Why is Firefly So Appealing?


For an hour or so, it was perfection, even the horrendous sounding Mandarin (but what do I know about Space Mandarin?), and then as I lay, mulling it over, the cracks appeared. A strangely staged scene, a lackluster performance, wooden dialogue.

So, what is the secret to Firefly’s appeal? The Firefly Bubble Effect. That somehow the show can temporary warp your sense of reality and logic and entrap you in a sense of enthusiastic giddiness as potent as finding a much loved, long forgotten childhood relic. Finally, I see the swoonworthiness of Nathan Fillion, but what most struck me is the familiarity of Firefly. Hello, Gina Torres!

Firefly is roughly contemporary of my childhood weekend fare of middling/ mediocre fantasy scifi adventure. It tapped into a deep seated part of my self, the pleasure of glutting myself on weekend afternoon TV while my mother left me and my sisters at an relative’s house. The grownup women did their grocery shopping (and gossiping) away from whiny children. This weekend expeditions could last four or five hours; plenty of time to enjoy Hercules, Xena, Cleopatra 2525, Beast Master, Jack-Of-All-Trades, Lost World, etc.
kaylee in serenity pilot talking to shepherd book
Of course, I’d love the mish mosh of genre, the leather dusters and blasters, the oh-so-dated daytime TV nudity. I can safely say that the characters are a far more likeable bunch than many of the other shows, but it shares a bit of the addictive Cheeto dust cheesiness, a bit like indulgent adult versions of kids classics.

Firefly’s story and it’s budget seems a head and shoulders above the plaster leather and acrylic chiffon nonsense of its brethren, but it is that slight kitsch that gives it its binge-worthy quality. If Firefly was produced today would it survive the high, violent, and sexy standards of Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones? Who know? Perhaps the most dated part of Firefly is its key to my excessive fondness of it; it has a sensibility of optimism and levity that is strikingly absent in today’s top shows, which are almost uniformly grim and gritty. Tragedy wounds its characters, but it doesn’t burn the humanity right out of them (e.g. Walter White).

The first episode, the pilot: Serenity, has a scene that greatly reminds me of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Nathan Fillion’s character Mal has some of Indy’s swagger, but the competence of a Star Trek captain. Firefly seems to combine my most favored traits: competence, humor, and mad style.

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For Amazon Primers, Firefly is currently free to stream here. Or you can purchase the complete series here.

  • Serenity

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