am a flan. I won’t deny it.
And no, that wasn’t a spelling error (“flan” roughly translates into “hardcore Firefly fan,” due to a fortunate slip of the tongue by Nathan Fillion).
It was no surprise, therefore, that a few of my “loving” friends recently sent me the Cracked.com video “Firefly Crew Were the Bad Guys.”
Here are the basic points of the argument:
- The Alliance creates order throughout the galaxy by establishing space stations, maintaining a military presence and distributing medicine.
- Those outside of Alliance “control” tend to be quite unsavoury.
- Mal and Zoe are biased sources, so their perspective of the “evil” Alliance is skewed.
- The Alliance has established “freedom of religion” and “safe and legal prostitution.” (Personally, I am not sure the latter is a plus, but that’s just me.)
- The Alliance has created a strong enough economy that a preacher and a companion can afford space-rent.
- The Alliance’s treatment of River could be seen as acting as the greater good for society.
Here’s the problem with the premise of these arguments (and the beauty of Firefly): humanity is far more complex than simple archetypes of good guys and bad guys. The Firefly crew and the Alliance are all bad guys… and good guys. That is what makes Firefly so grand. We see ourselves in these flawed characters, in the good and in the bad. The world of Firefly swims through the fog of moral grey areas with a relatable grace.
The same beautifully grey concept is echoed in The Clone Wars of the Star Wars saga. We, the audience, are led to believe the Republic are the good guys (they do have the Jedi on their side after all), and the Separatists are the bad guys. But in reality it was a little more complex than that.
In the Season Three episode, “Heroes of Both Sides,” we come to learn that the term “hero” is defined by perspective; good people with good hearts and genuine compassion exist on both sides of the war, just as there are bad people on both sides.
In the episode, young Padawan and Republican Ahsoka travels across enemy lines to meet a devoted separatist senator who is friends with Padme, Mina Bonteri. Ahsoka is shocked to discover someone so compassionate and kind-hearted could be a Separatist, because she was taught that all Separatists were evil. Not only is war complex, but so is our own humanity.
In Firefly, we feel like the crew are the good guys because we see ourselves in them. The story of Serenity is told with such eloquence that it is hard not to be drawn to the characters with love and compassion. I would hazard a guess that Joss Whedon would be up to the challenge of endearing us to the Alliance if he told a story from their perspective.
The truth is we are all capable of great good and great evil, because we are human. We are faithful and flawed. The Firefly crew’s story reflects the murky grey area we live in—that sometimes the choices we make are not all black and white, but are flooded with complexities and circumstances.
I mean, the Bible is a little fuzzy on kneecaps, isn’t it? ♦