Sooo, I missed a week, there. My bad! But it’s all good, Hathorites (Hathorians? THLers?), because now I’m here with the next installment in our Firefly watch-along: “Shindig.”
This is the episode that starts off with Mal and Jayne hustling pool and chatting with lowlifes in some sleazy back-planet bar while Inara watches on. Mal does some less-dishonest-than-thou pick-pocketing (inorite?) and then there’s a bar fight (hooray!) and we’re given the theme of this episode: Mal doesn’t fit in socially anywhere (and neither does anyone else, really).
I’m actually gonna skip over most of the rest of the summary this time because this episode is memorable – and kind of notorious – and I think all I have to say is “the one with the ball, where Mal insults Inara a lot (and also Kaylee. Nice), and then it turns out that Inara’s client is a reprehensible asshole.”
Jennifer wrote a post about the “wtf is going on with Companions, anyway?” issue which is worth reading for more on Atherton being a creep. Which is not to say we can’t talk more about that, because wow, there is a lot of “bwuh?” to unpack.
But! Let’s not forget that this is also the episode where Badger tries to arrange a deal and ends up holding most of the crew of Serenity hostage, River exhibits some pretty clear evidence of mind-reading (as well as general mental disturbance), and basically everything Jayne says is hilarious. Also, Kaylee gets to wear a pretty dress…and get insulted by strangers.
I’ve always hated that scene, and Jennifer’s email to me about this episode illuminated part of why:
The girls who are mean to Kaylee – it’s the black girl who says “Standards” when Kaylee asks what this party lacks compared to last year. Somehow, really heavy racial irony like that always leaves me cold. It has ever since I was 7 and someone explained to me why the cantina bartender didn’t want the Threepio and Artoo in his establishment. Maybe that’s just me, but it always feels like white folks having an ironic laugh at something they think is long in the past, when it’s really not so much.
Also, when the older (white, upper class) gentleman comes to Kaylee’s rescue, he does it by slut-shaming the mean girl. Yeah, that sure makes me kindly disposed to him! And then, of course, when Kaylee is surrounded by masculine attention, it’s because of her mechanical expertise – which is cool, in a way, because it’s neat that she is impressing people with her experience and smarts. But it’s also a little uncool in that she wore that fancy dress and went to a party where the main activity appears to be dancing among heterosexual couples (hmmm), and it’s only when she’s being “one of the guys” that she gets to have actual fun.
In short, the sexual politics in this episode are weird and generally gross.
With the delightful exception of Zoe and Wash, who are the cutest ever – but also a safely married couple. Hmmmmmm.
Enough out of me – what are your thoughts on “Shindig?”
Next week (for reals, this time) we’ll be watching one of my faaavorites: “Safe.” See you then!