Jane Austen and Firefly. Wait!!…What??
by A Latter-day Bluestocking
Folks who know me are aware that besides being a literature reading junkie I am also a sci-fi fanatic. My reading in the genre has been meager and I am remedying that. I have read and loved Starship Troopers, Fahrenheit 451, and The Left Hand of Darkness. I have to admit that the majority of my fondness for science fiction has come from the medium of television and film: Star Trek, Star Wars, Space 1999, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers. Yes, I’ve dressed Trek (Original Series only, thank you) and Star Wars (Princess Leia, slave Leia if you’re lucky) but don’t hold that against me.
The one sci-fi preoccupation I love the most and simply cannot live without is Firefly. Yep, the defunct, didn’t make it a season, space-cowboy, all chock-full of goodness television show. Love it, love it, love it! That’s right if I were stranded on a desert island that just happened to have a DVD player and a television and presumably electricity there are two things I must have so I don’t go all-Lord of the Flies: the book, Pride and Prejudice and the DVD boxed set of Firefly. I know what you are thinking: “Wow, that woman is totally out of her mind!!” But before you run with that allow me to explain why I feel these two very different genres may not be as incompatible as one would presume. And, no, it’s not because of Mr. Darcy and Capt. Reynolds.
Characterization! Jane Austen is a genius when it comes to her characters. Despite the fact that her stories are confined to a limited society she spans the width and breadth of human mettle as well as foible. Who hasn’t chanced upon someone as arrogant and pedantic as Lady Catherine de Bourgh or an insipid flatterer as Mr. Collins. It has been written in a contemporary criticism that Jane Austen handled character with a masterly “perception of its more delicate shades.” In other words, the men and women Jane Austen describes are true representations and not caricature, not two-dimensional and her characters do not lack fault but are nonetheless charming. G.H. Lewes wrote of her writing in 1847:
“What we most heartily enjoy and applaud, is truth in the delineation of life and character: incidents however wonderful, adventures however perilous, are almost as naught when compared with the deep and lasting interest excited by any thing like a correct representation of life.”
And characterization is what is most appealing about Firefly. The creator, Joss Whedon, has created dramatis personae who are engaging and interesting; every role has depth and more to it than meets the eye, again no two-dimensional characters here. The nine people on board Serenity are not perfect (except Kaylee, “I don’t believe there’s a power in the ‘verse that can stop Kaylee from being cheerful.”) and yet they have a dynamic that is genuine, they too struggle with self-reproach, doubt, and questions of right and wrong. These characters exhibit the same shortcomings that we can relate to and because of this, the canceled show which only consisted of 14 episodes (only 11 were actually aired) has taken on a life after death existence amongst devotees (called “Browncoats”).
So as you can see, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Joss Whedon’s Firefly although very different are not very dissimilar when it comes to characterization and each’s ability to transcend the story and make each character a genuine entity. I think this is why they appeal to me, the inhabitants of each genre speak to me and I can see myself in them. But it doesn’t hurt that they have: