prozacpark: (Default)
[personal profile] prozacpark
I've always off-handedly known that Joss had planned a gang rape for Inara by reavers at some point, but never really pursued the details past what I had briefly come across? But it's something that comes up for me often in "Firefly" discussions in the context of So Glad It Died Before That. [ profile] ide_cyan provided some links in my last post with more details, and it was too tempting. I now have details. And thoughts. And rage, OH SO MUCH RAGE. Because the interview linked was done by Tim Minear, aka my TV God.

Hi, fuck you, Tim Minear. I have liked you in the past because while you’ve failed before, you have also been good about admitting the fail and then correcting it where possible, which is incredibly rare with writers. So I had assumed that you had gotten past the issues you had displayed randomly on Angel? Because you gave us “The Inside,” which is a wonderful deconstruction of some very problematic tropes and will never not be epic. And “Drive.” And “Wonderfalls.” All with awesome women and no rape! But apparently, it never goes away.

He goes on for almost three minutes about the Rape of Inara plot here (around the 35 minute mark). Which apparently is what Joss Whedon used to pitch the show to him. You know, Joss the Feminist. (Honestly, at this point, I'm surprised that Buffy had five seasons before rape entered the narrative arcs.) The word “beautiful” might have been used in the context of a RAPE PLOT. Women’s suffering/death as beautiful? My thoughts on it haven't changed. Just…I kind of want to crawl under a rock and avoid fandom forever. Tim Minear was the ONLY writer I had any respect left for.

Like, I do think that Minear tends to be at his worst when working under Joss. But his failure to recognize the fail of a rape plot in the context of Man Pain? At worst, he’s a horrible misogynist, and even at best, he’s one of the Joss-is-God people who can’t see anything wrong with what Joss does. Either way, NO WORDS.

Also, I am now gleefully happy that “Firefly” got canceled. Not that I wasn’t before, but now? I can almost forgive FOX for canceling all those TV shows if it means that Inara was never raped. Also, TV, can you stop having the women with sexuality be raped or otherwise punished for having it while pretending to be edgy for having women with ‘unconventional’ sexualities?

"It opens with Mal and Inara fighting (as they do). Mal tells her she pretends to be a lady and wants everyone to bow before her and kiss her hand but she’s just a whore. Then the Reavers attack and take Inara. While trying to get her back they learn that she had something that would make anyone who had sex with her die. When they finally track down and board the ship they find all of the Reavers dead and Inara shaking and traumatized. They take her back to the ship and Zoe guards her room. Mal tries to get in to see her and Zoe tells him he’s the last person Inara needs to see. He pushes past her, kneels before Inara and kisses her hand."

So the framing of the episode is through Mal, who calls Inara a whore and then learns a lesson and is forced to acknowledge that she’s really a lady. This bugged me, but I could not figure out why because of the EPIC RAGE and despair, which eventually subsided to give way to thoughts: So, what makes her a respectable lady instead of a whore at the end of the show? Nonconsensual sex with a gang of reavers, which results in their deaths.

In other words: A woman having consensual sex that she enjoys and/or profits from is a whore, but a woman being raped can be a lady. It's the taking away of her CHOICE that elevates her to the status of a lady because it's okay as long as she didn't want it. Is it any wonder that our fiction is so filled with RAPE when we’re not COMFORTABLE with women having consensual sex, when fiction constantly feels the need to punish women for *wanting* sex, especially sex outside the bonds of a socially sanctioned monogamous relationship? Inara is, from my brief strays into the Firefly fandom, the most hated character, which is not really surprising given how uncomfortable fandom is with certain types of heroines. But this whole attitude that Inara somehow owes Mal something and all her sexing is actually cheating on him and how he doesn't deserve her? Gah. He calls her a whore repeatedly, slut shames her, and ENJOYS it. When she has asked him not to, and this is our hero. The one who learns an Important Lesson from her rape.

Jessica Valenti in “The Purity Myth” states it best, “While boys are taught that the things that make them men—good men—are universally accepted ethical ideals, women are led to believe that our moral compass lies somewhere between our legs. Literally. ”

Our fiction is made up of this double standard. This is why the romance genre is so littered with rape, because heroines can be forgiven for having sex and be heroines only when they never wanted the sex, when the hero has less than consensual sex with them and when they want sex only with that one man. So they get to experience it without ever wanting it because it’s the active desire that makes them whores, and whores are bad. The romance hero who has had a million relationships in his past finds true love and reforms, but how many romance arcs (in or outside of romance novels) have sexually adventuress heroines who reform? Because you can’t redeem whores, apparently. Their morality is not determined by how *good* they are as people, but how PURE and chaste they are. And it’s not even about their character because they can’t be redeemed simply by giving up their sexual liaisons because once they have fallen off of some pedestal, they’re irredeemable in patriarchal narratives.

When we made the list of anti-heroines, I had initially listed Inara, which was questioned by [ profile] nicole_anell (<3), and it occurs to me that the reason I had done so was because all my studies in Western literature taught me that Hookers with a Heart of Gold are anti-heroines, and I have never really questioned it because I like anti-heroines so it’s not really a bad thing in my book?

However, Hookers with Hearts of Gold are, of course, GOOD people with good intentions who usually end up sacrificing themselves for the greater good. So why the anti with that type of heroine? Because the flaw is a moral one where morals are judged by PURITY and not actual actions or goodness. Can you imagine a male hero with that type of personality ever being referred to as an anti-hero no matter how much sex he has? We have a whole literature made up of this, of women dying for being unconventional, often in sexual terms, because if women with sexuality are not punished properly, it somehow takes away the HEROINE bit of the anti-heroine. Because they must always, ALWAYS suffer for having a sexuality. It’s probably rarely intentional, not anymore anyway, and often just seems like ‘edgy’ plotting, but our fiction is still filled with this. Do good women get punished as often? Who are the women that usually get the rape arcs? And who learns a lesson from that rape and who is hurt the most from it, narratively speaking? I…honestly haven’t consumed enough fiction with rape to start giving examples because that’s usually my cue to stop watching/reading, but I’m willing to bet that there are patterns and that they’re not pretty.

Also, lastly, the slew of comments following this planned plot detail for "Firefly" were all, "Oh, noes! I can't believe the show died before it got to that brilliance! Poor Joss." And these are the people apparently fit to decide who is and isn't a feminist? Not a single comment where anyone objected to the rape.
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Date: 2011-12-03 12:13 am (UTC)
girlguidejones: (Default)
From: [personal profile] girlguidejones
Just wanted to drop by and thank you for this post. It's prompted a couple of great conversations with friends about female characters and those who write them. (Also including, thankfully, a precious few we feel have been brilliantly written which we can cling to with scant hope.)

Although I enjoyed Firefly as a whole, and finding this out was a huge disappointment, I'm still glad to know it.

Date: 2012-04-18 09:38 pm (UTC)
tirajm: (Default)
From: [personal profile] tirajm
Okay, so this post is totally old and my comment is way late, but I kind of have all these thoughts I want to get out and talking to an empty post is the best way for me to do it. SO

I always thought that Mal's issue with Inara wasn't her profession, it was the way people treated it. Like, all the pomp and circumstance and honor generally associated with them, when, getting right down to it, what they do is have sex with people for money. It wasn't an issue with what she did, it was an issue with the idea that that made her "better" somehow than women were who were "just" prostitutes. I always saw him as mostly objecting to the way that a "Companion" is treated as something good, but a "whore" isn't. Or something. And it was maybe kind of sort of related to his issues with the Alliance, and the way they treated people on the border planets, with Companions being more of an Inner planets thing? (Oh my god, I have forgotten so much Firefly terminology.) So this whole story idea is just kind of horrible and awful and I always hated the explanation of what the syringe was for anyways, and I am maybe now a tiny bit glad it got canceled even though I got less of Zoey and Wash and River and Kaylee because of it.

Also I wish there would have been more boy Companions on the show. Like, Kaylee mentions the "boy whores," which I thought was incredibly adorable of her (they're being thoughtful!). But we don't actually see any boy Companions, and Nandi makes that one remark about "the men were running it" and while I don't mind Companions as a whole being run by madames, it also sort of implied that it was an all-girls thing. I actually did make a male Companion character using the roleplaying system at one point, and I still love him even though I never got to play him. His main client was this super rich widow in her sixties, and she was totally casual about it being all for the sex and they were kind of friends.

Date: 2012-11-12 05:14 am (UTC)
sulien: Made from my favorite photo of Big Lagoon, Humboldt, CA (Default)
From: [personal profile] sulien
Thank you for this post. I just watched the 10th Anniversary Firefly Reunion on the Science channel and that was the first time I heard about the gang rape plot. Horrified and extremely dismayed do not even begin to cover how I felt at hearing all of that garbage. As much as I loved Firefly, I'm with you and downright grateful that the series was canceled before this plot could come to fruition. Joss Whedon has gone so far off the deep end that he's some miles below Challenger Deep at this point.

ETA: to ask if you mind if I post a link to this on my Facebook Page. You say here what I want to say but can't articulate or type without resorting to invective at the moment.
Edited Date: 2012-11-12 05:15 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-11-13 02:24 am (UTC)
sulien: Made from my favorite photo of Big Lagoon, Humboldt, CA (Default)
From: [personal profile] sulien
Thank you!

Date: 2012-12-09 03:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
First, I love Joss. When I was a kid, I saw an episode of Buffy's second season by chance and it was the first time I ever thought of women in action, after having a father who enforced the strictest of all possible gender stereotypes on me, his only daughter. It's why I lift weights & why I'd rather be a badass than a socialite, because I saw Buffy when I was about 10 years old and it literally did change my entire viewpoint of what I could be.

That said, I do recognize a lot of problems in his work. None moreso than this plot. This plot makes me rage beyond any other ill-advised plot anywhere else in Whedon's works.

Sigh. :|

Date: 2013-01-04 03:49 am (UTC)
bluestalking: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bluestalking
I love it when people hate Joss Whedon's fake creepy het guy "feminism". I had no idea about this and I feel just sick. Like that Angel episode with the kidnapped, tortured child who becomes an awakened Slayer wasn't creepy enough? Like Dollhouse isn't creepy enough? Like multiple sexbot plotlines, the murders of women who won't have sex with abusive boyfriends, Spike as a rapist, and endless instances of fragile young women with surprising physical strength being physically and mentally dominated, shaped and tortured by men is not creepy enough?

Just when I think he can't get more beneath my contempt, Joss Whedon finds a new bottom of the barrel. And I am so disappointed in Tim Minear.

Date: 2014-04-06 09:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brett william c (from
I have mixed feelings on this one.

On the one hand, rape is what the Reavers do, that is established from the outset. In that context, it makes sense. Is this more horrifying than what they did to the only survivor in the episode "Bushwacked", who was forced to see his friends and loved ones tortured to death in front of him until it drove him insane? Arguably no.

On the other hand the very point of that episode is that no human being can come back from that sort of horror. In order to deal with this properly it would take months for Inara to recover from that kind of trauma and I don't see the show doing that. So it is likely the whole seriousness of rape, and especially this kind of systematic abuse, is going to be downplayed.

But while I understand that people are angry that this episode is pitched more about Mal than Inara, the reality is also that Mal is also a victim in this scenario. Husbands who have wives who have been raped also suffer. We see this shown the other way around in which men are shown to have suffered torture or abuse, and their wives also live with the consequences. While I have no proof that this episode and those after would have dealt with the problem meaningfully and intelligently it is worth noting that male partners are also affected when women they love are raped. Their need to deal with that pain is also very real, confusing, and important.

Finally, we know Mal doesn't call Inara a whore because she has many sexual partners. Mal literally met Kaylee while she was on her back with her legs in the air under his then mechanic, but he never faults her for that. His attitude, good or bad, towards Inara stems in large part because she supported unification ("I don't suppose you're the only whore that did"). So the last scene written here where he kisses her hand is not about his legitimizing her - it is rather his way of saying (I believe) that she has always been a lady and nothing has happened to change that. Having something that horrible happen to her does not either lower or raise her status - she is what she is because of who she is inside, not what was done to her by others.

That's my opinions at first glance, anyway.
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