It’s Firefly time again! And this week we’re watching another of my favorites, “Jaynestown.” This episode starts out with Kaylee getting her flirt on with Simon before heading into the set-up for the story: Serenity is going to Canton, and Jayne has been there before – in circumstances such that he feels it’s worth it to tape a gun to his belly (Mal disagrees, and we get one of the best wibbly Jayne-faces evar when the tape comes off).
Most of the crew heads off for the mud-mines, where we learn that Jayne has accidentally become a folk hero to the downtrodden locals (…and does anyone else think the wardrobe design for this episode is unfortunately reminiscent of Waterworld?), which the crew eventually determines can be used to their advantage during the job – after they get over some of the weirdness. There follows much hilarity, and then some surprisingly serious, soul-searching stuff that manages to emerge seamlessly from the humorous set-up, when Jayne’s feet of clay (see what I did there?) become evident. His heroic deed was an accident, and a young man who believed in him dies to protect him from his old partner, whose desire for vengeance is actually just. Jayne’s resulting self-examination – and the opportunity for the viewers to see the depth in Jayne – is what makes this episode one of my favorites. Wow.
Meanwhile, Inara has an appointment with a client who doesn’t totally suck – though his father is a jackass. Jennifer had a lot of smart stuff to say about the b-plot in her email this week, so I’m gonna leave it to her:
Higgins’ obsession with his son Fess’ sexuality is super creepy. I like Inara’s guidance that helps him realize it’s standing up to his father that will make him feel like a man. It’s an interesting look at men, dominance and women: Higgins wants to dominate Fess so he can use him as an ego-extension. But Fess needs to crave dominance for this to work. Higgins has probably always experienced sex as a situation in which he dominated a weaker person (woman), and he thinks once his son experiences that dominance, he’ll get a taste for it. But Fess’ experience with Inara is of her respecting, supporting and encouraging his lack of desire to dominate others. So he follows that path, and ironically, the father’s gotten what he wanted, just not in the form he was hoping.
Inara’s assertiveness with Higgins is great. This is the sort of thing I expected from her in Shindig and didn’t get. She has the power to cast a powerful man out of the room where she’s working, and she uses it.
On a larger scale, this culture pressures men to view sex as an act of dominating, and Fess represents all those men who neither care for dominating, nor find it necessary. I personally think they’re the silent and underrepresented majority, just going by my own experience. But the larger point, perhaps, is that in this scenario, women are merely tools for male initiation rites into a male-dominated culture. Dominate this woman, and we’ll let you have the keys to the kingdom. In that scenario, it’s necessary for women to be kept weaker than men, to be kept from uniting and discovering strength in numbers, etc. Essentially – rape culture. And what this episode explains is why rape culture isn’t necessary to make anyone a “man”, and Fess proving [Inara's] point.
In other meanwhiles, River’s mental illness is played for lulz, but there’s an interesting and rather touching bit embedded there about the nature of faith, as Book tries to explain to her that his Bible isn’t “broken.” Jennifer thinks that the whole episode is about faith, ultimately, and I can see where she’s coming from on that.
I can’t think of much else I want to say about this one, so I’m hoping y’all will have some further thoughts to share! I just have two final ehnnn notes:
1. I hate hate hate that Mal’s casual cussing at the end – and Simon’s in the first third, for that matter – is “son of a bitch.” This is not unique to Firefly in any way, and I’m certainly not pinning it on the show, but it makes my teeth grind. Can’t we avoid pejoratives that are about women being dirty/bad/inhuman, pls? Especially in a show where there’s made-up future slang!
2. The dialogue (and the actors’ performances) around the thing with Book’s hair is funny, but I’m kind of uncomfortable with the premise of the gag, since it plays on the “otherness” of a Black man’s natural hair. Hmm.
Okay, how about you guys? Tell me your thoughts! And feel free to sing “The Ballad of Jayne Cobb” to yourself while you’re typing ‘em up.