GENERAL DISCUSSIONS

Star point up. Triangle point down.

POSTED BY: YELLOWJACKET
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 16:45
SHORT URL: http://bit.ly/o8CbSz
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 11:40 AM

YELLOWJACKET


The following observations are the rantings and ravings of a Firefly fan with too much time on his hands. I'm having a slow day. Sue me.

When Firefly came out in 2002, the available materials on the subjects of canon were very limited, but for those few things displayed on screen in what can only be described as a very irregular broadcast schedule. Fans that were fans from the word 'go' clamored to understand every little detail of the Verse, for there is no fan like a Firefly fan. One of the issues that arose early on, perhaps more among the prop-making uber-fans than anyone else, was the question concerning the symbols and emblems of the Independents. One of the earliest to pull ahead in the race of prominent symbols, especially among us Browncoats, was the patch (and the later theoretical flag) of the Independents.

At first, the most prevalent example of the patch (the ever-present star and bars) was that one which appeared on the coat worn by actor Nathan Fillion as he portrayed Mal. Mal is seen wearing this coat in two important battles in the series. Indeed, it is the first easily viewable appearance of the patch, though it is actually shown on several soldiers before Mal appears in the scene. Because of this, it was, and often still is assumed that the patch is intended to be worn as it is shown on that coat alone, as if no other coat exists. More rabid fans that were blessed to actually record the sporadic airings of Firefly, noticed that not all of the soldiers in those scenes wore the patch in the same direction. A few people commented on this seemingly confusing wardrobe issue, but it did not circulate widely amongst the early fans.

As time went by, more and more of us became interested in the limited fan based collectibles of the Verse. At the time, there was no official Blue Sun shirt, no Jayne shirts, and almost no real merchandise to speak of. Still, even in the merchandise infancy of the Verse there was a fan based interest to possess all things Firefly. The patch of the Independents remained in the forefront among many popular coveted items, so several aspiring fan-capitalists created early renditions of it. Each of these possessed the traditional star, yellow bars and green background, though many showed the star as black. As the output of homemade and mass produced patches became available, the question of orientation began to spread. Some cried,"Star point down." Some cried, "Star point up." Many fans created mythologies that were not mentioned in the original writing at all. And the debate (although mostly subject to personal interpretation) went on.

Strangely enough, many of the people most interested in the answer to this question agreed equally that the best way to resolve it was to get the answer directly from the horse's mouth. Or in other words...from Joss himself. People on both sides of the question agreed that if Joss were to answer this question, the debate would end and all Browncoats would accept this final authority in full, as one might have expected them to do.

Not so.

When the Companion volumes for Firefly were released to the public, Shawna Trpcic stated that the star was always intended to be worn star point up and triangle point down. Shawna Trpcic was the series costume designer for Firefly. She is the designer that created the patch for the Independents. Indeed, she created the entire look and feel of their uniforms and the vast majority of costumes for the series. Essentially she's the Betsy Ross of the Browncoats, but this fact proved unimportant.

Some said, "She's just a designer, not the creator of the show."

Some said, "She designed it, that's the way it should be."

More unusual than either of these two responses was the prevailing third response. The supporters of make believe. These are the ardent fans that are so loyal to Mal as a character, that they endow anything related to Mal as an extension of Mal. That is to say, anything about Mal is gospel.

You see, Shawna Trpcic explained that Mal is seen wearing the patch upside down because of a wardrobe mistake. Nothing more. Nothing less. Someone working within the wardrobe department sewed it on upside down. The coat specifically created and aged for Mal's character just happened to bear this mistake. This means that by shear luck, Mal's coat is wrong. This news seems to have had no effect on the staunch supporters of the wardrobe error. In fact an entire mythology about Mal's choice to wear it in this fashion has pervaded the fans of Firefly for years, with several strong reasons heading the list. These mythologies, once appealing during the time of the unanswered question, now continue on by momentum alone. They are perpetuated in complete disregard for the original creator and fans of Firefly repeat them with a hushed reverence in a headstrong attempt to make the mythology of an error into something more substantial.

In short, Mal made the decision. Not the misguided seamstress. Not fate. Mal.

Where are those fans that said they would defer to the word of Joss? Tim Minear (executive producer), Gareth Davies (producer) and Joss himself all signed off on Shawna Trpcic's designs, but this has made only a marginal difference in the opinions of the fans themselves. Instead, we've created new questions. Are we Browncoats or Malcoats? All of the other Browncoats in the series are seen wearing the star point up, as intended. Therefore it stands to reason that a Browncoat is one who wears the emblems and accompanying symbols of the cause of the Independents as a whole, thereby supporting the veterans and fallen soldiers of the Independents, rather than adhering to the cause of single soldier.

Can canon exist where canon is refused?

Yes. I'm rambling at this point, and yes, I recognize that this is far less important than the issues of unemployment and world hunger, but humor me. How many people out there are star point up and how many are star point down? The questions keeps appearing in various forums, so let's get a headcount. Let's see where people stand on this altogether trivial matter before I wax fan-pseudo-philosophical again.

I need to lie down.






And before anyone from the 76th gets their costumes in a bind, relax. As I've stated elsewhere, a battalion or regimental patch is different as it represents a smaller group of the whole, not the whole itself. Therefore, the patch of the 76th can have the star upside down, borrowing the emblems of the whole to define their own unique place within it.





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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 12:38 PM

BYTEMITE


Being a relative newcomer to this whole thing, I'd never really paid much notice. I was more familiar with seeing the official star point up version...

But Mal wearing his badge wrong, on purpose, doesn't work for me either, because when you wear a symbol like that upside down, it's a sign of disrespect. Mal having a disrespect for the Independent's cause during the war is certainly NOT canon.

Maybe if the Independent's High Command issued his coat, they could have got it wrong, but you'd think Mal would've fixed it then.

So I prefer the interpretation that BOTH are valid, perhaps with variances across regiments and among different officer ranks.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 12:44 PM

YELLOWJACKET


"How many people out there are star point up and how many are star point down?"


I'm shooting for a personal gut reaction and a clear cut answer. Shoot from the hip, people. Answering 'both' to this question is a non-answer.


Edit: Furthermore, the three rank designs (black border, green border and yellow border) are all shown star point up in Shawna's designs. Rank does not change the placement according to canon.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 1:20 PM

BYTEMITE


...That you know of. Because we're only given one example of how the badge may be worn (or two, if you count the wardrobe malfunction), and not given examples of different ranks or regiments.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 1:26 PM

YELLOWJACKET


"Shawna Trpcic explained that Mal is seen wearing the patch upside down because of a wardrobe mistake."

All other canon examples are star point up. On screen and off.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 1:36 PM

BYTEMITE


It appears ON SCREEN, though. Fourth wall it can be considered a mistake, but within the show itself, explanations must be made. That is all the star point down crowd have been trying to do. It's not a matter of intentionally not being canon, it's a matter of explaining something that's on screen and in character so it works and makes sense. I cut them some slack for that.

And like I said, it is only one example of a way to wear the patch for one regiment and a group of non-coms and privates.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 1:42 PM

YELLOWJACKET


CANON: 1
FAN INTERPRETED: 0
UNDECIDED: 1


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 7:51 PM

PHOENIXROSE

You think you know--what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun.


On my own coat, I was very careful to check all available screen references before I sewed on the patch. Where I could see it the most and the clearest, it was star point up. In fact, I couldn't even make it out on Mal's coat. I sewed mine on star point up, in accordance with everything I'd checked. It was distressing to me, actually, how many banners and patches and other emblems were designed with an upside-down star. Not only did I not think it was canon (as you've pointed out, it wasn't) but the five-pointed, upside-down star has a very strong satanic connotation. I don't think Joss, or anyone, would want that connotation for the Independents. Whatever his personal views on theology, whatever anyone's personal views on theology, he wouldn't be fool enough to make that a thing. Hoping, as he was, to be in the public eye with this show, I can't see him inviting that kind of controversy. Having done Buffy and Angel for as long as he did and always using the inverted pentagram in an evil context, he clearly knew that's what it was most associated with, and I'm sure he knew that a pentagram shown point up is a strong symbol of power, elements, balance, and the feminine, all things that he seems to like. So in that, it makes the most sense that he would aim for that in the symbol. There's not much dodgy in an inverted triangle, and it makes and interesting design. So in all ways, the design put forth as canon makes the most sense to me.

[/sig]

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 7:57 PM

YELLOWJACKET


Just one correction. An upside down star is not a pentagram. A pentagram, while often associated with Satanism, is an old symbol used by several different faiths and followings. It is called a pentagram because when drawn as an open star it creates a pentagon shape in the middle.




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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 8:01 PM

PHOENIXROSE

You think you know--what's to come, what you are. You haven't even begun.


Please note that I said inverted pentagram, because that's what it is. Please note that, while not an exclusive satanic symbol, it does have that connotation in an undeniable way. Please note that I am Pagan and I do actually know what I'm talking about some of the time. Please note, too, that I'm agreeing with you. Kthnx.

(And it's a pentagram because it has five points, which can be extended from a pentagon. The root of 'penta' or 'pente' meaning 'five' is what to pay attention to there.)

[/sig]

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009 11:12 PM

FILLYGIRL

Operative: "Its worse than you know..." Mal: "It usually is."


Just thought I say something, the 76th Battalion changed what we could (star position and patch position) so we would NOT have any problems with copyright infringement. The way is was suppose to be did come up, but we wanted to be safe and not completely copy it. If anybody else from the 76th has more info, post it.


Chaplain of the 76th Independant Battalion


Do not bother dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup!


...it's worse than you know...Operative
...it usually is.....Mal

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 12:32 AM

SIMONWHO


I say we put these wretched big-endians to death - it's the only language they understand.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 1:32 AM

KWICKO

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." -- William Casey, Reagan's presidential campaign manager & CIA Director (from first staff meeting in 1981)


Okay, just tossing this out there in an effort to help those who want to find an in-series explanation that might help ease their souls...

It's been posted that the upside-down patch is a sign of disrespect, and something Mal would absolutely NOT do. But what hasn't been pointed out is that, with the American flag at least, hanging the flag upside down isn't a sign of disrespect, but rather a sign of desperation: it means your position is in imminent danger of being overrun and you are in need of immediate assistance. As an Independent, that's a feeling Mal probably knows only too well. Perhaps he sewed his patch on upside-down in a sardonic (Mal, sardonic? Naaaaaahhhh...) nod to the dire straits the Browncoats ALWAYS found themselves in.

Hey, if it works for the story, feel free to spread it around; if it doesn't, then please disregard.

Mike

Build a man a fire and he'll be warm for a day...
Set a man on fire and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 3:57 AM

BYTEMITE


PhoenixRose: I think I also brought up the implications of the inverted star in a similar conversation to this one.

Looking past the "horns, ears, and chin" description that Christians assigned to it, villifying pagan satyr/goat nature gods as Satans, or "enemy" to the church... Originally it was a symbol of the four classical elements and spirit, all combined into a stylized human form (head, two arms, two legs). It's not truly an evil symbol. Just subverted.

But you're right in that in modern times, an inverted five pointed star carries symbolism that Joss would not have intended.

Unfortunately, it is how it is.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 4:00 AM

BYTEMITE


KWICKO: Oooh, I LIKE that! Nicely done!

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 5:16 AM

ROCKETJOCK


How's about this: The insignia was intended to be worn star-point-up, but Mal (and presumably other survivors of the Shadow Massacre) wear theirs reversed as a sign of mourning for their lost homeworld.

"She's tore up plenty. But she'll fly true." -- Zoƫ Washburn

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 5:42 AM

BYTEMITE


Another good one.

I've always liked to think that Shadow's ruin happened about at the end of the war, because I couldn't imagine how Mal could be so upbeat while fighting if he was still mourning the loss of his world. I even imagined that the surrender of the Independents might have been a response to the way Shadow was destroyed, and that Mal could be reacting to the dual loss of the war and loss of his world while watching the firebombing come his way.

But supposedly in the Visual Companion, Joss explains that Shadow happened early on. Don't know. All I do know is that from sources I've read, the destruction was absolute and the world is completely unlivable now. The RPG manual says in the entry under Shadow that "No one lives there. No one can." Some may not consider the RPG manual canon, but I've seen enough "facts" it puts forward later confirmed that I use it as a valid reference. "Burn the land and boil the seas" in the Firefly theme song has been proposed to be a reference to Shadow's destruction.

What I'm getting at here is that Shadow also had to be after the war started and Independents began recruiting, because otherwise Mal would've died on Shadow with everyone else. It's destruction could not have started the war.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009 5:48 AM

YELLOWJACKET


Phoenix Rose - Just clarifying that a star is just a star unless we attach symbolism to it. Thanks for your input.

Filly Girl - As I mentioned, the 76th patch is fine for multiple reasons.

Kwicko - Yes. This is one of many popular fan mythologies tied to the error.

Rocket Jock - Also another popular fan-based mythology tied to the error.


Your answers can be as simple as 'Star point up' or 'Star point down'.


CANON (star point up): 2
FAN INTERPRETED (star point down): 3
UNDECIDED: 2



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Thursday, May 21, 2009 7:43 PM

PENNAUSAMIKE


The patches were originally intended to denote rank and have the triangle point down and the star upright.
But in the rush of television production work,
a seamstress sewed the patch on "upside-down".



Notice Geoffrey Mandel continued the star point up, triangle point down and also, that the Alliance emblems are opposite from the Independents.
So, I prefer Alliance triangles point-up, Independent triangles point-down.

Mike

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Friday, May 22, 2009 6:02 AM

YELLOWJACKET


CANON (star point up): 3
FAN INTERPRETED (star point down): 3
UNDECIDED: 2



When Mike dies I'm stealing his stuff.


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Friday, May 22, 2009 6:24 AM

PENNAUSAMIKE


Quote:

Originally posted by yellowjacket:
CANON (star point up): 3
FAN INTERPRETED (star point down): 3
UNDECIDED: 2



When Mike dies I'm stealing his stuff.




You won't have to steal it.
The family will be putting it all on eBay!

Mike

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Friday, May 22, 2009 6:30 AM

YELLOWJACKET


Blasphemy.


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Wednesday, July 13, 2011 4:45 PM

BROWNCOATKAL


I know it's been over two years since anyone posted in this thread, but I stumbled upon it tonight while searching for answers to the question of orientation. I myself have a Browncoat baseball jersey, and I purchased a Browncoat patch to sew on the sleeve. It was sewn triangle point down, star point up. Also, in the latest piece of Firefly canon, The Shepard's Tale graphic novel, the Browncoat design can be seen triangle point down, star point up. The story was written by Zack Whedon and approved by Joss, so I would say the question has now finally been put to rest. And as for the way Mal wore it, it could easily enough be explained away in a future graphic novel. It could be told in a flashback of the war that Mal had it on upside down and promptly corrected it.

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