After the death of Ray Bradbury, the Mackinac Center featured an article which mentioned the mythopoeic aspects of his futuristic literature that inspired at least one nerdy intern to further explore the themes of liberty and free market ideals in science fiction. Mythopoeia is a term coined by men like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, who had a great appreciation for the power of a fantasy. The concept is that, though a myth or story may not be real, there can be real, deep truths within that are better grasped through the illustration than they would be by a direct explanation.
Human rights and freedoms are so fundamental that they are almost inseparable from a good plot. Would Casablanca have lasted this long if Lazslo was evading his taxes instead of the Nazis? Though his taxes may have been unfair, this situation will not give a feeling of gravity as effectively as an army of Nazis will. Still, it is the idea of fighting against an injustice that draws the audience in, because though they are not facing an army, there are situations in their own lives to which it relates and lends lasting inspiration. When it comes to the themes in Science Fiction, there are far too many empires, republics, and anarchies to cover in one article, so grab your blaster and prepare for hyperspace – it’s going to be a long summer of stellar posts!
Cowboys, explosions, space ships, honor, romance … An unprecedented clashing of genres seamlessly weaves together a celebrated statement of independence in the cult classic TV show Firefly. More than just a single-season pretty face, Captain Mal Reynolds and his crew members embody many of the central tenants of men searching for a free society.
Many businesses earth-side consider moving states to avoid business-crippling regulations, but Captain Reynolds left the earth altogether! After a costly defeat in the Browncoated Rebels’ war of independence, Mal took to the sky without his love, land, or property rights, escaping into space to preserve what little freedom he had left. If this seems extreme, take a look at the policies employed by the Alliance. If every government is arguably coercive, the Alliance is unmistakably so. As he pursues the profitable trading business he used to enjoy on the outskirts of regulation, Mal comes face to face with many underworld ruffians looking to go back on a deal, but the looming danger is always coming meeting with the ever vigilant forms of the Alliance; assassins, bounty hunters and Reavers; aggressive genetic mutations of a government-funded project which has gone horribly wrong.
Though the idea of government is to protect, The Alliance becomes damaging when it refuses to admit the existence of Reavers and resolve that deadly problem they created. It also hurts in smaller ways, such as when it fails to supply medicine to a town that needs it. Mal and his crew, originally hired to steal this precious cargo, change their minds when they realize what it is and give it to the people that need it, with the Captain’s powerful assertion that there “ain’t nothing dishonest about getting’ goods to folk that need ‘em” whether or not it is against the law.
Looking at the world of Firefly, the places where Serenity’s crew frequent and the deals they make aren’t always safe. In fact, some places are chaotic and downright lawless. Amidst these dangers, the crew always bears their arms, but only for self-defense. Their arms more often come to the aid of those in need, a testament to the ability of a principled man to police himself. Now, this is not to say that the ’verse wouldn’t be better off with some well-chosen and responsibly enforced rules. The problem comes when the Alliance is as violent and corrupt as the thieves, a central issue in Firefly.
This is the environment which prompted the statement, “That’s what the government’s for, to get in a man’s way,” spoken by a disillusioned Mal Reynolds early in the series. Even the more optimistic Shepherd Book, a passenger on the ship, noted the dangers of absolute power, remarking that a government is “a body of people usually-notably-ungoverned.” As Mal begins to regain his faith in mankind and realize that the ‘verse is bigger than him and his crew, he begins to think more about what he can do to limit the power of government vowing that there would be “no more runnin’, I aim to misbehave!”
As citizens of a republic, Michiganders have a political voice in the way Mal never did in our rights to vote, to go to court over injustices, to legally protest and chose who represents us. Therefore we can likely lay our blasters aside in favor of these less hazardous methods. But that does not mean that citizens of this planet shouldn’t always be looking out for the continuation and extension of freedom, and remain informed on the issues which pass through the wilds of the legislature. Hopefully if dedicated citizens each do their duty and keep their ships in order, our government will never become the Alliance – Firefly has already shown us how that would end!