Ni kan inte ta himlen ifrån mig – Firefly med marxistiska ögon

Jag har i ett annat inlägg nämnt att Firefly är en annorlunda SF-serie i så mått att den handlar om människor som inte bestämmer, som inte innehar makt. Människor som hankar sig fram, i viss mån oppositionella, människor på den förlorande sidan i ett krig. Det är lite som efter US-amerikanska inbördeskriget, med en utkant dit man kan fly som förlorare och leva sitt liv i kamp, delvis med sina egna regler och utanför centralmaktens regler, utanför lagen. Vilda västern i rymden helt enkelt.

En som tittat på Firefly ur marxistiskt litteraturvetenskapligt perspektiv (kanske inte så himla intressant, men kanske mer intressant än man kan tro) är bloggaren Miles McNutt (heter han verkligen så?) i ett inlägg som heter just Ni kan inte ta himlen ifrån mig – emarxistiska läsning av Joss Whedons ”Firefly”:

The realm of science fiction intended for mass consumption within a popular culture realm is a world in which idealist systems of governance and society have been the relative norm. If we look to Star Trek, it represented a world where there was no struggling working class and no sense of economic structure: rather, food came out of magic machines and life was threatened by arch-villains as opposed to the struggle of the masses. Even Star Wars’ Tatooine, despite the representation of slave labour within Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, is never seen as a class struggle but rather a personal issue for young Anakin and his mother. And really, let’s be honest: they don’t even have it so bad when it comes to slaves.

Joss Whedon, meanwhile, wanted to create a science fiction environment where things weren’t all shiny, and where true political and social ramifications not only existed but set the stage for the action that would follow. Firefly is not a glorified and idealized view of the future, but one that actually features an acknowledgement of the impact of things such as base and superstructure on the production of language, and as a result the production of literature. As a result, it is possible to view the production of society within the series itself as a unique case study of the Marxist analysis we have discussed in class.


The world of Firefly is a vast expanse of space where terra-forming allowed Earth to expand its population onto a series of border planets. What makes this unique is that Earth’s leadership was provided by, according to the scenario, a relationship between the Chinese and the Americans. After this period, a civil war broke out between the Alliance (The government forces) and the Browncoats, the civilian troops fighting for their freedom and autonomy. The loss of the Browncoats resulted in the full takeover of the Alliance outside of the border planets, creating a centralized power who seeks to dominate culture and society within its sphere of influence.

This present a unique set of political circumstances based on the Marxist principles of base and superstructure. While the relations of production remain largely the same, although uniquely presented within a science fiction series, it is the superstructure which is extremely complex. The ideology of the society is a complex and oppressive government force that we never get a true sense for, and is a unique view into the production of literature within this environment. As Eagleton notes when discussing literature and ideology, vulgar Marxism “tends to see literary works merely as reflections of dominant ideologies” (Eagleton 17, [ refererar till Terry Eagletons Marxism and Literary Criticism, min anm.]).

The creation of literature within Firefly can most be seen in Season One’s “Jaynestown,” where the ship visits a planet where a large working class rallies around the image of one of the show’s most surly characters, Jayne. After arriving, they discover that Jayne has become a folk hero, and they have composed a song in his honour. This, unfortunately, is the closest that Firefly came to showing us the creation of literature within this theory.

This relates to Eagleton’s allusion to Althusser, in that ideology (And therefore literature, if we’re following said complex mess), “signifies the imaginary ways in which men experience the real world” (18). This song is disconnected from the politics, and demonstrates how ideology can define one’s living conditions and their desire for a saviour. They start to create ways to relate to the world, a simulation if you will, to avoid the drudgery of their basic existence. This, of course, relates back to Jameson and the concept of simulation, which relates back to Baudrillard, and emphasizes the degree to which literature can gain this level of cultural and social significance. This song, as silly as it is, changed their lives and united a society.

However, as in itself a created text, viewing it through a class-based lens of Marxism gives us a new sense of the show’s ability to engage with those sectors of the population in a real fashion. As a piece of literature, it is both cognizant and aware of the social structures, and is willing to (if anything) extenuate them within its construction. The lower class becomes abandoned settlers slaving away while their corrupt government fails to offer them proper protection and medical supplies, as opposed to just a storyline that our heroes need to remove themselves from. In other words, it is more of a reflection of society and its relationships than any other form of science fiction, and perhaps even closer to that reflection than some “realistic” dramas.

A Marxist perspective (obviously) isn’t perfect in regards to Firefly: the reflection is not overly precise within a vulgar perspective, and we don’t gain enough information about The Alliance to truly judge the relationship that they have with other class systems within the structure of the series. However, what a Marxist Literary analysis does is pinpoint and emphasize what makes Firefly different from other science fiction designed for mass consumption: it’s real. It is about the grungy reality of space, as opposed to its shiny futuristic spaceships, and in representing these class struggles it is raising issues that other shows and films refuse to raise. Although I was admittedly in love with the show before this point, viewing it through Marxist eyes has provided a greater understanding of its genius.

Även om jag kanske tycker att hans analys är överdrivet intellektuell så understryker hans analys att Firefly är en av de mest intressanta SF-serier som gjorts för TV.


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