One of the most important, yet least talked-about aspects of Firefly is the genesis of the Alliance – or to use it’s full name, the Sino-American Alliance. However, Asian culture is a huge part of the ‘Verse – yes, more than just colourful profanity.
The fusion of Wild West-esque saloons and bars (and brothels, in the case of ‘Heart of Gold’) with the marketplace atmosphere and prevalence of Asian customs creates a completely unique vibe that only Firefly can claim.
Joss Whedon says in the Serenity audio commentary that having a mix of cultures was always important to him during Firefly. From the common usage of Mandarin to small things like Mr. Universe’s Jewish wedding seen in a background monitor, it seems like Whedon left no cultural stone unturned. Even various religions get a turn in the metaphorical limelight – the two obvious examples being the Companion’s Buddhism and Shepherd Book’s Christianity. While many residents of the ‘Verse seem to have forgone religion entirely, needing only faith in the Alliance or the Browncoats, it is still common. In fact, Whedon’s view of the future is one of the most realistic seen in pop culture – one where humanity simply continued to grow. There’s no aliens or mystical elements – just humans trying to get by.
It was interesting idea to approach the show in this way. It’s been proven time and time again that a series can sustain on explosions and American soldiers/detectives/ with little in the way of proper character development (depressing as that may be). This goes hand in hand with what I call ‘bro culture’. You know what I mean – drinks, dubstep, and general douchery. For Whedon to forgo this route and actually craft an intelligent show with international influences shows both bravery and respect for his audience. Unfortunately – as we all know – the evil tyrant Fox decided that intelligence is overrated and axed it.
Regrettably, this says a lot about public taste. It’s quite disappointing that an intelligent, cultural show such as Firefly could only last 14 episodes when something as inane as Jersey Shore is on it’s sixth season. That said, considerable amounts of people have been recruited to the Browncoat cause in recent years – thanks in no small part to the amount of dedicated followers and the ubiquity of the episodes online. It shows how a brilliant show can never truly die – Whedon and the majority of the cast held a “Firefly 10th Anniversary” panel at the 2012 Comic-Con. Here’s hoping for a 20th Anniversary appearance.