One of my favorite films is coming up on the 10th anniversary of its release: the Joss Whedon film Serenity, the big screen adaptation of the short-lived Fox television series “Firefly”.
Oh, whom am I kidding. I love Serenity. It is my favorite film. I’ve watched it so much I know the dialogue by heart.
Whedon’s star has waxed and waned since his TV series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” but it went nuclear flash bright with 2012’s blockbuster The Avengers, which became the highest grossing film of 2012 and 3rd highest all time. Only Avatar and Titanic earned more. Serenity was so-so at the box office, falling a bit short of earning its estimated budget. Nevertheless, IMDB rates Serenity at 8.0 out of 10, compared to The Avengers score of 8.2 out of 10.
Whedon, of course, is controversial in Men’s Human Rights and MGTOW circles for his claims that he is a feminist. Of course, modern feminism is an incoherent bag of mushy, overripe fish heads demanding everything contradictory on the planet, from “I want freedom” to “I want protection”, which means that, as long as you are not a jump-out-of-the-bushes rapist, you can claim to be feminist and get away with it. If, of course, you are any woman or a wealthy and powerful man like Whedon.
It is ironic, then, that Whedon made one of the most MGTOW-themed movies ever: Serenity.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
While Serenity is the name of the spaceship, the movie is both a space opera and a western: humanity has abandoned Earth for a new planetary system (“The Verse”) with dozens of habitable planets and moons (the movie suggests there are 30 worlds at one point). The movie has not one but two spectacular opening sequences: first, a series of nested flashbacks sets out the backstory. Second, the opening credits roll during a single, amazing 4 minute 28 second tracking shot: a lone steadycam follows Captain Mal (Capt. Malcolm Reynolds, played by Nathan Fillion) as he walks through the ship and interacts with all his crewmates in a single, unbroken take. For a film junkie like me, watching the craftsmanship of this one shot alone is more satisfying than watching the nuke go off in The Avengers.
Like almost all the male characters in the movie, Mal is a MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way). The central Alliance (read: feminists) are extending their political and technological hegemony over the more rustic, “wild west” worlds in the system. Mal is an unmarried former rebel soldier once opposed to Alliance domination who now lives as a smuggler, pirate, thief and/or hired gunman on the shrinking frontier. At one point he even says: “I don’t look [to fight the Alliance], I just want to go my way.”
Joining Mal is Jayne (played by now Gamergate hero Adam Baldwin), a very un-PC mercenary who is fond of prostitutes but avoids relationships, as does Shepherd Derrial Book (played by Ron Glass) an older religious man more interested in building spiritual communities than chasing skirt.
The other male shipmates are also arguably MGTOW but to a lesser degree. Dr. Simon Tam (Sean Maher) left his lucrative practice to rescue his sister River from feminist experiments designed to turn her into a living weapon. The pilot of the ship, Wash (Alan Tudyk), is married to second-in-command Zoe, but as a childless pair in the outlaw lands, their marriage is quite different from the state-sponsored slavery for men that is today’s marriage.
Perhaps the most interesting character is the “bad guy,” an Alliance agent known simply as “The Operative,” played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. The Operative is a calm, brutal killer committed to doing the dirty jobs of the Alliance but he knows he is a monster who ultimately has no real place in the peaceful, regimented society the Alliance is building. This marks him as what we now would call “purple pill”: he can see the growing evil of civil society but he reluctantly remains committed to following the orders of that evil.
During the course of the film and as the evils of the Alliance are revealed, The Operative transforms from purple to red pill: in the last scenes he states that “I think [the Alliance] knows I am no longer their man.” Boom, a clear red pill moment, brought to you by the alleged feminist Whedon. The Operative even promises he will disappear from society: “there is nothing left to see”.
The women characters are extraordinary in unique ways but they all are defined by their relationships with men – kind of no-no in the feminist world of today. Kaylee, the intuitively brilliant engineer (Jewel Staite) is backwoods girlish-next-door pretty but lovelorn, her crush on the distracted Dr. Tam unrequited. As Second-in-command, Zoe (Gina Torres), married to Wash, banters with the captain and crew in a comfortable way no feminist would ever stomach. Inara (Morena Baccarin) is a courtesan (high-class prostitute and madam) in a fraught non-relationship with Mal. And, of course, the android love-bot Lenore (Nectar Rose, who also appeared in Independence Day with Baldwin) has liberated Mr. Universe (David Krumholtz) from the dangers of feminist-dictated pair-bonding.
But the woman who steals the show is River Tam. Oh My God, River Tam.
River (played by Summer Glau, more ballerina than actress) is a physical force. As a result of feminist experiments, she is a 90-pound living weapon. She can maul a bar full of customers without breaking a sweat, and her psychic powers allow her to dodge all incoming assaults. She has been trained to believe no weapon in the universe can stop her. Only her brother Simon Tam knows the safe word that causes her to stand down and fall asleep. The “word” is supposedly a Russian phrase: Это курам на смех, pronounced “Eta kooram nah smech”, which translates literally as “that’s laughing for chickens” according to this, and idiomatically as “this is ridiculous”.
The ballerina roots of actress Glau are on full display. Just watching her saunter about is a revelation of how all walking should be. This is more than grace and more than deliberateness. It is command.
But River Tam’s mind has been shattered by both the abusive feminist conditioning she received and a dark secret she learned when she accidentally read the mind of a touring Alliance bigwig.
The secret: the Alliance deliberately doped, and thereby accidentally poisoned one of their planets named “Miranda”. And the enormity of this secret is destroying River’s brain.
In an effort to feminize and pacify the population, the Alliance terraformers introduced an experimental social engineering chemical called G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate, or “Pax”. The resulting “peace” killed 30 million people and the few survivors became monstrous:
G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate or “Pax” (Latin for “Peace”) was a chemical compound added to the air processors in order to pacify the populace, by the Union of Allied Planets. An Alliance research team on Miranda discovered that the Pax was effective with 99.9% of people. It was such an effective means of pacifying that the people stopped doing anything, they simply waited for death. However, a tenth of a percent of the population had the opposite reaction. They became highly aggressive, committing unspeakable acts including cannibalism, rape and self-mutilation. These people would come to be known as Reavers. (emphasis added)
The Reavers are a slightly more vicious feminist view of average men: dangerous rapists. Whedon shows the beginning of a reaver-rape of a woman in one early scene, and Mal murders a man also about to be raped and eaten in another. Yet another scene ends with the screams of a female scientist being savaged. Depictions of rape are so triggering to feminists it is hard to imagine feminists giving Whedon a pass on these.
The Operative’s mission is to kill River Tam to protect the secret she learned, a secret which could destabilize the ruling feminist regime if it became known. Once Mal and the crew tease out the secret, they know their only hope of surviving the feminist Alliance’s efforts to silence them is to somehow broadcast the story, Wikileaks style, across the Verse. Noteworthy: Wikileaks officially launched in 2007, two years after the movie Serenity was released.
In the blockbuster The Avengers the male superheros & villains reflect this same semi-MGTOW style that Whedon put on display in 7 years earlier in Serenity. (Whedon rewrote the story once he took over as director of The Avengers).
Iron Man has no interest in settling down (until he is somewhat tamed by Pepper Potts). Thor (still male in this movie) has a forgotten human love interest who makes no appearance. Loki and The Hulk eschew women. Captain America, who was frozen for 70 years, has no interest in modern feminist women. Hawkeye’s friendship with Black Widow has no benefits other than his deciding not to kill her.
For an alleged feminist, Joss Whedon seems to favor MGTOW characters a lot and ignore the storytelling guidance of feminists. But don’t worry, Joss. I’ll keep your secret. I promise.