Firefly and Me

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Life on the Rim

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First aired: The Signal: Season 6, Episode 7
Written by Helen Eaton
Read by Helen Eaton
Edited by Kara Helgren
Joss Whedon
So, I wanted to get a show that took the past and the future and put them together by making them feel like the present, by making a show with not only troubles that people could relate to, as opposed to aliens, or bumpy foreheads or ambassadors or things that are not part of everyday life, but like getting a job, getting out of trouble.

From these words, as spoken in one of the special features on the Firefly DVD box set, it is clear that Joss Whedon intended for his audience to be able to relate to Serenity’s crew and their situation. The setting in Firefly may be far away in time and space from our own, but there are still many parallels between life for us on Earth and life for the crew in the ‘verse. We can also relate to the characters themselves. The nine main characters are so varied and so richly drawn that I think all of us can find at least some parallels with ourselves.

So, how do you relate to Firefly? For me, there are certainly some similarities between the crew’s life on Serenity and mine. No, I don’t live on a spaceship (I wish!), but I do live, work and play with the same small group of people and in that I see a parallel with Serenity’s crew. In my case, that small group of people consists of missionaries rather than space pirates, so I guess there are some differences there! But we do tend to share our lives closely, working and socialising together.

We’ve all left family, friends and home countries behind to make a life in a foreign country and that is something that turns us into a created family, just like Serenity’s crew. Many of our actual family members may be thousands of miles away, but we’ve found new parents, brothers, sisters and children in the people we work with and in their families. And this all happens despite being a group of very different people. Just like Serenity’s crew is made up of about as different a group of people as you could imagine, we also come from different backgrounds and different countries (albeit all on the same planet). In terms of profession, we may resemble Shepherd Book more than any other Firefly character – mysterious background notwithstanding – but that doesn’t mean we’re all carbon copies of each other in terms of our personalities. And so we also have our disagreements from time to time, just like Mal and his crew. But we do find ourselves creating deep, long-lasting friendships too, as we share so many experiences together.

My friends and I do not know how it feels to be on the losing side of a civil war and then continue to live in that same world, but we do often know how it feels not to fit in for a different reason. We live in a foreign culture and, even after many years, we will always be outsiders to some extent. I cope with that by escaping to the haven of my flat, which is most definitely my Serenity. I can leave my worries about being culturally inappropriate at the door because inside my flat, I’m the captain and I live by my rules. I can wear what I like, speak English, listen to my kind of music and just relax.

And that leads me on to another similarity between my life and that of Serenity’s crew: a linguistic one. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that we don’t curse in Chinese, but we do pepper our speech with loanwords from Swahili when English just won’t do. We are certainly not as witty as our BDHs, but our speech probably sounds just as odd to an outsider.

One big difference between my situation and Mal and his crew’s is a culinary one. In fact, our situations are pretty much the opposite. I can go to the market and pick up pineapples, mangoes and, yes, even strawberries sometimes, for a few coins, but from time to time it would be so nice to have some packaged food! A packet of taco seasoning maybe, or some Earl Grey tea – those are to us, as strawberries are to Kaylee.

Running out of gas is not something we generally have to deal with here, but running out of electricity is something we’re very familiar with. “Going dark” for us is not powering down a spaceship in order to hide from the Alliance, but just an exasperatingly frequent feeling that we experience when the power supply cuts unceremoniously out on us.

In terms of situation, then, I can most definitely relate to Firefly. But what about the characters? Well, in most cases, I think that is something that will remain just between me and them. But I will say that I do feel for Shepherd Book in Serenity the pilot episode, when he wonders whether he is on the right ship. I know that feeling sometimes. And I think I know how Simon feels when he tries to help River, but isn’t always sure that he’s going about it the best way. And like Mal, I don’t believe that men can make themselves better, but that leads me to a faith in God, not away from one. Oh, and like Jayne I definitely know how special it is to get a parcel from a loved one at home. I prefer mine to contain chocolate rather than cunning hats, but the sentiment is certainly the same!

Perhaps though the most important reflection of my own life that I see in Firefly is that belief and love keep me fighting and keep me flying. Belief that I’m involved in something worth fighting for and love for what I’m doing, and most importantly, who I’m doing it for.

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