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A Wife-Beater’s View of the World: Our Mrs. Reynolds Part Two

May 2, 2008

*I’ve finally finished the damn thing. I won’t be allowing comments from anyone who is not a radical feminist (or pro-radical feminist) or a lesbian feminist/separatist. Yes, I am pro-censorship. Boohoo.*

Link to Part One

I mentioned in the first post that the most disturbing potential reading of this episode is as a justification and indeed glorification of male violence/terrorism in the home. I left off in the last post talking about the romance between Mal and Jayne. In the following scenes Saffron settles in to her role as a subservient and pleasing wife, with Mal being a happy consumer of her services.

MAL (cont’d)
Well, that is odd.
SAFFRON
What?
MAL
I just don’t – I’m not one talks about his past. And here you got me…
SAFFRON
Does your crew never show interest in your life?
MAL
No, they’re, they’re… They just know me well enough to… What about
you? What’s your history?
SAFFRON
Not much to say. Life like yours, I fear you’d find mine terrible dull.
MAL
Oh, I long for a little dullness. Truth to say, this whole trip is getting to be just a little too interesting.

Touching stuff here. Mal beginning to see Saffron’s resources as an emotionally supportive slave as an addition to her exquisite domestic skills. What makes me even more annoyed about this scene is the fact that Mal, as always, does all the talking, leaving Saffron’s potentially interesting history unexplored. This is typical of stories written by misogynists. They are not interested in women’s stories; women are only there to further understanding of the male characters.

After Saffron dismisses her own history as uninteresting (another tactic of misogynist writers, they create female characters that hate themselves and other women in order to disguise their own misogyny). One obvious example of this in Joss Whedon’s work is in the following scene where Zoe shows herself to be completely unsympathetic to Saffron’s slavery and blames Saffron for her own subjugation.

ZOE (V.O.)
She’s clearly out of her mind.
WASH
Well, she’s led a sheltered life.
ZOE
Did you see the way she grabbed that glass from you?
WASH
Every planet’s got its own weird customs. ‘Bout a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese. Goslings. They were juggled.
ZOE
Of course the man rushes in to defend her…
WASH
(huh?) I’m talking about geese.
ZOE
Captain shouldn’t be baby-sitting a damn groupie. And he knows it.
WASH
Okay, when did this become not funny?
ZOE
When you didn’t turn around and put her ass back down on Triumph where it belongs.
WASH
Oh, hey, now it’s even my fault! Is there anything else on your mind I should know about? There’s all sorts of twists and cul-de-sacs, it’s wild.
ZOE
She’s trouble
WASH
I’m getting that.
ZOE
I’m going to bed.

It goes without saying that I find it highly problematic that women’s oppression is compared with the juggling of geese. What the fuck is with that even? Again, ha ha; women’s oppression = geese juggling. Tehehe.

Sigh. Men are such dicks.

And here we have Zoe blaming women for their own oppression and hating women, presumably for not being as liberated herself. Does that even make any kind of sense? And Wash borrows Mal’s unicorn outfit to ‘defend’ Saffron and her weirdness. See, that is what I just love about male supremacy. Men rape babies, they buy, sell and trade women (real, live, thinking, breathing human beings) as sex, they kill each other, they bash, rape, mutilate, torture us day in and day out, for not being subservient enough, for being too subservient, for being too ugly, for being too beautiful, for not conforming enough, for conforming too much, in short for being born female. And women are the ones who get called crazy and weird.

How the fuck are women supposed to survive what men throw at us and not go a bit crazy? And weird? Well, if hating my sisters, conforming to white male supremacy by being treated as a sex-object and possession by a white man, conforming to white male supremacy by jumping when the white man says jump and calling the white man ‘sir’ is your idea of ‘normal’ womanhood, Mr. Whedon, then I sure am glad that I am ‘weird’. But thankfully I know that your image of Black womanhood ain’t anything like the courageous, resourceful, angry, compassionate, strong, resilient, tireless, flesh and blood reality of my Black sisters.

The next part of the show is one of the most disgusting, heteropatriachal, rapist scenes that I’ve watched. So gross. Saffron shows up in Mal’s cabin completely naked. She surprises him when he comes into his room. She is in Mal’s bed, draped in his sheets, telling Mal that she has made the bed warm for him and made herself ready for him. EWWWWWWWW. I already think I need a bath. Fuck Joss has a filthy mind.

So Mal, still wearing his unicorn suit (though by this stage it is getting a bit tatty) tells her that she has her own room. Saffron is confused believing that, as they are married, they must become ‘one flesh’. EWWWWWW Joss’s words there. So Saffron quotes her planet’s bible at Mal. Remember these words were written by the great feminist Joss Whedon.

SAFFRON
I do know my bible, sir. “On the night of their betrothal, the wife shall open to the man, as the furrow to the plough, and he shall work in her, in and again, ’till she bring him to his fall, and rest him then upon the sweat of her breast.”
MAL
Whoa. Good bible.
SAFFRON
I’m not skilled, sir, nor a pleasure to look upon, but -
MAL
Saffron. You’re pleasing. You’re… hell, you’re all kinds of pleasing and it’s been a while… a long damn while since anybody but me took a hold a’my plough so don’t think for a second that I ain’t interested. But you and me, we ain’t married. Just ’cause you got handed to me by some couldn’t pay his debts, don’t make you beholden to me. I keep trying to explain –

Interlude: Joss Whedon’s Guide for Beginners on how to make female submissiveness sexxxxay.
Take one naked, skinny, shortish prone woman. Add one clothed, built, tallish standing man. Insert suggestive, heteropatriarchal, religious reference. Stir.

You know, something similar to this happened to me once. A vulnerable, screwed up (it almost goes without saying that she had been repeatedly raped and otherwise abused by her boyfriend, who dumped her when she stop acquiescing to her own rape), Catholic girl threw herself at me, desperate for self-validation, desperate for someone to love her a cherish her. She was in my bedroom. She pushed me onto the bed and tried to kiss me. How did I respond? I stood up and left the room. Simple.

We were flatmates. I never stopped being there for her emotionally but taking advantage of her vulnerability was NEVER an option. It was not something I could even begin to consider for one very simple reason. I DO NOT FIND FEMALE SUBMISSION AND VULNERABILITY SEXY. It is not sexy, not funny, not feminist, absolutely not ok to ever show female submission and vulnerability as being sexy. It is really, truly awful to see, love and care for women who have had their selfhood all but destroyed and royally screwed with by men. It is really, truly awful to recognise yourself in the pieces of them.

But Joss, the feminist, has his male character hang about pretending that he wants Saffron to leave, clearly hoping that she won’t. The scene culminates with Saffron dropping the sheet, walking over to Mal and kissing him. A kiss that Mal not only allows but quite happily engages in, joking that he will be going to the special hell. Ha. ha.

But then huh? What? Mal falls down unconscious after Saffron kisses him!!!! OH NOES!!!! SAFFRON IS AN EEEEEEEVIL KILLER WOMAN!!!! ARGH!

Who would have thought? A feminist writes a show depicting a victimized, vulnerable woman, who is just pretending and turns out to be an evil killer woman! Ho hum, another woman-hater at work.

Interlude: Feminism: The Joss Whedon Way.
Rote learn the following:
- Women lie. About everything really, but mostly they lie about rape, child abuse, sexual assault and harassment, male violence in the home, male violence in the street etc. Women lie and lie and lie. They can’t help it. They don’t even have a reason for lying, they just do it. It’s biological… and pathological… but still very wrong.

So Saffron wanders off, gets dressed and heads to the bridge where she encounters Wash. She closes the door, and evilly turns Wash on with her wily, feminine pretending.

She turns to him, eyes nearly moist with pleading.

SAFFRON
My whole life, I saw nothing but roofs and steeples and the cellar door. Few days I’ll be back to that life and gone from yours. Make this night what it should be. Please…

Her face is inches from his.

SAFFRON (cont’d)
Show me the stars.

They’re practically touching and she moves to kiss him, but he pulls away at the last minute.

WASH
do I wish I was somebody else right now. Somebody not married, not madly in love with a beautiful woman who can kill me with her pinky.

Reason number 9623 of why I find the whole Wash/Zoe relationship unconvincing. Wash openly admits that he wishes he could sleep with Saffron a woman who he has just met. He simultaneously believes that he loves Zoe despite the fact that he openly admits to wanting to fuck Saffron. And the primary motivation for him refusing to fuck Saffron does not seem to be because he loves Zoe, it is more because of his life may be in danger if he does. Wow, I really do just love these nice, white husbands. Whatever would women do without all these nice, white men?

Anyway, Joss writes his first remotely feminist bit thus far and Saffron kicks Wash in the head after rolling her eyes at his stupidity. WOOHOO!!!! That’s more like it sister! Now this Saffron IS sexy. Not that sexy is a word I’d use but hey. This Saffron is a woman who kicks fuckwit men in the head and that makes her pretty darn attractive in my book.

Saffron stuffs up the ship’s navigation before heading to one of the shuttles. She encounters Inara along the way. Can’t really be bothered to detail the scene. Suffice to say that Joss chucks in a bit of lesbian pornography for his wanker fans. Ho hum moment number 3948.

Saffron escapes. Inara reveals the hideous truth about Saffron to the others. She acts as though she has had training at the Academy for Companions. Shock, horror. A Companion that uses her ‘skills’ in servility for evil??? Oh noes. She must be stopped.

Jayne brings out Vera, his nice big phallic gun, which turns out to be far better, safer, and more useful than Saffron. Vera saves the day, preventing the crew from dying at the hands of the thieves working with Saffron to steal the Firefly from Mal.

Predictably, Mal hunts Saffron down. The pictures below are screen captured from the show.

MAL
Honey… I’m home…

A beat. She knocks his gun aside, it fires as she draws hers but he is in close, they tussle — he wrenches her gun from her hand as they collapse on bed, him on top.

MAL (cont’d)
Looks like you get your wedding night after all.

She pushes him, they go tumbling to the floor but he’s still on top and this time he’s got his gun to her chin. (In the show he holds the gun to her head rather than her chin).

MAL (cont’d)
It’s the first time, darlin’. I think you should be gentle with me.

She lets out a breath, smiles at him unfathomably.

SAFFRON
You gonna kill me?
MAL
Can you conjure up a terribly compelling reason for me not to?
SAFFRON
I didn’t kill you…

MAL
Why the act? All the seduction games, the dancing about folk — there has to be an easier way to steal.
SAFFRON
You’re assuming the payoff is the point.
MAL
I’m not assuming anything at this juncture.

He sits, gun still well on her. She gets up on her elbows, below but facing him.

SAFFRON
(smiling sexily) You’re quite a man, Malcolm Reynolds. I’ve waited a long while for someone good enough to take me down.
MAL
(also smiles) Saffron… you even think about playing me again I will riddle you
with holes.

Her smile goes. This is the closest we’re gonna get to seeing what’s inside her, and there ain’t much to warm your hands by.

MAL
I got one question for you. Just one thing I’d like to know straight up.
SAFFRON
Ask me.
MAL
What’s your real name?

She looks at him… looks away, considering the question… — and he slams the butt of his gun into her chin, knocking her out cold. He stands, regards her genuinely vulnerable form. Says with a kind of sadness:

MAL (cont’d)
You’d only’ve lied anyhow.

What a way to make violence against women sexy. The scripted description of Saffron in this scene make it abundantly clear that this scene is supposed to titillate. Saffron sits on the bed, pulling on her boots. She is nothing like the girl we’ve seen, much more modern and cool (though she still wears a skirt). Joss making even more porn for his wanker fans.

But perhaps most disturbingly this scene can be read as a justification for male violence in the home. Joss frequently references marriage in the scene, to bring on the funnies of course, having Mal acting like a spurned husband and Saffron the wayward wife. If we read the entire episode using this framework of reference we can see that Joss has constructed a vicious argument in favour of male violence in the domestic sphere.

First up we have the innocent virgin wife. Mal romances the innocent virgin wife, teaching her to be strong and independent, but still ultimately subservient to him, and obedient to his authority. They come to the marital bed and it turns out that she isn’t quite so innocent after all. She transforms from an innocent country girl into a manipulative, callous woman, who is strong, capable and independent. She works for herself and bows to no one, not even Mal, her husband. In fact, she willfully betrays him and uses his faults and weaknesses to get her own way. It is clear that such a woman must be brought down. By any means necessary.

Saffron leaves Mal and Mal tracks her down, invading her home by force as a husband, pushing her to the bed, using his body to pin her down while he lectures her for not conforming to proper feminine womanhood, before slamming his gun in her face. Really very disturbing stuff, all from the mind of a feminist.

The final scene we have an affirmation of proper feminine womanhood, as Mal goes back to the woman he ‘loves’.

INARA
… does the vixen live?
MAL
If you can call it that. All’s well, I suppose.
INARA
Yes.

This is the typical discourse of misogynists, women fit neatly into the wife/whore dichotomy. Inara is a good woman. Her sexuality is neatly controlled by patriarchal institutions, the Academy, the Guild, her respect for Mal as Captain of the ship. She is comfortably subservient, she services men both sexually and emotionally without complaint and conforms to all the patriarchal rules of her role as both a Companion and a woman. Inara is the good whore: the wife.

Saffron on the other hand uses her ‘skills’ as a woman and as a Companion, for her own gain. She refuses to conform to patriarchal femininity by submitting gracefully to being used as a sexual and domestic slave. She turns men’s weaknesses to her own advantage. And ultimately she mast pay the price for refusing to bow to men. Saffron is the bad wife: the whore.

Inara, as a good wife must, joins with Mal in her condemnation of Saffron, and in doing so, pledges her allegiance to men and male supremacy. Inara is a model for good womanhood, she must view what happened to Saffron as a lesson in the fate afforded to women who attempt to step outside of male controlled strictures of femininity. Inara must turn away from her sisters and towards men, seeking company only with those women, like Kaylee, who also conform to male-approved, male-supremacist notions of femininity.

Blah. I’ll take sisterhood any day. But honestly, if Joss Whedon is a feminist then violence against women is sexy and empowering. Me? I’m taking a stand against Joss Whedon and his wanker fans in pursuit of true liberation for womenkind.

Final part of this series on Firefly:Objects in Space: Black masculinity through the paradigm of whitemale lust.

50 comments

  1. Are you going to be writing more breakdowns of firefly episodes? I really enjoy reading them.
    As a feminist and a fan of Firefly I really enjoy this series of posts by you. It helps articulate problems I have with it.
    Like the Saffron = bad wife/whore and Inara = good whore/wife. I’d not seen it that way before.

    I don’t think I’ve agreed with everything in your analysis’s but thats perhaps only natural. Even in the bits I don’t agree with, I very much enjoy reading them and getting your perspective. Makes me think (and also I can apply your thoughts to other media which is good too.)

    Thankyou very much.


  2. I want to write one final post about Objects in Space and racism and I think I’ll leave it there. If I write a paper for the Brisbane Feminist Conference then I will post that here too.

    I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading them. I hope it inspires you to write about feminism and popular culture. I think writing these posts has highlighted the serious lack of feminist criticism and analysis of popular movies and tv shows. I couldn’t find anything else critical of Joss Whedon, from either a race or gender perspective, online. I find that a bit problematic.

    Hey I don’t expect women to agree with everything I say. I hope they have their own minds and ideas about things.

    I very much enjoy reading them and getting your perspective. Makes me think (and also I can apply your thoughts to other media which is good too.)

    I think this is the important thing. I don’t mind if you disagree with me because I know that you respect my right to my perspective. If you would like to respond to any of the points where you disagree I will publish your comments. I find that respectful discussion helps me to further understanding of my own opinions. I just don’t like engaging in discussions with male-apologists, and I know that you aren’t one.

    Thank you, Celly, for the support. It is greatly appreciated.


  3. Hmm. Well say, with the baby goslings and trading of women, disgusting a comparison it is, when I watched that it felt to me that Zoe recognized the statement as a stupid thing, and that the audience was supposed to as well. That it was meant o be funny in the first place is problematic but I got a vibe that it was meant to be condemned.

    Some of your statements are certainly harsher then anything I’d say (which is of course your prerogative) Like when you say that Joss’s guide to feminism is that women lie and like and lie and that its biological – I don’t get the vibe that he thinks its biological. So many of his male characters lie too.

    The main problem I have with the whole thing is how she was punished for her self serving lies in a way that the ,ale self serving liars never were, and that her punishment is so sexualized.

    Also I think these points were made in places where people were attacking you, though some elements of them I wondered about.
    Firefly is meant to be a dystopia, so not every character will do feminist things even if the writer has a “feminist” viewpoint. (In quotes because I don’t see Joss’s stuff as feminist.)
    So – I see it as important to call out where say Mal screw up and shows hatred/disregard for women, because he’s painted as being respectful to women. But say Jayne is never painted that way, so taking something Jayne says as an endorsement of that world view from the writer isn’t something I’d do.
    (Though on re-reading the poist I can’t find a point where you’ve done that.)

    The comments about Joss being a wife bater or a rapist aren’t things I’d say. I’d say he was romanticizing wife beating, sexualizing violence and showing contempt for women by labeling him as a person who activey beats his wife isn’t something I’d say.

    Hmm. Perhaps I can do a writeup of the treatment of women in The Golden Compass series. I’ve been reading it recently because me and my friends are really into steampunk at the moment.
    The first book has a fierce little girl as the central character, and I liked it – but by the second book there’s this little boy companion too and its like her character changes or something when the boy comes in.
    My (male) friend said he never noticed a difference in her character – but I did.
    It was like she became quieter or duller, less fierce.

    I might go through the books and try to pinpoint it using the points Dissenter made here:
    http://dis-senter.livejournal.com/32189.html


  4. Yep, I definitely agree that Jayne was meant to be the fall guy for anti-feminism. I think his opinions were meant to be contrasted with Mal’s, particularly in this episode, and that the audience is supposed to condemn him. So no I don’t think that Jayne’s worldview is reflective of Joss’s worldview.

    I do think that Joss definitely aligns himself with Mal though, and that Mal is a glorified anti-hero. But even if Mal’s opinions are not reflective of Joss’s own, I still think it is inexcusable to glorify the archetypal male anti-hero in the way that Joss does in this show.

    I never said that Joss was a rapist or a wife-beater. I do believe he is a probable rapist but no more so than the majority of men on the planet. All men are probable rapists. A man who writes sexualised depictions of violence against women and scenes which sexualise female submission and vulnerability just solidify in my mind Joss’s potential rapism. And the title of this post, just like the title of the previous post, is meant to be demonstrative of the male worldview, where wives are punching bags and object/possessions to be fucked. It is not meant to be an accusation of wife-beating levelled at Joss specifically, although I do hold Joss partially responsible for every woman that has been beaten or raped as a result of the women-hatred in Firefly. I may have thought this was a stretch, but that was before I received comments on these posts, from Joss Whedon fans, threatening me with rape and other forms of violence (that they were going to duck tape my mouth and throw me in the hold for a month, for example) and telling me to kill myself.

    The dystopia thing Dissenter and I answered on the last post. Short answer, there are heaps of dystopias written by feminists that I think are brilliant. Some are even written by men. (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Dead Europe by Christos Tsiolkas, The Wanderground by Sally Gearheart, Mercy by Andrea Dworkin, The Obernewtyn Series by Isobelle Carmody, to name a few). It is entirely possible to write dystopias and misogynist male characters without validating male supremacy or glorifying male violence against women. But the harm that men do to women, through their hate and violence is shown as a negative thing in these books. The women in these books suffer from the things that men put them through. And they resist the strictures of femininity that men try to bind them in. Totally unlike what happens in Firefly.

    I don’t think Firefly was meant to be a feminist show. But that does not in any way discredit feminist analysis. I don’t think it is ethically responsible to call yourself a feminist and fund feminist organisations, while writing, directing and producing television that justifies/glorifies male violence against women, justfies/glorifies women being traded as sex, justifies/glorifies women being silenced by men and vilifies black men. This is what Joss does and I am harsh on him because what he is doing is so incredibly irresponsible and unethical. He is making money and gaining credibility from false propaganda of himself as a feminist.

    I am looking forward to your post on The Golden Compass. I haven’t read it but my sister commented on the exact same thing as you. That the female character was strong in the first book but dwindled in the second.


  5. Like when you say that Joss’s guide to feminism is that women lie and like and lie and that its biological – I don’t get the vibe that he thinks its biological. So many of his male characters lie too.

    No, I think I was justified in saying this. When the male characters lie they have specific reasons and they lie in ways that are not specific to Whedon’s construction of the male gender. Like Mal lies and pretends all the time in order to cheat and steal. But Saffron has not reason at all to play these elaborate, feminine games that she does in this episode.

    MAL
    Why the act? All the seduction games, the dancing about folk — there has to be an easier way to steal.
    SAFFRON
    You’re assuming the payoff is the point.
    MAL
    I’m not assuming anything at this juncture.

    It is emphasised quite strongly that Saffron had no reason to play these games.

    She looks at him… looks away, considering the question… — and he slams the butt of his gun into her chin, knocking her out cold. He stands, regards her genuinely vulnerable form. Says with a kind of sadness:

    MAL (cont’d)
    You’d only’ve lied anyhow.

    Mal punishes her specifically for not telling the truth. My conclusion from this is that men lie for good reason. They are logical and practical about the way they lie and the reasons they lie. They are also justified in lying, as you pointed out, no man suffers the same punishment for lying.

    Saffron, however, is an irrational liar. Her lying has no logical reason. There is no explaination given for her games. It makes no sense, except if it is pathological. And since Saffron is constructed as an archetypal feminine evil, her deception is intimately linked to her femaleness, hence the biological connection. But that’s just how I read the episode.


  6. “It is entirely possible to write dystopias and misogynist male characters without validating male supremacy or glorifying male violence against women. But the harm that men do to women, through their hate and violence is shown as a negative thing in these books. The women in these books suffer from the things that men put them through. And they resist the strictures of femininity that men try to bind them in. Totally unlike what happens in Firefly.” – Illuminating definitely. Oh, I remember reading this before but had forgotten it or overlooked it or something. The point you go on to make about firefly not being specifically feminist being open to critique anyway is a good one.

    “And the title of this post, just like the title of the previous post, is meant to be demonstrative of the male worldview, where wives are punching bags and object/possessions to be fucked. It is not meant to be an accusation of wife-beating levelled at Joss specifically, although I do hold Joss partially responsible for every woman that has been beaten or raped as a result of the women-hatred in Firefly.”

    That was something I hadn’t picked up on/realized. It’s good that I know now. <3

    I’m still not sure if the lying is seen as a biological woman thing, but you’ve explained it so I can see how it makes sense, and I’ll think over it – perhaps the next time I watch the show. (Whenever that will be.)

    Might take awhile before the Golden Comapss post. I’m still in the middle of reading the third book.)

    (The villaness Ms Coulter rubs me up the wrong way in that series too.)


  7. Hi Celly, I’m really flattered that you’d consider using the points of analysis I made in that post.

    I hope it doesn’t happen, but if you do post about The Golden Compass (raising critical points) you might have to be prepared to be attacked by those within the fan communities. That happened to me when I wrote on slash, and obviously, allecto has had to deal with it ongoing since she’s been posting about Firefly. And this was despite the fact that neither of us made those posts anywhere near any fan communities.


  8. Ehh. I think it’d be almost funny if I got attacked by fan communities, because well. I’m a big steampunk fan. The people who are interested in the book because of the cool steampunk aspects – well I’d be one of them. I _like_ the cool airships, polar bears and strange neo-victoriana.
    I’m in the steampunk community. Under other internet names people in some of the online communities would know who I am (Though I’m not really that prominent I am there.)

    I don’t know. It’d be funny in the same “You can like some aspects of something, and still be critical of other aspects.” fans who can’t be _critical_ bother me I suppose.

    LOL. In the middle of writing this comment I went to one of the steampunk communites because someone had written something about racists and sexists in a scene and I want to comment on it.
    I could find it, but I could find someone attacking Allectos Firefly review.

    Oh there’s be trouble for me indeed I think.

    Heh. Thats probably not something to grin at. Honestly I usually don’t like stirring up trouble _at all_ but now I’m really interested in what would happen. :/


  9. All the best.


  10. I have not hitherto of myself as a radical feminist, I don’t really think of myself as any type of feminist to be honest, I just am.
    However I have been reading your Firefly posts and intitally was really taken aback by what your wrote. But as you’ve put up more posts I’ve come round to your way of thinking. Well written, well argued and contains lots of food for thought. Thanks for putting them up. They’ve challenged my views and made me question other shows.


  11. And apparently I don’t check for typos. That should say ‘have not hitherto THOUGHT of myself as’. Sorry.


  12. Hi Saranga and welcome,

    I really enjoyed your post on anti-feminism in Buffy and have linked to it. Hope you don’t mind.

    Doesn’t really matter what *kind* of feminist you are. They are only words, I just didn’t want to be having conversations with people who ‘identify’ as feminist as opposed to are feminist in what they do and the values they stand for. Most radical feminists believe that radical feminism is feminism, unmodified, and thats how I feel too. I don’t like my politics to be watered down by male-apologism and other male-controlled (ie.socialism, liberalism, post-modernism) ideologies.

    Thanks for your kind words here and for writing up your own thoughts and feelings on Buffy.


  13. Nope of course I don’t mind you linking to my post!


  14. I’ve read your TV show posts and found them interesting enough to link in my blog. Turns out they caused quite the kerfluffle! But there were some great discussions that came out of it. I think some people are more aware now of things they used to lightly dismiss.

    This leads me to wonder what shows you think do a good job in their portrayals of women. And why? Now that you have readers thinking about these shows in a negative light (for good reasons), perhaps it’s a good time to give us something positive to fill the void and to provide a contrast?


  15. That last scene made me viscerally uncomfortable for exactly the reasons you describe.

    But I think I read it completely differently. I felt like it was invoking familial violence to condemn Mal, not Saffron. He’s saying all these things about trust and compassion and, specifically, family, and the words, they’re coming out of his mouth and they’re so obviously hollow that they just crumple.

    Because Mal doesn’t believe it. He’s punishing her for doing exactly what he is—and for doing it better, and for being right.

    And that punishment is sexualized and violent because Mal is misogynistic and violent. We knew that about him. I wouldn’t read him as a hero, or even an anti-hero—there’s a reason why Zoe’s “big damn heroes” line is funny—but at the same time, I see what you’re saying about his status as a glamorous anti-hero.

    It’s very, very difficult to set up such a character like that who challenges existing structures of violence by enacting them in a way that demonstrates how very grotesque they are, because it’s very, very difficult to cause people to see those structures as that. (Just ask Jhonen.)

    (And does the character of Mal succeed at that? That’s how I read him, mostly, but it’s really problematic at points. That’s not how everyone reads him. And most importantly, that’s not at all how I would write him. (For one thing, I wouldn’t write Mal as a him.))


  16. Thank you for writing this ongoing series of articles! I appreciate how clearly you have articulated Joss Whedon’s odd flip-flopping attitude towards feminism.
    Reading these articles reminded me of the anti-feminism of Buffy–specifically in the 6th and 7th seasons where Whedon basically violated all of the principles he has originally at least claimed to set up. Have you written anything about the character of Caleb (played by the same actor who played Mal)? He’s a good example of throwing as much woman-hating language and behavior towards women as possible and seems to characterize Whedon’s villains.


  17. I love science fiction. It sucks that so much of it is geared towards teenage boys looking for a wank (BSG, I’m looking at you). Great blog.


  18. Hey allecto- at the risk of being called mythical, yes, I am a guy and a feminist. And somewhat of a firefly fan, as a guilty pleasure. I appreciate Firefly for what it is: an emotional-drama space western backdrop, and a simplistic look at ideological politics through mainstream scifi, all the more funny because it tries to be feminist but fails the basics. But if everything I watched were feminist, I would probably have no reason to have a TV.

    Firstly, thanks for calling the Zoe dynamic racist, sexist, and generally bullshit. It had a chance not to be, if Whedon had ever seen fit to justify in some sense the reason why Zoe obeyed Mal’s orders instead of the other way around, when she was clearly the better soldier. While he may have intended the whole “shared military background” thing to be enough, he’s perpetuating institutionalised racism and sexism by not showing us why that “respect” was deserved.

    Secondly, I agree with you full-heartedly that Saffron is a play to the classic male fear of women as The Other. She’s untrustable, manipulative, uses sex as a weapon, she’s sneaky, and a practicsed liar. Except unlike Jayne, our avatar of male opportunism, she doesn’t do things because they make sense to her, and she never has the chance to do anything that the viewer is supposed to identify with. She’s mentally ill at best, a cutout character at worst. The only good thing about her coming back in a later episode was seeing Mal naked. (rawr)

    *DELETED: Sorry I will not allow pro-female sexual slavery comments here. Never.*

    As for Mal- I have to agree with Violet here. The thing that attracts people to Firefly, and obviously the thing that repels you from it so much, is that as far as the core characters go, it makes very few judgements. Mal IS misogynistic, antifeminist, insentitive, domineering. But he also cares deeply for people he knows, watches out for them, believes in at least some degree of independence and choice, and is willing to fight for what he believes. All of the main characters are flawed in some way, but we’re supposed to see the flaws and love them anyway, especially as most of them realise the consequences of those flaws. I think the whole point of this episode was to expose that antifeminist flaw in Mal- it just doesn’t work because the misogyny is not obvious enough, it’s diguised in jokes, we’re supposed to laugh and forget it. Effective feminist social commentary has to shock, if there’s no narration. Because unlike racism, men just aren’t primed for sexism, and that makes it seem glamourous. And that’s why it’s glamourised- like lots of guys who like to think of themselves as feminists, Joss doesn’t go far enough with it. He’s afraid of alienating the misogynists. Which is really, really sad, from someone who actually seems to support feminism to some degree, even if he may not entirely understand it.


  19. Thanks Erin and Hell.

    Erin, no I haven’t written on Buffy. I am thinking about studying Joss Whedon’s work and doing a radical feminist analysis but it would take a lot of time and effort and I don’t know where I could get my writing published. Other than my blog.

    Hell, your blog is just fantastic. I am so glad I discovered it. I’ll be reading. :)


  20. Allecto, about your deletion of pro-female sex slavery comments, to use the better tag line from the trite, treacly “Love Story” movie of about 38 years ago, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

    Your fierce love for womankind, and your compassion for our passage toward liberation, necessarily means that you will delete comments that indirectly promote, approve or condone sadistic behaviors against any women, any time, even if the women seem to be asking for it, even in fan fic commentary.

    When it comes to participating in art forms that do not promote our freedom, I’d suggest: Just don’t do it. But I hardly follow that rule, given my tendency to attend main/manstream movies (given the dearth of any other kind on the big screen in a collective sitting in the dark, my favorite way to view screen material). At least I rewrite the scripts and re-frame the stories, and often comment to blogs about the misogyny.

    Currently Iron Man, Indy, I, I, I, all the man-stream media can do is focus on the “I” of man, men with their female sidekicks. Karen Allen as actor did make the first Indy movie a good experience for me; she’s back for #4, to good reviews, yet as usual a brilliantly talented woman is relegated to what the billionaire boys’ club lets them do in the media the bad boys control. Argh. (Speaking of how the control happened in the first place, if not for centuries of trickery, trauma and tribulation by ruthless male dominators — the worst of men — Genghis Khan and his ilk plus the smiling hypocrites — womankind would never have become tamed. That any of us has the capacity for independent thought is miraculous, Dark Mother be praised.)

    If Jane Campion were John … ah, well. I can dream. What movies might I have made? At least these days I play creatively with writing a novel that might be a screenplay someday. Maybe those women writing fan fic/slash to a male standard could do the same, and more of womankind’s scripts might some how, some way, get made into stories/movies/TV specials that sustain our souls.

    Julia Cameron, accomplished writer, artist & former wife of Martin Scorsese, is moving into her wisdom years, so those with a generation-gap approach might not be inclined to pick up her books (starting with The Artist’s Way). But if you’re stuck creatively and wanting to find a better view of living, her books can help. She’d have made movies you’d have heard about, too, but for the patriarchy. Instead, as a young adult she got to watch Scorsese, Spielberg and Lucas find their patriarchal formulas of dads and sons, father-figures and younger males and female sidekicks. Not that Julia Cameron would necessarily put it like that. But Mary Daly is one of her quoted “theologians” in the side margins of one of her books. Cameron might come out as a women’s liberationist yet.

    Last night I attended a memorial service of a 94-year-old woman who was traveling and working in Japan in her 80′s … If we’re alive here and now, perhaps we could consider ourselves part of the same generation. Damn man-stream media for making it so trendy to self-identify as boomer, genXer, etc. Let’s take our minds back. Major media spin and sound bites cannot possibly be in our best interests.


  21. When it comes to participating in art forms that do not promote our freedom, I’d suggest: Just don’t do it. But I hardly follow that rule, given my tendency to attend main/manstream movies (given the dearth of any other kind on the big screen in a collective sitting in the dark, my favorite way to view screen material). At least I rewrite the scripts and re-frame the stories, and often comment to blogs about the misogyny.

    I agree. For the most part I stay away from malestream movies and tv shows. BORINGBORINGBORING!!!!

    But I do have a huge weakness for fantasy. I am completely unable to shut my eyes to misogyny though. I will watch Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings for example and analyse them to pieces. The racism and the misogyny of fantasy movies is just so blatantly, in your face, obvious. But at the same time I enjoy them. I didn’t enjoy Firefly though. Guh, it made me so sick.

    Women’s movies are just sublime. I’m not a fan of Jane Campion though. The Piano was really fucked up in my opinion. But there is this indigenous film maker Rachel Perkins and she rocks my world. And Deepa Mehta is just insightful beyond words, Fire is just the best film. And Mojgan Khadem’s Serenades simply awe-inspiring.

    I agree about the generation thing truly. I hate those catergorisations according to age or generation. I really dont like the GenX, boomer stuff. It makes no sense to me. But then again I hate the things that my generation of ‘feminists’ are doing. I am a proud Second Waver and I will remain so for my life time. :D


  22. Your points well taken, Allecto, and thanks for the recommendations. What I meant mainly about Campion is that if she’d been John and not Jane, she’d be as well-known as Tarantino. (Much better than The Piano, to me, was the critically/patriarchally trashed spoof of film noir, In The Cut.) In the US, Campion is about the only woman director who has even the slightest bit of name recognition. Unless you want to count Tina Fey, and that’s not worth writing about.

    I keep wanting Hermione to kick over the Brit patriarchy running the world of wizards … and that ghastly pink suit heading up Hogwarts in the last movie … groan … I re-write those scripts, too, in my head.


  23. Allecto- apologies that my comments about Inara were or seemed pro-prostitution or any other form of slavery of women. Obviously I didn’t come out as hard against it as I should’ve, (I was trying to keep it a little brief) and as a man I’m not as sensitive to that as you will be. Thanks for calling me on it. That said, I do think it’s worth understanding the way mainstream male discourse perpetuates the idea of sexual slavery as glamorous so that we understand it and know how to attack it in more detail- even if it’s old news to you, I doubt it is to people who watch TV regularly. I just hope that watching the conflict between self-respect and respectability in Inara led some of the viewers to a different conclusion than it led Joss to.

    I think that a lot of the stuff I was talking about in the section you deleted actually hammers your point home even further.

    So I totally sympathise with your outrage at not seeing the idea of sexual slavery smacked down fast enough, and I apologise if I left that to assumption rather than spelled it out- such is the price of brevity when you’re butting into a serious conversation. :)


  24. Judy, I haven’t seen In The Cut so perhaps I would like that too. In terms of Jane Campion’s film making abilities I think she is pretty brilliant. The Piano and Holy Smoke were both beautifully made films (although The Angel at my Table bored me stupid and was terribly made). So in terms of her film making and storytelling abilities she certainly surpases men like Tarantino. But the stories that she chooses to tell and the underlying messages in her films are just really, really screwed.

    Heh, my sister dragort rewrites the Harry Potter series. She is a really fantastic writer. I think you would like the way that she rewrites those books/movies. Hmm… I also wrote a Harry Potter parody back in the bad old days when I was a slasher. It was quite funny, Hermione was a bra-burning, patriarchy hating, anarchist who set fire to things and wrote feminist slogan on walls.

    Ugh, the demonisation of women in the books and movies is just so not cool. Umbridge, Rita Skeeter, Petunia Dursley, etc, etc.

    Ari, perhaps I misread what you were saying. Thank you for clarifying. I haven’t been reading the comments I’ve been getting on this post properly, unless they are from women I already know. Congratulations for being the only pro-feminist male voice intelligent and respectful enough to be granted space here. :)

    I do think it’s worth understanding the way mainstream male discourse perpetuates the idea of sexual slavery as glamorous so that we understand it and know how to attack it in more detail- even if it’s old news to you, I doubt it is to people who watch TV regularly.

    I couldn’t agree more. It really is depressing how little analysis is done of popular culture and TV, especially in regards to the glamourisation of the sex trade. It really shocks me that men, like Joss Whedon, say they oppose female sexual slavery and even donate money to organisations against female sexual slavery but at the same time promote pornography and prostitution as glamourous and SEXXXAY when the reality is just almost unthinkable in the devastating impact these industries have on women. I don’t think that most women have the necessary tools of analysis to understand how and why these portrayals of men’s consumption of women have direct consequences in the real world. Women’s sense of self and identity are increasing being formed by apologists and enthusiasts of the sex industry. This obviously damages their ability to validate themselves in ways that are not intrisic to their gender and their fuckability. And the off shoot of this is the fact that most women are unable to see themselves or other women as being human. And this damages their ability to think critically of the malestream portrayals of women. But I’m not blogging for the malestream. I blog to give myself a voice and the network with other women (and sometimes men) who think similarly about the world.


  25. I’d be interested to see what you have to say about Battlestar Galactica.


  26. I know you posted this months ago, but I just wanted to say thank you.

    Thanks to you, I finally understand the validity of feminist arguments. I’m used to dealing with feminists who have NO intellectual basis for their opinions beyond “MEN ARE BAD AND THEY ARE BEATING US DOWN” and upon getting into an argument with them, I soon discover that they aren’t really sure why they believe that, they just do. Because of this, I’ve been unable to give any sort of credence to this belief system.

    But you – you took my absolutely favourite show in the universe and pointed out a mere few of the places where “empowered” women are being undermined by men. I’m not completely converted yet – I’m still a Joss Whedon/Firefly fan – but at least now I can see where the problems are and can stop myself from be brainwashed into following the path of good wife = good whore.

    There are a few places where I disagreed – particularly the places where you indicated that the negativity that Joss aimed at women was intentional because I don’t think it is necessarily (of course, the ignorance that I’m implying he has through that really isn’t any better). I don’t believe he writes the victimizing of woman because he gets his jollies from it – I think he’s just writing what he knows. Because, unfortunately, that seems to be our society today. I’m not saying that Joss Whedon is a feminist, by any means, this epic three-post analysis was extremely successful in proving that to me – but I’m not sure that Whedon is the woman-hater that you’ve made him out to be. Of course, that’s my opinion, and I’ve only just taken my first steps on the road to feminism, so who knows? In a few months, I may understand further.

    In any case, thank you for giving me a better understanding of the world.


  27. Thanks for your encouraging comment shadowgirl. Weird that the feminists you know aren’t able to articulate why they are feminists. Maybe they haven’t gotten to the stage of being able to explain why they feel the way they do but that they just know or feel intuitively that women are second-class citizens.

    I guess I have done so much research into gender issues that it’d be pretty scary if I wasn’t able to articulate why I think the world we live in is male supremacist.


  28. Allecto, may I ask why my comments have been deleted? I am pro-radical feminist. I wasn’t rude. I wasn’t making apologies for men. I merely disagreed with some of your interpretations.


  29. Chris,

    You were not the first person to make the arguments that you put forward. If this is the way you feel there are many, many other places on the internet that you can discuss the points where you disagree with my interpretation. I am not interested in replying to those points here. Nor am I all that interested in having men coming onto my blog and disagreeing with me. The fact that I have given you any space on my blog at all is a privilege.

    From your comments I also have to wonder about whether you are a pro-radical feminist. Do you know what radical feminism is? What radical feminist theorists have you read? What actions have you taken to ensure the downfall of male supremacy? If you don’t have suitable answers to these questions then please go elsewhere.

    I am not approving the comment you made on my men are fucking dangerous post.

    allecto


  30. Allecto, I apologize. While I do support your agenda, I admit I didn’t even know much about radical feminism until I found this blog. I thank you for opening my eyes to a new way of thinking, but clearly I am not schooled enough in this topic to leave comments here yet. I will continue to follow your blog, but I will not comment on it again until I feel like I can tabout it more knowledgeably.


  31. Thanks, Chris.

    I look forward to respectful dialogue with you in the future. :)


  32. I enjoyed reading your analysis, thank you.


  33. I’ve just read your analysis and I admit I have not come across someone with your viewpoint before. I suppose I have been peripherally aware of the existance of these ideas but never come across it to look into it further.

    Are there any TV shows that you feel display feminist characters to your satisfaction? Also is there any reading or particular authors who could give me more information on the feminist/radical feminist view so I can read up on it?

    I would like to know the fundemental ideas behind your points of view.


  34. Anonymous said it before me but I’d really want to know your views about Battlestar Galactica which has some really strong women but also lots of scenes of violence against said women. I personnally think that’s a kind of equality and feminism since some of the women are better at beating up than the others men.
    Anyway, your analysis was maybe a little bit too angry for my liking but it was still interesting to read.


  35. http://www.spacewesterns.com/submissions/#22ndCarnival

    I believe this carnival would benefit from an entry from you on Firefly.


  36. Thanks for that Jacob. Nathan has already asked if he can include my posts on Firefly.


  37. Firstly, I want to say that I really enjoy reading your analysis of Firefly, you have a distinct and witty writing style. I did really like Firefly and Serenity and was gutted that they didnt make more. I never really thought about it being feminist or anti-feminist, you have made me think of it in a new light. There were scenes that did make me feel uncomfortable but I never realised why. I think I accepted the male violence against women because it is set in a world where human society is fragmented after devasting civil war and there are no longer the moral codes of society in place. Hence, Wash’s remark about Saffron’s homeworld and juggling gueese. Hence, Mal and his crew being crimminals, he can no longer operate within the law as a sought-after fugitive, how else is he going to survive? Same with the Doctor and his messed-up sister.
    The evil authorities do as they please, killing and abusing their power without sanction too. No-body is held responsible for their actions. Perhaps years of feminism have been erased and replaced by how things were before i.e. in the Wild West (The series seems to be a mix of that genre, sci-fi and horror.)Even the Ancient Greeks had well-educated, high-class and highly skilled prostitutes called ‘hetairai’ (also literally and euphemistically called ‘companions’)which Whedon cleverly refers to. It seems to me like human civilisation has gone backwards while I dont condone the misogynistic behaviour and attitudes.


  38. So all men are rapists, huh?

    It seems that going to college/university has made you so pissy at the injustices of the planet Earth that you believe NO men are good. So, am I to assume that if you decide to have a child, how will you have it, and what will you do if said child is a male? Will you force it to have a sex change operation, or will you clone said child and hope that it’s a female? and since all men are rapists, what will you do if a woman rapes you? Will you become a genderless android robot?

    Don’t get me wrong-I’m just a sister of colour asking these questions.


  39. So all men are rapists, huh?

    Could you please show me where I said that all men are rapists. Link and quote me please.

    It seems that going to college/university has made you so pissy at the injustices of the planet Earth that you believe NO men are good.

    In fact I studied to become a secondary education teacher in uni. I only did two years before I dropped out. I learnt nothing about feminism in university. In fact I disagreed very much with much of what I was taught about gender and women’s rights in university.

    Again, provide me with a quote and a link where I say ‘NO men are good’.

    So, am I to assume that if you decide to have a child, how will you have it, and what will you do if said child is a male?

    I don’t want to have a child. But if I did have a child I would raise them in a lesbian separatist commune. Or possibly in Papua New Guinea. I would try and avoid exposing her or him to malestream culture as much as possible. It wouldn’t matter if the child was female or male. I would just do everything I could to ensure that the child was not conditioned into masculinity of femininity.

    Will you force it to have a sex change operation, or will you clone said child and hope that it’s a female?

    Don’t be ridiculous. I am totally opposed to body-modification surgery. I am also in total opposition to female genital mutilation so of course I would be opposed to male genital mutilation.

    and since all men are rapists, what will you do if a woman rapes you? Will you become a genderless android robot?

    I don’t believe that all men are rapists. But perhaps you do. If a woman rapes me, I will survive. I am already pretty much as genderless as possible. Gender is a social construction; a communal delusion, if you will. I will still be in the class woman, under male supremacy however, and I will continue to exist in that class until male supremacy is overthrown and gender ceases to be a communal delusion. I’m not sure why you think I will turn into an android robot if a woman rapes me. I will continue to be human.


  40. I enjoyed this post much more than the previous one but would have preferred more about Inara. She was not a major part in this episodes but it would have been interesting to see what you said.
    Personally, I think it was a much better analysis than the first one which seemed mainly like an angry tirade against men with Firefly as the backdrop. I noticed many things because of this post that I hadn’t noticed originally when I watched it. So thank you.


  41. Thanks for that link, Rich. So much of that article rang true for me… But more so because I am a Lesbian Feminist, female Nerd of colour. Goddess there is nothing within popular culture that caters to our identity. Not even remotely!


    • re: nothing in popular culture that caters to lesbian feminist nerds of colour.

      That seems a bit strong: Ursula K Leguin!

      But yeah, it’s pretty stark after that.


      • I personally like Octavia Butler. I can’t get into le Guin. Read the Earthsea trilogy and thought they were quite male centred… women didn’t feature at all in that world. Maybe other books are better.

        But even so… I don’t think either of these authors have had their books made into films. I don’t know if I would call them part of popular culture. Certainly they do not have the fame and popularity of Whedon.


  42. I will not comment on the blog itself because I am not a radical feminist, and I don’t want to get my post deleted…All I wanted to say was PLEASE don’t believe that all of Joss Whedon’s fan community behaves as badly as those who told you to kill yourself or threatened to rape you, as you wrote in the preface to part 1. That is shameful and disrespectful and unnecessary, besides. I am a Whedon fan, for reasons that probably don’t matter for my comment, and I just wanted to say that we are NOT all like that.

    All that being said, even though I do not agree with you, your writing is clearly very passionate, and I can appreciate the time you evidently put into your argument. Out of curiosity, when you quote the scripts, did you happen to get a hold of the actual scripts, or are those online fan transcriptions?


  43. I can’t remember now how Google brought me to this site but this and part I have been very interesting reads. I don’t think me and you will agree on very much and convincing each other is probably going to be impossible so I’ll stick to where I see some common ground.

    Your characterization of Wash is pretty spot on. He annoys me most of the time because his personality doesn’t match his character. Here you have a pilot, and through the show we know he is an excellent pilot. I know pilots and they are by-and-large very cocky men and women. We see this in a flashback episode where Wash is very cocky. So what was the change? I can only guess that he married Zoe. So because he married this bad-ass woman he becomes a wimbly wambly white guy. Bah, that is not how it works. When a strong man and a strong woman pair up they become an even stronger unit. My wife and I have done nothing but strengthen each other every year of our marriage. If Wash was in love with Zoe as much as he says he should have chucked Saffron out the door, where she would have promptly kicked him in the head of course. I suppose this counts for drama though so who knows.

    Saffron was one of the more memorable characters to me in the series. One of the funniest scenes was when she leaves Mal naked in the desert, though I admit I have no idea how the feminist mind would interpret this scene.

    Last thing from me. It’s not that Mal treats women and minorities badly, he treats everyone badly.


  44. Hello!

    I’m a Whedon fan myself, and have always considered myself a feminist (though not a radical) and was certainly shocked by your interpretations of Firefly. I don’t want to argue, and I do hope you’ll read this comment, but I feel like there are some things in the show that you are taking too far or seeing too critically. I tend to find a lot of Joss Whedon’s work to be very pro-feminist, as he writes a lot of empowered, strong female characters in positions where they have more capability than a lot of the men around them. I also think perhaps you are being a little harsh in making assumptions about Whedon’s personality by a comment or two that is made in the show, and that it is possible for there to be male feminists (not every man hates women).

    Mostly, though, I was hoping to hear what you thought some pro-feminist movies or television shows would be. With such a critical analysis of what I have always found to be a fairly liberal show, I find it hard to imagine anything currently out in the media that you would accept as not being anti-feminist. I’d love to hear your opinions on shows such as Fringe, which I personally consider to have a strong sense of equality about it.

    Thank you for your time.


  45. Hard to argue with the blatant violence against women that is the central theme of big media. Why are we entertained by visions of our own slavery? You’ve aptly demonstrated how any of Firefly’s feminist accolades, are simply disparities between true heroinism, and the celebrated male fantasies that most can only imagine (the very same that Joss and Hollywood push). Thank you for this desperately needed wake up call. Looking forward to your movie recommendations.


  46. Allecto, your comments on firefly were incredibly enlightening. My brother loves this show and your analysis will really assist in my arguments for why this show encourages rape. I would be extremely interested in seeing your analysis of anime, particularly “Rosario Vampire,” “Sekirei,” “Demon King Daimao,” and “Asu No Yoichi.”


  47. I’m a guy. I like scifi. Something about Firefly always unnerved me. Your articles have helped me understand what & now make me think about what else I consume (culturally) and what my motivations are. Thankyou.



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