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...so I figure I might as well too.

I've never liked rap music. Yes, I do plan to talk about Serenity, but it's going to take me a little while to get there (and no, Serenity has nothing to do with rap music, nor is there any rap music in the movie or in anything associated with the movie. Hang on).

I've never liked rap music, and I've always assumed it's because as a musical form, it sucks. I've never heard anything interesting done with it. However, after Shelly and I started dating, she gave me a Linkin Park CD, and I discovered that it wasn't the musical form that sucks; it was every rap artist I'd ever heard.

Linkin Park isn't rap, really. Nor is it alternative, nor industrial, though it has elements of all three in it. What Linkin Park is, though, is brilliant. Technically, compositionally, and in content, it's brilliant. The band is proof that you can take rap--one of the members of the band is a rapper, and one is the singer, and the weave spoken and sung lines together in ways that are very interesting--and do something novel with it, and rap about things other than the rapper's cock, the rapper's hoes, and the rapper's ride.

When you take dissimilar forms and put them together in unexpected ways, you sometimes end up with brilliance. Part of waht makes the band Evanescence so interesting is the way they combine pop, industrial, and thrash metal; not something that sounds like it can be done well, or even at all, but something that not only works in practice, but sometimes succeeds brilliantly.

I've never liked Westerns, either. Like rap, every Western I've ever seen--which was, unfortunately, more than I would ever have liked, as my ex-inlaws loved to sit around watching Westerns during holiday get-togethers--has been about nothing interesting to me, done in a way not interesting to me, with characters and story not interesting to me. The idea of John Wayne riding into town and beating up the Indians or cattle rustlers or whatever, armed only with his six-shooter and a smarmy assurance in the superiority of the God-fearing white man? Rubbish.

Truth be told, I'm not all that fond of TV science fiction either. Most of it is rubbish as well; take Star Trek (please!). The original series broke new ground, and every series to follow plowed that same gorund, never really (with the arguable exception of Deep Space Nine in its better moments) taking any risks or trying anything new. TIME magazine had it right when they reviewed Star Trek: Voyager; their review consisted of a plot synopsis of the first half-dozen episodes or so, and the episodes of earlier Star Treks with precisely the same plots. Boring, predictable, hackneyed science fantasy with the same technobabble we've all seen a thousand times before, the same noble characters doing the same noble things, the same hopeless situations that the characters resolve neatly in sixty-minute chunks with time left over for commercials about laundry detergent. Trite, boring, bland, non-threatening rubbish.

When the television show Firefly was on TV, I ignored it. I had some friends who said "Oh, this show is cool! It's science fiction!" Generally speaking, that right there is enough to make me say, "Oh, that's cool! Pardon me while I go drive spikes into my eyes!" I've been consistently disappointed by TV science fiction (or, more accurately, science fantasy, or space soap opera, or whatever) to even want to go near it.

Now, Firefly isn't, or properly wasn't, traditional science fiction. It's more like a science fiction western--my two least favorite television genres, with the possible exception of reality TV. The only thing I can imagine that's more appalling than watching a science fiction western is watching a science fiction western combined with that absolutely godawful show "The Apprentice"--'Number one, you let the cattle rustlers escape with the crate of dilithium crystals! YOU'RE FIRED!' Gah.

Boy, did I screw the pooch. I've now seen about half the episodes of Firefly, and I can understand why the show was cancelled so quickly; it's too brilliant to be on television.

Firefly has a very large main cast. Yet in spite of that, each of the main characters is vivid and three-dimensional, complex and very, very real. The dialog is coarse and gritty and beautiful. The characters are morally ambiguous; the stories are nuanced and affecting and don't offer the audience any easy outs.

And it all succeeds brilliantly on the big screen.

First, imagine Star Wars. Now, imagine Star Wars if the rebels had well and truly lost--which, in reality, they would have. Now, imagine that the Imperial government is not evil simply for the sake of being evil--totalitarian, yes; autocratic, yes; ruthless and oppressive, yes; but made up of people, some of whom sincerely believe that they are doing the right thing by bringing civilization to the galaxy. Some of whom are doing the right thing by bringing civilization to the galaxy.

Now, picture a man living on the fringes of that society, making his way as a smuggler. Picture this man as someone willing to do whatever it takes to survive, no matter the cost. Even if that means shooting an unarmed man. Even if that means doing morally questionable things.

Even if that means doing morally reprehensible things.

In other words, Serenity is not the comic-book, black-and-white, good guys against the evil Empire pap of the Star Wars movies. It's a study in shades of gray, and when the main characters find themselves in situations where they need to make hard choices and people will get hurt no matter what they choose, there's no brilliant Star Trek deus ex machina or technobabble handwaving that comes along and makes everything okay. They make hard choices, and people get hurt, and people suffer, and those choices have consequences, and that's the way it is.

A lot of people get hurt in Serenity. A lot of people suffer. A lot of people do reprehensible things, and it's not always the bad guys who do them. Serenity is not a peaceful movie. And when people get hurt, it's not antiseptic and clean like it is in Star Wars. There aren't gunfights with blasters where faceless adversaries in sterile white suits fall down. It's ugly and it's messy and it makes you feel the consequences of these ugly, messy things.

And it doesn't insult the audience.

If you haven't already, go see this movie. And don't expect to be spoon-fed a tidy story of good versus evil. In the end, there are people who survive, and people who don't; and sometimes, the people who survive are bad people; and sometimes, the people who don't are good people; and sometimes, people aren't really bad or good so much as they are simply people, and they will do whatever it takes to survive.

And sometimes, there's art in that.


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 2nd, 2005 07:58 am (UTC)
Well put.

I do consider myself to be a fan of television sci-fi, at least as much as I'm a fan of any television, given that there's only one show that I go at all out of my way to catch (Battlestar Galactica).

I also consider myself to be a more-than-incidental Star Trek fan, though I'd hardly consider myself to be a Trekkie (or Trekker, or whatever).

I have, however, gotten spoiled. I learned this last night after we got home from Serenity. zensidhe turned on the TV, and Star Trek: The Next Generation was on. I only watched one scene, but it perfectly highlighted everything that makes 'Trek inferior to Firefly and Serenity.

Captain Picard was in his "ready room" chewing out some young Bajoran ensign who had apparently requested some kind of promotion or position of responsibility. It seems that she had been involved in some incident years prior at the academy, and based on this once factor he felt it necessary to excoriate her for her unreliability.

Because of something that had happened years ago.

For which she had presumably already been punished, and despite which Starfleet had seen fit to put her on the flagship of its fleet.

The ensign of course remained respectful and at attention the entire time. Having just spent 2 hours with the crew of Serenity, I so very much wanted to jump through the TV and say "I do believe you both got a desperate need to pull the stick outta your ass and get on with life. And by the way young lady, you got somethin' stuck to your brow. Best attend to that."

Everyone is so noble and uniform in their thinking that this is the most gripping "conflict" that they could come up with? Absurd. Take me out to the black, thanks.
Oct. 2nd, 2005 03:56 pm (UTC)
Thank You!
I was just saying to Wolfger yesterday that all I've read are reviews from fans of the show, and none from those that never watched the series. Paul and I have not watched the series nor is he at all interested in seeing the movie. I have watched the first couple of episodes and while it was intriguing, it wasn't enough for me to want to jump up and see the movie. (Most likely cause I only saw the first couple of episodes and hadn't really gotten into all of it.)

Maybe I'll take myself to the movies to see it today. Of course that would have to come after the due diligence of cleaning the apartment up a bit.


If you like Evanesence, may I recommend trying a song or two from a Norweigan group called Nightwish? There is a lot of their music that I am eh on, but there is a lot of their music that I'm in love and entranced by. It to is also a beautiful blend, and the voice that Tarja has is so amazingly beautiful, and she sings in this utterly gorgeous style which is not really anything at all like the style of music being played for it yet it works, and it works so amazingly well.

You can find their information at http://www.nightwish.com

I have also emailed you two of my favorite songs. Let me know what you think, and don't be shy, be honest :) (Not that I think you'd do anything but that.)
Oct. 9th, 2005 01:59 am (UTC)
Re: Thank You!
Never got your email. :(
Oct. 17th, 2005 08:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Thank You!
Nightwish is decent, but I don't know that they really stand out from other power metal bands. Lacuna Coil specifically sounds a lot like Evanescence, at least on their newest album.
Oct. 2nd, 2005 06:38 pm (UTC)
I'm not nearly as eloquent as you (nor am I feeling as eloquent right now as I occasionaly am), so I'll thank you for the excellent review, and make two recommendations. (Well, three: I second the Nightwish one)

The first is a "rapper." He gets categorised as a rapper, but really, I can't figure out why -- he's good. I feel largely the same as you do about rap music. In fact, I usually write it as rap "music."

Look up Buck 65 (who has in the meantime acquired an annoyingly flash-only site). The CD I recommend is "Talkin' Honky Blues," most stylistically similar to "Corrugated Tin Facade" and "Blood of a Young Wolf", which are currently posted in the "Show and Tell" section.

The other recommendation is for a TV SF show. Yes, I know :)
But if you hadn't already given it a shot, you may want to watch one or two episodes of The 4400. The premise, of 4400 people getting kidnapped by aliens over the years and then all brought back at once sometime in 2003, had the potential to be very good, or very, very bad. I'm happy to say that it's the former, with the show being excellent commentary on currrent events and how people deal with being thrust back into a world that's moved 10, 20, or 50 years beyond them.
Oct. 2nd, 2005 07:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the review, and the analogy. One of these days, I'll have to find time and energy to once again go to a theater.

I agree with the Star Trek diagnosis. Even (the smarter) Trekkie friends of mine agree that if some other species found us and made first contact, it would likely be with an anticipatory retaliatory strike designed to reduce the threat we pose. Trek is simply too hippie lovey-dovey why-can't-we-all-just-get-along. Deep Space 9 did have more of the conflict one would logically expect.

So pardon my inquisitiveness; where do you stand on the new Battlestar Galactica?
Oct. 21st, 2005 04:46 pm (UTC)
"So pardon my inquisitiveness; where do you stand on the new Battlestar Galactica?"

Haven't seen it. I do remember not being particularly fond of the old series, but I haven't seen any of the new episodes yet.
Oct. 22nd, 2005 04:14 am (UTC)
"New episodes"?!?

Oh, dude, the new is absolutely nothing like the old. It resembles the original in name, character names and Cylons present only. If you like the fusion of styles, Battlestar exemplifies the concept. Take a lame 70s rip-off of Star Wars, borrow only the basic premise of a plot, and create a cimema verite, post-9/11 apocolyptic doomsday-scenario serial play (Okay, my wife would insist I use the term "soap opera") dark enough to befuddle any Vulcan eared Trekkie and scare him or her straight out of his/her optimistic LiveLongAndProsper somnolescence.

If nothing else, I saw they released the pilot on DVD. I highly doubt you will be in any way dissappointed.
Oct. 2nd, 2005 09:36 pm (UTC)
That's really an improvement. I can scan and see the main idea of the subsections of your post. Muy bueno.
Oct. 2nd, 2005 10:13 pm (UTC)
Wow. Quite possibly the most well-written Firefly synopsis and Serenity review I've ever read.
Oct. 3rd, 2005 03:13 pm (UTC)



Oct. 12th, 2005 03:09 am (UTC)
Wonderful synopsis, that's exactly why I love the movie and the show (having missed the show when it originally aired also), and why I love the other shows/movies I love, including Babylon 5, although I think firefly does it better. I had only one problem with the movie and it's a minor problem. I won't give any spoilers here, but I disagreed slightly with the direction they went in for River. I won't say they were wrong, just that I wish they had spent more time emphasizing one aspect and less time emphasizing the aspect they did focus on, as it was, IMO, the less interesting of the two.

~S (Joreth)
Oct. 13th, 2005 09:30 pm (UTC)
Genre bending.
"Now, Firefly isn't, or properly wasn't, traditional science fiction. It's more like a science fiction western--my two least favorite television genre…"

Jeez, you know what you like & what you don't like, yet managed to delve into a show which combined two of your least favourite.

And persevered through half of the shows to find it all worthwhile.

I never made it to watch Firefly while it was originally broadcast. Tempted to get the DVD just to see what the buzz is about.

Oct. 21st, 2005 04:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Genre bending.
"I never made it to watch Firefly while it was originally broadcast. Tempted to get the DVD just to see what the buzz is about."

You should--you might find that it's really worth watching.

I still haven't seen all the episodes of the TV series, but it's on the List of Things To Do.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )