By setting things on other planets in other times, the creators can claim distance from the “here and now”… giving them more leeway to explore touchy topics.

In the 1960s Star Trek reflected the new counter-culture. They used space as an incubator to explore different relationships and themes. (Captain Kirk’s affair with a black woman was far more scandalous than his affair with a green alien woman!)

In the 1970s and 1980s it was Star Wars. The “Evil Empire” versus the freedom loving “Rebels.” How many times had we heard that story in war after war around the world with the United States and Soviet Union pulling the strings? It was as subtle as a sledgehammer to the face!

In the 1990s they recast Star Trek and Star Wars with remakes, tweaking the original premises. They became a lot more engaged on “modern” issues like sexual harrassment and militarization. They weren’t directly discussed in the original series.

While groundbreaking in their own way, the original shows were still a product of their times. The USS Enterprise had women on board, but they still wore miniskirts. Darth Vader says “Luke, I am your Father”, but doesn’t bother even mentioning his mother.

On the USS Voyager the captain was a no-nonsense man-hating feminist. Luke Skywalker’s mom became an action-packed super hero.

In the 2000s there was Firefly.

And now?

I know these are old discussions. College papers have been written on this stuff. My point is that the resurgence of Firefly shows a new undercurrent in the culture.

There is a nostalgia that goes beyond the show. It is a throwback to the old character-driven Westerns. It is a recalling of a simpler time. Not a SAFER time surely, but simpler.

Additionally, the deep Libertarian (ie “Leave me the hell alone”) theme is unmistakable. Again, it’s not subtle. The same “moving West” theme of Westerns is retold here. It’s the American experience.

Star Trek was exploring new worlds.

Battlestar Galactica had colonists fleeing into space from the mechanical Cylon Empire.

Star Wars had rebels fleeing to the “edges of space.”

Firefly too has independent people fleeing central authority.

I don’t see Firefly coming back again… on TV anyway. However, something will replace it.

The urge to “move on” and “explore” are integral to our nature as Americans. We seek opportunity and liberty.

What will replace Firefly? Already it’s been 11 years since the show ended. A new generation will soon be creating the next “Big Damn Show” or “Big Damn Trilogy.”

I wonder what this next group of young people will deem important to add to their stories. How will they put a new twist on an old theme?




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