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March 21 2011

A Postcolonial Provocation: 'Serenity'. The latest PopMatters essay analyses the Big Damn Movie.

Love this post. Nothing like reading about two of my favorite topics, Serenity/Firefly and postcolonial theory at 7am in the morning!
Wow. As I was reading (struggling to finish), I kept hoping to find something interesting "encoded" in the "spaces between" the author's near constant stream of psuedo-intellectual pointlessness and clumsy over-use of unecessarily obtuse language.

Usually I like these in-depth, overly-analytical Whedonverse based essays from Pop Matters, but I wish the author would have stuck to writing about the disparities between the series and the film, why they exist, and perhaps how to deal with them. Instead, the author repeatedly beats the reader about the head with a dull thesaurus attempting to imbue our minds with the obvious post-colonial and imperial themes that she tells us (over and over) are "encoded" in the "spaces between" the film.

With all due respect to the author, I found the article to be an exercise in intellectual self-indulgence with very little ACTUAL analysis of anything "new" or "unrealised". Or, as our Captain might say, "A whole lotta fancy words that don't say much we don't already know."

[ edited by Penthos on 2011-03-22 13:45 ]
All I got out of this was that the Author Likes big words... alot.
Yeah I was unsure of what the essay was actually about, I thought it either went over my head, or I just don't enjoy essays about Firefly/Serenity as much as Buffy ones.
Didn't make it to the end but didn't think too much of what I read unfortunately. It seemed to use a lot of everyday words in what's possibly a stricter, more technical sense though so I guess if I understood lit-crit jargon I might've got more out of it (for instance i'm assuming things like 'carnivalesque' or 'hybrid viewing strategies' have some accepted meaning in the field since at face value they don't seem to mean much).

But since I don't know the jargon (assuming it was jargon rather than clever sounding made-up phrases) it read like my least favourite type of the breed - lots of words used to say what amounts to not very much.
What I got out of skimming the piece is that Joss was not successful in replanting Firefly the series to this film and that certain character elements did not line up from the Firefly timeline of events. I think intention can be everything in art. You know, with the recent kerfuffle over reviving the show with buying the rights, and taking a look at this essay, I realize the author's smallish complaints don't matter. It strikes me Joss knew even then the film would be Firefly's last breath and so, he wrapped up the story. One last ride with the crew. Maybe this effort was a bandaid to him, but he did a great job of making the film integrative of what was best about Firefly, and even generic enough a non-series watcher could see a standalone film that could be understood.
I'm pretty baffled by the confusion over Simon knowing River was more or less psychic (or at least something along those lines). I remember watching the series for the first time and realizing he was hiding stuff about her from the crew. If anything, I thought the movie clarified things.

But then the author goes off on some other tangent...the whole essay seems to be a series of superficial tangents. I'm surprised b/c the other Popmatter's essays thus far have been much better.
Yeah, that puzzled me too. Assuming the author means 'Safe' then to me Simon clearly knows (some of the what if not yet the how/why/etc.) and jumps in to try to cover up River's psychic ability with a bit of flannel about intuition. And her ability is apparent enough that it doesn't work i.e. to the Patron (and the villagers) she clearly knows things that no amount of "intuition" would explain. She's the devil in her ;).



ETA: Yeah, the author means 'Safe' and I know this because the author actually says 'Safe' in the article. Thus I am confirmed as doofusesque.

[ edited by Saje on 2011-03-21 17:49 ]
Tonya J, I don't know if Joss did think that 'Serenity' would be the last breathe of the 'verse. If you hear him talk circa 2005 about the film's unanswered questions, he's all "hopefully in the sequel" so like all good Joss stories, it wraps up what's necessary while keeping the good ship sailing.
I didn't think the language was that overblown, though the author could have done a little less alliteration in the opening (the end of the third paragraph; one or two paired alliterative descriptions, okay, clever writing, but six in a row? And not counting a few in the paragraph before). Snarky arm-chair essay-writing aside, I thought it was a pretty well written piece.

That said, the post-colonial analysis of the movie was pretty interesting. What I *don't* get is how the author maintains that there are "plotting inconsistencies" without really citing examples. The only example mentioned is the Simon-River dynamic, which I agree with those above me here, was pretty clear that Simon knew what was going on. Him having pulled off the rescue might have been a better point, but it DID make for exciting film, and Simon is constantly downplaying his abilities. It's not too out of character for him to have pulled a daring rescue, and then claimed he just paid someone to do it for him.

I don't really see the show and the movie as being inconsistent with each other. Sure, there's the "here's who we are and why we're here" recap at the beginning of the film, which I still find brilliant, but hey, some TV shows do that every season. I do agree that the movie did rush through a LOT of plot as quickly as possible, and boy it would be nice to have seen Serenity as a season-long arc. I could see (and agree with) complaining that the movie was sort of a big budget episode of the tv show; though that is one of the film's strong points for me. But to say it doesn't fit in? Not sure I get that, and that point did distract from the actual point of the essay.
narse ... You disagree (as do I) with the author's assertion that Serenity, for whatever obscure reasoning, does not "fit in" with Firefly. You wrote that by trying to make that point, the author only served to distract from the actual point of the essay. So I ask you, what exactly was the actual point of the essay? Because I'm really not sure.

[ edited by Penthos on 2011-03-21 21:03 ]
@Penthos,

I think you had it right earlier today:

"With all due respect to the author, I found the article to be an excerise in intellectual self-indulgence with very little ACTUAL analysis of anything "new" or "unrealised". Or, as our Captain might say, "A whole lotta fancy words that don't say much we don't already know." "

At first I was excited to see this post, but after having read it, I am not so thrilled.
I couldn't get past the image they used as the intro. Gosh, I've always hated that promo picture...
"What was created activated a transformative dialogue between the postcolonial and the popular that generated space for questioning and representing processes of power that normally remain unseen."

Ha ha. Pretty funny. Alan Sokol all over again!
"What was created activated a transformative dialogue between the postcolonial and the popular that generated space for questioning and representing processes of power that normally remain unseen."

Ha ha. Pretty funny. Alan Sokol all over again!


Speaking as someone who's used to overly-intellectual jargon, that was completely incomprehensible. These are the types of essays I always hate reading for class.
Ha ha. Pretty funny. Alan Sokol all over again!

Yeah, that occurred to me Dana5140. Did the author manage to get 'hermeneutics' in there (I didn't read it all) ? ;)
"Completely incomprehensible" pretty much covers it. Plus not nearly enough credit to the achievement that is Serenity.
Nope, saje, but it is really a poster child for some of the excesses of pomo crit lit: "As a result, Serenity was composed of half-truths and conflicted contexts where the spaces for unconventional and unruly meanings were able to emerge from the diegesis."

I am not sure who this is speaking to. Is the audience academics or pop culture cognoscenti? This is really dense and as a result its meaning is hard to understand and interpret.

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