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FireflyFirefly - "Serenity" Movie - Hyphenmagazine.com Review
Tuesday 11 October 2005, by Webmaster
Again with the inscrutability!
If I had a dollar for every science fiction perpetrator who used Asian languages as a signpost of the future, BUT NOT ASIAN PEOPLE ... well, I’d have a bunch of dollars.
Take Joss Whedon ... please.
His Serenity, a feature film both summarizing and sequelizing his short-lived television drama Firefly, was eagerly awaited by fans of all of Whedon’s tv dramas, which—FYI—include Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff, Angel. Opening week and subsequent viewing has been carefully strategized among Whedonites to optimize the possibility of Firefly returning to the large screen or even the small screen with new episodes and a longer shelf-life. Well ... yay fandom, as far as that goes. It probably won’t work. The near-universal positive reviews of Serenity only show that everyone is capable of copping to the snarky goodness of Joss’s brand of adolescent angst expressed in martial arts action, genuinely witty dialogue, and unpredictable plot reversals. That Serenity was poor man’s Joss Whedon—Whedon on a bad day, Joss with a cold—doesn’t really matter. Nobody wants this badly enough (Joss fans aside) and it probably won’t manifest again.
But fortunately for the smokin’ Joss sticks who will howl down upon this comments section, that’s not my complaint (or contention) today. My beef is this: why would a man intelligent enough to read the Asian tiger on the wall (having all the characters in his future world speak an English/Chinese patois, and all of the spaceship names and call signs translated into Chinese on their hulls), be too stupid to include a SINGLE ASIAN CHARACTER in said world? Sure, there were maybe enough Asian extras in Serenity to count off on (one of) my hands, but where’s the recognition, folks? The slopes are coming, and not just to buy your cheap-ass products (which they’re sweat-shopping anyway.) Asian economies are just that: economies. Not wet, gaping holes for you to fill with your junk, but rather whole, integral eco-bitches of cash and power, that will only invite you to join their orgy if you’re very, very relevant.
In the world of Serenity, Asians are literally inscrutable. We somehow rule the universe enough to get our main lingo (Chinese, natch) spoken everywhere, yet you can’t scrut us. Anywhere. But in fifty years the world really will look more like the establishing shot of Blade Runner (which Whedon jacks with abandon, sans, of course, Asianyness), with the massive moving billboards of future cities burdened with the facets of Asian beauty and Asian power. The politicians you’ll love to hate will be Asian. The CEOs who own them will be Asian. The guy in the corner store? Still Asian, but so, too, the cops that park there illegally to grab a dozen you tiu with their coffee, and the kid that stupidly holds up the store while the cops are there. You can’t make up, like, over half the world’s population, be poised to swoop down upon the new global economy like a hawks on a dazed field mouse, and not end up everywhere. In fifty years, much less five hundred, Asians will be more scrutable than the sky. You won’t be able to look away.
Whedon’s remarkable whitecentricity was well-taken in Buffy, an extended paean to the dying art of living in the suburbs. It was ridiculous in Angel, a Los Angeles mean-streets demon-ride, with, like, two black people and no Latinos. (I should thank Angel here for offering fans a months-long study of Daniel Dae Kim’s jawline, but Angel also gave us the one-too-manyeth view of Bai Ling’s cleavage, so I ain’t gonna.) But let’s take credit away where credit doesn’t belong, people. Joss himself brought up the Asian, and then signally failed to embody it. Maybe it just didn’t occur to him, you know, while he was hiring those linguists to inject some Mandarin into the dialogue. Or maybe it did occur to him but og forbid a white auteur privilege Asian characters in an already Asian world.
Time, Jossy, for a little rethink. I know you still consider developed black characters to be shocking and a testament to your racismlessness, but let’s really follow your logic out to its conclusions. Maybe you’ll find yourself a little more relevant to non-geeks if you bother to really look at the people who already populate and are going to populate the spaces you exploit for your fictions. You’re supposed to be smarter than the average white boy. Use it.
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