Commander Harken: Seems odd you'd name your ship after a battle you were on the wrong side of.
Captain Reynolds: May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.
- Firefly, Season 1 Episode 3: "Bushwacked"
After Election Day 2016, many people were in a very dark place. There was shock, anger, a feeling of betrayal for those of us most impacted by Trump's dangerous campaign rhetoric (Muslims, Mexicans, women, scientists, journalists, immigrants, black folks, Jews...ok really, who didn't he insult?). It was a hard blow - made harder still by those whose complacency led to his victory (I include a lot of types of people in that list, but that's for a different, forthcoming post on Election 2016 and the "Character Alignment System"). How did I deal with my shock and anger and betrayal? Comfort food and comfort TV. And for this nerd, nothing says "comfort TV" like a rewatch of Firefly.
I love Firefly for what Joss Whedon does best: bring together a disparate band of rogues with very different interests and turn them into a family. It ran for one perfect season (damn you, Fox!), and in a meta act of rebellion that led to ultimate victory, fans petitioned in the days pre-Kickstarter to bring the show back for one epic movie, Serenity.
There's no denying that at its heart, Firefly is a story about lost rebellions and the small acts of resistance people engage in in the fight to retain their independence. It's a story about social justice and unlikely heroes, about how even those broken down by lost battles maintain the spirit required to win the larger wars.
The story? In the year 2517, humans have used up Earth and moved to a new star system, where they've terraformed planets and moons to make them habitable for colonies of people to set up home. A few years before the start of the series, a civil war broke out between the Alliance - the core group of central planets that rule the star system and house the elites - and the rebels, called "Browncoats" for their distinctive outfits.
The rebels are mostly people living on the outer planets, which resemble the wild West; they are pioneers with little access to medicines or technology, living on harsh and at times unforgiving terrain, but they maintain relative freedom from the central ruling government - a trait which provides both independence and lawlessness. The rebels lost the war (named "The Unification War" by the victorious Alliance), and two former Browncoats - Zoe Alleyne and Malcolm Reynolds - now run a cargo/smuggling operation from Serenity, the Firefly-class spaceship Mal bought to retain his independence from the Alliance after the war.
On the surface, Mal is a disenchanted rogue, much in the mold of Han Solo - he looks out for himself and his crew and is theoretically only interested when money is involved. But the seeds of rebellion still lay close beneath the surface - the smuggling work and the obvious satisfaction Mal gets from subtly thumbing his nose at the Alliance by skirting their authority is part of his mini-resistance. But it primes him for the moment when he discovers a stowaway belonging to one of his passengers: River Tam, sister of passenger Dr. Simon Tam, both running from the Alliance after Simon rescues River from the government facility that has been experimenting with her brain. It's another small act of rebellion, one that leads Mal and his crew down a longer path of resistance.
After Election Day, the Trump administration proved that it was true to its word when it set out to implement the most ugly parts of its proposed policy - namely instituting a blatantly discriminatory and unconstitutional "Muslim ban," barring those seeking refuge from entering the country, and beginning large-scale deportations of immigrants (there's so much more, all of which you can find at What the Fuck Just Happened Today, which documents the daily barrage of problematic policies and appointments from President Trump).
I've been working on the issues of torture, Guantanamo, government surveillance, and discrimination against Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and Black folks for a long time, and most who are new to the issue sets might be surprised to know that all of this had a precedent set long before Trump, and continued even under President Obama (hence my Bernie Sanders-love). But for the first time, the rebels showed up, a community of ideological Browncoats who said "not on our watch." They showed up at airports, provided legal assistance to those stuck at airports, found unlikely friendships, and rallied in front of the White House.
But it's key to remember that the assault has just started. Fighting these policies is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, and requires mental fortitude for the long haul. It requires small acts of resistance and an inability to turn away from a good fight - kind of like Malcolm Reynolds and his crew. Because we may have been on the losing side...but I'm still not convinced it's the wrong one.