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July 10 2007

"The Brute, the Brawler, and the Ballerina: Fighting Styles and Character Development in Firefly and Serenity". An article in the Journal of Theatrical Combatives.

It was published about a year ago, but the subject is relatively timeless. (I rediscovered this while cleaning up my bookmarks, and thought it was worth sharing.)

That was really good. The author clearly understands the subject but doesn't feel the need to "show off", bragging about his own proficiency in hand-to-hand combat as he writes.

Also, I always enjoy adding new alliterative terms to my fanboy lexicon. The Brute, the Brawler and the Ballerina. I like it.

Thanks for sharing.
This is very interesting, thank you for posting this. I mean I realize how many levels of characterization, but even fight choreography can play into it, and I never thought about it in a direct way. The the alliance is more orderly and therefore rely on more organized forms of combat, while Mal uses deception and a bit of brute force to accomplish things. I also loved the bit of how River attacked Jaynes groin, while it is hilarious, I didnt think it would relate to the attributes of both characters.
Cool read. It lacks something very important though-- Zoe's badass moves. And possibly Wash using the mule as a weapon.
Nice essay (even if I did have to google 'hors de combat' ;). Like the title a lot.

The thing that always struck me about Mal was his stubbornness, he just couldn't quit, wasn't in him and he gets a few decent hits in on The Operative when he stops engaging him on The Op's level - i.e. trying to match him on skill - and just lets the 'street' creep back into his style (reckon he might have been taught but not formally and, like the essay says, most of his moves would come from what's worked in the past). Even though River/Summer is the ballerina, to some extent with his martial arts training and Samurai ethos The Operative also sees fighting as a dance, he appreciates the grace of River for instance. Mal on the other hand knows a fight's a fight and a 'fair fight' is one you win. You can worry about honour when the other guy's on the floor.

Don't really remember Zoe getting into hand to hand stuff much but she probably tended more toward the technically skilled quiet economy of The Operative or River but with fewer 'showy' moves. She wouldn't take any pleasure, even in her own skill, she'd just see it as a means to an end and ruthlessly apply it. Tough lady.
Excellent article. Goodness, there are scholarly-type journals about everything.
Interesting article, and very accessible to someone (like me) who doesn't really know much about fighting.

I especially enjoyed the bit about River. I have always loved her fight with the Reavers, because it is so lovely to look at, but I never really could explain why I found it so emotionally moving, as well.
The title does have a certain kind of poetry to it, and I can't help but think that somewhat explains Zoe's absence. (I'd sacrifice her for the title. ;) ) Zoe's breaking ranks in the black room against the Reavers was a pretty impressive physical display of her character's grief and turmoil, especially considering her history of cool, controlled efficiency. (Which is why I never got those people who complained she didn't show any emotion at Wash's death...) But I suppose there really is no need to go into detail on every character - just outlining the main ones sets you off well enough to fill in the blanks for the rest.

I really enjoyed reading the insights of someone with martial arts expertise - highlighting the details I mostly only noticed subconsciously. The nuance of their fighting styles added intuitively to my understanding of the characters, and enhanced that textural feeling of authenticity, but it is definitely fun having those nuances articulated. I'm glad others enjoyed it as well!

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