26 year-old Kayla Mueller accomplished much before her death while in ISIS custody. She traveled the world, working for various international nonprofits. By all accounts, she was a big-hearted humanitarian and represented the best of America’s values abroad.
But all of that is unimportant to a group of Islamophobic conservatives who took issue with Mueller’s advocacy for the Palestinian cause – which included joining protests against the Israeli occupation.
Come a day there won’t be room for naughty men like us to slip about at all. This job goes south, there well may not be another. So here is us, on the raggedy edge. Don’t push me, and I won’t push you. Dong le ma? -Malcolm Reynolds, Serenity (2005)
The final episode of Firefly to air on network television aired ten years ago today. Although it was the eleventh episode Fox showed, “Serenity” was actually the two-hour pilot. Among the many flaws in Fox’s treatment of Firefly, it showed those eleven episodes completely out of order.
I remember watching that day, December 20, 2002. The episode had an odd feeling of completion, as if they were ending the story of Serenity’s crew by showing us the beginning. Not everyone’s beginning, of course, just Simon, River, and Shepherd Book. We got to see a bit of the origin of Serenity’s crew in the episode “Out of Gas.”
Reams of virtual paper have been dedicated to pondering Firefly‘s demise. I doubt I can add much of substance to the discussion that hasn’t been screamed into the abyss a thousand times before. Fox gave Joss Whedon and the brilliant cast and crew the opportunity to create fourteen episodes, plus a feature film, that stands out as one of the truly great iconic science fiction stories (I’m trying to avoid hyperbole, but this show is just plain fucking good, okay?)
If there is any sort of silver lining to Firefly’s short, yet brilliant, burst through our culture, it is this: unlike so many other great shows, it never had a chance to get bad.
I recently offered a wee tribute to Firefly, the show that revolutionized television for at least five or six people ten years ago. It later found new life on DVD, developed a bigger following, and made me sound like an elitist hipster when I talked about how I watched it when it was still destined for cancellation.
One feature of the show that I never really considered until today was what it had to say about contract law. Thankfully, the Legal Geeks had the idea before I did (dangit) and offered their thoughts on the matter:
Firefly was wickedly creative, well-written and had fantastic humor. Spaceships and wardrobe that ranged from Western to Steampunk to Chinese aside, Firefly presented excellent Contract formation issues.
Contract formation consists of 1) Offer; 2) Acceptance; 3) Consideration; and 4) Performance.
In the world of Firefly, it was often 1) Offer 2) Acceptance 3) Gunfight (also known as breach).
The show was actually like a brilliant 1L contracts class:
Offer (Mal: “We’ve got some Alliance-imprinted goods for sale”);
Acceptance (Patience: “I think we can do business”);
Rescission (Scary tattoo-face guy: “You are thinking of taking Mr. Niska’s money.” Mal: “No, we changed our minds.”);
Restitution (Mal: “This is all the money Niska gave us in advance”);
Breach (Badger: “You’re later than I would have liked;” or Patience: “I never part with money I don’t have to.”); and
Expectation damages (Mal: “Here’s how this works: I do a job, and then I get paid.”)
And that was just the first two episodes.
If you want to get super geeky, and maybe a little bit blue, we could talk about in-kind service exchanges as consideration in the episode “Heart of Gold.”
Ten years ago today, a Golden Age of television began. Though it only lasted three months, we still feel its impact today. I am talking, of course, about the premiere of Joss Whedon’s Firefly on September 20, 2002.
There is no way to do the show justice in the format of a blog post. Since it was one of the most quotable shows in television history, I’ll let the coda of the pilot episode, “Serenity,” speak for me. (For those unfamiliar with the show, Captain Malcolm Reynolds commands a Firefly-class ship named Serenity. He has taken on two fugitives, a young doctor and his sister, who are on the run from the fascist-like Alliance. In the final scene of the pilot, Mal has offered the doctor, Simon, and his sister a place on the ship):
Simon: I’m trying to put this as delicately as I can… How do I know you won’t kill me in my sleep?
Mal: You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake, you’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.
Simon: Are you always this sentimental?
Mal: I had a good day.
Simon: You had the Alliance on you… criminals and savages… half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded, including yourself… and you’re harboring known fugitives.
Mal: We’re still flying.
Simon: That’s not much.
Mal: It’s enough.
Click to embiggen
The show had a small following during its run, myself included, and I tried to do my part to support it. Perhaps one of my most-prized possessions is this thank-you note I received from the “Cast & Crew” of the show. It would have been cooler if they had all signed it, but I’m not really that greedy.
Firefly‘s release on DVD brought it much of its fame. That, and the anguished cries of people who never saw it on television yet wanted to know how such a good show could have such a short run. I suspect Firefly‘s DVD popularity helped prove the viability of releasing whole TV seasons (or shows) as DVD sets. Fan pressure even helped get a feature film made that, disappointingly but aptly, wrapped up some of the longer threads of the series. (Fun fact: the dead city on the planet Miranda in the movie is actually a high school campus in Pomona, California.)
It would make me sound like an annoying Whedon fanboy to say that Firefly was ahead of its time, that the television-watching masses were not ready for this type of show, or that Fox condemned the show from the start with bad marketing and scheduling. All of those things are true to some extent, but let’s just take a moment to appreciate that good television shows do exist. As that guy in Blade Runner said, the light that shines twice as bright only burns half as long. That quote probably applies here somehow.
The things you find on YouTube. This is completely SFW, and Buffy fans may find this to be a remarkably astute recreation of the characters and settings:
Aside, of course, from the fact that these are probably all the scenes in the movie where people aren’t schtupping. Still, you know there’s serious geek cred here when an actress goes by the name April O’Neil (of Ninja Turtle fame, of course).