Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Consider the FIREFLY: Further Thoughts on Fandom

Time to get Whedon with it.

In an earlier post/manifesto I floated the idea of the T.A.R.D.I.S. as a metaphor for fandom. Alogn with the "bigger on the inside" implications for community, I like the transportive connotations of a ship that can move you through time and space. But the T.A.R.D.I.S. is alien technology, and can have an attitude.

That door is about to slam shut right on her fingers.

A viewing of the excellent documentary Done the Impossible: The Fans' Tale of Firefly and Serenity,

Totally streams!

led me to, well,  consider the Serenity as an even more promising objective correlative for what it means to be a fan.

And she's such a beautiful ship.

First of all, It aims to misbehave. Thanks to my favorite browncoat librarian for reminding me of this quote on a recent Facebook post. It's a reminder that Firefly is a show that privileges subversion and mischief. The crew, comprised of sympathizers to a lost cause, are dedicated to undermining the totalitarian Alliance by harboring fugitives and perpetuating the black market. The ship Serenity makes all that possible. The ship is literally pointed towards resistance and transgression. Their rebellion depends upon their mobility.

What does this have to do with fandom? Mal, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, Kaylee, Inara, Book, the Tam sibs, are all marginalized people. They are rebels, mercenaries, and prostitutes--all out of bounds in the universe they find themselves in. These are not the overachivers and popular kids of Starfleet Academy. They are the freaks and geeks of the sci-fi pantheon.

I will celebrate this show at any possible opportunity.

Fans, particularly fans of a show canceled after twelve episodes, can probably relate. Being a fan, specifically the type of fan that produces fanfic, cosplays, goes to cons, or compulsively rewatches, is a transgression. In addition to committing the sin of excess by being "too into" a show, superfans subvert the barrier between fiction and nonfiction. The familiar jibe that "it's just a show" is the nonfan's desperate and doomed attempt to re-establish the barrier that fandom of a cultural text renders obsolete. These fans don't "act like" their favorite shows or movies are fiction. They refuse toe accept the parameters of a screen. They direct their lives towards confounding the definition of what counts as reality. They aim to misbehave.

Second of all, It does the impossible. The Serenity itself is a contradiction. Its name simultaneously points towards peace and satisfaction and violence and disappointment.

Named after a battle, after all.

The ship is a class of transport-ship deemed "Firefly," which borrows its name (and its shape) from an insect that is in itself an impossibility.

And also very beautiful.

Fireflies are chock-full of luciferin. They produce light without heat. This is something that the humans haven't really been able to master yet, organically or artificially. Therefore, the Serenity is an object that shouldn't be--not only legally (the ship is unregistered, enables crime, and, you know, the fugitives)--but also ontologically.

And yet . . . there she be.

Serenity exists because of the will of her captain and crew--it's a grown-up, sci-fi version of clapping to save Tinkerbell's life. And you know what other impossibility exists because of collective will and communal spirit?

I'll give you a hint: It's also called "Serenity."

The cinematic expression of the Firefly 'verse happened because fans, ahem, made it so. Done the Impossible borrows its name from this fan-generated refusal to let Firefly die. But any piece of fan art or writing is of the same transport-class. Fans create impossible objects all the time.

Case in point.

The Serenity is fandom, and in contains fans, as evidenced by the majority of the cast appearing in the documentary, and identifying themselves as such. And to be honest, the real reason I've thought this through is I'm really desperate to get one of these in the house and write it off as a job-related expense:

I'm looking at you, biffle.