Hearts of Gold, Backbones of Steel

Thanks always to Beta, who gave me the inspiration to write this piece from her article on the Young Riders.

My favourite episode of Firefly has got to be Heart of Gold, where a prostitute, Nandi, Inara used to know calls on her for help. One of her girls, Petaline, is pregnant to the moon’s Greedy Bastard (TM 2006 by BetaCandy). GB’s wife is barren, so he sees nothing wrong with snatching the kid from Petaline’s womb.

Except damned if anyone’s going to steal from Nandi’s turf. She spent ten years cutting her territory out of that godforsaken moon, and no man is going to take it away from her. And when Firefly’s hero, Mal Reynolds, suggests they cut and run in the face of such adversity, she tells him it’s not his fight and he’s free to leave, but she is not, and neither are her girls. Because this is their land, and if not this particular moon’s GB, then it will always be someone else on some other moon, so they may as well face down the first one they come across.

Nandi, as alpha-female, is fiercely protective of her girls, and she sees no reason why they should all skedaddle just because some man is threatening them. She spent ten years carving out her piece of that moon; why should she spent another ten years carving out another piece of another moon just to be faced down with another GB?

Ultimately in the fight, Nandi dies, and Petaline’s child is stolen from her, then stolen back by women perfectly willing to shed a man’s blood for the greater good. The GB and his men are rounded up and Petaline, the new alpha-female since Nandi’s death, coldly grants GB’s request to see his son. Petaline brings out the kid, and says something close to this: (Anyone related to Firefly reading this article feel free to email me a transcript and I’ll rewrite my loose paraphrasing.)

Petaline: Jonah, this is your father. Say hello to daddy, Jonah. (Shoots GB coldly). Say Goodbye to daddy, Jonah.

GB is the cause of all their misery, and needs to be gotten rid of as a matter of practicality. If they don’t kill him now, he’ll come back later. Neither Nandi or Petaline had any apprehensions about that. Perhaps that’s why I was so fond of this episode in particular.

Because it’s about bloody time women were as ready to defend their turf, their colleagues and their achievements as men.


  1. Em says

    Ah, but you forget Chari! The traitor willing to help GB take Petaline’s baby in exchange for some crumbs by the misogynistic society he’s created. In fact, he forces her to give him a blowjob while telling a crowd of men (bent on storming the “whorehouse” to get “his son”) she “knows a woman’s place.” Amazing.

  2. scarlett says

    You’re right, I did :p As I rewatch the show, there’s less I like about it than I initially thought, although I still think it was several cuts above most of what’s available.

  3. Nina says

    I liked the episode in general, but any bad parts were redeemed for me by the fact that Petaline kills GB in cold blood. I was afraid that when he wasn’t killed in the heat of battle, he would end up surviving. Usually, good guys can’t just randomly kill bad guys – they tend to die in accidents, from which heroes even occasionally try to save them. I was delighted that Petaline shot him in front of everyone after the battle was won.

  4. Maria says

    Ohh. It IS a good ep — but I was a bit WTF over Mal getting to mourn Nandi more than Inara does, since to me it was a case where (2) female char’s development got sacrificed to make a point about a male char’s emotional trajectory.

  5. Scarlett says

    Nina, I’d never thought about it like that before but yeah, I liked how Petaline killed him because it was just about revenge. Maybe you could argue that he realised the only way he was going to go away with dead but I liked to see it as ‘you killed my friends, now die’.

  6. says

    I never saw the revenge angle, to me it was just ‘You’re a murdering, woman-hating moral mutant who set yourself up as the unassailable ruler of the world so really the only reasonable thing we can do is kill you.’

    Which he probably should have thought about if he had imagined for a moment that he could die. . .


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