GENERAL DISCUSSIONS

Browncoats... good guys or not?

POSTED BY: GHOULMAN
UPDATED: Wednesday, February 25, 2004 02:07
SHORT URL:
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Friday, February 6, 2004 11:07 AM

GHOULMAN


I was ruminatin'... yet again... about the subtext of Fireflys premise. The Alliance (who act and dress like Nazis) are certainly the bad guys.

But...

The 'Browncoats' aren't effectively seen as being 'good' in any sense of the word, just the losers of the War. Perhaps the browncoats are a closer parallel to those real-life rebels than the show had time to tell us?

There - that should keep ya'll busy for the week-end. Cheers! Shiny!


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Friday, February 6, 2004 1:15 PM

AURAPTOR

America loves a winner!


How many other browncoats do you even see in the show? There's Zoe, of course. And maybe another smuggler ( forget his name ) from 'Trash'. Hell, even here in the South, (Georgia) there are all sorts of symbols and sentiments for the Confederacy. You'd think there would be some similar affinity to the Independents, even if they were on the losing side. Oh well

To address your question, I'm not sure there is enough evidence, but my GUESSS is that the Independents were just a collection of folks who wanted to remain free and have more self determination.

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Friday, February 6, 2004 1:35 PM

SHINY


Paraphrased from Joss Whedon's commentary, "don't matter none...everone thinks they're righteous"

RIVER
Purple elephants are flying.
MAL
Good. Thanks for the update.

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Friday, February 6, 2004 1:40 PM

FORTUNATUS


Mal - reluctant good guy
Zoe - good guy
Capt. Montgomery - ambivalent, but Mal's friend
Tracey - dumb bad guy
The guy from "Dead or Alive" - bad guy

Anyway, the Alliance are pretty Nazi-like, but I expect that we'd have seen plenty of decent Alliance folks had the show continued. I can't see Joss letting them remain that Star-Wars-Empire-ish for long, considering how much he dislikes playing to stereotype.

All in all, I think Shiny said it well. Everyone's the star of their own show.

_______________
"Yep. That's a cow fetus."

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Friday, February 6, 2004 2:19 PM

GHOULMAN


Quote:

Originally posted by Shiny:
Paraphrased from Joss Whedon's commentary, "don't matter none...everone thinks they're righteous"

RIVER
Purple elephants are flying.
MAL
Good. Thanks for the update.

Nice one!

And yea AU, there isn't much evidence. I can recall the military guys on ships and soldiers on trains that had a Nazi stink, as it were, too them. But, there's all sorts of authoritarian styles to pick from and we could easily find examples other than the Nazis. Would the Alliance control of all, I guess or at least in theory, the planets. Core planets and now, since the war, the rest.

I can also remember seeing Persephony. That planet was controled but fairly normal. And the hospital scenes seemed to show a pretty normal setting more or less. Well, there was a lot of security, hmm. Gotta se that ep again.

And then there are those oh so important family scenes with Simon and River. The whole thing of Simon fighting his father ... lots about what the Alliance is about I recon.

As for the Browncoats... well, the border worlds are obviously destitue and very poor, there might just be a reason for that beyond the war. Hell, perhaps the war had nothing to do with it!

Mal might just be a romantic, the blind sort. Zoe definately isn't like that, she seems not to have many delusions. Hmm. People have there reasons sometimes... wish this show was around a little longer so I don't have to guess. Oh, I said a sad thing, sorry.

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Friday, February 6, 2004 7:11 PM

AERRIN


Nazish? Really? I never got that vibe - what aspects of the Alliance do you think are particularly reminiscent of the Nazis?

Myself, I find their 'evil' to be (and please don't shoot me here) of the sort that comes from a big, huge government where corporations have a huge toe in the door of policy and the little guy slips through the cracks a lot. Rather more like the US.

I don't even find them 'evil,' persay. I find them beaucratic. Willing to sacrifice things they shouldn't be. Too focused on the 'big picture' with not enough attention to the people. A lot of red tape, of struggling to the top, of selling out your brother for a promotion - but that's not evil. That's.. I dunno. Bad, certainly, but I'm not sold on evil.

I'm really interested about the connection between the Alliance and Blue Sun - the hazy lines that run (or don't) between the government that makes our laws and the companies that make the products we buy. What's good for one is good for the other? Dunno.

Anyway - I'd be really interested in hearing which bits are making people think Nazi.

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Friday, February 6, 2004 8:03 PM

LTNOWIS


Quote:

Anyway - I'd be really interested in hearing which bits are making people think Nazi.


Uncaring, stiff, formality is the feeling I got from them. And the guy in The Message just screamed Gestapo. Also they have helmets for their soldiers, unlike the Russians.

Hey, I just realized something. We say they're like Nazis, but didn't Nazis used to be called Brownshirts, like in the 1920s? And didn't the German Army wear gray uniforms?

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Friday, February 6, 2004 8:43 PM

AERRIN


Quote:

Originally posted by LtNOWIS:
Quote:

Anyway - I'd be really interested in hearing which bits are making people think Nazi.


Uncaring, stiff, formality is the feeling I got from them. And the guy in The Message just screamed Gestapo. Also they have helmets for their soldiers, unlike the Russians.



Ah. Now see, the thing is, the Nazis may have been stiff in their formations (they certainly took pride in being well-ordered) but 'uncaring' isn't a term I'd use. They cared quite a bit. Sometimes it wasn't a /good/ thing, but they always exhibited an overwhelming amount of passion - pride in their nationality and their accomplishments and their culture, and hatred of those they percieved to be sullying that, those who were against them.

I don't associate the sort of apathy for the welfare of the people that I see in the Alliance with the Nazis at all. People weren't allowed to just slip between the cracks - Nazis were taken care of (the Nazis were big on social programs - youth groups, sports clubs), and enemies were punshed or eradicated. There was very little just 'ignoring' of folks, the way we see the Alliance doing. Again, that seems to me to be more a trait of certain modern Western nations, where far too many people are allowed to slip between those cracks.

And I have to say, I think the helmets is probably a long shot if we're trying to match governments here.


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Friday, February 6, 2004 8:49 PM

STEVE580


The Independents wanted...well, to be independent of the Alliance. That's all. If you look at the Alliance, you see why. I think that's all it boils down to.
-Steve

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Friday, February 6, 2004 10:13 PM

ROCKETJOCK


Uniform design can be a very useful shorthand in visual SF, although it's remarkably easy to fall into cliche, something Joss usually avoids.

On the other hand, it is a truism that totaltarians, especially fascists, alway have the sharpest uniforms.

"Say what you want about the Nazis, but they made damn fine villians" -- Alan Moore, "Supreme"



RocketJock

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Friday, February 6, 2004 10:21 PM

ZERN


Quote:

Originally posted by AURaptor:
How many other browncoats do you even see in the show? There's Zoe, of course. And maybe another smuggler ( forget his name ) from 'Trash'. Hell, even here in the South, (Georgia) there are all sorts of symbols and sentiments for the Confederacy. You'd think there would be some similar affinity to the Independents, even if they were on the losing side. Oh well

To address your question, I'm not sure there is enough evidence, but my GUESSS is that the Independents were just a collection of folks who wanted to remain free and have more self determination.





I agree with this POV on the Browncoats. They were, in my opinion, similar to the rebels of the Civil War.

Intelligence is rewarded through enginuity.

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Friday, February 6, 2004 10:30 PM

EARLVANDORN


Given that the "good guys" are wearing the brown, the whole nazi thing never ocurred to me til I read it here. What the war made me think of was the war between the states.
We know that Capn Mal fought for the underdog losing side. They fought against a well supplied force fighting for a central (federal) government. As the WBTS wore on, the South ran out of gray dye, so they used the oil of butternut trees to color uniforms, leaving them various shades of dark tan. Finally, in what I recollect was "he Train Job", they're gettng thrown out of a saloon, then get backed up against the cliff. Then this guy tells Mal something like
"You rebels lost"
And Mal says
"Yeah but we shall rise again"
Then the ship comes up and they get away. I always thought it was an american civil war allegory.



Earl

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Friday, February 6, 2004 10:48 PM

LTNOWIS


Quote:

Ah. Now see, the thing is, the Nazis may have been stiff in their formations (they certainly took pride in being well-ordered) but 'uncaring' isn't a term I'd use. They cared quite a bit.


I gotta agree with you here. I guess uncaring was the wrong word. But the bottom line is that when people think of uniformed, organized, formal tyrants, they automatically think of Nazis, who are by far the most infamous example of such a group.

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Saturday, February 7, 2004 8:08 AM

AERRIN


Quote:

Given that the "good guys" are wearing the brown, the whole nazi thing never ocurred to me til I read it here. What the war made me think of was the war between the states.


I agree, though I'd twist it just a tad - what the Alliance/Rebel dynamic makes me think of is what it would be like if there were an American civil war /now/. The difference between then and now is key to me for several reasons.

- The huge, sprawling empire. I think this, right here, is the key to the 'bad' Alliance. I think that the things we see about them that we don't like are related not to an inherent evilness (which is another reason I don't think Nazi applies at all), but to problems arising from their superstructure.

- The way the little people slip through the cracks - intentionally or unintentionally. Those people lost their medicine? Sorry, we've got bigger fish (and to be honest, probably legitimate ones) to fry. That sentiment could come straight from the US right now, if you take out the floating train and the spaceships.

- The influence of the cooperate on the government. We barely see this, but from what's hinted.. holy cow.

So in my mind, I'm imagining a group of citizens who see this type of government setting up to 'bring civilization' to outlying planets (ring a bell much?) and they decide they don't want it. They want to rule themselves. And so they fight, and they lose.

I think the good guy/bad guy dynamic is much more complicated than that - we all know Joss is a fan of shades of gray. I think there are some aspects of the Alliance that are evil (the program that took River). I think /most/ of the Alliance are simply guys trying to do their job, and a lot of times it's hard, because it's so big, there's so much to do, and I'd imagine resources are stretched quite thin. Most of them probably believe that they're bringing civilization, along with law and order and medicine and food and education, to those backwater planets.

And to some extent, they're right. Let's face it - Mal and his crew are criminals. When they're stopped by an Alliance ship, it's usually with a reason. When the Alliance refuses to help them - well. Again. Criminals.

I definately think Joss wants us to have doubts about the white hats/black hats - heck. Inara supported unification. We never really know what half the crew thinks about it. We only know that they want to avoid the Alliance, because they don't want to get caught. So.. yeah. Complicated.

Also still sticking with my 'not Nazis, except they wear uniforms.'


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Saturday, February 7, 2004 9:19 AM

STATIC


You know. . .I've only skimmed through these replies, so if I repeat what others have said, pardon me.

I think it's not as simple as 'good-guy/bad-guy' . . .but the nearest we can gather from the episodes is that the Alliance is not an evil ORGANIZATION, just a government. . .and we all KNOW what Mal says a government it. The only thing I think we can truly say establishes the whole "Alliance good/Independants bad" is the notion that the Alliance wanted one single governmental body for the entire system, whereas the Independants wanted each planet to be 'separate, yet equal', with each planet having their own setup.

Now. . .this here is the DIRECT correlation to the American Civil War, The War Between The States, as it is called in some southern states, "The War of Northern Agression", and as it is called in the more 'gen-teel' circles, "The Great Unpleasantness" (Hey, my family was in Ireland the whole time. Don't ask MY opinion!).

However, I think the 'uniform' issue might be ALOT simpler than we're thinking. Unless Joss says something to the contrary in commentary, I think the use of 'Nazi' helmets might be alot simpler. . .liiiiiiiiiiiike. . .FOX had a whole bunch of them lying around the Costume warehouse. . .add some futuristic patches and weapons, and voila! The Independants were wearing the old-fashioned Army 'steel pot' helmets, used from WW2 all the way up to Vietnam. Once again, perhaps it was a matter of surplus availability. Anyone notice that the NEW Alliance soldier uniforms are the same as the ones worn in "Starship Troopers"?

Just a thought. Maybe I'm way off.

==================================================
"Wash. . .we got some local color happening. A grand entrance would not go amiss."

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Saturday, February 7, 2004 9:51 AM

SOUTHERNMERC


One thing that you can take away from the attitudes of the Alliance personnel on the show is that they have very little regard for "Independants" and make a kneejerk assumption that Browncoats must be up to no good. This CAN be viewed by some as evidence of totalitarianism, Nazi like behavior and whatnot, but I submit the following for your inspection.

The Browncoats, feeling the sting of loss, have rejected "civilized" behavior in many circles and tend to act in a very criminal manner. As was seen in the script for "Dead or Alive," a Browncoat WAS involved in a terrorist act. He surely couldn't be the only one to commit such an act, especially against Alliance holdings.

Also, the manner displayed toward Serenity's crew in several episodes is consistant with how police treat criminals. For example, in "Bushwhacked" the commander of the Alliance cruiser acted in a way that could be construed as having already decided the guilt of the crew. Yet, they WERE found just leaving a derelict transport that was scheduled to drop off 16 families 2 weeks prior to the encounter. He could assume, safely and correctly, when he found the cargo aboard Serenity that Mal & Co. had stolen it from the ship. This does not predispose someone in a position of authority to liking said person.

I don't believe the Alliance is as bad as could be believed from first viewing the organization. I DO believe it is a VAST beauracracy, uncaring about individuals yet concerned about the general welfare of its citizens. They clearly have some questionable policies (ex. in "Safe" Simon was caught in a "blackout zone," supposedly a forbidden part of town and thus a restriction of movement placed upon its citizens), yet the Alliance undoubtably has done alot for its people. Even the border worlds receive aid (ex. the medicine in "The Train Job"), and thus derrive some benefit from their inclusion in the Alliance. And remember, it has been less than 6 years since Unification, and as noted, beauracracies take time to bring change about.

Now, having said that...

I would NEVER condone the actions the Alliance took regarding the Independant worlds. Such hostile action is INEXCUSABLE. Forcibly including them is a BIG violation of human rights, and I woulda stood next to Mal and gunned down as many Feds as possible. This one action taints all the positive things the Alliance has done. But as I have implied, things are rarely cut and dried.

Jayne: "How big a room?"

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Saturday, February 7, 2004 10:51 AM

GUNRUNNER


I don't know if its been mentioned but The Confederacy (who has been compared to the Browncoats) had gray uniforms like the Alliance. Also the Sheriff in The Train Job had a gray uniform and he wasn't bad.

Also in bushwhacked the Alliance Captain mentioned that he hadn’t seen such brutality (referring to the people hanging from the ceiling) since the war. Which in my mind meant he saw some bad things done by the Browncoats. So some probably weren’t very nice.

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Saturday, February 7, 2004 11:35 AM

VETERAN

Don't squat with your spurs on.


As much as I'd want to be on the right side of a conflict (whatever right really is)I think, for most people, what side you're on in a war is often predetermined by where you live. There are more than a few exceptions like American Tories or the Foreign Volunteers during the Spanish Civil War. But for the average soldier it's where he or she is from.

If I lived out on the rim I'd have joined the Browncoats; mostly because there is a direct emotional involvement about being told what to do my a remote government. Would I have the sentiment if I lived on a core planet like Ariel? Not so much.

I think Joss wants how we view the Alliance to be complicated. The Alliance has the capacity to be good and evil. It depends on who's in charge. In Serenity the Captain of the Alliance Cruiser decides to go save a distressed ship rather than chase an illegal salvage operation. Nothing evil about that. The Bluehands people, definintely evil.


***************

Static,

I never heard the Civil War referred to as the "Great Unpleasantness" before, very diplomatic.

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Saturday, February 7, 2004 11:35 AM

MISGUIDED BY VOICES


Quote:

Originally posted by Static:
Anyone notice that the NEW Alliance soldier uniforms are the same as the ones worn in "Starship Troopers"?
Just a thought. Maybe I'm way off.



Spot on in fact - they admit they rented a job lot from stores ;) Seem to recall Farscape did that with some Star Wars props(and the Mantis Lady in S1 Buffy was the bug from B5).

"I threw up on your bed"

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Sunday, February 8, 2004 8:52 AM

REDJACK


The Browncoats in FIREFLY are the Good Guys.

The Alliance has clearly been shown to be unconcerned with the welfare of citizens from not caring about the living conditions of its people (THE TRAIN JOB, JAYNESTOWN, SAFE, HEART OF GOLD, SHINDIG, THE MESSAGE), to condoning the the practice of slavery (SHINDIG) not to mention the abduction and torture of River Tan.

It's hinted that the Alliance ability and desire to gather information on its citizens is fantastically more invasive than anything we have today.

The Alliance, according to Whedon himself, is the result of the merging of two superpowers–CHINA and the US– with global corporations. That alone tells you everything you need to know about the Alliance. Two of these three have a centuries long history of evil bevahiour and trampling on human rights. Even the U.S. hands are fairly dirty on that score. Any such merger would only bring out the worst in all parties.

By contrast the Independants (Browncoats) seem only to have one thing in common– the wish to live according to the rules each human colony sets for itself (SERENITY, OUR MRS. REYNOLDS, even SAFE) without regard to the dictates of the central government.

At absolute worst the Browncoats could be described as Anarchists (vs the Order represented by The Alliance) but they bear a closer resemblance to the Revolutionaries of the Colonial U.S. than they do to the Confederate rebels of the following century.

Browncoats = Good
Alliance = Bad.




The Price of Knowledge is Knowing.
Audrid Dax

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Sunday, February 8, 2004 9:18 AM

JASONZZZ


Hell, just look at the RIAA and their rent-a-cops 'ala raid on Kazaa. RIAA = "Blue Sun" albeit they don't really sell anything and much more laughably moronic

http://p2pnet.net/story/715

They even manage to dress up their own "fake" police units in full paramilitary swatteam type garbs with the initials "RIAA" emblazoned on their backs. How's that for ballsy?
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/28/34835.html

And BTW, I think Fiorina forgot who buys computers.
http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/6/34804.html

Like Fireflyfans.net?
Haken needs a new development system. Donate.
http://www.fireflyfans.net/thread.asp?b=5&t=3283

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Sunday, February 8, 2004 7:44 PM

STEVE580


Quote:

Originally posted by EarlVanDorn:
Given that the "good guys" are wearing the brown, the whole nazi thing never ocurred to me til I read it here. What the war made me think of was the war between the states.
We know that Capn Mal fought for the underdog losing side. They fought against a well supplied force fighting for a central (federal) government. As the WBTS wore on, the South ran out of gray dye, so they used the oil of butternut trees to color uniforms, leaving them various shades of dark tan. Finally, in what I recollect was "he Train Job", they're gettng thrown out of a saloon, then get backed up against the cliff. Then this guy tells Mal something like
"You rebels lost"
And Mal says
"Yeah but we shall rise again"
Then the ship comes up and they get away. I always thought it was an american civil war allegory.


I've watched that little scene dozens of times - because I love it - and it's

"I'm thinkin' someone outta put you down, Dog. Whatda you think?"

"I'm thinkin' we'll wise again."

No Civil War comparisions. The only relation the Independents have to the Confederacy is that they wanted to be free from the oppresive government (as in most civil wars), they had fewer resources (as in most civil wars), and they lost. That's all. No other relation to the American civil war in particular, it's just what we think of, because we're American (many of us).

The other coincidence is the western aspect, of course.
-Steve

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Sunday, February 8, 2004 8:34 PM

DTT


Steve, I have to respectfully disagree. In a "space western" produced in America where the main character is a sergeant from the defeated side in a civil war, the American Civil War references CANNOT be denied. The quote, "I'm thinkin' maybe we'll rise again," is ESPECIALLY significant. As a Southerner, I've heard way too many "the South shall rise again" references to agree with what you're saying. Even to this day, there are those in the South who adhere to the idea that one day the southern states will successfully band together and break away from the US. In fact, every insult hurled at Mal in that scene has been used against Southerners with regularity.

"I just did that because it was funny."

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Monday, February 9, 2004 12:21 AM

AJ


Being from the UK, I'm not too up on US history, so my first watching of Firefly didn't really bring up too many parallels with the US civil war. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are, but to me it feels a lot more like British Imperialism - The core worlds bringing 'civilization' to the outer world: "be ruled by us, and we'll give you medicine, aqueducts, etc.... Oh, and by the way, this isn't a request." Hmm, okay, a bit like Roman Imperialism as well, or maybe just imperialism (?)

I suppose, being colony-based, it could be more like American Independence, just with the 'other' side winning, except that in Firefly, I'm assuming the colonies were initially independent, and were then 'encouraged' to join (although the whole 'voting' thing implies some kind of pseudo-democracy somewhere...).

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Monday, February 9, 2004 1:22 AM

TRAVELINGTHEBLACK


I'm thinking, from what was said in Bushwacked about the money going to Mal's defence, that the Alliance is a democracy, but a heavily centralized, corperate democracy. Imagine Bush's "War for Peace and Democracy" against the Middle East, but applied to sovergin colonies instead.

The Alliance isn't evil-like, it just depends on the point of view. Inara supported the War most likely because she thought it was doing some good, while Mal, who lived on a farm on Shadow, saw the incoming Alliance forces as invaders.

It's like putting yourself in the shoes of an Iraqi Insurgent (not the suicide terrorists). They might of had it bad under Saddam... but they sure as hell don't want some other country to tell them what do to, how to govern themselves, etc.

Mercy is the mark of a great man... *stab*

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Monday, February 9, 2004 2:04 AM

AJ


Quote:

Originally posted by TravelingTheBlack:
It's like putting yourself in the shoes of an Iraqi Insurgent (not the suicide terrorists). They might of had it bad under Saddam... but they sure as hell don't want some other country to tell them what do to, how to govern themselves, etc.



Again, I think the British Empire is a good comparison. The British thinking they're bringing civilisation (and democracy) to India (whilst gaining their own 'fringe' benefits, of course), but India being quite happy before they turned up, and somewhat unimpressed by the strong-arm arrogance of it all.

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Monday, February 9, 2004 2:25 AM

STEVE580


Quote:

Originally posted by dtt:
Steve, I have to respectfully disagree. In a "space western" produced in America where the main character is a sergeant from the defeated side in a civil war, the American Civil War references CANNOT be denied. The quote, "I'm thinkin' maybe we'll rise again," is ESPECIALLY significant. As a Southerner, I've heard way too many "the South shall rise again" references to agree with what you're saying. Even to this day, there are those in the South who adhere to the idea that one day the southern states will successfully band together and break away from the US. In fact, every insult hurled at Mal in that scene has been used against Southerners with regularity.


I agree; the way the characters use dialogue from the Civil War era. Hence the correlation. I just don't see anything about the war itself that parallels with the US Civil War. Do you?
-Steve

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Monday, February 9, 2004 3:35 AM

LOADANDMAKEREADY




Firstly, the Alliance appears to be a rather heavy handed Authoritarian government. There seems to be no free trade -- hence the smuggling ... even smuggling food as was done in Serenity part two and Shindig (cattle.)

Secondly, like the Nazi's, they do experiments on captive humans. A "law man" was sent to recapture River, so the government is at least in favor of it if not directly involved.

Finally, the rules! Like accusing the "postal clerk" of committing a crime for receiving a package as in The Message. If there was any sort of fairness, the postal clerk would likely have said, "How was I supposed to know there was some sort of contraband in that crate? The package arrived ... I gave it to the addressee!" The fact that the postman DIDN'T react that way indicates to me a "system" of arbitrary rules, and no presumption of innocence. Not to mention the physical threat that the FED made to the postman ... who responded with fear rather than outrage.

This gives me an indication of what the Independents were fighting AGAINST. What they were fighting FOR is not clearly defined. The assumption is freedom from the Authoritarian Alliance. If that is true, then yes, the Browncoats were the good guys.

loadandmakeready

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Monday, February 9, 2004 4:00 AM

LOADANDMAKEREADY


Quote:


At absolute worst the Browncoats could be described as Anarchists (vs the Order represented by The Alliance) but they bear a closer resemblance to the Revolutionaries of the Colonial U.S. than they do to the Confederate rebels of the following century.

Browncoats = Good
Alliance = Bad.



Nothing wrong with being an Anarchist -- depending upon what kind of Anarchist of course.

Slightly off topic: What difference was there between the Colonists who seceeded from the British Empire, and the Confederates who tried to seceed from the United States? I'm really curious. Because as I see it, the Federal Government was doing exactly the same thing to the Southern States as Britain was doing to the Colonies.

loadandmakeready





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Monday, February 9, 2004 4:37 AM

BROWNCOAT1

May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.


LoadAndMakeReady wrote:

Quote:

Slightly off topic: What difference was there between the Colonists who seceeded from the British Empire, and the Confederates who tried to seceed from the United States? I'm really curious. Because as I see, it the Federal Government was doing exactly the same thing to the Southern States as Britain was doing to the Colonies.


Depends on who you ask really. Ask most people, especially those from the North, they will say there is no comparison. They will cite abolishing slavery as the reason for their invasion of the South. Ask someone from the South, they will tell you they were fighting for states rights, independence, and to protect their homes from what they saw as an invading army. Matter of perception, what they were taught, and what they believe.

As far as the comparisons of the Alliance, I have always seen them as a sort of central, expansionist government gone amok. They remind me somewhat of an occupying army when you see soldiers on the street in episodes. They watch everyone, seem to be suspicious of everyone, and the display of military arms seems meant to intimidate the populace into compliance.

I feel the Alliance is meant to portray the all powerful, corrupt government that many people fear could happen in our day and time. The way the Alliance is shown as a military/peace keeping force and their heavy handed tactics in enforcing the will of the government is what the forefathers of our country feared and why they were anti-Federalists. The original colonies broke away from England because they saw that an all powerful, central government did not work for the people, but rather exploited them.

The Browncoats are meant to represent the common men and women who lived out in the remote areas of Alliance controlled space. The people of these remote colonies were neglected by the Alliance, left without food, technology, support, or medicines. Feeling abandoned by the government, they decided they wanted freedom instead of paying taxes and swearing allegiance to a government that did not assist them.

The comparisons to the Civil War are there, but I ask if the 'verse Joss created for Firefly could not as easily apply to the American Revolution. Could this not be a version of what might have been if the Colonials had not won their independence?

"May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."


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Monday, February 9, 2004 5:18 AM

ARAWAEN




-------------------------------------------------
Firstly, the Alliance appears to be a rather heavy handed Authoritarian government. There seems to be no free trade -- hence the smuggling ... even smuggling food as was done in Serenity part two and Shindig (cattle.)
--------------------------------------------------

The food in Serenity part two wasn't smuggled because it was food but because it was considered 'stolen'. It was Alliance property obtained from illegal salvage.

There are plenty of restrictions on the import/export of livestock even among nations that favor 'free trade'. A more likely example of the lack of 'free trade' would be the geisha dolls with big heads that wobbled.

But given the apparant state of martial law and the recent war, trade may simply not be up and running yet. I suspect the Alliance supports free trade for all the big megacorporations. The individual merchant is another story.

-- Arawaen

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Monday, February 9, 2004 5:55 AM

LOADANDMAKEREADY


Quote:

Originally posted by Arawaen:


-------------------------------------------------
Firstly, the Alliance appears to be a rather heavy handed Authoritarian government. There seems to be no free trade -- hence the smuggling ... even smuggling food as was done in Serenity part two and Shindig (cattle.)
-------------------------------------------------

Quote:


The food in Serenity part two wasn't smuggled because it was food but because it was considered 'stolen'. It was Alliance property obtained from illegal salvage.



That's a point I missed. However, by todays rules of salvage, in international waters, on a derelict vessel, it's finders keepers. Regardless of who the previous owner happens to be. It's considered abandoned if there is no one aboard, or if all those aboard are dead.
So the implication now becomes that the Alliance owns the sky and all things in it -- or at least claims to.
Quote:


There are plenty of restrictions on the import/export of livestock even among nations that favor 'free trade'. A more likely example of the lack of 'free trade' would be the geisha dolls with big heads that wobbled.



If there are restrictions ... it's not free trade ... period.

Quote:


But given the apparant state of martial law and the recent war, trade may simply not be up and running yet.



If there is freedom, trade resumes instantly. With an authoritarian government, it takes time to get the bureaucracies set up.
Quote:


I suspect the Alliance supports free trade for all the big megacorporations. The individual merchant is another story.



In other words, Mercantilism ... an alliance between "megacorporations" (which can only exist with the aid of government) and an authoritarian state.

(I think we're in agreement here ... but I'm not sure ... comments?)

loadandmakeready


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Monday, February 9, 2004 6:04 AM

AJ


Quote:

Originally posted by LoadAndMakeReady:

Quote:


There are plenty of restrictions on the import/export of livestock even among nations that favor 'free trade'. A more likely example of the lack of 'free trade' would be the geisha dolls with big heads that wobbled.



If there are restrictions ... it's not free trade ... period.



How about quarantine?

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Monday, February 9, 2004 7:23 AM

GHOULMAN


BrownCoat1 wrote: Depends on who you ask...

Too true.

This is a great thread to read, lots of great comments and even some insights too the show I hadn't considered.

I realize I'd baited this thread asking if the Browncoats were 'good guys or bad', which implied a simplistic characture that Firefly tries to avoid. And I admit it's just the Alliance uniforms that made me think about the Nazis. Let's face it, the Nazis were evil but they had cool uniforms.

It's funny but I too have detected a reality to this whole set-up that is far more interesting than the good guy / bad guy thing. That Joss... he's always thinking.

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Monday, February 9, 2004 8:00 AM

REDJACK


Quote:

Originally posted by dtt:
Steve, I have to respectfully disagree. In a "space western" produced in America where the main character is a sergeant from the defeated side in a civil war, the American Civil War references CANNOT be denied. The quote, "I'm thinkin' maybe we'll rise again," is ESPECIALLY significant. As a Southerner, I've heard way too many "the South shall rise again" references to agree with what you're saying. Even to this day, there are those in the South who adhere to the idea that one day the southern states will successfully band together and break away from the US. In fact, every insult hurled at Mal in that scene has been used against Southerners with regularity.




No one is denying that Joss and Co. mined the Civil War for idioms and dress codes. But, really, when have you ever known the guy to hit the nail directly on the head?

Never. That's when.

He always twists and turns and makes the thing you think is going on not. That's the fun.

The British poster, with no American indoctrination, got IMO, the right answer as have many others.

Joss is playing with our heads as he always does. Mixing and matching those aspects of previous civil conflicts that suit the story he wants to tell and tossing those that don't.

Do you really think the Confedrates were the only losers who thought they would "Rise Again?" Or that they were the only ones ever to use that phrase?

Defeated rebels throughout history have thought their causes just and vowed to have another go at the first opportunity.

The real tell on whether or not the Independants mirror the Confedrates specifically (rather than rebels from all such conflicts) is that the Independants, as seen through Mal and Zoe, are CLEARLY on the moral high ground based on current day Western standards.

As opposed to the Confederacy which was not.

That makes them not only the the focus of the show but the actual heroes as well. Contrasted with the representatives of the Alliance- even Simon's own father- who are clearly a bunch of soulless bastards.

The Independants are clearly the good guys which means they can't be proxies for the Confederates.

Them being so clearly the Really Bad Guys and all.





The Price of Knowledge is Knowing.
Audrid Dax

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Monday, February 9, 2004 8:36 AM

TRAVELINGTHEBLACK


The Confeds and the Union were both on the same moral ground... to a point. The North had strangled the South dry to the point where slaves were the only option. Indeed that the Browncoats seem to have the moral high ground, but there might be more to the U-War than Joss was allowed to tell.

Mercy is the mark of a great man... *stab*

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Monday, February 9, 2004 8:47 AM

AERRIN


Quote:

Originally posted by LoadAndMakeReady:


Firstly, the Alliance appears to be a rather heavy handed Authoritarian government. There seems to be no free trade -- hence the smuggling ... even smuggling food as was done in Serenity part two and Shindig (cattle.)

Secondly, like the Nazi's, they do experiments on captive humans. A "law man" was sent to recapture River, so the government is at least in favor of it if not directly involved.

Finally, the rules! Like accusing the "postal clerk" of committing a crime for receiving a package as in The Message. If there was any sort of fairness, the postal clerk would likely have said, "How was I supposed to know there was some sort of contraband in that crate? The package arrived ... I gave it to the addressee!" The fact that the postman DIDN'T react that way indicates to me a "system" of arbitrary rules, and no presumption of innocence. Not to mention the physical threat that the FED made to the postman ... who responded with fear rather than outrage.



Several points -

1) People smuggle all the time, for a million different reasons - the most noteable are to move illegal cargo and to avoid goverment interference through such things as taxes. The prescence of smuggling does not an authoritarian government make. Heck - how many people go through US customs and just 'forget' to declare everything they've bought, because they don't want to PAY? Technically, that's smuggling. Throw in a few cows, and it's the same thing on a larger scale. Make the good stolen, and you're doing it to avoid a fine or jail sentence.

2) I think it's been made pretty clear that it was Blue Sun doing those experiments, and that most of the Alliance had NO IDEA what they wanted River for. Witness the men killed just for speaking to her in Ariel. Witness the officer who doesn't even know if they want her alive or dead, and so orders them to shoot first (Bushwacked, I /think/.) Again, the horrific actions of a few does not make the entirity evil. I tend to think that's Blue Sun's control of the Alliance at work there, not the Alliance itself.

3)Accusing the postal clerk.. um. Ok. Recall how that lawman was working a tad illegally, chasing down some precious cargo he himself was smuggling? I hardly think we can use him as a shining example of a typical Alliance lawman. As a matter of fact, I never ever in the watching of the episode bought him as a legitimate one, for that exact reason - he uses the same terroristic methods that Niska's men do. He's not acting in his capacity as a lawman in that episode - he's exploiting it.

And how the postman reacted? Dude. 1) He knew he'd done something wrong and 2) The guy just /looked/ mean. He was threatening from the get-go. I'm not sure that implies a status quo.

And finally, I'm not saying there aren't bad feds out there - as with any system, power will go to people's heads, and I'm sure that /especially/ on the border planets, you have people using their fed power for their own means, and to terrorize. But that's an individual trait - not neccessarily a trait of the government, which I still contend was simply bulky and overly bueacratic - not evil.

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Monday, February 9, 2004 8:47 AM

AERRIN


Mutter. Gotta stop with the double posts.

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Monday, February 9, 2004 8:57 AM

KURUKAMI


See, I tend towards seeing the Alliance not as Nazis, but more along the lines of the former Soviet Union. A huge, sprawling empire, encompassing numerous satellite states and regions annexed during past wars, largely controlled by the military and by gangs of powerful individuals both legal (the Politburo) and illegal (Russian mafia), where corruption runs rampant and individuals who make too much noise simply disappear because of "state security". The lack of feeling towards many of its own citizens, particularly those in the aforementioned annexed territories, matches that.

And then you've got the whole Chechnya issue.

That model works for me just as well (and not necessarily replacing, but supplementing) as the Civil War analogy.

History doesn't always repeat itself. Sometimes it merely shouts "Weren't you listening the first time?!?" and lets fly with a club.

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Monday, February 9, 2004 9:16 AM

GHOULMAN


AJ, I think you're on the ball here with the Imperial feel going on. I too find the Alliance has all the trappings of an imperial government without the martial law. That is, rather like things are in the U.S.A. right now, fear is the main weapon for controling people.

It too bad we haven't seen some Alliance propoganda. I'll bet the War was 'Operation Independant Freedom'! *chuckle*

And as we all know, since Crassus scared Rome into making him Emperor, fear is the first and most powerful weapon in politics. Period.

For an example of how fear works in controling a people; seems to me Simons' father was afraid for his own social position more than his sons (let alone his own daughters life). Think about it.

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Monday, February 9, 2004 9:44 AM

REDJACK


Quote:

Originally posted by TravelingTheBlack:
The Confeds and the Union were both on the same moral ground... to a point. The North had strangled the South dry to the point where slaves were the only option.



^^This is just not in line with the facts.

Without going off that way again let's look at it like this.

Joss and his cronies are VERY gifted writers. If they wanted to have the Independants be an analog for the Confederacy and the Alliance an analog for the Union, they would have taken pains to ensure that that was the only interpretation available. It wouldn't be difficult.

Instead they make a point of muddying things up.

The Alliance more closely resembles Imperial England than the 19th Century United States Fedral Government. Especially so if you know British history.

I'm betting Blue Sun is modelled after Britian's infamous East India Company.

By contrast to the fairly well realized behaviour of and objectives of The Alliance, those of the Independants are left murky, intentionally, so that Mutant Enemy is free to use the fun bits of the Reconstruction and The West (gunplay, quirky lingo, outlaw behaviour etc) without any of the connotations that truly linking FIREFLY to the real world would create.

Best give away? The REAVERS.

Clearly these are proxies for old style movie "indians." Trouble is, in these enlightened times of ours, we know that the First Americans were not the mindless savages that they've been shown as in countless films. Joss knows this too and, clearly, doesn't want that kettle of worms opened up either. So...

Joss gives us Reavers, normal people driven nuts by too much time in the Black, to function as the scary savages. And function they do, without any messy concerns for their basic humanity and occassional nobility.

He's messing with your heads like he always does.

And it's obviously working.





The Price of Knowledge is Knowing.
Audrid Dax

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Monday, February 9, 2004 10:48 AM

GHOULMAN


^^^ gotta agree with that assessment. Certainly the Reavers are the best example of Joss and crew making with the rug. As in pulled out from under the allegory.

Yea, I'm noticing how Joss takes something like... oh say a self involved valley girl fighting vampires and turns the symbolism on it's head. And boy, do these things have a lot of baggage symbolically! The black needed to have a danger and the Reavers are it. Seems they have a history connected with early settlements? Hmm. Anyho', they could easily be a rather racist take on 'Injuns' but with the level of sofistication going on with the show we need to take a deeper look into the Reavers. You are right, we can't assume anything when it comes to Joss.

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Monday, February 9, 2004 11:54 AM

AJ


Quote:

Originally posted by Redjack:
The Alliance more closely resembles Imperial England than the 19th Century United States Fedral Government. Especially so if you know British history.

I'm betting Blue Sun is modelled after Britian's infamous East India Company.



Good call. Especially as 'ambassadors' to the East when the Empire couldn't really be bothered - lot of power there...! So, how much do the Alliance RELY on Blue Sun to be their representatives out on the rim???

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Monday, February 9, 2004 1:09 PM

IRISANNE


It occurs to me that Joss deals in archetypes. The Reavers are a symbol of our dark, primal selves. And maybe the Europeans who first came to North America projected the same archetype onto the inhabitants because they didn't understand them. "Savage" is just a manifestation of our own darkness and ignorance, and it's a powerful theme in storytelling. It taps right into our deepest fears about the world and about ourselves.

My blood ran cold when they first encountered the Reavers and Wash said, "Oh God oh God oh God..." What a scary and wonderful moment!

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Monday, February 9, 2004 2:19 PM

RIZZ


Quote:

Originally posted by Redjack:
Quote:

The Alliance more closely resembles Imperial England than the 19th Century United States Federal Government. Especially so if you know British history.

I'm betting Blue Sun is modelled after Britain’s infamous East India Company.



I have to agree with you on this RedJack. Privateers along with a "Letter of the Marqué" gave hired Captains the ability to kill or preferably seize most possessions on the sea during that period. Blue Sun certainly have a similar licence especially with their 2 by 2.

Ghoulman, you pointed out that "It too bad we haven't seen some Alliance propaganda. I'll bet the War was 'Operation Independent Freedom"!

For me, Starship Troopers and the Propaganda pumped out about the bugs and "your duty as a citizen" is what I imagine takes place on the Alliance Core Planets. Exchange the bugs for Browncoats and IMHO you got a good idea of Core Planet TV.

Of course I think there has to be a resistance movement scurrying around the Alliance's underbelly, Book's Involvement anyone?


"It's about believing in something, and letting that belief be real enough to change your life"

Oh and of course,

"That's why I never kiss em on the Mouth"

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Monday, February 9, 2004 11:31 PM

AJ


Quote:

Originally posted by IrisAnne:
It occurs to me that Joss deals in archetypes. The Reavers are a symbol of our dark, primal selves. And maybe the Europeans who first came to North America projected the same archetype onto the inhabitants because they didn't understand them. "Savage" is just a manifestation of our own darkness and ignorance, and it's a powerful theme in storytelling. It taps right into our deepest fears about the world and about ourselves.

My blood ran cold when they first encountered the Reavers and Wash said, "Oh God oh God oh God..." What a scary and wonderful moment!



Been reading any Joseph Conrad lately???

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004 2:07 AM

DRAKON


Quote:

Originally posted by Steve580:
I agree; the way the characters use dialogue from the Civil War era. Hence the correlation. I just don't see anything about the war itself that parallels with the US Civil War. Do you?
-Steve



That is because there ain't that much of a parallel, except this. A while back, just a couple years, there was this huge war that destroyed most of the planets, and people. Even the ones it did not kill, the ones that survived, got messed up.

As part of that, a lot of folks headed outwards, just to get away from the bad memories and bad blood. In the 19th century, it was the American West. Now, its the border planets.

There is really not enough of information to see which side had policies that more or less accurately reflect the issues of the American Civil war. But to a large extent, it ain't relevant to what folks were doing on the other side of the Mississippi 5 to 10 years afterwards.

"Wash, where is my damn spaceship?"

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004 2:22 AM

DRAKON


Quote:

Originally posted by LoadAndMakeReady:


Firstly, the Alliance appears to be a rather heavy handed Authoritarian government. There seems to be no free trade -- hence the smuggling ... even smuggling food as was done in Serenity part two and Shindig (cattle.)

Secondly, like the Nazi's, they do experiments on captive humans. A "law man" was sent to recapture River, so the government is at least in favor of it if not directly involved.

Finally, the rules! Like accusing the "postal clerk" of committing a crime for receiving a package as in The Message. If there was any sort of fairness, the postal clerk would likely have said, "How was I supposed to know there was some sort of contraband in that crate? The package arrived ... I gave it to the addressee!" The fact that the postman DIDN'T react that way indicates to me a "system" of arbitrary rules, and no presumption of innocence. Not to mention the physical threat that the FED made to the postman ... who responded with fear rather than outrage.

This gives me an indication of what the Independents were fighting AGAINST. What they were fighting FOR is not clearly defined. The assumption is freedom from the Authoritarian Alliance. If that is true, then yes, the Browncoats were the good guys.

loadandmakeready



Good post, however, I would like to offer a bit of counterpoint.

A man with a gun in your face is a more pressing problem than a congress critter back at the capitol. A man with a gun and a badge is even more problematic, whether what the man with the badge is doing is legal or not.

All the cops we've seen to date, with the exception of the sheriff in "Train Job" were detached from their regular commands, and operating independently. How much of their actions were sanctioned, we don't know.

Whether Dobson was there to bring River back, because it was his job, or if he were freelancing for the Blue Hand Crew, again, insufficient data. Heck if you think about it, we have no idea what Dobson was going to do after he caught River. Whether he was just going to pack her back to the lab, or take her somewhere else and use her as a material witness to bring down the BHC.

The problem with ruling the world, or the universe, is that there is a lot of stuff that can fall through the cracks. While you are worrying about trade quotas between Ariel and Shinon, someone is going around setting postal clerks on fire. That is a problem with any kind of centralized government that tries to rule too large a territory.

So what I am saying is that we really don't know if the Alliance is as bad as all that, or if because of travel distance, it has too many loose cannons wandering around, making it look badder than it is.

"Wash, where is my damn spaceship?"

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Tuesday, February 10, 2004 5:49 AM

BROWNCOAT1

May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.


Originally posted by Drakon:
Quote:

Good post, however, I would like to offer a bit of counterpoint.

A man with a gun in your face is a more pressing problem than a congress critter back at the capitol. A man with a gun and a badge is even more problematic, whether what the man with the badge is doing is legal or not.

All the cops we've seen to date, with the exception of the sheriff in "Train Job" were detached from their regular commands, and operating independently. How much of their actions were sanctioned, we don't know.

Whether Dobson was there to bring River back, because it was his job, or if he were freelancing for the Blue Hand Crew, again, insufficient data. Heck if you think about it, we have no idea what Dobson was going to do after he caught River. Whether he was just going to pack her back to the lab, or take her somewhere else and use her as a material witness to bring down the BHC.

The problem with ruling the world, or the universe, is that there is a lot of stuff that can fall through the cracks. While you are worrying about trade quotas between Ariel and Shinon, someone is going around setting postal clerks on fire. That is a problem with any kind of centralized government that tries to rule too large a territory.

So what I am saying is that we really don't know if the Alliance is as bad as all that, or if because of travel distance, it has too many loose cannons wandering around, making it look badder than it is.



Good points.

Compare the fringes where the Firefly story takes place to America in the late 1860s up to the turn of the 20th century. The government was in Washington DC and people were living on the frontier, thousands of miles away. In New York City or Boston, people did not walk around wearing Colts or carrying Winchesters, why, because the law was right there in the city and government was established.

It is a different story in the Old West. Men wore guns to protect themselves, and shoot outs over disagreements were not uncommon. Many towns had a sheriff, but some did not. US Marshalls generally covered a huge territory and would have to be sent for by the town or sheriff in instances of major crimes.

Corruption was present, but most of the neglect came from the distance from an established government. It is easy, as Darkon said, for things to fall through the cracks when you had to rely on the Pony Express or stagecoach to dlvr mail and no federal lawman is anywhere nearby.

Guess this is the case in Firefly. Out on the frontier where there are plenty of people and little law, it would be easy for a lawman standing alone to become corrupt or get a bit heavy handed w/ folk.

Still I think the underlying tones are there in the 'verse suggesting corruption and a Big Brother style of government. Remember how Simon's father warns that the Alliance will ruin his career if he continues trying to free River, and how they would destroy the reputation and career of his family. The father was so scared, or conditioned to obey, or both, that he disowned his son to distance himself from any fall out. That is on a core planet. Doesn't sound much like a government I would want to live under.

"May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one."


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Tuesday, February 10, 2004 7:20 AM

REDJACK


Quote:

Originally posted by Drakon:


Good post, however, I would like to offer a bit of counterpoint.

A man with a gun in your face is a more pressing problem than a congress critter back at the capitol. A man with a gun and a badge is even more problematic, whether what the man with the badge is doing is legal or not.

All the cops we've seen to date, with the exception of the sheriff in "Train Job" were detached from their regular commands, and operating independently. How much of their actions were sanctioned, we don't know.



Not so sure I buy that argument. Just because the low level cops, even the guys running the Alliance details in BUSHWACKED and ARIEL, don't know the details or even any reall info, doesn't mean that the BLUE SUN honchos and the heads of the ALLIANCE are not working hand in glove.

The CIA and FBI stepped on each other's toes routinely until they were legislated out of each other's back yards. BOTH groups have better intel and superceding powers over local law enforcement. This is the future, remember. Things have clearly gotten worse on that score.



The Price of Knowledge is Knowing.
Audrid Dax

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