“Curse Your Sudden, But Inevitable, Betrayal!”: My Reaction to a Whedon Firefly Story Idea That Never Got Made

On Sunday night, the Science Channel had a Firefly reunion to commemorate the 10th year anniversary of the show that revealed a number of interesting tidbits and discoveries about the show.

One of them had to do with Inara. We already know that Inara was dying of a terminal illness. Morena Baccarin confirmed that one of the planned subplots of the series (which had also been hinted about in the DVD commentary) at DragonCon in 2008. Well, last night, executive producer Tim Minear disclosed the details of the significance of the syringe during the crew’s encounter with the Reavers in the pilot episode of the series:

She had this magic syringe. She would take this drug. And if she were, for instance, raped, the rapist would die a horrible death. The story was that she gets kidnapped by Reavers and when Mal finally got to the ship to save her from the Reavers, he gets on the Reaver ship and all the Reavers are dead. Which would suggest a kind of really bad assault. At the end of the episode, he comes in after she’s been horribly brutalized, and he comes in and he gets down on his knee, and he takes her hand. And he treats her like a lady. And that’s the kind of stuff that we wanted to do. It was very dark. And this was actually the first story that Joss pitched to me when he asked me to come work on the show. He said, ‘These are the kind of stories we’re going to do.’

He treats her like a lady. Excuse me?

As much as I loved Mal, I absolutely loathed how he interacted with Inara in the series. There was this underlying romantic tension and he did care for her. But still, in every single fucking episode, he called her a “whore” (despite her telling him to knock it the fuck off). And, frankly, even though she was a sex worker, Mal used it as a pejorative and, his calling her a whore was so incredibly misogynist and incredibly slut-shamey. It left a bad taste in my mouth.

Look, I get that the Mal/Inara thing was being played like they were star crossed lovers who were doomed to never hook up because of his HUGE issue with her being a Companion (though that plays into the whole anti-hero thing Mal had going; he’s not a good man). I don’t think this was something that I don’t think he’d ever be able to get over despite him treating her like a gentleman – despite calling her a whore. This dichotomy is so brilliantly highlighted in that scene in “Shindig” he tries to defend her honour and says:

Inara: You have a strange sense of nobility Captain. You’ll lay a man out for implying I’m a whore but you keep calling me one to my face.

Mal: I might not show respect to your job, but he didn’t respect you. That’s the difference. Inara, he doesn’t even see you.

Maybe I would have interpreted things differently had they played out the subplot within the series. Or, maybe not. The way Minear describes it reads as if Mal realizes that the love of his life is dying and finally respects all of her (including the whole being a whore thing) because she took out a boatload of Reavers with her.

After they gang raped her to death.

Which implies that – despite the widespread yet horribly offensive belief that you can’t rape sex workers because they’re sex workers – that Inara is somehow cleansed by the experience and that Mal can now allow himself to show her the respect and love she didn’t before deserve.

Or, alternatively, that Mal finally wakes the fuck up.

I don’t know which one it is. Maybe a little bit of both.

Between this story idea, what happened to Wash in the film, and to Agent Coulson in The Avengers movie, Joss needs to stop the “Jenny Calendaring” his characters for emotional resonance. It’s getting so predictable at this point. I’m actually thinking of running odds on who’s going to die in the second Avengers flick.

Author’s Note: This whole storyline provoked such a visceral reaction in me and provoked my righteous feminist fury to the point that I’m still ruminating on this in my head. Maybe it’s just the residual effects of those “gray-faced men with two-dollar haircuts” trying to explain to me what rape is. Part of it is that it always gets me when a man who is renowned for his feminist narratives and strong female characters gets it SO wrong.

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