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17 March 2004 @ 01:06 pm
Deconstructing the Sheperd - Firefly Musings  
Almost a week after my actual birthday, I finally found the time to play with the brandnew Firefly DVDs I had gotten as a gift from cavendish. (Cavendish, you just rock and you know it ;-))

Watching the additional bonus featurettes on disc four, I was somewhat puzzled by actor Ron Glass' comment about his character, Sheperd Book, serving as a moral conscience for Serenity's crew.

From his very first appearance in the show's pilot episode onwards, I always perceived Book as a character not so much representing a distinct and well reflected moral point of view, but rather as embodying the desperate search for such a kind of guideline.

Unlike the fugitives River and Simon, Book enters the ship as a stranger on walkabout, the very image of a person in search of his self. Although the Sheperd's past can only be object of speculation based on the various clues given throughout the existing episodes, his behaviour clearly is that of a man in transition, trying to shake off one former (most probably "non-ethical") identity for the sake of another, "ethical" one; namely an identity determined by the principles of his Christian faith.

The closer one examines Book's actions, however, as well as the religious positions he advocates, the more obvious it becomes in my opinion, that the core of his spiritual belief is a fragile one at best.

Especially during the early episodes, Book often appears like somebody trying to act like he assumes a true Sheperd should be acting if he were in that particular situation; completely regardless whether this kind of behaviour is in fact appropriate or not. Two very good examples for this are his initial disapproval of Inara (solely based on Inara's profession)and the wonderful "Special Hell" speech he gives Mal in Our Mrs Reynolds. One should think that by that point of the series, Book has been on board Serenity long enough to realise that Mal, though having turned his back on God, surely lives by his own, rather strict moral codex and also feels a strong need for protecting the innocent (just think of Mal's behaviour towards Kaylee). Therefore, at least in these scenes, Book's "moral highground" attitude seems shallow and rather superfluous.

Whereas, in War Stories, the Sheperd's readiness to take another human's life might also be interpreted as an act of biblical(?) self-justice combined with the wish to spare others, especially Simon, the experience of killing and guilt, Out of Gas reveals the full scope of Book's spiritual doubts. When the crew is confronted with the life-threatening situation on board Serenity, it is he who, unable to find any solace in the Scriptures, of all characters clearly shows the most apparent fear of dying.

Regardless how much Book is presented as a person wanting to embrace religious faith as guideline for his change into a man different from the man he used to be, in the end he still appears as drifting as everybody else on board Serenity.

Probably even more.




Thoughts, anyone?
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Cavendishcavendish on March 17th, 2004 12:35 pm (UTC)
:-)
As I have told you on the phone already, I agree completly. Thks for that fine analysis :-)

F.
Selena: Sleerselenak on March 18th, 2004 01:36 am (UTC)
Thoughts forthcoming...
...when I'm back in Munich (currently on the road, working, and hence time-limited on the net).
Cavendishcavendish on March 18th, 2004 03:32 am (UTC)
;-)
oh, and btw.:

>(Cavendish, you just rock and you know it ;-))

although this is not completly true: thanks ;-))
Selena: ConnorDarlaselenak on March 24th, 2004 09:07 am (UTC)
just remembered I wanted to comment further
Firstly, you have the DVDS? Am envious and demand they are to be brought to the mini-con.

Secondly, about Book: I saw him as someone clearly hunted by his past, whatever that (sharp-shooter? assassin?) might have been, who looked for a refuge first in his order and then on Serenity. But also as someone trying to be there for these people. As a guide, as you say, he does not qualify.

But then again, consider that actors often have different opinions on their characters - vide JM about Spike, PW on Methos, and Paul Darrow on Avon - than the fans and/or creators do. Oh, and another example, since I watched those DS9 DVDs recently - Marc Alaimo and Ira Behr couldn't have disagreed more on Gul Dukat.
Bimo: Jayne_hatbimo on March 25th, 2004 12:49 am (UTC)
Re: just remembered I wanted to comment further
Firstly, you have the DVDS? Am envious and demand they are to be brought to the mini-con.

Your wish is my command :-)
Contrasting such a modern and amazingly crossreferential Sci-Fi show as Firefly with a genre classic like B7 sounds fantastic. (All I need to do now is to find a way to silence the evil angel on my shoulder who keeps insisting that it would probably wiser to keep the DVDs as bribing material if I ever want to read that Lorne/Wesley story you promised *gg*)

So, when shall we meet?
The 02.4 - 06.4 timeslot or the 13.4-19.4 one?
Selenaselenak on March 25th, 2004 02:36 am (UTC)
Re: just remembered I wanted to comment further
Oh, I'll write that Lorne and Wesley story. (Not Lorne/Wesley.*g*) I just need my season 4 tapes back from Imke for reference.

13.4. - 19.4. would be my preference.
DorothyL: Harm's Wayrevdorothyl on June 15th, 2004 02:26 pm (UTC)
Re: just remembered I wanted to comment further
I have to agree with both of you, Selenak and Bimo. Given Whedon's theology, it's not surprising that Book is portrayed as less the stereotypical "ideal clergyperson" (a fount of moral certitude and faith when all around him are getting bogged down in doubt and temptation) and more of a mirror or foil for highlighting Mal's faith and role as moral exemplar for his crew -- even though Mal's faith is based on the loss of faith and learning to live with doubt and meaninglessness, while still keeping faith with himself and those under his protection.

"Secondly, about Book: I saw him as someone clearly haunted by his past, whatever that (sharp-shooter? assassin?) might have been, who looked for a refuge first in his order and then on Serenity. But also as someone trying to be there for these people. As a guide, as you say, he does not qualify."

Good observation, as well as your point about actors not always seeing their characters in the same way as the audience or the writers.

One of the reasons I've often been uncomfortable being called "pastor" ('shepherd') myself is because the very word implies a gulf between the 'shepherd' and the 'sheep', that they are forever different species, with impermeable boundaries between their abilities and calling. I'd rather see myself as more of a 'wounded healer' (a la Henri Nouwen), or someone who simply has specialized training and a specialized vocabulary for reflecting on our shared experience as human beings trying to go on being in the face of non-being.

Buffy, Angel, and Mal -- they try to provide refuge for those who need it, even though they themselves feel acutely their inadequacy in the face of so much danger and evil, and they lead in spite of and because of their doubts and the courage with which they face them, rather than out of any moral or spiritual certainties that set them above the other people in their communities.

Sorry to get so carried away! Sermon over!
Bimobimo on June 16th, 2004 12:52 am (UTC)
Re: just remembered I wanted to comment further
Sorry to get so carried away! Sermon over!

No need to feel sorry for the "sermon", Dorothy :-)

Reading your thoughts on "Book as a foil" and "offering refuge in the face of danger of evil" just made my day :-)

DorothyLrevdorothyl on June 16th, 2004 04:32 pm (UTC)
Re: just remembered I wanted to comment further
Thanks for making my day by starting such a fascinating discussion!