FireflySacramento Bee Serenity Screening Write Up
Tuesday 21 June 2005, by Webmaster
There’s a fine, fine line. But when one goes from fan to fanatic, it’s easily apparent that the line’s been crossed - at least to others.
It’s when you not only own a set of Spock ears, but wear them, proudly, in public.
It’s when you have three walls in your home dedicated to "Star Wars;" several shelves filled with DVDs, books and Luke Skywalker figurines, plus a life-sized plastic Yoda in the corner.
It’s when you drive 450 miles to see a sneak preview of a movie that doesn’t even open for another four months, not to mention spend $200 on an outfit to look just like the main character.
Grayson Ross, 20, did that last month, when he and two friends drove from Newport Beach to Roseville for a screening of the sci-fi flick, "Serenity," which is not scheduled to be released until September.
"I’m a pretty crazy guy," admits Ross, a student at New York’s Rochester Institute of Technology. "But this show has a certain magic to it, and nothing else I’ve experienced can compare."
Based on "Firefly," a canceled Fox television series, the futuristic "Serenity" was written and directed by Joss Whedon, the brain behind "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Diehard fans, who banded together online after the TV show was yanked in December 2002, are already giving indications that this might be the next let’s-wait-in-line-for-days phenomenon.
The timing certainly couldn’t be better. Last month, the final installment in the "Star Wars" saga hit theaters and the television program, "Star Trek: Enterprise," left the air.
That’s a big science-fiction void to fill.
"It’s just something that grabs a hold of you and won’t let you go," says Kenneth Parkhurst, 31, of Orangevale.
For the Roseville screening, Parkhurst, who became a fan when the first episode of "Firefly" aired, took the day off from work at an Orchard Supply Hardware store in Sacramento and waited 11 hours to get the best seat in the house. (For the record: the center, middle seat.)
To help pass the time, Parkhurst brought two books, including one on "Serenity," and a cheesecake. He then spent the day with a handful of other fans and the interwoven squirrels decorating the carpet at the Century Roseville 14.
"This carpet and I, we know each other," Parkhurst says.
Which brings us to the question: What makes people drive hundreds of miles in costume or spend a day on multicolored carpeting just to see a movie?
It’s the innate need to prove true fandom.
So says Ed Robertson, a pop culture critic for the online newspaper Media Life. After all, he says, "fan is short for fanatic. With science fiction, you take that level of passion and it kind of goes to the nth degree.
"With science fiction, in general, there’s always been that sort of close-knit community," adds Robertson, talking from his home office in Vallejo.
"No matter what you do, no matter what your income, no matter what your family life is, no matter how popular you may or may not be in your daily life, you go to a science fiction convention and you already have something in common with 5,000, 10,000 people."
Sacramento resident Ellen Fernandez, 46, was hooked on "Firefly." But besides her husband, Fernandez couldn’t find anyone else to talk to about the conformist Universal Alliance or the cannibalistic subhuman Reavers.
No one understood her attraction to the complex main character, Capt. Malcolm Reynolds, who leads the crew of the spaceship Serenity.
So last year, she started the Sacramento Browncoats, so named for the color worn by the losers of the civil war, including Reynolds.
For the fan club’s first few months, the four members counted Fernandez and her husband, Dex. But then there were 10. And now, there are about 50 members who meet regularly, Fernandez says.
"I have never been a clubby person," says Fernandez, whose is a freelance German translator by day. "But when you really love something, you want to tell the world."
While extreme fanaticism is largely discounted by the mainstream public, that feeling is really mischaracterized, says Robert Thompson, who, as a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, has made it his business to understand fans.
"People used to make fun of those Trekkies; the phrase, ’Get a life,’ kept coming up," Thompson says. "And to an outsider, they really did look like weird people obsessed with a TV show. But on the other hand, you have to envy somebody that takes so much pleasure that most people don’t get."
Thompson believes there is an easy test to determine if fanaticism has gone overboard.
"If you name your pets Kirk and Spock, that’s fine. Or C-3PO or R2-D2," he says. "But if you name your kids that, you’ve crossed a line and you should step back and reassess."
At the Roseville screening, dozens of brown coats dotted the audience.
They sang the television show’s theme song while waiting for the movie to flicker onto the screen.
They drove from San Diego, Reno and Vancouver, Wash.
They weren’t disappointed.
Nathan Fillion, who plays the strapping Capt. Reynolds, surprised the audience when he sat down with them to watch the movie, complete with a bag of popcorn.
Afterward, he answered questions for a half hour and signed autographs. And although it was well after midnight, not a single person walked away before getting 30 seconds with Fillion.
The 34-year-old actor was happy to comply, talking on one fan’s cell phone, posing for photographs and laughing off an offer from one woman to bear his children.
Fillion, who grew up in Canada, always dreamed of playing a Han Solo-type character. But his success so far has mostly been from the soap opera, "One Life To Live," when he played Joey Buchanan from 1994 to 1997.
Since "Firefly," his fan base has drastically shifted from middle-aged women to the science-fiction enthusiasts who register in his fan club, Fillion says.
"You might think they’re weird because they dress up. But that’s what I did through the whole movie," Fillion says. "These are people who share my interest and my passion."
Take Ross, the fan who drove from Newport Beach. To dress like Fillion’s character, he made a long brown coat from micro-suede, put stripes down the sides of a pair of pants, bought brown boots and formulated a low-slung gun holster.
A lifelong "Star Trek" fan, Ross says he’s been a serene believer from the first episode of "Firefly" he saw.
And to him, the costume, the drive to Roseville, meeting Fillion - it all seemed meant to be, as if the stars, or perhaps the galaxies, were aligned just right.
"This is a night I will cherish for a very, very, very, very long time," he says.
* The movie: "Serenity"
* The plot: 500 years in the future and after a devastating civil war, Capt. Malcolm Reynolds makes his living as a small-time bandit while taking passengers on his ship, Serenity, on the side. When a young doctor and his telepathic sister come aboard, however, Reynolds can no longer slip around the galaxy unnoticed because the two are fugitives from the Universal Alliance, which will stop at nothing to find them.
* The characters (from left in second photo above): Crew member and mercenary Jayne (Adam Baldwin); mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite); pilot Wash (Alan Tudyk); Wash’s wife and fellow civil war fighter Zoe (Gina Torres); Capt. Reynolds (Nathan Fillion); fugitive Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) and fugitive River Tam (Summer Glau)
* The mission: To stay under the radar of the Universal Alliance and avoid being eaten alive by the subhuman cannibalistic Reavers.
* The look: The futuristic universe has both Asian and American influences because the two main superpowers behind the Universal Alliance are China and the United States - before everyone fled Earth, that is.
* Signature line: "Can’t stop the signal"
* In theaters: Sept. 30
* Sneak previews: Thursday in 35 theaters across the country, including Century Roseville 14. Tickets for all screenings are sold out.