January 26, 2012

Firefly – and radical feminism – Part 2

Posted in Shows and Films tagged , , , , , , , at 11:53 pm by SarahAndrea Royce

I made a long introduction to this post, but now I finally want to start my analyses of Allectos analyses of Firefly.

She has four posts on the subject, one for Firefly as a show, two about the seriesOur Mrs Reynolds” and one for the final Episode “Objects in Space”.

She starts out with the characterintrodution of Zoë Alleyne Washburne , who is first shown to serve as Corporal under Sergeant Malcom Raynolds in the Unification War.
She writes:
“The first scene opens in a war with Mal and Zoe. Zoe runs around calling Mal ‘sir’ and taking orders off him. I roll my eyes. Not a good start.”
Uhm… so does everyone else who serves on his side in the battle of Serenity (after the Serenity valley, where it happens) and is pretty normal for military hierarchy, since he is the highest ranking soldier left.

Shure, you can go meta and see the whole concept of hierarchy, armies and war as symptom of patriarchal culture, but noone ever stated that Firefly plays in a universe that has overcome that. Actually pretty much the opposite. The outer rim territories, where a lot of the show takes place, has fallen back into a pretty much “western”-culture, complete with bible thumping and all (Thus Firefly is marketed as Spacewestern).

At the start of the regular time she is second in command again under Malcom Raynolds (Mal), Captain of the Fireflyclass ship Serenity. Allecto describes the following scene:

“The next scene is set in the present. Mal, Jayne, and Zoe are floating about in space. They come into some danger. Mal gets all panicky.
Zoe says, “This ship’s been derelict for months. Why would they –”
Mal replies, (in Chinese) “Shut up.””

Not nice, is it? Well, even if that was defendeble, as Mal says shut up to be able to hear what Wash, the Pilot, says, he doesn’t even say it to Zoë, but to Jayne Cobb who is the last to speak before the “Shut up” is heard and Mal clearly looks in his direction.

The problem is, here it starts to get fuzzy, because she bickers on that:
“So in the very second scene of the very first episode, an episode written and directed by the great feminist Joss, a white man tells a black woman to ‘shut up’ for no apparent reason.”
Well he doesn’t and there was an apparent reason (the important message from the pilot)

And she does shut up. And she continues to call him sir. And takes his orders, even when they are dumb orders, for the rest of the series.
Well yes, she is paid to serve as second in command, a job she is perfectly free to leave. Not only that, they are an extremely well reheased team that relies on each other blind, so even what occurs to others as dumb orders, Zoë has learnt that it is not always the case. Others haven’t and this creates a sad plot point later.

But wait, maybe there is a reason why Allecto thinks Zoë should be an eqal partner:
“They bought a Firefly, an old space ship, and Mal calls it Serenity, after the last battle they fought for the Independence.”
This is one more error and once more pretty misleading. Mal bought the ship, not they, and she actually mocks him quite a bit about it. Yes, pretty submissive obviously. Well the concept of humor is pretty much lost on Allecto, as she introduces the next female character, Kaywinnit Lee Frye (Kaylee), the mechanic of the crew.

And for the first time, she got it right, albeit still missleading:
“The next scene we meet Kaylee, the ship’s mechanic. <- Lookee, lookee, feminist empowerment. In this scene Mal and Jayne are stowing away the cargo they just stole. Kaylee is chatting to them, happily. Jayne asks Mal to get Kaylee to stop being so cheerful. Mal replies, “Sometimes you just wanna duct tape her mouth and dump her in the hold for a month.” Yes, that is an exact quote, “Sometimes you just wanna DUCT TAPE HER MOUTH and DUMP HER IN THE HOLD FOR A MONTH.” Kaylee responds by grinning and giving Mal a kiss on the cheek and saying, “I love my Captain.” "
If she says this is the next scene, she actually not just means the shot in which he says this, so its noteworthy that the three of them are stowing the cargo and its a conversation, not Kaylee chatting to them (which would be onedirectional). All are in a pretty good mood after just escaping with some valuable pray and its clearly an act of humor and not even by far a threat.

But that escapes Allecto
“What the fuck is this feminist man trying to say about women here? A black woman calling a white man ‘sir’. A white male captain who abuses and silences his female crew, with no consequences. The women are HAPPY to be abused. They enjoy it. What does this say about women, Joss?”

O, well, I forgot to mention it, in case you have not seen the show, Zoë is played by african american actress Gina Torres. Since radical feminism has a heritage in analysing powerstructurs and privilege, for her its obviously more degrading than for anyone else two have a white, male boss in a military style hierarchy. And its the doom of her marriage, at least according to Allecto:
“My white grandfather liked black women because they were ‘exotic’, and he did not, could not treat women, especially women of colour, like human beings. I grew up watching my great aunts, my aunty and my mother all treated like shit by their white husbands, the men they loved. So you will forgive me for believing that the character, Wash, is a rapist and an abuser, particularly considering that he treats Zoe like an object and possession.”
This may actually alienate those who know Firefly a bit. Wash, a rapist and an abuser, treating Zoe like an object? Actually Wash has a deep respect for his wife, to the point of being submissive and even stating once, that he is married to a wife who could kill him with his pinky.
What so deeply disturbs Allecto is his stated admiration of her beauty. Obviously a trait of a person must never be her looks because only objects have looks, thus admiring the beauty of your partner is turning them into an object. Well thats not exactly Allectos concept, its deeply rooted in radical feminism. Yet she states herself that this is absolutely not the only thing he is interested in when it comes to his wife:
“Wash and Mal fight each other for Zoe’s attention and admiration”
So he obviously is interested in what she thinks of him, isn’t he? Only thats a bad thing, because that means that she is Weadons “token black woman” to foil the manliness of the two males (Mel, her boss and Wash, her husband) that they can demonstrate this way.

Sorry Allecto, this is very, very construced, espacially if you watch the episode where that fighting happens. Wash is actually a bit jealous that Zoë and Mal have so much opportunity to bond in their missions comming back with stories while he is bound to the pilot seat as much as the attention Mal gets – he wants to earn his share, too and goes on a (simple) mission with Mal. They get captured, and only under the stress and preasure Wash begins to find out, what really bothers him. That she obviously obeys Mal, while he, her husband is, as I stated, more the submissive type. And that he mistakes her readiness to obeying Mel as a kind of sexual tension. Time goes on and they start to get tortured. To keep Wash awake, Mel fools him into thinking, theres really some sexual tension that would be served best if he sleeps with his wife.
Oh my, a feminists nightmare, to men trading a woman? Well it isn`t, Mel never meant a word and knows Zoë well enough to play together(!) with her on that so that both make that point clear.
Yet the two damselsprincess in mistress first must be safed by their knight in shining (oops sorry, that insists beauty and is objectifying) armour, Zoë.
“Zoe is not shown to have a personality of her own. She has no outside interests, no ideas or beliefs, no conversation with anyone other than Wash or Mal”
Well, she really is not seen that much besides the two, but you can hardly say she has no personality of her own. Her ideas and her beliefs are just pretty much in line with Mels, and she actually points out when those not align, and she has some discussions with Wash having a clear opinion when it comes to questions about her job or having children.

Wow. This has already reached nearly 1500 words… so there better be a part three. When her analysis hits a deep concern of radical feminism in form of Inaras occupation.

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