A Rapist’s View of the World: Our Mrs. Reynolds: Part One

April 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.

Too bad.

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
. (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.
JAYNE (cont’d)
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.

Link to Part Two


  1. I’m a bit confused by your interpretation of some of the lines. You say Zoe is jealous of Saffron, but my reading of that line is more that she’s appalled that Mal is allowing her to cook for him. What are you seeing that makes you read that as jealousy?

  2. “So the ‘woman’ sitting by the driver of the carriage is actually Mal in drag.”

    Would it be more, or less, offensive had Zoe been under the bonnet?

  3. Way to go, allecto. Awesome analysis, and yay the part where you tell off your asinine critics at the beginning.

  4. Thanks Amy. I had so much fun writing this. I’m sure that you would have enjoyed the many hundreds of comments I received on the last post, just as much as I did!!!

  5. I’ve only heard of this show here and there–sounds dreadful. Number 738373645 I don’t watch tv.

  6. I have a really hard time believing that she was *actually* married off to Mal. Given her whole “steal the ship and reap the rewards” plan.

  7. Hey pisaquari, I’m totally with you on the watching tv thing. I swear that I did not watch this for enjoyment. I forced myself to watch it, because I really feel that not knowing about the shit like this that is out there is hazardous to our health.

  8. Lost Clown, I don’t really see how the above comment is at all relevant to this discussion. I also find it quite woman-blaming. Saffron is NOT a woman. She is a female character written by a misogynist white man. HE is to blame for his characterisation of women as treacherous, evil, manipulative, two-faced, double-crossing creatures without ethics or morality. Saffron isn’t like any woman I’ve ever met. She is a construction written by a woman-hater.

  9. Whedon gets so much credit from self congratulatory liberals that it’s disgusting when no one gives his work a thorough reading.

    At the same time, I’m disappointed that you didn’t post the entire review as a whole: the plot of the episode hangs around that switch in the end, and that added “plots-within-plots” always makes it more difficult to offer any sort of final analysis. While the whole “women as manipulators” trope is clearly problematic, I think the way that the story pushes (or allows) the viewer to *think* about the all of the power dynamics is productive. Is Saffron in control of everyone on Serenity? What impact does that have on how we read the text? Is Mal (et al) behavior in the beginning because that’s who he is, or because he’s being manipulated? Clearly there are very certain answers to these questions. Regardless, the best fiction is the stuff that poses questions, and starts discussions.

    My second quibble, and it’s only a quibble, but I’ve always seen the culture depicted in Firefly as a dystopia, and my critical engagement with this text has always approached it as if it were a piece of cultural critique, rather than a dweeb saying “when I get my flying car, here’s what it’s going to look like.” Though certainly “the author is dead,” I’ve never gotten the feeling that Whedon thought that Firefly was the model upon which we should model our future, and quite the opposite in many ways. This isn’t to say that it’s not a very “moralizing” show, and most of that comes down to very distasteful centrist crap, but there’s complexity there.

  10. I’m not at all blaming Saffron, in fact she’s my favourite character and I think she’s bloody fantastic. With all the male criminal masterminds why not a female who is just as capable at it?

  11. Though I do agree that Firefly is fucked on many levels.

  12. Sorry Lost Clown, I shouldn’t have been snippy. I felt the Saffron was the only interesting character on the show and Joss bashes the shit out of her. Twice. That made me so angry.

    But in regards to female criminal masterminds, I believe that women can be portrayed as smart criminals without demonising women. Saffron was very much a feminine ‘evil’. That is, she is a construction based on the fears of men. That underneath it all women are cold, manipulative, dangerous liars.

    I don’t think this representation of us pans out in reality. The majority of criminals are still male. The majority of people who cheat, lie, steal and manipulate are still male. Honestly, I do not want feminism to make women ‘equal to’ men. I don’t want a world where women rape equal to men, where women kill equal to men. Not interested in that future.

    I also think it is interesting how Saffron suffered repercussions twice over, whereas the white male evil masterminds did not. The two black male evil masterminds also suffered repercussions. So it is ok to be and evil mastermind as long as you are white and male. I think I’ll talk a bit more about this in part two.

  13. While a fan of Firefly, I agree that the whole nubile servant girl/seductress/evil villain was really touchy and off-putting.

    While Saffron is demonized as having every quality the stereotype of a man would fear and hate (evil and manipulativeness packaged in a attractive body), I’ve got no reason to disagree with you on that point, I find Patience a different story. Patience is a powerful, tough woman who has used her power and sheer will to take over an entire moon. She has everything she needs, besides supplies to fortify her position. However, Mal with his strange ideas of honesty cuts a straight deal with her. She oversteps the deal by a large margin when she tries to kill him with both snipers and a horde of her followers. Left under a dead horse with the knowledge of the location of the supplies seems to me a better deal than the one she provided Mal and company with, namely death and cheating them. If it was a man in her situation, Mal would probably do just the same, meaning that he respects her strength as if it were male. It’s her actions that justify the consequences Mal gives (although that does sound rather like I approve of the society of menfolk putting down the women when they get too uppity- not my beliefs, I assure you!), not the fact that she is a powerful woman.

    Don’t get me wrong, I quite like Patience. She’s tough as nails and gritty and down-to-earth and she doesn’t seem to mind the idea of offing a few people for necessaries, not to mention that she has succeeded in establishing a matriarchal society. I’m curious to hear your take on her?

  14. Just out of curiosity, is there a place anywhere in art, television, the whole world inside and out, where you don’t see rape?

  15. I think your analysis are very interesting, and you have very well supported details that I missed in my one viewing of Firefly. Your overall point is overwhelmingly obvious, but as an essay, you weaken your point by making unjustified conjectures. Speculating about Whedon’s choice in porn is a particularly glaring example in this, some conjectures about his wife in previous essays I noticed as well.

    To be brief, I think you might be right that he watches pornography, but inferring so much from that one line is a ridiculous attempts at sherlockery. Not least because it is a sad and disturbing truth that the world of pornography is vast, and Hustler is the tamest example that includes child molestation as a joke.

  16. I’d be very interested to hear your take on River Tam–you didn’t talk much about her in your original Firefly post, and she doesn’t have a very large role in “Our Mrs. Reynolds” (except for a highly incestuous deleted scene).

    I would argue that she’s the strongest female character of the bunch–she’s struggling to rise above the mess society has made of her, but she’s certainly the most intelligent character of either gender and (by the time of the movie, at least) the most physically capable.

    The argument could be made that her abuse at the hands of a male-dominated society (I can recall seeing only one female member of the Alliance) subverts her role as a strong female, but I’m not sure how I feel about that. I’d be interested to hear what other commenters think.

  17. While, I have no strong feelings for or against the television show you are reviewing I appreciate writing that demonstrates strong personal views. The post brought to mind a few questions that i often consider and would ask you. Can a male writer create a convincingly realistic female character? Can a female writer create a realistic male character? And if ypu answer yes to either question, what author has done so?

  18. “So the ‘woman’ sitting by the driver of the carriage is actually Mal in drag. Shock, surprise, this is real funny shit huh, women?”

    Oh dear, you just brushed aside the best of British comedy. I take you’ve never been a big Monty Python or Kids in the Hall fan.

  19. Sketchy, I liked Patience too. She had a lot of potential as a character. Sadly and typically Joss chose not to capitalise on her.

    Sarah, I had problems with River’s character. After I finish off the analysis of Mrs. Reynolds I’m planning on having a close look at Objects in Space; specifically analysing the racism. As River is a main character in that episode I will probably be looking at her also.

  20. Can a male writer create a convincingly realistic female character? Can a female writer create a realistic male character? And if ypu answer yes to either question, what author has done so?

    Yes and yes. I don’t think anything in the malestream has a hope of creating interesting, radical and feminist social commentary. And really, that is what I look for in a book, movie or tv series. I think it would take me a whole post to list the authors that I adore. Off the top of my head these authors do pretty well in creating interesting and complex characters of the opposite sex. Although you won’t find the majority of these authors in your university library or book store.

    Christina Stead (The Man Who Loved Children)
    Christos Tsiolkas (Loaded, Dead Europe)
    James Baldwin (Another Country)
    Kate Grenville (Dark Places)

    All of these books are feminist and their social commentary is quite harsh, which is why I love them. Of course this list is in no way exhaustive.

  21. Hear hear to that. Passing approval of malestream=not feminist. Is that one really so hard to figure out?

    And yeah, you want to find feminist books and movies, well, here’s a hint: you’re not going to find them being lauded by patriarchy. They are going to be the names of all the people you’ve never heard of because patriarchy erases that which threatens it.

  22. http://ar15.com/forums/topic.html?b=1&f=5&t=699046&page=1

    Sometimes men make me laugh. Then I remember that these ridiculous, compensating morons run our society.

  23. I’ve found all of your posts on Firefly to present a very new viewpoint; I am looking forward to rewatching the show with your perspective in mind. I would, however, like to hear your response to julian’s point about Firefly being set in a dystopia.

  24. I’ve been reading your reviews of Firefly with much interest. Out of curiosity, what is your opinion on Laural K. Hamilton’s work?

    In her Merry Gentry series, the protagonist is required to become pregnant and have a baby before her cousin impregnates a woman to inherit the throne.

    In her Anita Blake series she took a strong female protagonist into someone who’s required to have sex all the time and has a harem of pretty male men.

  25. Your critique is absolutely amazing. Truly a remarkable work. I don’t think anyone has ever dared to delve as deeply into the source material as you have, or come to such astounding conclusions regarding it. Not many people can deconstruct another person’s work with such a singular vision as you have displayed here. It is, by turns, both shocking and disturbing. I am, quite frankly, in awe.

    • Random says “Not many people can deconstruct another person’s work with such a singular vision as you have displayed here”

      Emphasis on the ‘singular vision’, you have taken your jilted view of the world see it everywhere. They say if you put on rose colored glasses everything looks rosey, the opposite is true with you, you look at everything trying to see the worst, so that is all you see. I’m not saying it’s not there, just not in the volume in which you seem to believe.

      I don’t believe Joss to be a feminist, and calling him so is laughable, but to make out he is *insert the words you may* is just as fanciful. Evidence that something is wrong is not evidence that it’s polar opposite is true.

      Above Justin says “as an essay, you weaken your point by making unjustified conjectures”, your points would appear stronger if you didn’t cloud them with further fetched ones. These in some cases seem to be brought about by misunderstanding of the story (see ref below), or refusal to accept that the work was not intended to be taken seriously, as Michelle writes “Just because their joke falls flat in your opinion doesn’t mean there’s a grand conspiracy”

      (ref for above) from your atricle: “[safron] was traded to Mal as a gift because he helped the inhabitants of a planet to get rid of some bad guys.” This was your first misunderstanding in this episode, sure Safron says this, but you’re forgetting she is trying to steal the ship, she has made this up. She was not traded. This, along with the story of her poor sisters, was very obviously a fabrication by the character to gain acceptance by the crew, not an actual event in the story. You’ll say however that the story was written by Joss and so on, but still you have missed something that Joss expected his audience to realise never happened! And as minor as this misunderstanding may be, it highlights the fact that you have watched this series with tunnel vision, and that you see only what you want to see.

      For emphasis: You see only what you want to see.

      It is evident from your preface that you do have a sense of humor, so you should know I find it funny that people should offer you suggestions on how to live (and not live) your life. Also I neither expect you to change your views because of what’s been said, nor take any of other peoples advice. Or for that matter accept what advice I offer in the hope of being constructive – being that your views will be more readily accepted by people if you don’t distract them from your solid points by introducing ones with lesser foundation (people’s focus will always shift to points they can poke holes in)

      In the hope of inviting reply, I will close by saying that I am a 25 year old male and I am a qualified medical scientist and a pharmacist living in Australia. Does any of that surprise you? What do you have to say about my comments? and do you think my opinions would be different from the general (American?) population?

      • Blah… I’ve gotten so many of these types of comments. “You’re only seeing (making up) bad stuff”, “Your glasses are all foggy, go see an optometrist”. Well, I disagree with your opinion about my opinions. I think the glasses I am wearing are just the right prescription. This body that I am in has been hit by two men, sexually assaulted by one, fondled and groped by many and stared at and gawked at and whistled at by countless numbers of men. I don’t think that any of this has affected my eyesight but I do think that it has affected my opinion on men. I know that must seem strange to you… but there you have it.

        being that your views will be more readily accepted by people if you don’t distract them from your solid points by introducing ones with lesser foundation

        This doesn’t worry me all that much. I keep this blog for myself. Not for anyone else. I love meeting other like minded women and by and large my writing cuts straight to those women. This blog has been a really fantastic conduit for me to build very caring online relationships. Thanks for your advice… but I don’t see feminism as a religion… I am not trying to reach anyone.

        I will close by saying that I am a 25 year old male and I am a qualified medical scientist and a pharmacist living in Australia.

        Good for you. I don’t like medicine, science or pharmaceuticals, but hey.

        Does any of that surprise you?

        Why would it surprise me? I don’t know you.

        and do you think my opinions would be different from the general (American?) population?

        I have no idea. Ask the general population. You could start by looking at the MRA sites. They have lots and lots of things to say about me. I actually really enjoy reading their conjectures. Maybe you would too.

      • I have no interest in the MRA (I had to google it) or Feminism as a whole.

      • Then get the fuck off my blog.

  26. In Zoe’s reaction to the fact that Mal had a wife, I saw a misunderstanding in the situation. It seemed to me that she thought he’d gotten drunk and couldn’t remember getting married. Not really much better in the grand scheme of things, but certainly not slavery.

    Perhaps I should watch the scene again, but it was my understanding that, at that moment, Zoe didn’t have all the information that we (the viewers) had.

    Secondly, that scene with Mal in a dress brought the funny. Sometimes people are just trying to be silly and don’t mean anything by it. Just because their joke falls flat in your opinion doesn’t mean there’s a grand conspiracy.

    Even Sigmund Freud said that “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”. And if there was anybody to be angry about from a standpoint of feminism it’s *that* jackass.

  27. I would like to start off by saying that I congratulate and respect you for writing so passionately about something you believe in. I think it takes a lot of guts to publish any kind of personal opinion.

    That being said.. I do have some disagreements with your arguments against Firefly. I feel that they come across as weak, at least to me, because you fail to properly account for context and tone. The true meaning of any message can’t be taken from words alone.

    A couple points I wanted to pick out:
    “Women aren’t a mystery, WE ARE FULLY CONSCIOUS HUMAN BEINGS.” While that is very true, I don’t think saying women are a mystery to men implies that we are not fully conscious human beings. I think it means men don’t always understand women which seems to me like something you whole-heartedly would agree with.

    “White male husband wishing his black female wife was more submissive and cooked his dinner. Anyone else see a problem with this?” Not really. She puts him back in his place real fast and he shows the he knows the whole concept is wrong.

    Oh and the whole part about if Mal really cared about keeping his crew safe he would lock up Jayne. In reality, the one time Jayne does show himself as a threat to any crew member (Simon and River in Ariel) Mal calls him on it right away and shows that he has zero tolerance for anyone hurting his crew. At other times we also see Jayne being very protective of Kaylee.

    So although I disagree with your opinion of this particular show I’d like to thank you for opening my eyes to the possibility of pop culture in general disguising women-hatred and feeding it to viewers. I never paid close attention before but I will keep an eye out for it now.

  28. Re to Firefly being a dystopia, I think that, aside from saying ‘the alliance is bad’, Whedon really doesn’t do much in the way of cultural critique.

    I’ve read several great novels that represent dystopias, like The Wanderground by Sally Miller Gearhart, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas.

    What all of these novels do, that Firefly didn’t do, is: show the oppression of women and other marginalised peoples (because of race or sexuality or whatever) as being bad, they showed male violence and violence in general as being bad for women, and dehumanising for the men who are committing it, they show the reduction of women into sex objects to be a bad thing, they showed hierarchies as a bad thing. Firefly leaves all of these social problems unpacked; violence is glorified, it’s completely okay that women like Zoe and Inara are treated as sex objects, the oppression of women is treated as a joke in “Our Mrs Reynolds”, all other social hierarchies except for the Alliance are left intact at the end of the show and not seen as problematic.

    Now that I think about it, I’ve even read quite a few Young Adult novels that do a better job of representing future dystopias than Firefly, like the Obernewtyn Chronicles and Scatterlings by Isobelle Carmody, My Sister Sif by Ruth Park and The Lake at the End of the World by Caroline Macdonald.

    I also disagree with the idea that allecto is working under the assumption here that “the author is dead” and that she can therefore interpret his work however she pleases. I think this is about holding Joss Whedon morally responsible for what he has created.

  29. Emily, at no point in the entirity of the episode does Zoe show any kind of empathy, concern or compassion for Saffron. I don’t know how you could read Zoe’s anger in this scene as being as resultant from Saffron’s domestic slavery to Mal.

    Batmoons, it would have been equally offensive.

    Jess, I totally agree. The fact that these morons run the world is truly terrifying.

    Julian and Alex, see what Dissenter said above. When an author is writing a dystopia that is critical of misogyny and racism, then it is bloody obvious. The key to recognising these is when the author does not romanticise violence against women, when the author is critical of male supremacy and white supremacy. As in it shows that male violence has a negative effect on women. That the women do not enjoy sexual or domestic servitude, that they are harmed by supremacist male behaviour.

    Kippur, I have not read anything by Hamilton so I have no opinion on her? work. Although from your summaries the books sound like crap.

    Random, why thank you. I find myself pretty awe-inspiring too! 😉

    Michelle, in that scene Saffron is crying and cowering. Zoe doesn’t stop laughing. If you see no problem with that, fine. I do. And I hate drag. What if this scene had Mal in black face and a bad guy threatening to lynch him and Jayne saying that Mal wasn’t black enough to be lynched? Would you have found that funny too? Why not? I find drag to be just as woman-hating as blackface is race hating. And finally, we are both agreed that Freud sucks.

    Danielle, the woman as mystery thing is as old as misogyny itself. If men believed that women were fully conscious human beings then they would have absolutely no problem understanding us at all. Men don’t have trouble understanding women. Men have trouble respecting us. And the woman as mystery is absolutly disrespectful. We are not mysteries, or puzzles. We don’t have pretty, little empty vapid brains. The word ‘mystery’ is presumptive, dismissive and patronising. And men are perfectly capable of recognising women as human and responding to women as human, they just generally choose not to, therefore: women are not mysteries to men.

    Not really. She puts him back in his place real fast and he shows the he knows the whole concept is wrong.

    I don’t agree that Zoe does this. She gets a bit pissed but Wash at no point shows that he thinks the concept is wrong. He continues to say ‘quaint’ and look wistfully into the kitchen. He does not apologise to Zoe or make any amends for wishing that she was more of a doormat. Nor does the show indicate that he stops wishing that Zoe was more of a doormat.

    Totally disagree with the Mal and Jayne protectiveness thing. Mal knows that Jayne is a threat to all of them, especially to women. Mal never does anything until he thinks that Jayne has done something disloyal to himself. Only then does he take action. And that was all fodder for the manly, homoerotic blustering between the two, rather than real concern for his crew. I think that Joss really fancied the Mal and Jayne romance and that is why he kept Jayne around.

    Dissenter, right on sister. I also think that the dystopias set in this time ie. Mercy by Andrea Dworkin and Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo are some of the best pieces of literature out there. And films like Osama and The Circle show life as being hell for women, right here and now. Women don’t really need to imagine a hellish future, we are already living one.

  30. “The word ‘mystery’ is presumptive, dismissive and patronizing.”

    I can see where you’re coming from; dismissing all women as a mystery kind of reminds me of old tv shows where women were depicted as silly incompetents that needed to be saved by their husband. On the other hand, I think all human beings are mysteries to each other, and that saying you don’t understand what someone is thinking doesn’t necessarily mean that you consider them less human.


    I LOVE the Obernewtyn Chronicles, though I haven’t been able to read the latest book because it wasn’t released in the US. The Handmaid’s Tale was also an incredible book. As for Young Adult novels representing dystopias better than Firefly… I suppose I generally hold literature to a higher standard than TV. I suppose I expect literature to inform and TV to entertain with less effort towards social commentary. I would have to disagree with you about Zoe being treated like a sex object though; her husband’s one or two comments don’t negate the fact that she is the second in command of the ship and the other people aboard obey her.

  31. I’m sorry that my last comment showed up twice; I don’t know what happened. I did want to leave another comment about this: “Women don’t really need to imagine a hellish future, we are already living one.”

    While I realize that things are not perfect for women in even the most developed countries, don’t you think that describing things now as a hellish future is going too far? Stupid question; obviously you don’t and I’m sure you have very good reasons for feeling that way. I can’t help but think, however, that things are better for women now than they were even a hundred years ago. More work needs to be done, but at least women in most countries are able to vote, own property, get jobs outside of the house and generally be their own people. As many flaws as there are in the world today, I’d still say that the first wave of feminism improved things greatly and that this is far from the most hellish future we could be living in.

  32. Alex, due to popularity of the series, I imagine that the 5th Obernewtyn book will be released in the US sometime. It often takes a while for Australian novels to make it to the US and UK.

    I agree that TV is a difficult medium in which to do serious cultural critique…hence why I say that I don’t think Firefly does a good job. Yet apparently many people seem to think it does, which I see as a bit of a problem.

    About Zoe, I think Wash’s comments change the audience’s perception about her, not necessarily the other characters in the show. Wash’s comments remind the audience that even if she is the second in command, she’s still a woman, and therefore still open to sexualisation in a way that a male 2nd in command wouldn’t be. This undermines her authority and the extent to which the audience takes her character seriously.

  33. […] and ‘empowerful’ as he and his fans would like to have us believe. Heart shows us A Rapist’s View of the World: Our Mrs. Reynolds: Part One at Gorgon Poisons. “Mal the captain of the ship finds out that he has married a woman when he […]

  34. DELETED: I’m not allowing this comment because it is male-apologist bullshit and I find it boring and unhelpful.

  35. I just came from reading your first post on Firefly at livejournal, where I tried to comment but you had ‘friends only’ checked. Then checked out your profile, and here you are.

    Thanks. I needed that kick to my ego, as a white man. I saw Serenity, found it mostly boring and have never thought about it much. But I did like Buffy, and when somebody handed to me Joss Whedon’s speech at the ‘Equality NOW’ conference, I favorited it at youtube and submitted it to reddit.

    I’ve taken those actions back.

    I never watched an episode of Firefly. I can say that if I had, I never would’ve bothered seeing Serenity, but the truth is I didn’t and everybody said it was just soooo awesome.

    You’re right on every point. Mal’s unprovoked violence, the woman are a mystery line, the cheap stunt of equivocating cross dressing to empathy with with women… sickening. Inexcusable.

    When I saw Serenity, they made it seem as if Mal and Inara are exes. They leave it up to Firefly fans to fill it in that she is in fact a brainwashed prostitute.

    They do deal with a scene where the crew disagrees with Mal ditching a man to die so they can fly 5mph faster, but when it comes to dealing with never-ending cruelty in any progressive way, that “mal wtf” moment is it.

    It’s clear that the fellow producers of the movie Serenity understood just how distasteful the raw violence and misogyny in the series really is, as they tried their best to hide it in the movie. But even doing this they fail, even adding the additional Star Wars cliche of the diabolical villain having a foreign accent.

    It’s clear to me now that River Tam and the character Caleb on Buffy, played by the same guy who plays Mal on Firefly, are just bandaids applied by Whedon to try to cover up Firefly’s misogyny.

    “Oh look, I made a woman superhero at the last second in Firefly, that makes it better, right?” No, Joss. She’s only a fighter for the same reason she’s damaged in the rest of her psyche: because she’s brainwashed.

    And no, having Mal get cut in half in the last episode of Buffy doesn’t redeem him. Especially because you have to have Buffy start by putting an axe to his testicles and make a joke about now having testicles makes him less masculine and less powerful, thus portraying your alleged feminist icon as yet another ‘ball-buster’.


  36. I find Joss Whedon severely lacking as a feminist, and people who call him such in my presence are regularly subjected to an incredulous and somewhat angry rant at this man who claims he writes “strong women characters,” none of whom weigh more than 120 pounds or have lived past the age of 30.

    I like the pacing of his dialogue but reject the idea that being clever while also remembering to write female characters that are both interesting and not blatantly evil makes one a Paragon of Feminism.

    I’m not putting him on, or even near, a pedestal. But you said:

    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.

    …and I say, wasn’t that something of a running theme in Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The show has many, many flaws, but it’s definitely full of women killing men that attack them and getting away with it, and named after the woman who does so most often.

  37. I came here from your post on the pilot episode on Livejournal–my comments here largely relate to it, rather than this one, and for that, I apologize, but I did have quite a bit of a think after reading the initial post.

    While I do not agree with all of your points, I admit that the Companion issue is one that makes me vastly uncomfortable. My personal interpretation of it has been that Inara’s “career” is representative of the patriarchal domination that the Alliance imposes. The Alliance is meant to be the villains, and their society is one in which the career options for women are limited to roles like the one Inara has. In Alliance-dominated settings, women are largely invisible–I can’t recall any female doctors in the hospital on Ariel in the episode of the same name, and when you compare the role Regan Tam plays with her children to the one Gabriel Tam did, it seems to me that the mainstream society the Alliance is perpetuating marginalizes and abuses women appallingly. Which, to me, reinforces the villainous role they’re meant to play.

    On a completely separate topic, I find myself curious as to whether you’ve read Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series. Those books carry such a hefty dose of internalized misogyny that I’m stunned by their apparent popularity. I’d be very, very interested in reading your critical analysis of that series, and of the way they’re promoted as being great stories for young women to read.

  38. […] and ‘empowerful’ as he and his fans would like to have us believe. Heart shows us A Rapist’s View of the World: Our Mrs. Reynolds: Part One at Gorgon Poisons. “Mal the captain of the ship finds out that he has married a woman when he […]

  39. […] Firefly post, second, and […]

  40. Good posting, Ive not watched any of whedons creations cause i was led to believe they were pure feminism gone wrong, in the same breath i stay away from the massive male prototypes ie rambo superman etc. But now after your’e excellent post im probably gonna have to watch more of my favorite shows/films with a more sceptical eye.


  41. I want to start out by saying that I respect your opinions 100%. I may not agree with them, but you have the right to say them, just like i have the right to say that I don’t agree with them.

    The thing I wanted to bring up was this. I understand your view of Saffron and who she was. You also commented on how she was forced into subservience at every turn. My interpretation of her character was that she was actually a brilliant woman (who I might add was trained as a companion, just wanted to add it because I thought it was interesting, not because I’m trying to shit disturb). She purposely made up the story that she was Mal’s “prize” for saving the village to get on the ship, and then pretended to be a weak and pathetic creature to play on the quality of the “protector” that she saw in mal (whether that is to be a good person or to make himself look good i don’t know).

    That way everyone would see her a certain way (mainly not a threat) and she could take over the ship and send it to her “partners” (though lets face facts, she wasn’t really working for them, they were working for her because she was freaking badass!). I saw the whole subservient thing as a ploy and not a this is the way life really is on this planet or in her life or anything like that.

    ALso, I agree that Jayne is a dick. I wish I could say that he has a mean bark but wouldn’t hurt a fly, however, that has been proven wrong (even just in turning River and Simon over to the Alliance). The truth that I see is that he’s just meant to be the dumb comedy relief, nothing more. Zoe, who I admit I do see as a badass that could take anyone on the ship down because she’s frappying amazing, could easily keep him in check if he were to dare to try something (plus the fact that Mal does punish him for the River and Simon thing). But the point I was trying to make when I got off topic was that it was established early on that Jayne couldn’t necessarily be trusted. in the first episode Mal asks why Jayne didn’t take the alliance officers offer of money etc. Jayne says
    “Money wasn’t good enough”
    Mal : What happens when the money is good enough
    Jayne : That, will be an interesting day.

    We know that Jayne isn’t good, that he would flip on them for enough money, but he’s kept for his brawn. The thing that I like to think of though, is the reaction to Kaylee being shot in the first episode, they kick that guys ASS!!! 🙂 and they don’t really like Simon all that much for threatening her. and I kind of saw Jayne as being in on that. I may be crazy but that’s my interpretation.

    I really do enjoy your blogs, I won’t say I agree, but they do offer an interesting view point. I generally agree with aspects of them even if it a very basic aspect, but still. oh, and from the last post I believe, I am actually excited to go back and listen to the commentary for War Stories now. 🙂

  42. Hi, so I’ve been reading your blog and all the comments for a while, because I’ve always felt that I don’t have a good enough understanding of the whole feminist movement. I have to admit, I am a guy, and it’s been difficult to grasp some feminist concepts. I was wondering if anyone reading here could answer a few questions for me?

  43. Hi Dudley,

    First off my writing and the women who comment here are not representative of the whole feminist movement. We represent ourselves within the context of radical feminism and lesbian feminism. If you would like to ask genuine questions that further the discussion then feel free to do so here.

  44. Hey I am just wondering why you seem to assume that every word that comes out of the character’s mouths is also directly out of Joss Whedon’s?

    I want to tell you that I am not trying to just argue, I think you make a lot of good points, but I don’t agree with everything. I think your post is very interesting and presents a perspective I had never considered.

  45. It’s funny that one of the criticisms of fanfiction is that authors of it choose the genre because it absolves them of responsibility: so long as they stay within so many miles of a character’s corporate “characterization,” whatever they have that character say or do doesn’t have anything to do with themselves as a person. It’s just some entity doing what that entity is supposed to do. Instead of objecting to that criticism, most fanfic types are THANK GOD, just as Grand Theft Auto junkies want to crucify Roger Ebert for saying videogames aren’t art and yet they don’t want games to be evaluated as other forms of art: in which case, Grand Theft Auto would cease to be “satire” just because prostitutes exist in the real world to be murdered, too.

    And despite all of that, Whedon isn’t responsible for the fic the fans base theirs on, either. There really is some Jayne guy being Jayne and he’s being summoned out of the collective unconsciousness or something.

  46. these are awesome allecto, thanks! i have never seen firely, but i am a HUGE buffy fan, but there are some problems there too that not many people want to acknowledge. the most obvious thing with buffy (for me) was that SMG was waif-thin by the third season, and was obviously over-dieting. was this SMG exercising her own agency? is dieting EVER the result of a woman’s agency? (no, no its not). why, when she (buffy) was supposed to be so physically strong, was she (SMG) so obviously NOT physically strong in real life? its a small point but it always really bothered me. like it was so obvious that buffy, and the concept of a super-strong female was just a fantasy. how do we process that message, having to live in real life?

    what did you think about “dollhouse”?

  47. Thanks FCM. I sure stirred a lot of shit up with these posts!!! Totally agree about SMG’s eating disorder. It was heartbreaking to see her disappear like that.

    I haven’t seen Dollhouse. I watched the first episode but it was deathly dull. I honestly can’t see me being able to sit through another round of Joss Whedon’s boring bullshit quite honestly.

  48. LOL talk about shit-stirring, i just did a radfem analysis of porn over at my place. heres the link:


  49. Hello Allecto, I am Master of the Boot and I wanted to say that I’ve become a fan of yours.

    The first time I read your blog “Firefly: A Rapist’s view of the world.” I was rather shocked. I had yet to see Firefly the show and you’d be a pretty bad Radical Femminist if you didn’t shock me, who am whitemale.

    I thought you were being extreme, but then again you are a self professed radical.

    It was after I watched the whole series of Firefly that I began to see things from your point of view. I could easily see Mal as a hypocritical rapist screwhead who was little more than Nerd fantasy fulfillment.

    And now i praise you as a voice of anti-whedonism in what is otherwise a wasteland of Whedonites.

    Whedon’s femminism has always been very problematic for me. At best it’s been rather inconsistent and patchy, at worst it’s uniintentional exploitation and abuse of women.

    One thing that staggers me though is how many people have written hateful replies to you and called you insane, blind or stupid. By doing that they end all possability of meaningful debate and behave like mindless zealots.

    So let me say that you have my support on matters of Whedon, or against Whedon.


    Master of the Boot

  50. I think you make many good points, but it does bother me that you mock the very idea of a feminist who is a man. While I agree that some people who call themselves feminists aren’t I also don’t think that we can say that no man can be a feminist. Also, while I understand your frustration with these subjects, I think that the tone you take here is so scathing that it is offputting even for people who essentially agree with you. People feel threatened by feminism in many cases not because they don’t agree with its ideals but because sometimes feminists are not sensitive to the fact that not everyone is well educated about gender equality issues. I just fear that taking this sort of tone, which makes it feel like you are telling off anyone who has ever enjoyed anything by Joss Whedon, isolates people who might otherwise be interested in these issues. Just something to think about.

  51. I have to say, I’ve read most of your blogs on Firefly and I find it refreshing to find someone who feels the way I do about the show. A lot of my friends just LOOOOVE Firefly and it irks me. The show isn’t even that well written, like you I find it boring, and I don’t get how female friends of mine think the women on the show are strong. Just because the show actually has women on it and they don’t all look *exactly* the same-doesn’t make it feminism. Joss tends to go for actresses who are tiny, polite, and soft-spoken. It creeps me out more women don’t see Joss’ claims at being feminist for the transparent bs they are.

    I’m only surprised I haven’t seen you mention the scene with River’s first appearance, unconscious, naked, and curled up in the fetal position. Well, granted it would be hard to mention*every* instance of anti-feminism in the show. It’s one of the most obvious scenes though, and the fact that they incorporate this scene into the opening theme makes it ten times worse.

    As for Inara, I don’t even know where to begin. Even if I could get beyond the whole prostitution thing, what *really* angers me about her character is that it is so painfully obvious to me she is Joss’ vision of what is sexy in a woman-i.e. soft-spoken, never raising her voice, never losing her temper even when she really should, thin and small, always wearing revealing clothing and looking like she just stepped out of a salon. This to me is troublesome in and of itself-any man who finds any of these things attractive rather than pitiable couldn’t possibly be a feminist at all, not in any sense of the word.

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