“I can kill you with my brain”: River Tam, Mad Speech, and the Weaponized Woman


Before I begin this paper properly, I must confess that I am a Browncoat, which is the label given to fans of Joss Whedon’s series Firefly and its movie sequel, Serenity (Firefly/Serenity).  I, like many other scholar-fans, have found this series to be a gold mine.  Despite its short run, the series has spawned a handful of books and countless articles on a variety of topics.  That said, this paper will draw from sources beyond Whedon studies, including scholars of mental health and madness, as well as feminist theorists.

This paper will focus on the character of River Tam, a young woman who was experimented on by the government.  First, I will provide a brief overview of both the show and River’s history to establish an understanding of Firefly/Serenity and of her character.  Next, I will explore River’s dialogue as mad speech or l’écriture féminine.  Finally, I will turn to her position as one of Joss Whedon’s weaponized women as an example of Donna Haraway’s cyborg.  I posit that River Tam is a cyborg whose madness is weaponized as an assassin for the government.  She is not exactly a woman or an object, as she has elements of both within her.  River speaks in the mad language of l’écriture féminine, but she is dehumanized by the men who experimented on her brain.  While River Tam may seem meek and frail, she is actually much more than she appears to be.

The ‘Verse of Firefly/Serenity

Firefly/Serenity is a space western set in the future year of 2517 AD.  As one of the main characters, Malcolm Reynolds, explains, “Earth got used up, so we terraformed a whole new galaxy of Earths, some rich and plush with new technologies, so not so much.  Central planets, them as formed the Alliance, waged war to bring everyone under their rule.  A few idiots tried to fight it, among them myself” (Espenson “Shindig” 00:00-00:38).  After the War for Unification between the Alliance and the rebel Browncoats, the various planets of the ‘verse are all controlled by the Alliance.  Years later, Mal now captains a Firefly class spaceship named Serenity, after the deciding battle of Serenity Valley.  Along with Mal is his first-mate and fellow Browncoat, Zoe.  The pilot is Zoe’s husband, Wash.  The ship’s mechanic is a young woman named Kaylee Frye.  Jayne Cobb is a gun-for-hire whose his allegiances are known to change.  One of the ship’s two shuttles is rented out to Inara Serra, a companion who is cultured, refined, and schooled in the art of seduction.

Mal and his crew live on the margins of society, trying to avoid the Alliance and their control.  His ship is falling apart and he needs to make money so he docks the ship and offers passage to anyone willing to pay.  One of the guests is a holy man, Shepherd Book, who is similar to a monk.  Another traveler is Dobson, who turns out to be a federal agent.  Finally, there is the wealthy and dapper Dr. Simon Tam.

In his first moments onboard, Simon is presented as sinister and obviously concealing many secrets.  When a signal is sent out to the Alliance, Mal believes Simon is behind it.  Mal opens the mysterious crate Simon has brought with him, an item he appears to protect.  When Mal opens the crate, he finds a girl inside.  She is named River and she will change Mal’s life and endanger the crew and guests of Serenity.

River TamEp_serenity_sc387.jpg

The audience is first introduced to River Tam when she is her most vulnerable: curled in the fetal position, she is naked and asleep in a cryogenic chamber.  Mal does not understand the sight before him, and his only response is to gawk awkwardly.  When the girl suddenly bursts out of her false sleep and crawls out of the chamber, Simon rushes to comfort her and explains that this young woman is his sister, River.  This moment establishes River’s condition and her brother’s undying devotion to his little sister.

In the next scene, Simon gathers the crew around the dining room table to explain his history and the situation with his sister.  Simon begins:

I am very smart … ‘Gifted’ is the term.  So when I tell you that my little sister makes me look like an idiot child, I want you to understand my full meaning.  River was more than gifted.  Everything she did—music, math, theoretical physics, even dance—there was nothing that didn’t come as naturally to her as breathing does to us … There was a school.  A government-sponsored academy.  We [the Tam family] had never even heard of it, but it had the most exciting program, the most challenging … She wanted to go.  She wanted to learn.  She was fourteen. (Whedon “Serenity” 38)

Now, Simon and River are on the run from the Alliance.  We learn later that River alerted her brother to the experiments at the Academy.  After receiving cryptic letters from his sister, he went against his father’s wishes and rescued River from the Academy that was torturing her under the guidance of the Alliance.

Firefly - Simon & River.jpgSimon is his sister’s caretaker throughout the series.  However, he does not fully know what her condition is or the reason the Alliance experimented on her.  He tries to understand River’s symptoms using his advanced medical knowledge and labels her madness as “paranoid schizophrenia,” but he knows that does not cover the extent of River’s new abilities (Greenberg “Safe”).  Despite the label, the Tams grow to be a part of Mal’s crew aboard his ship.  The two begin to interact with other characters, and Simon becomes the resident doctor.  River bonds with Kaylee and plays with her about the cargo bay in “War Stories.”  In another episode, River connects with Shepherd Book when he tries to explain that one does not “fix” the Bible.  River says that it simply does not make sense, especially Noah’s Ark (“Jaynestown”).  Jayne finds River unsettling and does not understand why Mal is risking his ship and their lives to help the Tams.  The rest of the crew (Zoe, Mal, Wash, and Inara) simply do not know what to make of the young woman.

The crew learns in Serenity that River is not the only person who was experimented on by the government.  When River learns of the mysterious planet, Miranda, the crew investigates and finds out that the Alliance subjected an entire planet to human trials.  While testing Pax, a drug meant to subdue the population, scientists find that Pax makes people so tranquil that they lie down and die.  However, a small percentage of the population reacts to Pax with rage and aggression.  These test subjects become Reavers, a group of savages who terrorize the ‘verse.  Reavers are the boogeymen of space, a product of the Alliance just like River.

In “Safe,” the audience sees River as a little girl.  She displays her brilliance by correcting her older brother’s homework.  When Simon tells her that his answer matches his school book, she points out that the book’s answer is incorrect.  Meanwhile, River is playing make-believe as her older brother studies.  Simon cannot help but be drawn into his sister’s imaginary scenario.  River pretends that she is in the War for Unification, fighting against the Browncoats (the side Mal fought on), when the rebels attack the Alliance with dinosaurs.  At the news of impending dinosaurs, Simon curses in Mandarin (a common practice in the series), but the fun is interrupted by their father entering the room.  This scene of young River is the only time in the series when we see how she was before the experiments.

Simon is protective of his sister and desperate to understand what the Alliance did to cause her current condition.  His quest for answers leads him to conceive of a heist on one of the wealthy central planets, Ariel.  He plans to steal medicine, which can then be sold to the poorer planets for a profit.  However, this is not the primary goal.  Simon mainly wants to use a piece of medical equipment to scan his sister’s brain and finally discover what the Alliance did to her at the Academy.

After smuggling themselves into the hospital with the help of the crew, Simon examines an image of River’s brain.  He explains to Jayne as he looks over the scan, “They opened up her skull and then they cut into her brain … They did it over and over…  They stripped her amygdala … She feels everything.  She can’t not” (Molina “Ariel” 73-6).  Finally, Simon has the answer to how the Alliance experimented on River, but he still lacks the why.  Shepherd Book later suggests that perhaps the Alliance was testing the limits of human endurance (“War Stories”).  However, Simon believes the Alliance had a “very specific” purpose for hurting River (Cain “War Stories” 87).

The reason behind the Alliance’s experimentation on River becomes clear in the film Serenity.  She was meant to be an assassin before Simon found and rescued her.  She was experimented on because she was gifted.  Her natural talent was heightened and weaponized.  River was made into a psychic or a reader, as Mal calls her.  However, the experiments have unforeseen side effects; the torture she endured made her insane.  She is deadly, but she is also a bundle of madness and confusion.  She cannot turn off her psychic abilities, and the flood of voices and information intruding into her own thoughts leaves her jumbled and unsure of reality.  River says to Simon, “I get confused. I remember everything. I remember too much. And some of it’s made up… and some of it can’t be quantified…and there’s secrets. But I understand. You gave up everything you had to find me. You found me broken.” (Greenberg “Safe” 144).  Her logic is not based on linear time, and her thoughts are often not her own.  River “feels everything” including not only her own emotions but also the feelings and thoughts of those around her.  She is overwhelmed and believes she is broken.  She does not know what is real or quantifiable, and she knows there are secrets buried somewhere in her mind.  River is more than she seems, as the crew soon discovers.

The first hint that River is more than mad or even psychic comes in “War Stories.”  During a mission to save Mal from a warlord named Niska, the crew loads up with guns to storm his space station.  When Kaylee finds herself alone and facing gunfire from Niska’s goons, River comes to save her friend.  Without looking, River calmly targets and kills three men.  She then turns to Kaylee and repeats an earlier line, “No power in the ‘verse can stop me,” which now takes on a sinister meaning (Cain “War Stories” 107).  Confused and worried about River’s actions, Kaylee fears to mention the event and does not bring it up until later during “Objects in Space.”  When speaking of River’s kill shots, Kaylee says, “Nobody can shoot like that that’s a person” (Whedon “Objects” 190).  Although the two young women are friends, Kaylee is scared of River after seeing her coldly murder people.  River is becoming dangerous.

During “Objects in Space,” River reveals to the bounty hunter, Jubal Early, that she knows she is dangerous to the crew.  Speaking to Jubal, River says, “Don’t belong.  Dangerous like you.  Can’t be controlled.  Can’t be trusted.  Everyone could just go on without me and not have to worry” (Whedon “Objects in Space” 203).  River sees herself as a burden, a broken person that Simon must take care of all the time.  While everyone considers River insane, she understands and perceives that people are afraid of her and her abilities.  However, after River saves the crew from Jubal, she is finally welcomed as part of the family of Serenity.  The episode and the series end with River playing a game of jacks with Kaylee, while the mechanic teases her lovingly about her genius abilities.

Mad Speech


River’s abilities present themselves in several ways, including reading minds, physically fighting, and aiming a gun without looking at her target.  However, her madness is best expressed in her dialogue with characters, especially when speaking with her brother.  River does not always have control of her mind, her body, or her speech.  As River says herself, “I don’t know what I’m saying.  I never know what I’m saying.” (Whedon Serenity 97).  Her speech can seem random, like when she wakes up in “Ariel” during the hospital heist and tells Jayne, “A copper for a kiss” (Molina “Ariel” 71).  Where did that come from and why did she direct it towards Jayne, a man she knows will betray her to the Alliance?  Later in “Ariel,” River talks about Christmas being taken away.  Perhaps these words are an example of her channeling someone else’s thoughts.  When speaking about River, Federal Agent McGinnis says, “[T]he girl was just spewing gibberish” (Molina “Ariel” 79).  This gibberish is mad speech.

Despite her mad speech, River does not fit the figure of the madwoman.  In the essay, “‘Much Madness is Divinest Sense’: Firefly’s ‘Big Damn Heroes’ and Little Witches,” Alyson R. Buckman agrees on this point and also believes River speaks her own language or mad speech.  Buckman suggests that River is a model of l’écriture feminine, or feminine discourse (45).  Feminine discourse arises from the basis that all language is patriarchal.  Thus, women must learn to speak their own language.  Buckman explains, “Binary oppositions, fixed meaning, and the ‘linear flow of language and narrative’ are broken down through the multiplicity and fluidity of women’s language: the woman who utilizes this means towards subjectivity does not make (phallogocentric) sense” (45).  River does not speak or think in a linear fashion as her brain is always moving in time.  For example, she knows that Jayne will betray her and Simon during the hospital heist on Ariel, so she slashes him across the chest before the heist has even begun.[1]  River is reacting to Jayne’s future decision, but she jumps the gun.  She is lost in mental time travel.

Several times throughout Firefly/Serenity, River gives mad speeches, although she does not talk much compared to other characters.  After Jayne buys apples for the crew, a luxury since fresh produce is rare, Kaylee and River playfully fight over one of the apples.  Kaylee wins the prize and claims, “No power in the ‘verse can stop me” (Cain “War Stories” 87).  Later in the bedroom she shares with her brother, River vomits up the apple; Simon says it may be a side effect of the medications she is on.  River says to Simon,

Going. Going back, like apple bits coming back up.  Chaos … Played with Kaylee.  The sun came out, and I walked on my feet and heard with my ears.  I ate the bits.  The bits did stay down. And I work.  I function like I’m a girl.  I hate it because I know it’ll go away.  The sun goes dark and chaos is come again.  Fluids.  What am I?  (Cain “War Stories” 89)

This is a lucid moment for River, and it is laced with sorrow.  She is aware that she has good days or, at least, good moments, when she is sane and whole.  However, she knows that these moments will not last.  Simon does not know how to help his sister beyond using his medical training.  He responds to River’s question (“What am I?) by saying, “You are my beautiful sister” (Cain “War Stories” 89).  The bond that Simon and River share is a cornerstone of Firefly/Serenity. Although Simon does not understand his sister and her mad speech fully, he is still her big brother.  Perhaps, Simon cannot truly comprehend River because he is a man and she is speaking l’écriture feminine.

According to French feminist Luce Irigaray, the woman of l’écriture feminine “is indefinitely other in herself.  This is doubtless why she is said to be whimsical, incomprehensible, agitated, capricious … not to mention her language … Hers are contradictory words, somewhat mad from the standpoint of reason, inaudible for whoever listens to them” (qtd. in Buckman 45-6, my emphasis).  Irigaray’s description explains River so well.  She is seen by others as whimsical and random.  Zoe suggests that River might “blow us all up or rub soup in our hair.  It’s a toss-up.”  Wash responds by saying, “I hope she does the soup thing.  It’s a hoot and we don’t all die from it (Whedon “Objects” 189).  River is a wildcard for the crew.  Or as Buckman explains, the crew must understand that River is “unknowable, unthinkable, unimaginable” (48).  As Jayne points out several times, she is also a safety risk.  She and Simon are on the run from the Alliance, the last people Mal and his crew want to encounter in the vastness of space.  Her wacky hijinks make members of the crew weary of her and what she might do at any moment.  They do not understand her or her actions.

There are gaps between l’écriture féminine and River’s situation.  River is psychic, and she admits that sometimes her thoughts and words are not her own.  “Objects in Space” centers on River and her abilities.[2]  As she wanders about the ship, the audience sees everything from her perspective.  She hears her brother’s lament that if he did not have to rescue her, he would be living his dream as a doctor on a central planet.  When River sees Wash and Zoe kissing, she grips her arms and appears to feel the energy the couple is sharing with each other.  As she drifts by Mal and Inara talking, she hears the subtext of their dialogue: Inara and Mal are passionate about one another but never speak their feelings aloud.  In the culminating moment of the first act, she finds a stick on the floor of the cargo bay.  She innocently picks it up and says, “It’s just an object.  It doesn’t mean what you think” (Whedon “Objects” 188).  However, what River perceives as a stick is actually a loaded gun.  The crew panics while Mal calmly talks her down and explains that she is holding a weapon.  She replies by referring to herself in the third-person and stating, “She understands.  She doesn’t comprehend” (Whedon “Objects” 188).  River’s status mirrors in her interaction with the gun.  As Buckman notes, “Like the gun, River doesn’t ‘mean anything’” (47).  The point of the episode is that we are all just objects in space, without any meaning.  In a moment of frustration, River runs off as she yells, “It’s getting very, very crowded” (Whedon “Objects” 189).  Her mind, not the space around her, is crowded with voices and thoughts, which she finds overwhelming.  This moment with the gun highlights how River sees objects and people.  Everything for her is arbitrary.  If objects have no inherent meaning, then words also lack definitive meaning.  Her only form of communication is undecipherable; it is mad speech.

Mad speech has a long literary history and dates back to at least the early modern dramatists, such as Shakespeare.  As Maurice Charney and Hanna Charney note in their article, “The Language of Madwomen in Shakespeare and His Fellow Dramatists,” “Madwomen offered the dramatists an opportunity to write speeches of exuberant fancy and lyric grace” (459).  Although River does not fit the image of a madwoman such as Ophelia in Hamlet, her dialogue is lyrical and fanciful.  Like other Whedonverse projects, language in Firefly/Serenity is often playful, even for characters other than River.  For example, Whedon’s series Buffy the Vampire Slayer is known for its unusual use of language.[3]  Firefly/Serenity is no different.  Every character speaks in a stylized manner, emphasizing the idea that the show is a western adventure set in space.  Characters like Mal, Jayne, and Kaylee do not use proper English grammar and they sound as if they stepped out of a John Wayne film.  On the other hand, Simon, River, Book, and Inara use language that exposes their status in society and their cultured background.  The Tams come from a wealthy family, and their language reflects that fact.  Kaylee, who is desperately in love with Simon, worries that he is too clean and too proper; there is no point to being civilized on the margins of the ‘verse.  In a way, language is central to Whedon’s characters and how they interact with each other.  However, language is not the show’s only means of communication.  Given the show’s western theme, another way characters express themselves is through violence.  While some are more aggressive than others (i.e. Jayne), the most skillful fighter is River.

A Living Weapon


Along with making her mad, the Alliance transformed River into an elegant weapon.  Despite her slight appearance, she can fight using only her genius mind and her agile body.  This skill of violence is only hinted at in the series, in “War Stories” and “Object in Space.”

River is an enigma, and no one understands her abilities or the extent of her new powers.  She is called a witch, a reader, and a weapon.  Her status as a weapon is the source of her troubles and her strength.  According to Michael Marano in his essay, “River Tam and the Weaponized Women of the Whedonverse,” “[T]he idea of a woman as created by a weapon-maker within Patriarchal contexts is a recurring motif in the worlds imagined by Joss Whedon” (37).  Marano traces this motif back to Whedon’s version of Ripley in the film, Alien: Resurrection, and most notably Buffy Summers, the vampire slayer.  It appears that Whedon uses the weaponized woman in a few of his projects.  With both Buffy Summers and River Tam, the audience is presented with a seemingly weak female character who turns out to be strong, skillful, and completely capable of kicking ass.  Whedon has often said that Buffy is a reversal of the trope of the blonde woman who walks down an alley and is killed by a monster in horror movies.  The idea of woman as weapon is that she was created by a male authority, but she overcomes that authority and embraces her power, making it her own.

However, unlike Buffy, River Tam is a volatile weaponized woman.  Whatever the intentions of the Alliance, they created an assassin who does not always have a firm grip on reality.  As Marano points out, “River’s capacity as a weapon, her psychic abilities and her physical prowess [make] her an object to the Alliance.  Stolen goods walking on two feet” (42-3).  She is seen as a valuable tool for the Alliance to wield, not a person.  As the government agent Dobson explains, River is a “precious commodity” for the Alliance and “worth a lot of money” (Whedon “Serenity” 45).  After seeing River attack a bar full of people, Mal believes River is a “time bomb” and locks her in a room for everyone’s safety.  Mal asks Simon, “Who are we going to find in there?  The girl or the weapon?” (Whedon Serenity 0:38:19-0:38:23).  Everyone agrees that River can become a danger at any moment.

In Serenity, River is being pursued by the Operative, an agent of the Alliance.  He is a man on a mission, willing to murder children and burn down towns to achieve his goal of apprehending River.  In his first encounter with Mal, the Operative tells the captain, “That girl will rain destruction down on you and your ship.  She is an albatross, Captain” (Whedon Serenity 105).  The Operative knows what River a capable of doing.  In an effort to find her, the Operative sends out a subliminal message over the cortex.  When River walks into a bar, she sees an ad for Fruity Oaty bars.  Inside this innocent ad is the Operative’s hidden message that triggers River. She shows off her full fighting skills as she appears entranced and attacks everyone in the bar, including Jayne.  Mal runs to get his gun from a lockbox.  Mal and River standoff for a brief moment until Simon utters a safe word, causing River to fall to the floor.

Despite her small stature and frail appearance, River is deadly.  The Operative’s trigger proves that she can be set off at any moment.  While re-watching the scene at the bar, Mr. Universe asks Mal, “Do you know what it is you’re carrying?” (Whedon Serenity 97).  Although River became part of the crew during the series, her very personhood is questioned again.  Mr. Universe calls River “it,” making her a non-person.  When River escapes her confines aboard the ship, Mal asks her pointedly, “Are you anything but a weapon?  I stake my crew’s life on the theory that you’re a person, actual and whole, and if I’m wrong, you best shoot me now.  [River cocks her gun.] Or we could talk more” (Whedon Serenity 116).  The irony of River holding Mal at gunpoint is that she is already a weaponized woman; she does not need to use a gun to inflict pain.  The fact that the gun is a phallic symbol makes it doubly useless.  River is a strong young woman who does not need a male weapon to make her point.

River is dehumanized by the government when she is made into a weaponized woman.  In an effort to “make people better,” Lorna Jowett points out in her essay “Back to the Future: Retrofuturism, Cyberpunk, and Humanity in Firefly and Serenity” that the Alliance uses “control, force, or invasive medical procedures” (103).  Although the Operative claims that the Alliance is not an “evil empire,” their actions speak to their unethical intentions.  Jowett notes that “Objectification of humans by the Alliance is demonstrated through River … To the Alliance … River is ‘theirs’ in the sense of being a commodity (not a person)” (103).  The government made River into what she is today, a powerful tool, an assassin.  As mentioned above, River was already creative and highly intelligent before she went to the Academy at age fourteen.  As Jowett notes, “The Alliance has invested in her education and the enhancement of her abilities, making River ‘a living weapon,’ a product” (103-4).  The government sees her as their property, which takes away her humanity and her womanhood.  In this way, she becomes a model of Donna Haraway’s cyborg.

In the “Cyborg Manifesto,” Haraway defines a cyborg as “a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction” (2190).  River is a hybrid of humanity and medical experimentation.  The cyborg is also “a creature in a post-gender world” (Haraway 2191).  Although River is a weaponized young woman who speaks l’écriture feminine, she is devoid of any signs of sexuality.  Unlike other portrayals of mad speech, Whedon and his writers never sexualized River.  All the other female characters—Kaylee, Inara, and Zoe—have sexual activity at points in Firefly/Serenity.  River is presented as girlish, cute, and incredibly odd, but not sexy.  Buckman considers Whedon’s refusal to sexualize River as a “blow to masculine discourse” (46).  Along with River’s undecipherable language, her body cannot be understood by men as a sex object.  As Buckman points out, River’s “visual construction is waifish; she primarily wears oversized skirts, long sweaters, and dresses.  She often goes barefoot, maintaining her tactile contact with the ship” (46).  River is an aloof and undefinable character, who is neither woman nor machine.  She is a cyborg who cannot be contained.

As Simon says of River, “She feels everything.  She can’t not” (Molina “Ariel” 73-6). As a cyborg, River is “about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities” (Haraway 2195).  As a psychic, River’s brain overflows and mixes with the minds of those around her.  She cannot be contained by anything: gender, language, authority.  When River “becomes” Serenity during “Objects in Space,” the crew believes that she can merge with a spaceship.  Even though she is only pretending, the idea does not seem impossible to the crew because they never know what to expect from her.  She is so powerful that not even her own body can limit her potential.  Truly, no power in the ‘verse can stop River.


Much like the Reavers she fights and defeats, River Tam is the result of the Alliance’s experimentations.  However, she is more than simply a product of the government.  After discovering the origins of the Reavers, River vomits.  She purges more than the contents of her stomach, however, as she finally finds clarity.  When asked if she is okay, River responds by saying, “I’m all right” (Whedon Serenity 130).  As she says the words, it dawns on her that she is free of the burdensome secret of Miranda and the Reavers.  She repeats the words again, but with a new meaning.

After River is rid of the Miranda secret, she becomes herself.  She uses her weaponized body to protect her family during the climax of Serenity as the Reavers attacked in large numbers.  It is only by embracing her power that she becomes herself again.  River becomes part of the crew of Serenity as Mal teaches her to fly his ship, although he is aware she already knows the science behind it.  She is re-humanized in this moment; Mal even calls her “little albatross,” a reference to the Operative’s warning about her (Whedon Serenity 157).  Mal and the crew know they cannot control River like the Alliance.  Instead, they accept her madness, her weaponization, and her genius as is.  River Tam is finally whole and actual.


Works Cited

Buckman, Alyson, R. “‘Much Madness is Divinest Sense’: Firefly’s ‘Big Damn Heroes’ and Little Witches.” Edited by Rhonda V. Wilcox and Tanya R. Cochran, Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier. I. B. Tauris, 2010, pp. 41-62.

Cain, Cheryl.  “War Stories.” Firefly: The Official Companion, Volume Two. Titan Books, 2007, pp. 86-108.

Charney, Maurice, and Hanna Charney.  “The Language of Madwomen in Shakespeare and His Fellow Dramatists.”  Signs, vol. 3, no. 2, 1977, pp. 451-60.

Espenson, Jane.  “Shindig.” Firefly. Produced by Joss Whedon, Fox, 2002.

Greenberg, Drew Z.  “Safe.” Firefly: The Official Companion, Volume One. Titan Books, 2006, pp. 126-49.

Haraway, Donna.  “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s.”  The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism.  Edited by Vincent B. Leitch, Norton, 2010, pp. 2190-220.

Jowett, Lorna.  “Back to the Future: Retrofuturism, Cyberpunk, and Humanity in Firefly and Serenity.” Edited by Rhonda V. Wilcox and Tanya R. Cochran, Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier. I. B. Tauris, 2010, pp. 101-15.

Marano, Michael.  “River Tam and the Weaponized Women of the Whedonverse.”  Serenity Found: More Unauthorized Essays on Joss Whedon’s Firefly Universe, Edited by Jane Espenson, BenBella Books, 2007, pp. 37-48.

Molina, Jose.  “Ariel.”  Firefly: The Official Companion, Volume Two. Titan Books, 2007, pp. 62-83

Whedon, Joss.  “Objects in Space.”  Firefly: The Official Companion, Volume Two. Titan Books, 2007, pp. 186-205

—-.  “Serenity.” Firefly: The Official Companion, Volume One. Titan Books, 2006, pp. 14-53.

—-.  Serenity: The Official Visual Companion.  Titan Books, 2005.



[1] Of note is the fact that Jayne is wearing a shirt with the Blue Sun logo, a fathom entity that is linked to the Alliance government.

[2] In the DVD commentary for “Objects in Space,” Whedon notes that this episode was heavily influenced by his reading of Nausea Jean-Paul Sartre.

[3] See Michael Adam’s Slayer Slang

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