A Rapist’s View of the World: Our Mrs. Reynolds: Part OneApril 6, 2008
*Sorry everyone. This post became so long and unwieldy I decided to split it into two. Comments will be harshly moderated. Because I am cruel and heartless. I think EVIL Saffron might be manifesting herself in me. :p*
Because I have had such an enthusiastic response to the first part of my A Rapist’s View of the World post on Joss Whedon and Firefly, I decided to continue on with part two. It was such a pleasure to write the first part (wanting to throw up for two weeks after having watched the trash notwithstanding) that I just really thought I should get on with the second part. Apart from the helpful response from no less than five happy commenters who gave me the very sage advice that I should kill myself at the earliest possible convenience, commenters varied in their response to my argument (rad fem commenters aside). Before I proceed any further I must share with you the things that I have learnt from my dear commenters.
Firstly, I am an idiot, I am also lazy and apparently I have not actually watched the show (news to me I can tell you, must have imagined those torturous hours). Moreover, I am dead-set, completely and obviously deliberately WRONG. Also, I am absolutely bonkers/off my rocker/insane. Finally, I am… wait for it… PATRIARCHAL… in my approach to deleting comments. Oh, oh and a male feminist (no, no they really do exist, like unicorns and fairies, don’t be so patriarchal) disagrees with me about all sex being rape. (I’m not sure where it is that I said that but if you find it, dear readers, let it be known that a unicorn ahem sorry, I mean a male feminist, disagrees with me.) So, dear readers, it has been put to me that the world really would be a better place if I offed myself. Unicorns would be free to roam, Whedons and Whedonites would be free to rape and daisies would sprout magically from the side-walk.
I can’t off myself, dear readers, because… 1) I am too stupid and I don’t know how; 2) I am too bonkers and I don’t know how; 3) I am too lazy and I can’t be fucked to find a knife; 4) I am patriarchal and we all know how much pleasure it gives men to kill us women, what right do I have to rob a man of the pleasure of killing me by offing myself?; 5) I am dazzled by all of these bright, beautiful unicorns. So sorry, my friends, you are all stuck with me until the day that a unicorn ahem sorry, male feminist, decides, out of the mercy and goodness of his heart, that my time in this world has come.
I am sorry to all of the unicorns out there, who are so oppressed by my words. But the show must go on. Let the aforementioned idiocy, lunacy, laziness, patriarchalness etc, etc be a warning to those whose reading ventures here. You enter a mad woman’s domain and you may not survive the encounter.
Umm… ok so now that is done with. Let’s get to the good part. Our Mrs. Reynolds is the sixth episode of the television series Firefly. This episode was written by the Great White Feminist himself, Joss Whedon. In this episode, Mal the captain of the ship finds out that he has married a woman when he finds a stowaway on his ship. The stowaway, whose name is Saffron, was traded to Mal as a gift because he helped the inhabitants of a planet to get rid of some bad guys.
The most disturbing reading of this particular episode is as an endorsement of male terrorism in the home. I’ll talk more about the potential for this reading in the second half of my analysis.
The first scene of the episode is set on a river. A loaded carriage is coming down the river, with what is apparently a man and a woman occupying the front seats, the man driving. A bad guy stops the carriage.
(pissed) …I think maybe you’re gonna give me a little one-on-one time with the Mrs. The Farmer lifts his head – it’s JAYNE, smiling.
You might wanna reconsider that last part. I married me a powerful ugly creature.
MAL looks up from under his bonnet, shocked.
How can you say that? How can you shame me in front of new people?
If I could make you prettier, I would.
You’re not the man I met a year ago.
So the ‘woman’ sitting by the driver of the carriage is actually Mal in drag. Shock, surprise, this is real funny shit huh, women? A man in drag, teeheehee. SO radical. And feminist, huh? What do you think, does Joss get a cookie?
Sigh. There has been loads of work done on the anti-feminism of drag and I can’t be bothered to rehash. Suffice to say Jayne gets away with spouting a whole bunch of sexist, looksist crap and it is ‘funny’ because he directs it at a man in drag. Not to mention, joking about rape. Drag is often used by men as a way of expressing woman-hatred and they dress it up as humour. Just a joke girls, now get over yourselves, right?
A bit later Mal talks about how he likes to wear dresses with Inara. “Like woman,
I am a mystery,” he says of his enjoyment of wearing dresses. Sorry, Joss, score zero for that one. Women aren’t a mystery, WE ARE FULLY CONSCIOUS HUMAN BEINGS. And Mal is a wanker and wankers aren’t a bit mysterious. At least they aren’t to me. Maybe wankers are mysterious to unicorns. Who knows. I think I’m starting to hate unicorns.
So, Mal saves some colonists from the bad guys by killing them all while wearing a dress. Mal and the crew get back on the ship. As they take off, Mal surprises a stowaway, who tells him that she is his wife. Mal gets all panicky and calls Zoe.
Now, it is pretty obvious by this point that Saffron has been traded to Mal in exchange for his killing the bad guys. She is a wife in the sense of being a sexual and domestic slave. When Zoe is told that Saffron has been traded to Mal as a wife/slave she begins to laugh. She then calls the rest of the crew and invites them to join her in laughing at Mal’s newly acquired possession. Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never met a Black woman who laughs about slavery. I can’t believe that any woman, Black or white would laugh at an incidence of men trading women. Where the hell does Joss Whedon do his research on women????? What women does Joss know that he can portray them like this????
Zoe, why do I have a wife?
You got a wife?
What’s she doing here?
All I got was that dumb-ass stick that sounds like it’s raining. How come you got a wife?
I didn’t. (to Saffron) We’re not married.
I’m sorry if I shame you…
You don’t shame me! Zoe, get Wash down here.
(hits comm) This is Zoe. We need all personnel in the cargo bay.
All — I said Wash!
Captain. everyone should have a chance to congratulate you on your day of bliss.
There’s no bliss! I don’t know this girl.
Then can I know her?
(tough) Jayne… (sensitive) Don’t sully this.
So, Saffron runs off crying because of how she is being treated. Mal goes after her. Now in the following scenes we see Mal being magically possessed by a unicorn. His transformation is astounding. In one second we see a man who screams at the female members of his crew and violently defends his position as alpha male, the next *pouf* a beautiful, gallant steed, shining white against the grey backdrop of the ship, spouting fine speeches while tossing his mane, nobly defending the Rights of the Fairer Sex. Watch.
Are you going to kill me?
What? What kind of crappy planet is that? Kill you?
In the maiden’s home, I heard talk of men who weren’t pleased with their brides, who…
Well I ain’t them. And don’t you ever stand for that sort of thing. Someone tries to kill you, you try to kill ’em right back. Wife or no, you’re no one’s property to be tossed aside. You got the ight same as anyone to live and to try to kill people. I mean, you know. People that are… That’s a dumb planet.
Ah Mal, Mal, Mal. So gallant, so kind, so noble. But just one question, Joss. Do you know what happens to women who defend themselves from violent men? Have you heard of Patreese Johnson, Renata Hill, Terraine Dandridge, Venice Brown, Dixie Shanahan, Yana Ladgari, Mary Winkler, Sherry Mariana, Marva Wallace? (This list is by no means exhaustive.) Women who defend themselves from men who are trying to kill them have their children taken away from them and are locked up. That is the stark reality of what equality means for women who live under male supremacy.
And just a tip Joss, from one writer to another. If you believe that women should kill men who try to kill them then, quite frankly, I agree with you. If you want to show your encouragement and support for women who defend themselves from men, then write a female character that kills a man who is trying to kill her AND GETS AWAY WITH IT.
Now, let’s see, do you actually show women getting away with being disloyal to men? We had Patience, a character in the first episode. How did she fare when she tried to cheat Mal? Hmm… let’s think. Oh, that’s right. You left her trapped under the carcass of a horse. Mmm. I just love that feminist empowerment, Joss.
Anyways, Saffron bonds nicely with the gallant unicorn version of Mal and skips off to make Mal some dinner like a good little wife. We then have a brief scene between Mal and Book.
She’s a nice girl.
Seems very anxious to please you.
That’s their way, I guess.
(bright, casual) I suppose so. If you take sexual advantage of her, you’re going to burn in a very special level of hell. A level they reserve for child molesters and people who talk at the
theater. (My emphasis.)
Now, that comment right there indicates to me that our dear Mr. Whedon is a porn user. And that it is highly likely that his pornography of choice is Hustler, given that he seems to think it funny to trivialise the sexual abuse of children. How many times has Joss wanked to our degradation in Hustler while chuckling away at Chester the Molester cartoons? I actually really want to know the answer to this question. Joss continues his race hatred by putting this ‘joke’ in the mouth of a Black man.
So, Saffron cooks Mal dinner and Mal eats while she stands by waiting on him, fetching refills etc. Does Mal use Saffron as a domestic slave because he enjoys being a slave owner? No, no. He uses Saffron in order to stop her from crying. Really, truly, it’s for her own good.
From this point on I almost want to just copy and paste the whole script. It is full of so much contempt I don’t feel like it even needs analysis.
Having yourself a little supper, Captain?
Well, Saffron insisted on… I didn’t want to make her feel… it’s damn tasty.
He can’t figure out who to be careful around – so he just starts shoveling it in.
Any more where that came from?
(downcast) I didn’t think to make enough for your friends. (to Zoe) But I’ve everything laid out if you’d like to cook for your husband…
Wash looks at Zoe for a microsecond of hope – her eyes narrow – and he laughs overcompensationally.
Ta-ha-ha– Isn’t she quaint? I’m just not hungry.
He sits, Zoe sitting as well. Her hilarious mood has abated. Saffron retires to the pantry.
White male husband wishing his black female wife was more submissive and cooked his dinner. Anyone else see a problem with this?
So, are you enjoying your own nubile little slave girl?
(mouth full) I’m not… nubile… (swallows) Look, she wanted to make me dinner. At least she’s not crying…
I might. Did she really make fresh bao? (off Zoe’s glare) Quaint!
Remember that sex we were planning to have ever again?
Black female wife being jealous of a woman she terms a ‘slave girl’. Anyone else see a problem with this?
After a brief scene with Inara, we come to a touching scene between Jayne and Mal, where Jayne offers to trade his favourite gun to Mal in exchange for ownership of Saffron. Mal once again transforms into a unicorn, delivering more impassioned speeches on The Rights of the Fairer Sex.
Six men came to kill me one time, and the best of them carried this. It’s a Callahan fullbore autolock, customized trigger and double cartridge thourough-gage. He holds it out to Mal.
It’s my very favorite gun.
The explosive diarrhea of an elephant, are you offering me a trade?
A trade? Hell, it’s theft! This is the best gun made by man, and its got extreme sentimental value! It’s miles more worthy’n what you got.
“What I got” – she has a name.
So does this! I call it Vera.
She’s not to be bought. Nor bartered, nor borrowed or lent. She’s a human woman, doesn’t know a damn thing about the world and needs our protection.
Here the audience is supposed to notice that there are two sorts of men in the world; good men: Mal, and bad men: Jayne. Me? I see two rapists. Only difference is that one is in a two-dollar-shop disguise as a unicorn.
Given that Mal nobly believes in protecting the female members on board his ship from the ravages of ‘the world’ (read: men), I find it hard to credit that he allows Jayne to stay on board his ship. In this scene Jayne talks of women as sexual and domestic property, obviously unaware that women are human beings. Men who think like this about women ARE DANGEROUS. If Mal did care about the protection of women, he would have spaced Jayne immediately, or at least locked the fucker up.
On another level, the trading of women and the naming of Phallic weapons, the sharing of homoerotic tales of male violence (Jayne’s story of how he acquired his gun), this is part of the larger romance of the show, the homoerotic, masculine connection between Mal and Jayne.
Here concludes the first half of my analysis of Our Mrs. Reynolds. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. Join me for the second installment where Saffron transforms from an innocent country girl into an evil, manipulative killer woman and Mal decides to burn his two-dollar-shop unicorn outfit.