Kaylee from Firefly/Serenity is a woman doing a man’s job, but she never comes across as either the stereotyped beautiful-tomboy or the butch-tomboy that we see so often in film and television. Rather, she’s a reasonably attractive woman who loves her job, which just happens to be a mechanic for a spaceship.
And a damn competent mechanic she is, too. In a flashback episode , she is introduced as the fling of Serenity’s initial mechanic, a somewhat incompetent guy. While this guy has no clue what’s wrong with the ship, Kaylee notices the problem while lying on her back and looking up at the engine during sex. Says a lot about the guy, too, that the ship’s mechanisms are more intriguing then his ability in bed.
Kaylee has the kind of relationship with Serenity that we see a lot of men having with their cars – or, for that matter, people having with beloved pets. She “˜talks’ to Serenity, and Serenity talks back. She is deeply in tune with the ship, which is part of what makes her so competent. That, and she really knows her stuff.
Kaylee is infatuated with the young, good-looking doctor, Simon, who’s from a much higher social class then she is. He and his sister River are fugitives; they’ve ended up on Serenity out of necessity, not choice. Occasionally, because he can be a stuck-up prat, ignorant to the sensitivities of people like Kaylee who have chosen that life, he makes disparaging remarks about it. And what does she do? Swallow his insults and smile sweetly? Not Kaylee. She gives him what-for. How dare he insult her life? How dare he treat the people who’ve chosen it as beneath him? Such exchanges always end with Simon apologising profusely for his insensitivity, and trying to be more open-minded.
A woman who, rather than have her way of life insulted by a man, gives said man what-for, which ends in an apology and a mending of ways. A woman whose competency at her job is rated far higher then any stereotype she may or may not fit into. A woman who can hold her own with the men in her life without being reduced to a stereotype. How utterly cool.