*Spoiler* The Atypical Reaction
Thursday, October 20, 2005

I finally got a chance to listen to Firefly Talk #1 podcast. Enjoyed the show. I particularly enjoyed the article “In Defense of Whedon’s Zoe; A Warrior Woman in Battle” about Zoe’s (lack of) emotion to her husband’s death. A lot of points and background information on her character we’re made in that article. The article was making a defense about how Zoe reacted to the death of Wash seemed inadequate. We didn’t see the ‘traditional woman’ fall apart in tears and become despondent. I can’t really imagine Zoe doing that. This is one of the few moments in the movie, where background information about Zoe was not only helpful but also necessary to fully understand her reaction. Watching Firefly, I always saw Zoe as a woman who deeply controlled her emotions. The article on Firefly Talk #1 points out that people who go career military must have or learn to control their emotions. Zoe was career military. She would have to have learned keeping her emotions in check and herself in focus. Being that she was an Independent, I’m going to assume she did not live in a central planet. In the show Firefly, and even a little in the movie, it is shown that “survival of the fittest” is what determines your life span in the outer planets. And for Zoe being a woman, didn’t make it any easier. We’d like to think that equality has gotten better in 500 years, but the episode “Heart of Gold” showed us that plainly, that’s not true. Women and men, who survived in the outer planets, survived because they did what they had to. Zoe simply turned it into an art.

I’m not going to repeat a bunch of what the article said (i might a little, sorry). I invite you to listen to the podcast, though. That article, along with the rest of the show was very interesting and format was excellent. The people working on that podcast did a superb job. I’m just point out things I've said in the past concerning Zoe.

During her time on Serenity, I’m thinking that Zoe probably mellowed out… a little bit. She is seen having a sense of humor. Laughing, listening to and telling jokes and stories. She had a blast calling the entire crew to the cargo bay after discovering Mal had accidentally gotten married. In the episode “The Message” Tracy shocked when he found out Zoe got married, even making a comment about how “next you’ll tell me she has emotion and smiles.” But training and experiences don’t just disappear or are forgotten. The hard emotional shell goes active and strong when needed. Zoe doesn’t even flinch when Niska gives her Mal’s ear in “War Stories.” After getting shot in the Firefly pilot “Serenity” Zoe almost immediately looks up and shoots without running for cover. She doesn’t hesitate to push Kaylee out of the path of the fireball in “Out of Gas,” which results in her getting badly hurt. She also doesn’t loose her cool when Tracy points a gun at Wash “The Message.”

Her husband’s death profoundly hurt her. The emotions are stored deep in her. She switched to military mode very quickly because of Mal (probably the only other person she care about, but never romantically). She lost herself in rage while repelling the Reavers. And I’m sure, while she is alone she grieves for him, but she will never do it in the open.

I’ve always seen her as a very strong woman. Sure of herself, but not arrogant or overconfident to a flaw. One of the most capable members of the crew of Serenity. She reminds me a lot of the captain in the movie “Master and Commander – Far Side of the World.” An officer should be emotionally detached from the crew. Its impossible to do that on a ship as small as Serenity, and with such a small crew, but if Zoe ever had to vent, it was out of sight, in her room, probably with Wash. Even Wash would only argue about decisions with her and only when they we’re alone. Mal and Zoe couldn’t be completely detached from the crew, but Zoe did a better job of keeping her emotions in check then Mal.

Having seen Firefly and Serenity , I can say that there is only three times where Zoe surprised the heck out of me. The first time, is when she makes dinner for Wash at the end of “War Stories.” That scene is one of the most endearing scenes to me, not because I believe women should only be behind a stove, but because Zoe, who I can’t visualize behind a stove in a kitchen, was making dinner for her husband. It was her way of showing love to him. It was one of the many scenes that make Firefly such a great show. The other two are in the movie, the second one being right after Wash died. Zoe, for a few seconds, lost it. That struck me as hard as the actual death did. She recovered quickly, but the emotional barrier buckled, and that’s worth noting. And the third time is during the funeral. Seeing Zoe wearing a dress. Honestly, how many times did she wear a dress in the show. I can’t think of one. Heck… even Mal wore a dress (or at least a bonnet) in “Our Mrs. Reynolds,” having Zoe take station behind the carriage.

Some of my friends have been debating the possible symbolism of why Zoe wore a white dress instead of black dress. I’m not an English major. I get as lost navigating through Shakespeare as I do going through LA traffic at rush hour during the Christmas season in the middle of a rainstorm. I think, its simply the only dress she had on the ship. I don’t remember her ever wearing a dress in the show. Maybe it’s the slinky dress Wash wanted to buy her in “Shindig.”

As far as mourning goes… as the article in Firefly Talk #1 said, the conversation Mal and Zoe have just before take off in the end of the movie, was probably more him asking her how she was faring then about the ship. Another thing to notice, when they are repairing Serenity, there is a scene of Zoe, by herself working on the flight deck windshield. Perhaps she felt that this would be the best way for her to find closure.

Zoe’s reaction to Wash’s death in the movie… at first seemed shallow and insufficient, but after thinking about it some (and seeing the BDM again, and again, and again) I think more reaction would have been out of character for her. Its unusual to see women take the back seat in displaying emotion, but Zoe’s character was one that needed to. I think Gina Torres did an excellent job action out Zoe’s part. To me at least, she beats Demi Moore in G.I. Jane , which is also another interesting movie to check out. Not one of my favorites, but nevertheless interesting to watch.

It will be interesting to see how Zoe is doing in future stories.

To listen to Firefly Talk #1 go here:

Great article and writing.
The article: “In Defense of Whedon’s Zoe; A Warrior Woman in Battle”


Thursday, October 20, 2005 5:12 PM


I didn't know that white is the color of mourning in China. Thanks for that info. That puts a whole new spin on that line of thought.

Thursday, October 20, 2005 3:51 PM


I agree.... I saw the movie today again and Zoe did what Zoe always does.... she's always ready... even in grief. She is the consumate warrior.


Thursday, October 20, 2005 3:40 PM


I've heard people complaining that Zoe didn't show enough grief at Wash's death, but I completely agree with what you've said here. For her to disobey orders in a battle situation and put herself at a tactical disadvantage was the equivalent of another woman having a complete breakdown with tears and wailing. It didn't really strike me until the second viewing, but that is Zoe having a meltdown.

And my first thought upon seeing her in that dress was, "Oh, a slinky dress! Wash must've loved that."

Thursday, October 20, 2005 3:00 PM


Quick point of interest, in China, white is the color of mourning. I think that explains her dress.


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