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Reviews Comments: Gave it a chance, major Values Dissonance. Not recommended for franchise newcomers. Serenity film/book review by skzip 887

Ordered it on Netflix to give the poor, defenseless Browncoats a little chance after they were so callously Screwed By The Network. I had NO idea about the setting or it's characters, only that everyone I talked to thought it was criminally underrated. Right off the bat, River is in the Crystal Spires And Togas Alliance school, scolding them for "Meddling... meddling," only to see that the scary, evil Leftists are brainwashing her. Suffice it to say, I was not expecting a giant "all welfare states are Orwellian" anvil in the face mere seconds into the movie. I tried to give it more of a chance to see if there was any ambiguity in this situation, but all I saw was more sanctioned culture-bashing.

Mal is an Ethan Edwards Expy who gets multiple, angst-filled, Jerk Justifications to make sure he can insult Granola Girl Inara, or anyone else, as much as he wants to. Zoe's supposed to be a counterbalance, but all I heard from her was "aye sir" or something along those lines, and an objection to the ship-disguiseing scheme at the end. Kaylee seemed like an amped-up version of Eliot Ried from Scrubs, while river seemed more like a co-dependent fembot sex fantasy than an independent Action Girl. Shepard and the operative have roles as Magical Negro and Strawman Political, respectively, but most of the male characters just don't get enough screen for proper introductions. I had to check Wikipedia just to find out Zoe and Wash were married.

These are all my personal Epileptic Trees here, but, based on what I've seen, I can not recommend the franchise. I know Shurg of Joss forbids me from What Do You Mean Its Not Political, but as someone who's had to defend their beliefs in (some forms of) "big government" and multiculturalism, I can't help but feel I was being caricatured by the Alience's Obviously Evil image. It's a rude, sweaty Punk Punk Space Western, and I've experienced the same Values Dissonance with traditional westerns and American Civil War movies too; nothing wrong with liking them, but nothing wrong with disliking them either. I had no problem with Buffy The Vampire Slayer and, and really liked Dr Horribles Sing Along Blog.

Despite how it's been marketed, this is not a good intro to the franchise, it's for long time fans only. Seinfeld Is Unfunny and not even Serenity will amaze everyone.


  • Petro
  • 20th Nov 10
You've probably heard this before but I really have to say, watch the show instead. Its cool that us browncoats got a movie and all but Firefly just wasn't well suited to it. The firefly series was first and foremost a character drama, and trying to jam all that into a two hour movie geared for new audiences was a pretty awful idea. It was basically all the snark and action with none of the head or heart.

Mal was compellingly flawed instead of just an insufferably smug prick all the time. River wasn't fetishized (not that this stopped people) or an action girl. She shoots some people once in the series and its rightly interpreted by the crew as troubling sociopathic behavior. Book was a Sixth Column or defector (we never found out). Wash called Zoe on her obsequiousness frequently (even got an episode for it). Kaylee was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl but was given enough time to flesh out and explain her Pollyanna-ish tendencies. Inara... Inara was still annoying but at least she had a character. Most Alliance members that pop up are at worst a Punch Clock Villain. The first episode has them send medivacs for surrendering rebels and the second one has Mal stealing medicine they're sending to fringe worlds. Hardly the Evil Empire.

Despite the fact that I think you're projecting political commentary on this a little harder than its creators intended I agree that in its attempt to boil down its plot into a movie time frame it suffered some nasty Adaptation Decay. And to all those looking to check out Firefly, do it with the series proper (now on Hulu!) and not this mediocre addition.
  • 21st Nov 10
I have to wonder if the setting (time) you viewed this has colored how you interpret it. I also was introduced to the franchise through this move (I needed something to wash out the taste of SW:Rot S) and I came to the opposite conclusion politically. I saw it as damning the Bush presidency and the right wing as a whole. The school lesson questioning the revised justification for Iraq (war for peace) while the larger plot was just a step away from legislating morality (an extension of the "Christian" right's argument that "Only our morals are moral").
  • forlaughs
  • 31st Jul 11
I'm late for the party, here, but I've got to say I'm shocked that anyone felt the movie had to do with Right vs. Left (though given the current partisanship in the US, it seems everyone sees everything that way).

Also I just want to point out that though I get the whole Alliance = Union analogy, it breaks down once you get down to the facts; the similarities are more aesthetic in that the less industrialized outer planets fought for independence from the Alliance (though they didn't own them before that, so its not really a civil war) which was bigger and stronger. So, in a sort of strategic way, the war went similar to the Civil War with the bigger, more powerful side winning and then incorporating the losing side into their own nation.

However, the war really has more in common with a war involving a large nation (The Alliance, which is somewhat America-like) invading weaker, perhaps less objectively good (some were implied to be dictatorships, or be rather barbaric... though they still are, more or less) countries to try to 'civilize them.'

In that way, I think it has more in common with the various imperialistic wars that have been happening (and arguably still do) since 1492, but most like the 1800s, and perhaps most comparable to the settling of the West, in some ways.

Politically, the point of Serenity is that people are flawed, and that governments (or ideologies, or whatever) that try to engineer societies to be 'better' don't work, and are, in fact, making things worse.

Saying that has to do with 'the left' and 'big government' is silly. It has much more to do with the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany or the British Empire or the modern War on Terror (at least, our freedom spreading wars in the middle east). It has more to do with the idea that any sort of system that is extreme and wants to take away the freedom of individuals for the sake of alleged societal good ('their own good' according to those in charge of such a system) is wrong, as that freedom (which does allow for our many flaws) is what allows us to be human. Without it, we become the docile dead of Miranda or the violent Reavers. When someone tries to engineer society, they create a society of the few leaders (The Alliance), the mindless following masses (Miranda). I think the Reavers are meant to be more of a personification of the negative effects this tend to have, and the horrors this tends to create, not any individual group of people in reality (example: view The Alliance as the Nazi party, then Miranda are the conformists who are essentially 'dead' inside in that they let horrors happen all around them and just keep living their regular lives... if barely... while the Reavers represent those horrors; the Holocaust, for example).

So the movie isn't against leftism, just like 1984 isn't against socialism (Orwell was a socialist). In fact, given that the Alliance is meant to be the epitome of a corporatist 'democracy' that is really run by corporations (Blue Sun, for example), its hard to see how you think the Alliance was meant to represent your views at all... I'll give it that the movie does come out in favor of individual freedom over all else, but honestly I don't respect the opinions of people who don't believe in freedom (and I'm a leftist, so...), but I think you thought the issue had more to do with the Alliance representing liberalism when it really represents fascism and pride.
  • Tomwithnonumbers
  • 3rd Aug 11
The film was right versus left. It's not really deniable I'm afraid. You don't have a very healthy right-vs left debate in America because of the two party system and a lot of issues which don't fall in those groups (like Christianity) or should fall on the other side (abortion=pro-choice=right, sanctity of life=health of society over freedom of individual=left) so maybe it confuses the issue.

But basically whenever they talked about their right to do as their please, their right not to be intefered with, the problems with governments meddling for the good of the people, the problem with too much control, too large a government etc, well that's what the right-left debate is. The Wild West itself is essentially the right ideal.

That said, despite being a feverent lefter, I didn't mind the politicalness. It was the good sort of right-wing(not about being richer than others) and I believe Joss when he says the Alliance worked fine on the centre worlds, just wasn't suited for the outskirts. Also the Alliance, didn't really represent or try to push leftish ideals. It was more of a right-antagonist than a left-strawman in my eyes

That said, Serenity was my intro to the franchise and I loved it and watched it more than Firefly.
  • fraxas
  • 18th Aug 11
Folks, I propose an entirely different ideological scale where right wing is pro-capitalist, left-wing is pro-human-rights, Y axis up is authoritarian, and X axis down is anarchist/libertarian.

There's actually quite a bit of support for such a model. The right wing versus left-wing political spectrum has become difficult and unwieldly to use as some issues simply don't boil down to either left wing or right wing. Also, the definitions of the ideologies have changed: used to be left-wing was pro-Republic, and right-wing was pro-Monarchy. But nowadays the right-wing has evolved to accept monetary dynasties and business heirs into the original aristocracy, and some members of the left have abandoned the view of Republic-based governments, believing them to be too corrupt.

Suffice to say big government can actually be a separate concept from either right wing (libertarians versus fascists) or left wing (socialists versus anarchists).

It is unfortunate however that the corporate elements represented by Blue Sun (which produced the Pax) were removed from the final draft of the movie script, as that would make the left right government versus corporation issue much more ambiguous. As it is, the movie could also be interpreted not necessarily as outlaws versus big government, but perhaps free citizens versus a military-intelligence-industrial complex gone wild.
  • Wackd
  • 20th Aug 11
I think roping in Blue Sun—which didn't get nearly enough set-up compared to the either severely neglectful or extremely restrictive/corrupt Alliance (depending on what episode you're watching)—would've come out of left field even if you hadn't seen the show.

Besides, government restrictiveness isn't a left wing or right wing issue, each side just wants to be restrictive about different things, so it's easy for audiences of all political ideologies to get behind the idea of the government being domineering. Making it about corporate politics tips the scales a bit.
  • forlaughs
  • 20th Aug 11
I think people are viewing it with too much limiting from American politics. In America, we often view Left- big government, and Right-small government.

Thats not really applicable to this movie though, as both sides are much more benevolent (at least for the vast majority of their fans) than the Alliance.

I think when it was said that the Alliance was more like the Right's idea of the 'big enemy' but not really a strawmen of the left, that was kinda accurate, though I'd argue that the Alliance was really just the enemy of the base things that the Left and Right in America share.

How do evil dictatorships in real life fit into the Right-Left view? Look at Nazi Germany, for example. They had some Leftist ideas, and some Right ideas, but the big things that made them bad guys weren't really either. They may have been based on one or the other (often, both, in a weird way), but taken to an extreme that no one would want- and that is relevant. There isn't really a 'slippery slope' when it comes to this. Universal health care or tax cuts for the rich don't lead to death camps, making death camps leads to death camps. Basically, neither side, Left or Right, would like an evil dictatorship, which is basically the ultimate enemy of both sides.

Basically, what the Alliance and evil dictatorships do in real life is to use power to try and keep power, and neither the Right or Left is in favor of that. I would agree, though, that the base ideas about 'trying to make the world better' used as justification for this is applicable to evil dicatorships in the real world but also (in a less dramatic way) to American politics. As Wackd said, both sides are restrictive in their efforts to make the world better in THEIR way, and one could argue the movie is actually saying that we need to move away from both sides in this way and focus instead on the things we agree on, leaving the things we disagree on to individuals. That is, and these are just strawmen examples, we shouldn't try to fit America to the christian ideal with no gay marriage or abortion, etc, or make a socialist healthcare system where people can't choose to buy their own. Instead, we should promote freedom, and people's power to have a say in government, and justice. Leave christianity to the christians and the free healthcare for those who want it.
  • psycher7
  • 29th Aug 11
^ No, absolutely not. The Nazis, like all Fascists, were on the Far Right. What led to death camps? Merely extending the chauvanist, conservative view of nationalism to its furthest logical conclusion. This trend is reflected in almost all of their social policies. They coopted the socialist brand to gain mass appeal, then purged themselves of any legitimate claim to socialism with the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 and Hitler's subsequent rapproachment with the Bavarian industrialists and the conservative middle class that wanted law and order. Anytime someone claims that Fascism is not the extreme Right, they demonstrate a total ignorance of what the Right/Left divide is.

Also, your idea of a universal healthcare system that isn't universal is absolutely ridiculous.
  • fraxas
  • 7th Sep 11
People who were card carrying Nazis actually had quite a number of benefits, so they might THINK the Nazis were socialist because of their perspective, despite also having to compete for those benefits in a meritocracy. Meanwhile, in general the Nazis were a Fascist dictatorship, and organized around Hitler's favourite corporations. Saying that the Nazis had elements of both isn't all wrong, though they probably do lean a little more to the right.

I'd agree the concentration camps were a product of nationalism taken to an extreme, and at the same time, they were also a source of forced labour that the Nazis needed for their war effort. Both of those, plus the protestant christian streak that ran through the Nazis is fairly right wing, but I'd agree that actually creating a concentration camp doesn't take right wing or left wing, but hatred and cruelty.
  • Wackd
  • 7th Sep 11
Look, the point is, regardless of party affiliation most politicians look to restrict something. Both sides also feel free to ignore issues that they don't feel concern them. Notice how little's being done on the homelessness front. The Alliance is all of this taken to the extreme, at least if you consider tight intranational trade laws overly restrictive.
  • forlaughs
  • 5th Dec 11
This is a bit delayed, but psycher, what are you talking about?

Pretty much every gov't run universal healthcare system in the world allows the option for people to buy their own.

Fascism isn't really far right or left. Thats my whole point: the right/left "sides" aren't really the only two sides at all, and they're very vaguely defined (at this point). Not to mention the reduction of things to sides (as opposed to policies) is kinda meaningless, anyway.

Nazis were corporatist. Thats not really traditional left or right, its just corporatist. They had some central planning, as well. Thats 'far' left (though most 'left wingers' don't want centralized planning) in the sense of it being similar to communism in the USSR.

"Right" as presented in Firefly has nothing to do with nationalism, of course, so that whole bit is off...

Anyway, back to Firefly and Serenity. Gassing your own people to try to control them is bad. Its not really a right or left wing action, its just the people in power trying to stay in power. They may justify this in a variety of ways, appealing to right or left or libertarian (that ones hard...) or statist or whateverist ideology, but essentially its trying to change PEOPLE to fit the government as opposed to changing gov't to fit the people. If you are a liberal who somehow thinks this is attacking your side, then you've got a negative view of your own side. Same for conservatives. Its more like democracy and freedom vs. dictatorship (and a bit of corporatism hinted at).
  • TheBadinator
  • 30th Apr 12
The fact that a "left-right" or even a "left-right/up-down" political scale engenders this much confusion and conflict only demonstrates the facepalm-worthy ignorance of trying to define a complex and convoluted array of ideologies encompassing dozens of philosophies and hundreds of issues, many of which have nothing to do with one another, onto a one or two-dimensional zero-sum scale. So can we please stop exacerbating this dipshittery by also trying to apply it to fictional situations where its application is, at best, dubious?
  • Wackd
  • 30th Apr 12
Well, we did. This thread's been dead for five months.
  • Tomwithnonumbers
  • 30th Apr 12
You are posting this almost five months after the most recent comment :D

EDIT: Ninja'd. In that case, the formation of most political systems in the world shows that people despite their hudnreds of philosophies can find common ground into something which normally coagulates into a right-left divide. It's not perfect but considering it was the major political motivator for world changing actions for roughly the last 50 years it's not completely meaningless or worthless but (very) roughly outlines two very major but contradictory views on governance.

Now you may start the conversation you asked people to finish or be satisfied that my view diverges from yours, dilemma! :D

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