Category Archives: Orientalism

Cultures that are not mine.

I read this little story by Neil Gaiman and spent most of my time reading it being annoyed by – oh, many, many things.

But it reminded me of this article by Lynne d Johnson that I had seen linked from wikipedia’s article on the Marvel superhero Storm. Why, I cannot say. (Asian) Indian people have their own history of representation and misrepresentation in Western/White/Male texts of various sorts, but that seems a flimsy piece of near-similarity to base an affinity upon.

I tend to be one of those people who thinks that the first Star Trek series was the best of the lot in terms of character potential. I also am one of those people that thinks that the original series wasted most of that potential. I would have loved for my strongest memory of Nichelle Nichols to not be her character Uhura screaming because a superbeing had made her old and ugly.

Writing this blog post was supposed to jumpstart my memory – and serve as procrastination for not writing something else which I need ready by 11 a.m. tomorrow, since simply watching Firefly would be too lazily unproductive to actually count as thinking-y.

But mentioning Firefly now brings me to one of my biggest problems with Firefly: Zoe Washburne (née Alleyne).

[I need, perhaps, to state this very clearly: Gina Torres is hot. She is very, very attractive. She has a lovely, deep voice. When I see Gina Torres, I want to see more Gina Torres. Possibly, if Zoe Washburne (formerly and perhaps even currently Alleyne) had been played by Lawrence Fishburne, this issue would not have bothered me and I would use the standard “Whedon only had 14 episodes and one movie to pack in all the characters and there were so many of them oodlelalay.” But Gina Torres played the role, I wanted more, and I got almost nothing. I have, in effect, shot this little post in the foot before it even began.)

Let’s see what we can dig up from the series, and the movie, about Zoe W/A’s character.
–> She is married, and seems to have a loving, if sometimes tense, relationship with her husband.
—-> The husband is
a) not as attractive as she is
b) not as “badass” as she is
c) very unlike her in general character, being more excitable (positively and negatively)
d) possessed of a different skill set, which means that she and he rarely go out on missions together
e) jealous of her relationship with her former (and current) commanding officer, which he attempts to fix by going on a mission with, not her, but the commander
—-> The first time she met the man whom she would eventually marry, she was “disturbed” by him. He bothered her.

–> At some point, Zoe would like to have children. As far as I can remember, the husband wants children too. But my memory on this is fuzzy. Someone help?

–> Zoe knows more than her husband does about the jobs the crew is contracted to do. She is smarter and calmer than her husband and her subordinate. She is calmer than her commander.

–> In the absence of the Courtesan, she is the character who must attempt to keep an overly violent commander in check. With little success, it must be granted.

–> She calls the commander “Sir”, even though they are no longer in the army. She displays a dignified subservience to his commands, wishes and whims. They appear to have laid to rest an old sexual camaraderie that no longer bothers them – though it does bother Zoe’s husband.

–> She has a gun. It makes her a warrior woman.

Her sexuality was so soldierified that she couldn’t identify romantic/sexual attraction. She is First Mate and subservient in manner to her captain. She responds to loss by withdrawing deeper into warrior mode. She’s a woman, an almost-mother, a soldier.

I wonder what d Johnson would say of her.