Alliance House Rules

UPDATED: Friday, October 21, 2005 07:09
VIEWED: 4100
PAGE 1 of 1

Thursday, October 20, 2005 8:27 PM


This is how it is:

500 years in the future some people decided that the Earth was pretty much done, and it was time to move on. So they did. Pioneers from many places volunteered to give the universe a try. They took a lot of expensive terraforming equipment, seed stock for thousands of plants and animals, and whatever they could carry on their backs. Each ship was a tiny Noah’s Ark, bringing humanity to its cosmic destiny. A whole generation grew up and died without ever seeing the outside of a spaceship, but it was worth it. We colonized a bunch of new Earths, and promptly commenced using up those.

This was a wise decision, but it is not the end of the story. That’s because hope, a few very long books, and the Internet were not the only things our pioneers brought with them to the new solar system. They also brought culture. And because on the old Earth two mighty powers had risen above all others, the culture they brought was the culture of the Alliance.

On Earth-That-Was, the Alliance was forged with the unbreakable peace between two superpowers: China, the Great Dragon, and her weaker brother, America. It was said on Earth-That-Was that the dragon was the world’s strength, but the eagle was the world’s wings. That was the Alliance. Power--and flight.

Out in the ‘verse the word came to mean something different. From the ashes of the old system on Earth, the first real political movement of the new system emerged. It was a vision of an Alliance that went beyond the gentlemens’ clubs of the powerful and finally included even the weak. An Alliance for everybody.

Even when the worlds seemed far too big on their own, it was not hard to find recruits.

One of my many lamentations about the early death of Firefly, Joss Whedon’s brilliant flash in the pan, was that we never really got to meet the Alliance. We get little clues, of course. We see them briefly in the Unification War: the Alliance is ruthless. We’ve seen some of their planets and ships: the Alliance is rich. And of course Firefly is resonant with a polyglot blend of Chinese and American cultures: the Alliance is everywhere.

However, because Firefly’s creators never got to suss out the moral dilemmas of their ‘verse, this is pretty much all we see of protagonist Mal Reynolds’ enemy government. The only informaton we ever get is ruthless-rich-powerful-enemy. In many ways this is one of the most unfortunate consequences of losing the show. Now the Alliance is just the totalitarian space empire of the month, a dreadful cliche of science fiction and a drag on the otherwise fresh Firefly.

How do we know the Alliance is totalitarian? Because it says so, right on the box. They’re the “new totalitarian Alliance regime”. Synopses of the film are also quick to condemn the Alliance. After all, they are on the wrong side of the plot. That the Alliance is corrupt--not just wrong, but evil, not just powerful, but tyrranical--is simply assumed.

However, it is my impression that Mr. Whedon never intended to create so simple a device. It’s our own minds that strive to make the connection between an all-powerful interplanetary Alliance and similar “evil empires” in the real world. We crave moral conflict, and we relish the symbolism of these stories. We want to see Right triumph over Wrong, the good guys beating the bad guys, Freedom beating the ever-loving snot out of Slavery. As main characters, Mal and his crew are instinctively assosciated with these higher ideals. As an audience we work very hard to make their enemies just as symbolic--just as bad as the Serenity gang is good.

One of the struggles of the literary arts is to upset this boat, to make you confront your own beliefs about right and wrong. Thus, Mal Reynolds is a rebel and a crook. He kills a cop and a young war buddy. In the movie he shoots three unarmed men. In fact, Mal shoots people all the time. He transports and steals things without asking what they are. He lies to the police. He scavenges from the dead. And yet we love him. We’re pulling for him. We hate the Alliance with him. We love Serenity with him. We want him to be happy. We want him to win.

It’s the other half of this tale that gets short shrift. Mal is the good bad guy; the Alliance are... what?

Well, we know they’re fair in matters of crime and punishment. Our clue comes from “Bushwhacked,” where Mal is told that the sale of his Serenity will be applied to the cost of his defense. His defense, mind you, not his trial. That tells us two things 1) that he gets a defense, a costly one, and 2) the Alliance gives fair recompense for confiscated property. Under Alliance rules, the government can take Serenity, but she cannot just disappear. They have to buy her from Mal, even in the deep of space.

We also learn this from our “purplebellies,” the Alliance cops who dog Serenity up and down the edges of the 'verse. When you get pinched, there's a procedure. The cop has to identify himself. He has to identify you. And then he has to inform you that you are “bound by law” to submit to arrest, i.e. “Simon Tam, you are bound by law to stand down.” We don’t know exactly what that means, but we do know that "bound by law" is not a slang term. It's an official classification. If you watch the movie like... well, like a Firefly psycho, you'll notice that Mal has been “bound” five times for “smuggling” and “tariff dodging’.

Sure, it’s not the Miranda rights, but it means something. It means that under Alliance house rules, people can't just disappear. The police can’t come into your house, take your stuff, and kill you just because they don't like you. The Alliance doesn’t bind you with its phenomenal power (though I imagine they could). The Alliance binds you with the law. The rule of law. A rule that applies to everyone equally, criminal or not, rebel notwithstanding.

In Mal's world, there are no more Saddam Husseins. No more Hitlers. And the Unification War was literally the last big war in human history. The Alliance is controlled by a democratic Parliament and governs more or less equally. The Independents and the Alliance don’t divide on ideals--any more than the North and South did in the Civil War. They divide on the semantics. The split is in the interpretation.

The Alliance are the good bad guys. And in case you’re wondering why it’s relevant--three years after, five hundred years before--fellow travelers, the Alliance is us.


Thursday, October 20, 2005 8:52 PM


Yeah, I know you guys know it already.


Thursday, October 20, 2005 9:40 PM


Hey, you're looking at one of the biggest Alliance sympathizers in the forums. Mostly because I like the antagonists sometimes. I had always hoped for a sympathetic Alliance character (much like my good Captain Jed Grey in my fanfic). But the Operative, to me, was somewhat sympathetic, given my liking of a good antagonist. So quick are many of us to pigeonhole the Alliance into the Dreaded Galactic Empire (Evil Sith Lord not included.) It's just the government. And since Mr. Reynold's jobs put him at odds with the law, that means he's up against the gov't a lot of the time. Doesn't mean the alliance is evil, just means it's against the hero of the story. There were (and are) heroes on both sides.

Chief Engineer - USS SereniTREE


Friday, October 21, 2005 3:22 AM



Originally posted by FireflySheila:
The Alliance are the good bad guys. And in case you’re wondering why it’s relevant--three years after, five hundred years before--fellow travelers, the Alliance is us.

Hey, we're not telling people what to think. We're just trying to show them how.

[Ducks to avoid the sudden but inevitable stylus to the forehead]

Ain't about you, Jayne. It's about what they need.


Friday, October 21, 2005 3:43 AM



Originally posted by FireflySheila:

The Alliance are the good bad guys. And in case you’re wondering why it’s relevant--three years after, five hundred years before--fellow travelers, the Alliance is us.

Very interesting comments on the Alliance, and I'd agree, they ARE us. Just as quick to help or ignore, just as benevolant or corrupt, the whole black and white and grey shebang. Those watchin' the show with half an eye, or just the movie by itself might well come away with the 'Evil Empire' idea. But we all know different. Joss shys away from simple notions of good vs. bad; that's why we like him.
Thanks for puttin' the highlight on that.

Chrisisall, fine tunin' his use of the semi-colon


Friday, October 21, 2005 6:24 AM



I tend to view the Alliance.. just like I do everything in the firefly universe. Very much in the grey. This is not a 'verse of black and white. I tend to see the alliance as.. yes.. obviously there are members of the alliance.. and espeically some high ranking memebers of parliment that are evil and corrupt. And do such things as try to gas entire planets to keep them "in control". But I don't think that speaks to the ENTIRE alliance. There are probably way more people who are generaly "good" and moral and just trying to do the what they think is right. Just like in our own world. There are some politicans who I beleive generally do the right thing to the best of their abilites.. and obviosly there are politicans that are very corrupt. Power corrupts. So the alliance is no different.. it has good and bad... it's not just this gigantic evil empire.

And I think the operative in the movie played this perfectly. Yes.. he was against Mal and gang.. but was just doing what he truely believed in.. not because he was stricly "evil". But yes.. he does sin and kill poeple towards the end he believes in. So.. yes.. more towards the evil than good. But not purly evil.

I haven't seen a whole lot of talk about what happens to the operative once he leaves Mal. Do you think Joss has plans for him if later in the story? Or do you think he would be bound by principle to kill himself on his sword because of his failure? Isn't that why he killed the doctor at the beginning, because of the doctors failure failure?

My thinking is that if that was the case... I believe Joss would have showed it. Maybe since the operatives beliefs are shattered.. he no longer believes he has to kill himself. And him telling Mal in his last words "you won't".. is Joss setting us up for probably the last thing we would expect.



Friday, October 21, 2005 7:09 AM



Sure, it’s not the Miranda rights, but it means something. It means that under Alliance house rules, people can't just disappear.

Apparently people can be kidnapped, incarcerated against their will and experimented on if they're brilliant and have psychic talents. And if they escape, the Alliance can send an assassin after them. So it would seem that people CAN just disappear.






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