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FireflyFirefly - Back To 2002 : True Story Of A Show Saved By Fans
By Allyson Beatrice
Wednesday 19 October 2005, by Webmaster
Firefly AdThe cockpit smells like fireworks and sawdust; the wispy smell-echo of the explosions that occurred an hour earlier. The control panel appears to have been lifted from a trashcan by an angry raccoon searching for sustenance. It’s scratched, dented, crusty in spots. Sitting in the pilot’s seat, my feet don’t touch the floor and I have to lean forward to reach the steering wheel. I feel like Lily Tomlin’s Edith Ann being swallowed by that really big rocking chair.
A cute boy in a Civil War-ish soldier’s uniform winks at me and tells me it’s a go for launch, while my friend Kristen raises an eyebrow and grins. I imagine them steadying themselves as I grab the wheel. I’m the Sally Ride of this particular spaceship, which is anchored to a soundstage on Pico Boulevard at 20th Century Fox Studios. I’m on the set of Firefly, a television program which has just been canceled. This is the final week of shooting.
Firefly was a scifi show in danger of cancellation before the first episode ever aired. It was created by Joss Whedon, writer extraordinaire, made semi-famous for creating the cult television shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. My friend Kristen and I read the script for the pilot episode of Firefly months before it was broadcast. It sucked. It had no bite, no edge, no buzzwords that translated to "devastatingly hip." Having been delirious fangurls of Whedon’s previous creations, we were at first disappointed by our fallen hero, and then sort of reveling in a juicy mirth similar to every non-New Yorker’s glee when the Yankees lose a big game. We loved Whedon when he was the underdog auteur, but now he was a big-time producer with no time to chat and play with us little fans anymore. We were bitter.
If you asked us then if we’d end up spending the holidays feverishly mounting a campaign to save this show from its inevitable cancellation, we would’ve asked you for a hit of that fine crack you had obviously been smoking. What we hadn’t counted on was a guilt-inducing birthday gift, a cry for help from a worried wife, and our own abilities to lead an army of fangeeks into battle.
Our journey began when a small plea was posted to the internet by a fellow fangurl named Kiba to sign a petition in support of Firefly. Kiba had received a link to the petition from Whedon’s wife, Kai, who was worried that her husband’s latest labor of love was spiraling down the bowl, unable to grab a large enough audience to make the show profitable.
I dropped Kiba an email, explaining that online petitions were for losers. No one cared about them, and who would see it, anyway? You’d have to deliver the petition to someone at the network who had decision-making power, genuinely liked the show, and was in a position to advocate for it. Judging from the advertisements Fox put together for Firefly, the network not only didn’t understand their product, they were determined to have it bite the curb and stomp on its head.
The series was about a group of freedom fighters who were on the losing side of an interplanetary war, and had taken up a life of crime to keep themselves from starving to death. It was pretty grim. The music Fox chose to play during the commercials for Firefly was the maniacally zany song, "Walking on the Sun" by frat boy favorites, Smash Mouth. Apparently, the network confused this dark riff on the depressed era of the Reconstruction with MTV’s Spring Break. Fox never consulted Kristen or me, but we all seemed to be on the same page as far as the pilot was concerned, so they ordered a new pilot to be written, in 48 hours. This show was so doomed. An Act of Congress wasn’t going to save it, let alone an internet petition. No one reads internet petitions. You can sign with as many email addresses as you have and most people have several; the one you use for work, the one you use for friends, the one where all your spam goes, the one you use for porn. Four-hundred signatures on an internet petition equals two-hundred and thirty-seven people with too much time on their hands.
I sent Kiba a list of suggestions to mount a campaign that would hopefully get some much needed press attention, and maybe attract a few hundred more viewers to tune into Firefly. At least two of the chambers of my heart belong to fandom, and I felt sympathy for them over the inevitable loss of their show, even if the show, in my mind, sucked. Kiba was stressed. Her hero’s wife sent her a plea for help, but Kiba was starting grad school, and didn’t have the time to market a television show. I have no idea what Fox’s excuse was for having no time to market a television show, given that it seems to be part of their job description as a network.
For those of you readers who may be puzzled as to why a network would spend millions and millions of dollars to produce a television show and then take it out to the backlot and shoot it between the eyes, here’s a little primer about how the inner financial world of broadcast television works.
A network fronts an obscene amount of money to a studio full of creative-type people to produce a television series. An hour-long drama can cost about two million dollars or more per episode to produce, which includes actors’ salaries, the dental plan for the guy who holds the boom, donuts, wardrobe...you get the picture.
Now, this may be a surprising concept, but television executives did not get into the business as a purely altruistic endeavor to entertain the unwashed masses. Networks make money by selling 30-60 second dollops of time during a program to advertisers. A TV show is just succulent bait to lure unsuspecting hard-working Americans into watching commercials. The network promises the advertisers that a particular show will attract millions of viewers in a certain demographic. The most precious demographic is 18-40 year-old males, who supposedly have the most disposable income. So networks invest in television shows that they believe will appeal to the people who spend the most money on things like Sega games, pizza delivery, and unnecessarily large trucks. He who dies with the most toys not only wins, but also decides what the rest of us poor (dickless) jerks watch on television
Based on the promise the network has made to the advertisers regarding the number of boys who will be watching television during a certain time period, the advertisers will shell out thousands or millions of dollars to hawk their products to the viewers. For example, a 30 second spot during the 2004 Super Bowl cost $2.25 million. This provided drug companies with a key demographic to pitch Viagra and Cialis to the largest audience of limp dicks ever assembled.
The cost of making, marketing, and/or leasing a show from another studio must break even, or be less than the amount of money advertisers pay for their commercial minutes in order for the show to be a success and the network to have profited from their investment. If the demographic the network promised doesn’t tune into the show, the advertisers get pissed off and pull their ad dollars, feeling all disgruntled and cheated.
Now, before you get all paranoid and think that the FOX network has a spycam in your house to gauge what you watch and whether you in fact have a penis and loads of disposable income, let me explain the concept of Nielsen boxes. Nielsen is a company that takes a statistical measurement of television viewers in the US and abroad. There are "hundreds of thousands of Nielsen Families" according to the Nielsen website. People with Nielsen boxes and diaries decide what the rest of us watch. I’ve no idea how one becomes a Nielsen Family. It all seems very random, like a carload full of statisticians performing senseless drive-by shootings with spyware bullets throughout the suburbs. Every morning, the Nielsen ratings are posted, and advertisers can check to see whether the networks have delivered the demographics they promised.
When the network isn’t delivering the promised demographic, television shows get canceled. Critical acclaim does not matter. It doesn’t matter if four million 20-year-olds with a lust for video games tuned in to a show if the network promised six million of them. Your favorite television series can get axed if four Nielsen families all get together for a game of mini-golf and shut off their sets two Fridays in a row during a period called "sweeps", when Nielsen provides the most detailed data, pretty much.
But back to Firefly. I have no idea what sort of audience share was promised to the advertisers. Whatever it was, it wasn’t making good on the network’s gamble. It didn’t matter to me much because as I said, I thought the show sucked.
And then the script came in the mail.
It was October, Kristen’s birthday was a couple of days away, and one of Firefly’s producers sent her a signed script. "Hope you keep watching for as long as we’ve got. Love, Tim".
Damn. GUILT. Kristen and I hold a special place in our hearts for this particular producer, Tim Minear, who had been so kind to us back when he was working on one of our favorite shows, Angel. Kristen is the webmaster of Tim’s fansite,TimMinear.net. She developed a friendship with Tim, and earned a place in his heart what with the site and non-crazy attitude towards his work. He knew we both hated the show; we panned it in reviews on blogs and message boards. But he loved us anyway. We hadn’t really stopped to consider that Tim loved this show; it was as much his baby as it was Joss’. Because our love for Tim was huge and ferocious, we decided to put our shoulders to the wheel and try to save Firefly.
Saving a show is hard work. It requires many hours of sitting at an ergonomically unsound desk in front of a computer. We needed help. We needed an army. We needed three thousand dollars. We needed an endless supply of iced vanilla lattes.
Fortunately, just as we were beginning to gather troops throughout fandom, an episode of Firefly aired that was actually, stunningly, good. It was penned by our Tim, and was a uniquely nonlinear episode of television reminiscent of the noir submarine classic, Das Boot. It was the dark, twisted, filet-of-brain kind of television Kristen and I had expected from the beginning of the series, and we were so relieved. It’s much easier to try and save a show when you actually give a shit about it.
I called Joss Whedon’s production company, Mutant Enemy, and informed them that we were going to try and save Firefly.
Kristen and I have a history of running fan-funded ads in support of the television shows we love. Stand-up for Buffy, Give Buffy an Emmy, Congratulations on 100 episodes of Buffy. It’s a hobby. It keeps us off the streets. Our shared history as Mutant Enemy’s head cheerleaders meant that the people at Whedon’s production company would take our calls and give us anything we needed, no questions asked.
Our plan was to do FOX’s job and actually market the show. We researched who had reviewed Firefly and which reviewers panned it. We researched which companies were advertising on the series and kept a running log of them. We started designing a full page ad for Firefly to run in Daily Variety.
Mutant Enemy sent us a screener for another not un-brilliant episode of Firefly. We made copies to send to reviewers who hated the pilot episode, begging them to take a second look at the show and write another review. Fans can do what networks and production companies cannot. We can grovel. We don’t have to worry about image, because the mainstream media already thinks we’re losers. The best we can hope for is to appear to be endearing losers. Kristen and I were like little Shirley Temple Matchstick Girls with coal smudged faces, shaking a tin cup full of VHS tapes and pleading with Entertainment Weekly’s Ken Tucker, "Please kind sir, I’m starving and have nits, won’t you write something nice about this television show?"
At some point, I called Conan O’Brien and Craig Kilborn to see if either would like to interview Joss Whedon about the show. I may have overstepped some boundaries.
While we had a lot of leeway in what we could do to try and advertise the series, we had to be very careful not to reveal that Mutant Enemy was helping us in any way. There could be no appearance of impropriety. Years before, Kristen had campaigned hard to get the WB network to air the season three finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The network had canceled the airing of the finale because Buffy the fictional slayer blew up her fictional high school, and the real life Columbine shootings were still so recent. Since the network thought that the cult TV audience couldn’t tell the difference between the Trenchcoat Mafia and Sarah Michelle Gellar, they thought it would be a PR nightmare to air the episode. Whatever. WB network head Jamie Kellner admitted in an internet chat that he never actually viewed the finale before making his decision. So Kristen raised funds and purchased a full page ad in Daily Variety asking Kellner to pull his head out of his bloated ass and air the episode. The ad was titled, Stand Up for Buffy. The network accused Buffy’s producers of buying the ad themselves, which seemed an effort by WB executives to dismiss the audience’s ire as nonexistent. By the time the WB got around to airing the finale, thousands of fans had already seen it through the most massive online-tape trading tree ever assembled. The episode had aired in Canada, and our friends to the North took pity upon us and sent copies out en masse.
We didn’t want any accusations of insider orchestrations to happen with the Firefly campaign. It was hugely important for the advertisers and network to know that there was a growing, devoted fanbase willing to spend an obscene amount of cash to keep the show on the air. The trouble was that Kristen and I weren’t sure if the fandom was all that devoted, and even if they were, if we could get them to understand what we were doing and trust us enough to send us money and follow our lead.
So I called over to the show and asked for some signed scripts, t-shirts, props, anything at all that could be auctioned on eBay to raise funds.
Three scripts and a t-shirt brought in about twelve hundred bucks. We were on our way. Since we couldn’t tell the fans that we were talking to people at the show almost daily, it was a huge struggle to get them to follow our game plan.
Kristen and I were deeply entrenched in the Buffy and Angel fandoms for years, everyone who actively participated in the online fandom knew us and trusted us. People who hated us would still trust us with their PINs and would possibly co-sign for us on car loans. We always did what we said were going to do, and gave any leftover cash to charity, never taking a dime for ourselves.
But Firefly was a new show with a new fandom, completely green to ways of internet communities. They were just discovering that there was such a thing as internet fandom, that Trekkies didn’t own all the stock in television obsession.
And so when Kristen and I burst through their door babbling about saving the show and our game plan and oh yeah, send us all your money, the fans greeted us with skepticism and occasional hostility. It was understandable but terribly frustrating, because we needed to mobilize them fast.
I don’t want to overstate our predicament. It’s not as if no one trusted us or understood how dire the situation was. We found more support than opposition in just about every corner of the ’net. But the thing about the opposition is that they can be loud and ugly, and left unanswered, become a faction capable of a hostile takeover, looting, and riots. We needed to appease and/or smite our foes. Kristen does this with kindness and patience. I tend to do it with a wrecking ball and forty-eight pounds of plastique. I tend to react to naysayers and doubters with the statement that, "Those who can, Do. Those who can’t, bitch about those who can." I believe that’s mostly true.
For this round of internet battle, we went with Kristen’s methods.
The network had only ordered thirteen episodes of Firefly to be produced, nine shy of a full season. The Nielsen ratings were dismal. We knew this would make it easy for the network to pull the plug on the show at any time. In order to get the fans to trust us with their time and money, we were going to have to give them a brief history of our involvement in fandom. This was the first time we actually had to sit down and make a laundry list of exactly how much of our lives had been wasted by caring too much about television.
Between the two of us, we had raised about forty thousand dollars for ads in trade rags promoting the television we loved, throwing parties, managing charity auctions and fundraisers, and spent too much of our own cash on fansites and swag. It was a depressing list of years dedicated to promoting the careers of wealthy producers, and we were only somewhat cheered by the fact that at least we’re both very pretty and have good taste in shoes.
Either impressed or terrified by our fandom credentials, we managed to win the support of most of the skeptics and were able to shrug off the small handful of naysayers to reach our monetary goals.
The main goal was always to get one more episode on the air. We needed the gamble the network made on Firefly to bear fruit. If the show could grab enough Nielsen families, Firefly would turn a profit, and they’d hang on for another episode. One episode at a time. Try to build the audience through word of mouth. We were gambling, too. We were trying to figure out how many Nielsen families it would take to get us to the next episode. Four? Seven? To paraphrase a line in a Firefly script, it was like shooting a dart into space and hitting a target thousands of miles away.
Have you ever read Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who? It’s a story about an elephant holding a dandelion upon which rests a tiny planet populated by tiny people. The tiny people need to make sure the folks in Horton’s world can hear them and know that they’re alive and well, or Horton will be forced to drop the dandelion in a vat of boiling oil. All the tiny people gather up and scream, "WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE, WE ARE HERE!" Eventually, they are heard at the 11th hour, and the dandelion is saved.
We appealed to the fanbase, asking them to do something simple and inexpensive; send the network and advertisers postcards with their demographic info listed on them. We told them to be their own Nielsen boxes. The cast and crew of Firefly were told that no one was watching, that they were playing to an empty house. In two weeks, eight-thousand postcards poured into the network’s mailing room in our effort to write our own tale, FOX President Gail Berman Hears a Fandom, and try to save our show from being dumped in the Cauldron of Cancellation.
Our Daily Variety ad was published in the December 9th edition. We thanked the network heads for greenlighting the series, we thanked the cast and crew, and we thanked each advertiser by name. The ad was passed around to the cast and crew who up until then were under the impression that no one was watching their work. Cranky Hollywood industry folk were abuzz about the classiness of this particular fan effort.
We were inspired.
Less than a week later, Firefly was canceled.
We got word from our favorite writer, Tim Minear, at one of the message boards we haunted during the campaign, www.buffistas.org.
Tim Minear - Dec 13, 2002 1:28:30 am PST #7606 of 10011
First off, wanted to say out loud to all what a brill ad that was in Variety. We were all impressed and moved. Not only was it dang nice, the doing of the thing, but it was really classy and smart.
We did get word tonight, Fox won’t be ordering any new eps. That translates to "cancelled." We will finish shooting the ep now in production (I’m directing, in fact Joss came down to the set to break the bad news to cast and crew — we wrapped early, but are back at it in the am), we’ll finish post on all eps, and Fox says they’re going to somehow air all eps. One expects with giant banner ads over them for Meet My Rich Phoney Sex Date or whatever unreality series they’ve got up their. Er. Sleeves.
And then Joss Whedon weighed in a few hours later.
joss - Dec 13, 2002 7:49:36 am PST #7717 of 10011 "What’s the rumpus?"
Four AM. Can’t sleep. Who’d have thought?
There’s a couple of things I’d like to say. And a few things I really can’t. First of all, I’m prouder of this show and the people I worked with on it than I can express in words, monkey noises, or hieroglyphics. I believe this has been some fairly great TV. And the experience of making it... I’ve had crew members who’ve been working for 20 years say they’ve never worked around such excitement, support and love. You walk on that set, you’re transported. The cast: 9 count ’em 9 incredibly talented actors who are all decent, wonderful people. This phenomenon cannot be explained by science.
Second of all, don’t think for a second that I have given up on this show. I think it has been mistreated shamefully, but the Fox network has indicated that they would not stand in the way (which they can) of my finding a new home for the show. That’s no easy prospect. But I will do everything in my power, as always, to keep this bird in the air. Of course I’ll post if there’s any news.
But even if the show goes back up elsewhere, I’m going to lose a good portion of my crew. Production will halt, they’ll need to find new jobs. You can’t imagine how that feels. How much they brought to the table, how hard and well they worked. And their Christmas bonus is this. As much as the cast, the staff, and my not so secret lover Minear, I honor those guys, and hope to get them back on board.
So for now, I proudly take my place beside Profit, The Ben Stiller Show, the Tick, and Action. But I won’t rest until I’ve found safe harbour (no, not the Gregory Harrison show) for this vessel.
I’ve got the time.
It ain’t like I’m sleeping. -joss.
That morning, I took up a small collection to send flowers over to the set for the crew who had just found themselves pinkslipped two weeks before Christmas. We were completely deflated for about 30 seconds. But when the Rapture comes, you want Kristen and me on your side. The next day we made calls to find out if Mutant Enemy was going to shop the show to another network, and as it turned out, they were taking their pitch to UPN. So we pulled a U-Turn and crashed the campaign through the network’s front door. Kristen posted the new directions before our fandom army had a chance to go AWOL.
Kristen - Dec 13, 2002 3:36:31 pm PST #7940 of 10011 I can kill you with my brain.
Attention, K-Mart Shoppers...I mean, Buffistas...
Okay, we have a direction to point you in. We like to call this direction, UPN.
What we need are postcards by the truckload going to Les Moonves and Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff. You can send any kind of postcards you’d like to but we thought it would be a nice touch if the cards had a certain uniformity.
There is now a PDF up at [the Firefly Support site] It’s an 8.5 x 11 sheet of postcards that feature the Variety Ad. You can print the document onto cardstock, cut them into fours and, voila, four handy postcards. All postcards should be mailed to:
Les Moonves, CBS 7800 Beverly Blvd. 3rd floor Los Angeles, CA 90036
Dawn Tarnofsky-Ostroff President, Entertainment (CEO) United Paramount Network 11800 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles, CA 90025
On the back, let them know how much you enjoyed the show while it was on FOX, and how eager you are for it to find a home with UPN. Keep things upbeat and positive, so they’ll know what classy fans Joss and his crew will be bringing to the network! Some ideas for things to mention: your favorite episode, why the show moves you, why you think the show has potential, etc.
Our two catchwords now are: VOLUME and SPEED.
We need a lot of postcards on their desks really damn fast. Thanks guys!
Kristen got a call from Tim Minear’s assistant that week. We were invited to the set to watch the final episode filming. I got to sit in the pilot’s chair of the spaceship set, and be a complete fangurl dork, punching the buttons, steering, making VROOOOM noises. I made a complete jackass out of myself, and loved every second of it. It was an important thing to be able to touch the thing we were so desperately trying to save. Now I know how those fuzzy-headed environmentalists feel when they swim with dolphins or chain themselves to falling redwoods.
The fans were furious about the cancellation, and it appeared as though our grassroots campaign to rally the fandom had caught fire. As more people jumped on the Save Firefly bandwagon, it got increasingly hard to steer. I blame Roswell. Roswell was a scifi show that received quite a bit of publicity when fans fearing the cancellation of the show sent thousands of bottles of Tabasco sauce to the network in protest. The sexy teenage aliens on Roswell had hard-ons for hotsauce, so it was all very symbolic. Roswell didn’t get canceled, the fans rejoiced, and a legend was born. Every fan campaign to save a show since has been left with this Roswell legacy that says if you flood the network with whatever weird object used for product placement, your show will be saved from cancellation. This is further proof that too many confuse brainstorms with shitstorms. The Roswell pick up was more complex than Tabasco, but they sure did get a lot of press from the fiery condiment.
Post 9/11, sending containers of anything unsolicited to a huge media conglomerate is not such a good idea. We needed to steer the fans away from sending crates of apples, boxes of rubber gloves, or mailing their own ears a la Van Gogh to the network, lest we incite a huge anthrax panic and cause the network to evacuate their offices. Fans wanted to send apples to the network after an episode of Firefly aired in which apples were containers for tiny bombs which would blow one’s head off at first bite. Another suggested sending millions of blue latex gloves, as worn by the creepy villains on Firefly.
Suggestions become actions very quickly. How to put the kibosh on such suggestions without appearing an evil tyrant hell-bent on destroying someone’s dream of good intentions is not my forte. This is what I posted to a message board after Fox canned Firefly and we were appealing to the United Paramount Network to pick the show up:
Do not send gloves, apples, underwear, flowers, fingerpaintings, Tabasco, pixie sticks, chocolates, or any object, of any kind, to anyone.
Send postcards. That’s all. You want to do more? Send a postcard to your affiliate station. More than that? Write a letter to the editor of your favorite magazine or newspaper.
But that’s it.
The fans are not in a position to force, intimidate, or convince anyone to pick up this show.
Joss/Mutant Enemy is in that position. We are supporting that position. That is all.
Every object that you send will be perceived as threatening, and make a bad impression. It will hinder, not help.
UPN and FOX will have no friggin’ clue what blue gloves mean. They won’t. They won’t see the symbolism, and even so, what IS the symbolism? Think about who wears the blue gloves, and whether those characters are hostile.
Send postcards, write to affiliates and media outlets, and for the love of all that is good and holy, do not do anything that makes us look like asswipes.
I know intentions are good. I understand and am happy that people want to do more. You’re doing enough. We’ve shown the network that there is heavy interest in the show. Now Joss/ME has to show the network that it would be profitable for them.
Either he will succeed or fail. But NO ONE is going to do something that may cause a friggin’ evacuation of UPN’s offices.
We’re not PICKETING. We’re not PROTESTING.
Those things make us look like we’ve got several screws loose.
So far, we’re bright and funny and loyal. Let’s keep it that way.
I lost my shit completely. We were only a couple of weeks from closing up shop on the Firefly campaign, and I had been taking everything entirely too seriously for two months. My brain hurt. I wanted my life back. My email box had been bursting at the cyberseams for weeks with zany suggestions involving crates of irradiated fruit and accusations of being a starfucker. Kristen talked me down from the ledge and reminded me that this was supposed to be more hobby, less crusade.
Two years later, a film version of Firefly called Serenity has been greenlit by Universal Studios, to be released in September 2005. An epic fairy tale evolved, and the marketing of the film includes a giddy gravelly voice-over, "After only eleven episodes, Firefly was mysteriously pulled from the air...thanks to the dedication of the Firefly fans, Joss, and the cast of Firefly, they got the chance to continue their story." It’s a lovely David and Goliath myth, one that ignores the facts that there was nothing mysterious about a network canceling a show that was hemorrhaging millions of dollars, or that Universal gave Joss Whedon 40 million dollars (a paltry sum by today’s filmmaking standard budget) to woo him away from 20th Century Fox. It worked: Joss canceled his contract with Fox and went off to make a film. Neither fandom, nor our campaign to save Firefly, had anything to do with Serenity getting greenlighted. We both wonder, if the studio is choosing to use the campaign we built to save the show as the backbone to its marketing, shouldn’t we get a cut of the profits?
Kristen and I found ourselves essentially erased from Firefly’s fandom story, and a goodly portion of the fans who would sell their mothers into a sex slave ring to score tickets to an early screening of the flick have never heard of either of us. As more fans discovered Firefly through the DVDs and more internet communities dedicated to Firefly popped up on the ’net, the history of the campaign was watered down and our roles in it seemed to be forgotton by everyone. Then I received a call from Serenity’s Executive Producer, Chris Buchanan, who asked me for suggestions on which fans to invite to the red carpet premiere of the flick.
It wasn’t a cut of the profits, but it was a little bit of love and appreciation, and I could live with that. I’m such a sucker.
Despite my bitterness about being forgotten by them, I’d still throw down for the fandom. They were, and still are, heart-melty generous and uber-organized, and while we can’t take credit for the movie, I like to believe that our campaign taught them how much good they could do in the world by putting all of their collective energy together toward a common goal. Since the campaign ended, they’ve gone on to raise tens of thousands of dollars for charity in the name of their fandom.
What began as a love letter to a favorite writer turned into an insanely epic and ridiculous drama that sucked out my brain and regurgitated it on the bathroom floor. I’m sure this sort of drama happens on smaller scales at PTA bake sales and town hall meetings about the importance of newly placed stop signs across America. But it happened to me and a TV show and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s absurdly easy to hook one’s claws into a cause and hang on long after it stops bucking and lays down dead on the pavement. Onlookers ask if there isn’t anything better you can do with your time, and all you can do is hiss and bare your fangs and make nonsensical arguments, inflating importance and meaning until the cause is bloated and deformed, unrecognizable.
And it was important to me, and about four million other weekly viewers who tuned in every Friday for an hour of escapism, and the thousands who flocked to message boards to discuss the thing that gave them some measure of happiness for a little while. It was certainly important to the caterers and actors and production assistants who made their living nailing Firefly together every week. Maybe my time could have been better spent protesting the use of anal electrocution of minks by hurling paintballs at elite models wearing fur lined panties. That certainly seems more noble a cause than protesting the cancellation of a cult television program.
I look at TV the way some people look at their neighborhood pub. It’s the way I escape the monotony of everyday life, the daily typing of memos and cleaning of the cat’s litter box. In the end, Firefly gave me some measure of joy in my otherwise painfully dull life. The campaign kept my head busy, kept me focused on something interesting outside of my tiny world. It meant a great deal to some folks I adore: it provided me with some sort of clear goal that wasn’t about expense reports or choosing the right 401k stocks. The Daily Variety ad we designed is featured on the Firefly DVD set, and when we ended the campaign, those closest to us in the fandom sent us huge bouquets of flowers and gift certificates to our favorite spa. So gracious.
And even though the show got cancelled, I still got to pilot a spaceship.
© , 2005
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