GENERAL DISCUSSIONS

Heart of Gold Motivations

POSTED BY: BYTEMITE
UPDATED: Thursday, September 8, 2011 12:33
SHORT URL: http://bit.ly/ogRrKl
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Saturday, September 3, 2011 8:17 AM

BYTEMITE


So yeah, yet another thread exploring the Nandi/Mal/Inara triangle. This time not about Inara's reasons for leaving, as those have been covered fairly well here and elsewhere already, but rather about the pre-fight shenanigans.

I actually am still not sure why Inara didn't want to spend more time with Nandi, and feel free to discuss that as well. I just wanted to toss out a different line of speculation that probably hasn't been looked at closely.

Before I'd been thinking that Nandi had seen Mal's feelings for Inara and had decided they were unreciprocated. I also thought she felt indebted to Mal and, because of her sense of independence, wanted to even things up between them, so she offers him the chance to live out some of the fantasies he has about Inara with her.

In the episode itself, afterward, Inara suggests that she thinks Mal was comforting Nandi, an explanation Mal accepts, because, as he says, he doesn't want Inara to think he was taking advantage.

Most of us probably dismissed this explanation out of hand, simply because this is Nandi we're talking about, tough talking Rim-world Madam who knows how to use a gun and got her current business by killing the prior owner. She doesn't need comfort, right?

But just because someone is confident, independent, and scrappy doesn't mean they don't have worries or need comfort. For example, Mal - he's one of the most broken down characters on the show, probably second only to River. Just because he steels himself with and hides behind his role in command and a tough guy facade doesn't mean this isn't a very damaged person underneath who is struggling to heal.

And I was thinking recently, just because Nandi does seduce Mal, doesn't mean she wasn't also looking for comfort. How else was she going to ask, really?

So what if Inara's assessment that Mal was comforting Nandi actually is right?

We know Mal is a hero archetype, with protectiveness being his primary trait and determination being a supporting trait. We also see that he has plenty of the heroic inspirational charisma. But another side of the hero is the kindness aspect, a nurturing side that Mal shows now and then. It's easy to forget about it, because Mal often has to be hard by necessity, but that hardness isn't necessarily who he is.

And, if Mal WAS comforting Nandi, more than indulging fantasies about Inara, then that creates an interesting parallel between Mal's nurturing side and Inara's nurturing tendencies. Both Mal and Inara would hero and nurture (respectively) even if there was no one paying them, and it's possible both actually prefer to act out of the goodness of their heart.

So the question I'm posing to you all is, was Mal companioning the companion? Does Mal gain any insights into the hows and whys of that profession this way?


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Sunday, September 4, 2011 5:37 AM

PLATONIST


You bring forth some interesting points, Byt, about Mal and the act of companioning.

Post HoG, there’s a subtle shift in his degradation of the vocation. At the end of the episode, Inara says she learned about the strength of family. I wonder if Mal learned the wanting of comfort sex and emotional closeness in trying times is not so much of a weakness, but simply being human, from his time with Nandi, and that’s what brought him to his truth some talk at the end with Inara. Perhaps he recognized, on some level, it’s essentially what Inara provides to her clients, especially ones like Fess and the Councilor.

Or does he stop calling her a whore because she’s already decided to leave and it would be pointless in continuing the charade of respecting the person, rather than the person who values being a Companion as a worthy life endeavor?

In retrospect, I’m really glad Inara left, exercising her independent streak.
Regardless of how painful it was for Mal, he can respect that, above all else.

And, oh, I think Inara was busy helping Simon with the baby, again providing comfort and that’s why she didn’t have her time with Nandi. Or, picking up from another thread, Inara is a genetic clone, an exact replica of Inara from House Madrassa and she has no idea who Nandi really is, except for Nandi recognizing her, as she plays along.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011 7:29 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

I wonder if Mal learned the wanting of comfort sex and emotional closeness in trying times is not so much of a weakness, but simply being human, from his time with Nandi, and that’s what brought him to his truth some talk at the end with Inara.


It could. I've wondered just how self-aware Mal is of his own problems sometimes - he might not recognize how that revelation relates to himself, or in the very least is too proud to really admit it to himself. But if he saw something of being human and needing comfort but also having strength in Nandi, perhaps he starts to wonder if Inara also needs comfort, and that brings him to her to see how she's doing after the loss of her friend.

I don't think he's approaching Inara thinking that maybe grief might put her in the mood, I think he goes to see her because he wants to comfort her, swallows his own pride out of concern for her to admit his feelings and try to cross that gap to help her. Predictably, Inara can't let him.

I think Inara's focus on Petaline probably is her nature, but I also see a few things in Inara - the way she nests in her shuttle, the way she behaves towards Kaylee and River, the way she gets upset when Mal talks about having children - that suggests that she really wants to be a mother. But for some reason, she doesn't believe she can.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011 8:21 AM

PLATONIST


Could be, I've just never understood how Mal got to a place of truthfulness with Inara, after his post coital bliss with Nandi, unless he also learns something from what happened.

At first, it would seem, it was because Nandi had died, and she was the one who called Mal out for NOT being entirely truthful about Inara’s feelings for him, (which I’m sure Mal was in denial about, anyway) but then that explanation makes little sense when you consider the context of their night together, as Mal genuinely was attracted to Nandi, and her, him, unless that attraction was based on preconceived pretentiousness of similarities, which obviously doesn’t carry over to the next day, leaving Mal, still in love with Inara and realizing life’s too short to let things stay the same. Or maybe, Mal simply recognizes he can’t emotionally move on with anyone until his feelings for Inara are out in the open, and resolved, which of course they’re not, because she leaves with words unsaid between them.

Also, I think the writer was focused on Inara in this episode, her reaction to Mal sleeping with Nandi and her ultimate decision to leave, and her secret which she hasn’t shared with any of them. So Mal’s motives are muddled and left ambiguous. But, I have found it interesting how Mal tones down the negativity about her work, life’s a learning process. I guess he figured he lost that battle, but then I’m not a guy.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011 9:17 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

At first, it would seem, it was because Nandi had died, and she was the one who called Mal out for NOT being entirely truthful about Inara’s feelings for him {...} realizing life’s too short to let things stay the same


Quote:

Or maybe, Mal simply recognizes he can’t emotionally move on with anyone until his feelings for Inara are out in the open


Both of those are interesting, and possible. Though I think he ought to at least be sensitive to the fact that Inara is in mourning and probably not particularly receptive to any romantic overtures. Putting his feelings out there with the intention that he could comfort her after might explain why he chooses that particular time to come clean.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011 10:33 AM

PLATONIST



Well, she does try to comfort him by saying, it's not his fault... in the realm of romantic relationships, Simon may be a boob, but Mal, he's down right moronic.

Of all times to express his romantic feelings for her, he chooses to do it when she's mourning a friend who has died, the one he slept with, essentially their client.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011 10:44 AM

BYTEMITE


That's why I think his primary motivation might not have been romantic at the time. Maybe he wasn't being selfish or make a move on her, maybe he was just trying to be there for her.

I know he's not great at being comforting, but as a hero character he's compelled to try sometimes. He actually hung out for a while with Jayne after Jaynestown, and he usually puts the kid gloves on with Kaylee whenever she's upset about something.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011 11:17 AM

PLATONIST


I'd like to give Mal the benefit of the doubt too, but usually you don't start a supportive moment between crew members with "life's too short for ifs and maybes" unless you’re writing Jayne and Mal slashy fanfic.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011 11:22 AM

BYTEMITE


Hmm. Good point. Well, he could have had two agendas, with comforting Nandi and then being confronted over his dishonesty about his feelings for Inara, both might have played some role in shaping how he tries to approach Inara.

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Sunday, September 4, 2011 11:30 AM

BYTEMITE


Or maybe, that could still work as a him just trying to get close enough to comfort her, or offering to be there for her, while at the same time pushing ahead and admitting how he feels. We don't exactly get to finish hearing him say whatever he was going to.

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Monday, September 5, 2011 5:03 AM

GILLIANROSE


Grrr, I posted a response but it's lost! I'll try to recap.

I went back and looked at the Mal/Nandi scene in the Official Companion's script. At that point it doesn't seem like Mal goes to Nandi with the understanding that she needs comforting, although he may have been able to infer something general from her comment about people being unable to sleep the night before a fight.

But that page of the Companion includes a short commentary by Nathan and he refers to Mal learning about himself through other characters, and being with Nandi giving him a way to feel what he hadn't felt in a very long time. Also, that it allowed him to be a human being, which he says is really hard for Mal to do.

I think the entirety of the experience of the night with Nandi let Mal reacquaint himself with the idea that sex is a lot more complex than the way he disdainfully characterizes it to Inara (and others): lust, weakness, power, exploitation.

In their conversation after Nandi dies, with his uncharacteristic openness about feeling like he failed her, it seems like he's still in an emotional place where he realizes the power, for both people, of being emotionally transparent. If he's not holding back about his sorrow, in a way he's giving permission for Inara to be open as well. And the if's and maybe's declaration - well, we'll never know but I think the caveat that he gives, that he's not asking for anything for her, signals that he wants her to know in advance that she need not, by word or deed, respond to him. I'd like to think he's about to tell her how he truly "sees" her - sees and values her. Not that he's THE ONE who can see her, but that her particular and quiet wonderfulness has not escaped his notice.

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Monday, September 5, 2011 5:32 AM

BYTEMITE


The possibility that Mal WASN'T about to reveal his feelings is also something I considered, and would also make more sense with the fact that you'd think, and hope, that Mal would respect Inara's grief enough to not try to make romantic overtures on her at that point.

As for who comforts whom, I guess it could have been both, and Mal learns about strength and yet still being human that way.

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Monday, September 5, 2011 9:05 AM

GILLIANROSE


As for his later behavior toward Inara, I think Mal's expression upon hearing Rance Burgess refer to Nandi as a whore was very telling. Apart from the anger, he looked horrified. I always thought that hearing Burgess reduce Nandi in that way changed the way he felt about how he speaks to Inara.

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Monday, September 5, 2011 9:43 AM

BYTEMITE


I actually think the big change happened earlier, after Atherton. Mal doesn't call Inara "whore" after Shindig except for in a flashback in Out of Gas.

I do think Mal reacts the way he does towards Rance for a similar reason as he reacts towards Atherton, only more so because instead of just abusing or threatening the companion in question Rance actually killed her. (Somehow I wouldn't have put that past Ath, either, there were times Atherton seemed a little psycho)

However, I do agree that while Atherton stopped Mal from saying whore, Rance probably caused Mal to scale back the negative comments even moreso. In Those Left Behind, there's plenty of occasion for Mal to be bitter and provoked and yet the worst Mal says to/about her is that she has a schedule to keep. In OiS after Jubal Early slapped Inara, he's very gentle towards her, and in The Message, which also used to be placed after Heart of Gold, they're laughing and friendly together and he even defends her profession and reminds her that she doesn't want to hurt her reputation by helping him.

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Monday, September 5, 2011 9:51 AM

PLATONIST



"She was just a whore"

Yeah, agree with your summation GR. Mal may have seen himself at that moment.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011 8:21 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


I think these theories all make sense, the mutual comfort, the new understandings, why Mal went to Inara when he did to try and suss out what he really wanted to say, it all makes sense.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 3:51 AM

BYTEMITE


Wellll... I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say Mal saw himself, because no matter how bad Mal thinks he is I doubt he'd use the profession of the women as an excuse to abuse, hit, shoot, or bully them because in his view they have no worth as human beings. For another, he wouldn't force a girl on her knees in front of him and a whole lot of other men to perform various acts and humiliate her and then say that it's "her place."

But, it would maybe confront him with the fact that his comments have been ugly and not respectful. Which actually isn't something I think he fully intended where Inara is concerned. I think instead that first he doesn't really understand her choices, and second his brain is haywire with aggression and PTSD and it causes him to run at the mouth sometimes with some meanness. When you're angry just about all the time, your mind will go dark places, and some of that will come out in speech because you also self-censor less when you're angry.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 3:56 AM

BYTEMITE


Riona: I'd like to think so. At least it's better than my "settling debts" theory. That makes Nandi very independent, but almost a little too calculating and unfeeling.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 8:08 AM

PLATONIST


Mal's consistent degrading of her chosen profession, is not only disrespectful, but devalues her as a person, as much as he wants to claim it doesn’t, it does. Is that any different than what Rance does by the way he acts? Sure Rance’s actions are more irreprehensible, but the justifications for their behavior are the same, whores don’t deserve respect or have value, and when you don’t respect something you can treat it anyway you deem necessary to set things righteous. I think this is what Mal sees in Rance, a bit of his own prejudices, and he doesn’t like it.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 9:03 AM

BYTEMITE


I don't know that INTERNALLY he doesn't respect her, is the thing. He shows no such hangups towards Nandi, he's attracted to both, the only difference is with Inara he has these lasting feelings that a one night stand can't get rid of.

I mean yes, his language is disrespectful, and when Mal starts to realize it I'd agree he starts trying to change that. The question I have is if Mal really means what he says, and I don't think he does.

The companion thing is just something he lashes out at because he's afraid of rejection, which becomes a vicious cycle. He just shoots his mouth off sometimes. And I also think he tries to express that he has concerns that her profession is dangerous (pot, meet kettle), but they come out all wrong. He DOES think they deserve respect and that their lives have value, which is why he doesn't like it when clients are disrespectful or possessive (and why he fights for Nandi and Petaline). Unfortunately he's REALLY bad at expressing this.

But Rance really means, thinks, and believes that prostitutes and even just women have no value beyond a sex toy and baby-making. It really seems like a whole 'nother level of being a bigot abusive misogynist, versus Mal being a little screwed up in the head and difficulty controlling his anger.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 11:00 AM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


If someone thinks that Mal's insults and distaste for Inara's profession are as bad as Rance's cruelty and nastiness then that person needs to think long and hard about reality.

I don't think Mal sees himself in Rance, I do think that the experience at the Heart of Gold does change his outlook on some things a bit, makes him realize that he can't hide behind petty insults forever even if he is a "petty thief". :) I think seeing Nandy die, even though he's seen countless others die, helps him see that life's to short as he says later to Inara and that maybe the pettieness, the little things need to be set aside to a degree. Then Inara screws it up, if its not one its the other eh?

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 11:27 AM

BYTEMITE


Well, she kinda had to stop him, but yes, she probably shouldn't have done that. She probably should have tried to tell the truth as well, and explained why they can't be together. Sure it would hurt, but it would probably hurt far less than not knowing and him believing she thinks he's lower than scum. He'd have closure, and he could maybe move on.

To be fair to her, she did think she was protecting him.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 11:54 AM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


They're both impossible.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 12:04 PM

BYTEMITE


They are. By the end of the movie it seems like maybe Inara's made a decision, but who knows if that'll last or if Mal won't be the difficult one this time.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 12:13 PM

PLATONIST


Words tossed around like "whore" and "petty" can hurt just as much as psychological cruelty and physical abuse, especially said in anger, as a retort. It hurts more because of the negative connotations placed on them, applying such connotations to a person like Mal does, and Inara, to a degree, devalues their esteem and self worth over time and obviously did nothing for their relationship.


Rance refers to Nandi as a "whore" justifying her death, semantically it means a person of not much worth, no matter what context Mal uses the word in the future towards Inara, it will always carrying that meaning, or at least it should. Does Mal really think Inara has no value or worth? I can’t believe he does.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 12:23 PM

BYTEMITE


That's true. I just wanted to point out that even though words CAN hurt (and have here, they've both damaged each other somewhat), and while the hurt exists regardless of where it comes from, at least where it's coming from is a lot different than Rance Burgess. It's unintentional to some degree.

Quote:

Does Mal really think Inara has no value and worth? I can’t believe he does.


No, he doesn't. I do think he becomes more aware and careful of what he says after Rance, but I don't think he needed Rance to show him how not to mistreat the women in his life. He didn't learn that misogyny and abuse was bad from Rance, because he knew those were bad in the first place. Mal's problem is a lack of control and sensitivity, not that he sees Nandi or Inara as worthless.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 12:25 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


I think Mal realized some things from his experience with Ath too. Sure Mal calls Inara a whore, which is rude and mean and hurtful, but Atherton didn't respect Inara as a person, beyond not respecting her career choices.

"A completely coherant River means writers don't deliver" KatTaya

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Thursday, September 8, 2011 12:33 PM

BYTEMITE


I think he learned two things from Atherton, first that despite the positive light Inara puts on things, very few of her clients treat her with respect. And the second is that he's a jerk and a hypocrite for calling her the same thing Atherton does. So he stops.

From Rance, he sees just how dangerous things can be for someone in that profession, it's a bit nightmarish for Mal, because this is probably one of his fears as pertains to Inara, that she'll run across someone as abusive and controlling as Rance.

..Ooooh. Now there's something that works with what Platonist is saying. Mal is inclined a bit to think of himself as a monster. Maybe he DID see something of himself in Rance, that he makes unreasonable demands sometimes like Rance for Petaline's child while refusing to give anyone a choice, that he might end up responsible for Inara dying... And so this is the reason Mal LETS INARA GO.

Remember in Trash, not two episodes previous (and using the original schedule, the previous episode) how Mal and Inara were fighting over Mal allowing Inara to work? That's what changed!

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