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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: July 2017

6 - Whedon, Browncoats, and the Big Damn Narrative: The Unified Meta-myth of Firefly and Serenity


Most of what now passes with us for religion and philosophy will be replaced by poetry.

—Matthew Arnold, “The Study of Poetry” (1248)

It's not just about what you want to say, it's about inviting them into a world, and the way in which you guys have inhabited this world, this universe … made you guys part of it, part of the story. You are living in Firefly. When I see you guys, I don't think the show's off the air—I don't think there's a show—I think that's what the world is like.

—Joss Whedon, Firefly: Browncoats Unite

The story of Firefly's death and rebirth is fairly well known; indeed, for some, the story has gained the status of myth, a myth that they are “living in.” The television series was created by Joss Whedon, famous for the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003), which ran for seven years, and the spin-off Angel (1999–2004), which ran for five. The Fox network ran Firefly for just three months: September 20, 2002 to December 20, 2002. Yet the fans and the series’ makers refused to let it die. Organized expressions of fan interest, such as postcard campaigns and paid advertisements, encouraged the production of a DVD, which the fans carried to first place in sales. (As of this writing, the DVD is still a top seller, number eight in science fiction and number 31 in actionadventure on Amazon.) This success, and the ongoing determination of the makers and the fans (who call themselves “Browncoats,” after the resistance fighters in the series), helped propel the production of the 2005 film Serenity, which continues the story of the Firefly universe. While the film did not make enough money to prompt a sequel, the cult of Firefly/Serenity still thrives, as the Whedon epigraph above attests, and the Matthew Arnold comment, if we replace the word “poetry” with “art,” may help explain some of the reasons for its continuing life. For years, those who have discussed cult films and television have noted both the connection of the term “cult” to religion and the problems in making such a connection.

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Science Fiction Double Feature
  • Online ISBN: 9781781384640
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