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Study Guide: Josh Whedon's "Serenity"


SERENITY

Josh WhedonWritten and Directed by Joss Whedon
released 2005 (Nebula Awards:  Best Script, 2005)
from the original TV series, Firefly (2002) 
Fan Sites:

http://www.browncoats.com/
www.fireflyfans.net/

Serenity/Joss Whedon Study Questions
Serenity Study Guide (PDF)
Julian Sanchez, "Out To the Black: The Existentialist Libertarianism of Joss Whedon's Space Western" (article; PDF)

Themes


acceptance of other
defining "human"
distinguishing "good" from "evil"
independence and free will
faith versus belief
media:  "the news" versus "the truth"
the motive of anger (madness) versus the motive of love
the morality of torture
the role of government
what is a hero?

Serenity Crew


Serenity crew castMal: Nathan Fillion
Zoë: Gina Torres
Wash: Alan Tudyk
Inara: Morena Baccarin
Jayne: Adam Baldwin
Kaylee: Jewel Staite
Simon: Sean Maher
River: Summer Glau

Other Major Characters

Shepherd Book
Shepherd Book*: Ron Glass The Operative
The Operative: Chiwetel Ejiofor
Mr. Universe: David Krumholtz
*former Serenity crew memberMr. Universe and Bride-bot

Secondary Characters


Dr. Mathias: Michael Hitchcock
Dr. Caron: Sarah Paulson
Mingo: Yan Feldman
Fanty: Rafael Feldman
Lenore: Nectar Rose
Teacher: Tamara Taylor
Lilac Young Tough: Glenn Howerton
Young River: Hunter Ansley Wryn
Boy Student: Logan O'Brien
Boy Student: Erik Erotas
Girl Student: Demetra Raven
Girl Student: Jessica Huang
Girl Student: Marley McClean
Ensign: Scott Kinworthy
Helmsman: Erik Weiner
Lab Technician: Conor O'Brien
Lab Technician: Peter James Smith
Trade Agent: Weston Nathanson
Young Female Intern: Carrie 'CeCe' Cline
Vault Guard: Chuck O'Neil
Lilac Mom: Amy Wieczorek
Lilac Son: Tristan Jarred
Fan Dancer: Elaine Mani Lee
Mining Camp Boy: Terrence Hardy Jr.
Alliance Pilot: Brian O'Hare
Black Room Soldier: Ryan Tasz
Black Room Soldier: Colin Patrick Lynch
News Anchor: Terrell Tilford
Slovenly Beaumonde: Joshua Michael Kwiat
Cornelia: Ani (not cr.)
Bartender: Antonio Rufino (not cr.)
Chinese Snake Dancer: Linda Wang (not cr.)
Bar Guy: Rick Williamson (not cr.)
Futuristic Worker: Mark Winn (not cr.)

Selected Bibliography of On-Line Resources


Chocano, Carina.  "Giddyup, Spaceman."  Salon Magazine 03 Oct. 2002. <http://www.salon.com/2002/10/03/firefly/

Murray, Rebecca.  "Joss Whedon Talks About Serenity." About.com: Hollywood Movies 2010. <http://movies.about.com/od/serenity/a/serenjw092305.htm?p=1>

Nussbaum, Emily. "Must-See Metaphysics."  New York Times Magazine 22 September 2002. <http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/22/magazine/must-see-metaphysics.html? sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1&pagewanted=print>

Sanchez, Julian.  "Out To the Black:  The Existentialist Libertarianism of Joss Whedon's Space Western." Reason 30 September 2005. <http://reason.com/archives/2005/09/30/out-to-the-black>

Schmidt, Jakob. Rev. of The Existential Joss Whedon: Evil and Human Freedom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Serenity, by J. Michael Richardson and J. Douglas Rabb.  SF Site (2007).  <http://www.sfsite.com/03b/jw244.htm>

Selected Quotes


RIVER: We meddle...  People don't like to be meddled with.  We tell them what to do, what to think, don't run, don't walk.  We're in their homes and in their heads, and we haven't the right.  We're meddlesome. 

———<•>———

ALLIANCE SCIENTIST: Gave up a brilliant future in medicine as well.  It's madness.
OPERATIVE: Madness?  Have you looked at this scan carefully, doctor?  At his face?  It's love, in point of fact--something a good deal more dangerous.

———<•>———

OPERATIVE: Would you be killed in your sleep like an ailing pet?  This is a good death.  There's no shame in this--in a man's death, a man who has done fine works.  We're making a better world.  All of them. Better worlds.

———<•>———

ZOE: You know what the definition of a hero is?  Someone who gets other people killed.  You can look it up later.

———<•>———

TRADE AGENT: Hey!  You all are Browncoats, hey?  Fought for independence?  Petty thieving ain't exactly soldiers work.
MAL: War's long done.  We're all just folk now.

———<•>———

SHEPHERD BOOK:  Why is it every time I mention belief, you think I'm talking about faith.  . .  .

———<•>———

MAL:  I stake my crew's life on the theory that you're a person.

———<•>———

MAL:  Half of writing history is hiding the truth.

———<•>———

MR. UNIVERSE: There is no news.  There is only the truth of the signal.  What I see.  And, there's the puppet theater the Parliament jesters foist on the somnambulant [sleepwalking] public.

———<•>———

SHEPHERD BOOK: I killed the ship that killed us.  Not very Christian of me.
MAL: You did what's right.

———<•>———

SHEPHERD BOOK:  I don't care what you believe.  Just believe it.

———<•>———

OPERATIVE: I'm sorry.  If your quarry goes to ground, leave no ground to go to.  You should have taken my offer.  Or did you think none of this was your fault?
MAL: I don't murder children.
OPERATIVE: I do.  If I have to.
MAL: Why?  Do you even know why they sent you?
OPERATIVE: It's not my place to ask.  I believe in something greater than myself.  A better world.  A world without sin.
MAL: So me and mine gotta lay down and die...  so you can live in your better world?
OPERATIVE: I'm not going to live there.  There's no place for me there...  any more than there is for you. Malcolm...  I'm a monster.What I do is evil.  I have no illusions about it, but it must be done.

———<•>———

OPERATIVE: It's not my place to ask.  I believe in something greater than myself.  A better world; a world without sin.  . .  . what I do is evil . .  . there's no place for me there.

———<•>———

DR. CARON [Miranda scientist]:
These are just a few of the images we've recorded.  And you can see, it wasn't what we thought.  There's been no war here and no terraforming event.  The environment is stable.
It's the Pax.  The G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate that we added to the air processors.  It was supposed to calm the population, weed out aggression.  Well, it works.  The people here stopped fighting.  And then they stopped everything else.  They stopped going to work, they stopped breeding, talking, eating.  There's 30 million people here, and they all just let themselves die.

———<•>———

MAL: [RE: What they found on Miranda] This record here's about twelve years old.  Parliament buried it and it stayed buried until River here dug it up.  This is what they were afraid she knew.  And they were right to fear.  There's a universe of folk who're gonna know it, too.  Someone *has to* speak for these people.  [pause] Y'all got on this boat for different reasons, but y'all come to the same place.  So now I'm asking more of you than I have before.  Maybe all.  Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again.  Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean.  A year from now, ten?  They'll
swing back to the belief that they can make people...  better.  And I do not hold to that.  So no more runnin'.  I aim to misbehave.

———<•>———

JAYNE quoting SHEPHERD BOOK:  If you can't do something smart, do something right.

———<•>———

WASH: I'm a leaf on the wind.  Watch how I sore.  . .  . It's okay.  I'm a leaf on the wind.
MAL: What does that mean?!

———<•>———

ZOE: Do you really think any of us are going to get through this?
JAYNE: Well I might.

———<•>———

MR. UNIVERSE (via his fembot): They can't stop the signal, Mal.  They can never stop the signal.

———<•>———

MAL: The rest of the 'verse is going to know that, too.  Because they need to.
OPERATIVE: Do you really believe that?
MAL: I do.
OPERATIVE: Are you willing to die for that?
MAL: I am.  . .  . 'Course that ain't exactly Plan A.

———<•>———

OPERATIVE: Do you know what your sin is, Mal?
MAL: I'm a fan of all seven . .  . but right now, I'm going to have to go with wrath.

———<•>———

OPERATIVE:  I think they know I'm no longer . .  . their man.

———<•>———

MAL: I'm likely to kill you, myself, if I see you again.
OPERATIVE: You won't.  There is nothing left to see.

———<•>———

MAL: You know what the first rule of flyin' is?  Well I suppose you do, since you already know what I'm about to say.
RIVER: I do.  But I like to hear you say it.
MAL: Love.  You can know all the math in the 'Verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as a turn in the worlds.  Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells ya she's hurtin' 'fore she keens.  Makes her a home.

Last Updated: 05/01/2016

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