Jo Jo Stiletto — Professor of Nerdlesque, producer of Whedonesque Burlesque, category: Human — got legally stoned, brewed up a kettle of Sereni-tea, and rewatched Serenity.
This is not my 10-year review of the movie Serenity. This is my 10-years-and-four-month review. I first saw Serenity at a special sneak preview screening in Portland, Oregon several months before the official September release. I didn’t call myself a Browncoat back then. I still don’t. But I’d have called myself a budding fangirl. I was pre-obsessed. I barely knew who Joss Whedon was nor had I watched any of his other properties.
Oh, lord, how things have changed since then. To give some perspective on my mental space while attempting this re-watch, I have compiled a list some of these changes.
• I eventually married the man who surprised me with the tickets to see the sneak preview.
• I often cosplay as Mal.
• I also listen to nerdcore rap about Firefly.
• I have produced three rounds of the show Whedonesque Burlesque: Burlesque Inspired by the Works of Joss Whedon. I have even talked to the Wall Street Journal about this experience.
• I have now watched all of Buffy and Angel, plus Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible, and pretty much everything else Joss has touched. Except his Aliens movie. Ew.
• I have read many books on Joss and attended an academic conference dedicated to his work. At this conference someone who wrote one of those books I read presented a paper onWhedonesque Burlesque.
• Joss Whedon has directed two of the top ten highest grossing movies of all time.
• The tenth anniversary special of the series was aired in which it was revealed that Inara would have been gang-raped by Reavers and saved by Mal. I have opinions about this. I hope Firefly never ever returns.
• Nathan Fillion became even more ruggedly handsome in his role on Castle, which is in its eighth season and I can’t stop watching it despite my better judgment.
• The Tea Party movement is a thing people have actually heard of now. If one looks hard enough, one can find some interesting similarities to Browncoats. I need to stop looking.
• My Christmas tree has a Firefly theme. I have an ornament for every major character.
• I once held Fillion’s hand as he said, “Hi, my name is Nathan.” His hands are so soft they are like baby hands.
• Adam Baldwin. GamerGate. Need I say more?
• I sat on a GeekGirlCon panel with Firefly writer Jane Espenson and called Joss a pervert in front of about 200 people.
• Many of my close friends know me because of our shared interest in Firefly.
As you can see, a lot has happened. My original response to the movie never was that it was a great film but that it was a whole mess of fun. That fun drove me to the level of super fan. Possibly beyond super fan. Maybe a Stupor Fan? In becoming a this new level of fan over the years, I found myself wanting to learn more, analyze more, make more. In doing so, though, I possibly went too far.
I burned out, man. Like, big time. In analyzing all these Whedon texts for their meaning, in ruminating over the nature of fandom in general, in finding faults along with new joys, I acknowledge it has lost a little bit of its charm. I was reminded why I put Whedonesque Burlesque to bed this last summer. I felt like I was like squeezing blood from a stone. I had nothing left in me. I used up all my fandom.
I admit I had re-watched this movie originally over a month ago with a big group of friends. While it was fun hosting for guests, I found re-watching a bit of drag. I was the kill-joy. I was SIMON!!!!!!! I barely wrote a single note for this review during that night.
Something did change in the last few weeks, though. On September 19th I spoke at the Seattle Maker Faire about how I made a burlesque show based on Joss Whedon. It was a weird little speaking gig, forcing me to focus on my own work instead of presenting on the larger topics of burlesque, fandom and feminism, like I normally do. I had to force myself back into my process of creating a show that, at one time, made me deliriously happy and proud.
Do you know what happened? I ended up falling back in love with that experience. The cast—my friends—had done amazing and impressive work. The texts that inspired our show, texts like Serenity, may be imperfect but I still can enjoy it. I like Joss. I can’t help it.
His work specifically inspires me to want to tell stories. He hits me right in the feels with his characters and their humor and their faults. Yet, watching Whedon’s work reminds me that racism is a huge problem in Hollywood and by loving his shows, which have some big issues with race, I’m probably part of that problem. That’s a hard thing to reconcile. But I also appreciate how many of his characters subvert gender expectations and how these characters have been cited as the source of a paradigm shift in Hollywood as well. Buffy is a big damn female hero.
In re-kindling my appreciation (in a really selfish way), I sat down to re-watch again. I pretended I was not burned out and let myself escape into a sci-fi western future world with more big damn heroes.
Here are my jumbled, happy re-watch thoughts. I also may have been lightly stoned, thanks to Washington’s decriminalization of weed. Oh, that’s something else that has changed. I can legally watch Serenity stoned. I’m also drinking Sereni-tea. Yeah, I bought Firefly-themed teas online. I aim to misbehave.
– I never acknowledged how absolutely dashing Simon is in the opening escape sequence. He’s a babe. Simon on the show was first perceived as a possible villain, then a prissy jerk, then a loving brother. In this opening, he’s practically leading man handsome.
– I will never apologize for liking Whedon’s dialogue. I even liked Speed. No, I loved it.
– I see Baldwin as Jayne and I realize I hate him now. Baldwin has ruined a good character. Jayne made us believe that maybe even the most deceptive and self-centered asshole can change. Baldwin takes that away from us. Maybe there is still hope.
– Mal, on the raggedy edge, is the most fuckable. I want to slap him in the kisser…then kiss him.
– Clearly, another thing that has changed is my libido.
– Mid-watch, I remember that this is the first movie Joss directed, right? This movie happened…then he directed The Avengers. Then Much Ado. Then another Avengers. That’s it. I guess he’s doing okay for himself.
– Fillion looks like a baby otter. So slim. So brown. Hairs so silky.
– The bank robbery-turned-chase scene is, in my opinion, crafted very well to create tension and humor and fear and release. [10YA editor] Marcus sent a well-timed text message during this sequence that read, “Go forth and watch shit get blowed up.” This movie is a god damn action movie. Fuck yeah.
– Simon socking Mal is glorious.
– Zoe asking Mal about leaving a man behind is really hard to watch. There is no winning “out in the black.”
– Why are all the Operatives black men?
– Did they run out of budget before the training house sequence?
– I appreciate that in the training house fight scene Inara keeps trying to get in on the fight. She’s not so delicate.
– The Mal/Inara “You spin me about” scene still makes me feel all fluttery. It’s heavy-handed, cheesy and I lurv it.
– When we return to Haven to find everyone dead, I screamed “FUCK YOU JOSS!” at the TV. Ah, I’m back in the spirit officially.
– How can any actor say “confound these bungers” with a straight face?
– Fact: Girls cry and barf over seeing the horror of Reavers. Men will drink from the space hooch directly from the bottle to unify a team. And Jo Jo will now punch a pillow.
– Joss kills Wash once. I’d like to point out that I killed him at least three times (inWhedonesque Burlesque).
– “A world without sin.” That line never stuck out to me like it did in this rewatch.Whedenesque Burlesque, all burlesque, exists in a world with sin. Delicious, decadent sin. Screw you and your better world, Alliance.
– I’m probably very stoned.
– New meme: “Zoe’s husband just died. Still does her DAMN JOB.”
– We never actually see the boundaries of what River is capable of.
I have achieved a full reversal on my burn out. I have done a Crazy Ivan on myself. Good night.