A Postcolonial Provocation: ‘Serenity’

PopMatters.com continue putting the spotlight on Joss Whedon lately, with a series of articles that are both fun and facinating.

In this article, Leanne McRae presents her thoughts on A Postcolonial Provocation: ‘Serenity’.

“As far as Firefly is concerned, that will always be unfinished business. Serenity was a Band-Aid on a sucking flesh wound. I think every day about the scenes that I’ll never get to shoot and how badass they were. It’s nice to know that people still care about Firefly but it’s actual grief that I feel. It’s not something you get over, it’s just something you learn to live with.”
—Joss Whedon, SFX World of Whedon, 2011

Joss Whedon evocatively conveys the mourning he still experiences when his short-lived series Firefly was cancelled by network executives in 2003. The demise of this program created a special moment in popular culture when something unexpected emerged from the crisis. What was created activated a transformative dialogue between the postcolonial and the popular that generated space for questioning and representing processes of power that normally remain unseen. Serenity operates in unclear spaces of meaning as it was conceived as a brokered attempt to extend the life of a severely curtailed plot envisioned for Firefly.

Through the series, Whedon would have been able to map out the complexities of characters and plot trajectories to provide challenging televisual terrain for a new generation of TV fans post-Buffy and -Angel. Instead, Whedon had to make do with the temporal compressions of cinematic viewing to do justice both to the narrative and to the characters who provided the paradoxes and paradigms of story motivation. As a result, Serenity was composed of half-truths and conflicted contexts where the spaces for unconventional and unruly meanings were able to emerge from the diegesis. These meanings offer insight into the political trajectories of colonization and the creation of Empire that are difficult to control.

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