FIREFLY EPISODE DISCUSSIONS

Mal's backstory

POSTED BY: BYTEMITE
UPDATED: Wednesday, March 23, 2016 15:39
SHORT URL: http://bit.ly/148m2zJ
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013 4:59 AM

BYTEMITE


So we know what turned him into what he is seven to ten years after the war. And we know about the ranch, and his mother the businesswoman.

But do you think he was rich? poor? happy/unhappy? Were his parents from the rim with affected core pretension, or from the core and moved to the rim and made a life for themselves. What about his dad? Dead, deadbeat, runaway, abusive?

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013 7:20 PM

EBFIDDLER


Well, Bytemite, you know what my backstory for Mal is, and I suppose anyone who's been reading Light and Shadow knows some of it, too.

Of course, there's lots of room for others to think differently, but here's my headcanon, with a few supporting pieces of evidence:

Rich/poor: Definitely well-off. It's said that Mal's mother had about 40 hands working on her ranch. This would be an operation of substantial size, as there are plenty of large ranches in the western US with fewer than 10 employees. Might not have been cash-wealthy, but this was no subsistence farm.

Core/Rim: Mal's mother came from the Core (to teach English on Shadow, a kind of "Teach for America" program) and took to life on Shadow like a duck to water, and decided to stay. Hence the poetry in Mal's educational background. Mal's father was a native of Shadow.

Father: Dead. Not deadbeat, runaway, or abusive, but died in tragic circumstances that affected Mal's life pretty profoundly.

Happy/unhappy: Mal's early life was happy, until the above-mentioned tragedy struck; and then even still, he was still upbeat, until the rug was pulled from under him at Serenity Valley and brought everything crashing down with it. It's more of a fall if he was not already closed-off and cynical beforehand, more of a shock, from which he takes longer to recover, if he even can.

Anyway, that's my headcanon. I'm curious to see what other people think!

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013 8:07 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


I'm pretty flexible about backstories really, whatever people want to write in fanfic is usually fine by me as long as it fits with the person we know.

As for Mal he tends to keep his past to himself most of the time, I think maybe he figures it isn't relevent, maybe remembering it makes him too sad and bummed out.

Things we know: Mal grew up on Shadow on a ranch run by his mother who had many hired men working said ranch. At some point Mal became involved in the unification war and moved up the ranks. His disposition as indicated in the first scenes of the show would be that of someone who could inspire and lead others, give them direction and faith in what they're doing. We see Mal has a Christian background (whether he grew up in a Christian household or came to it later we aren't told,) we know its a part of his life at least during his war years. We know his warriors respect him, based on the stories and interactions related to his wartime service. We know Shadow got toasted during the conflict so we know his mother and ranch are history.

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

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013 8:18 PM

BYTEMITE


Yeah, Light and Shadow is fun, and I pretty much agree with your assessment, though Mal's dad might be core and his mother rim, or maybe both are core.

But I also think Mal's dad died. I think most of Mal's trauma came during and after the war and that's the primary negative influence on his interpersonal skills. I don't see an abusive childhood as contributing to that. Although there is a certain stoic closed off way Mal has about dealing with his problems/emotions/affection that he might have learned from family.

Not to say that Mal doesn't potentially still have abandonment issues about it, even if his dad's dead as opposed to deadbeat.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013 2:56 PM

PIRATENEWS

John Lee, conspiracy therapist at Hollywood award-winner History Channel-mocked SNL-spoofed PirateNew.org wooHOO!!!!!!


Is it possible Mal's dad was murdered by the Alliance during the war, either as a Browncoat or collateral damage?

Or perhaps his dad fought for the Alliance, before dying in battle...perhaps the Battle of Serenity Valley? (brother against brother, father against son?)

That would explain his extreme hatred of all things Alliance, culminating in Mal literally overthrowing the Alliance in the Battle of Serenity 2.0 (A Big Damn Film By Joss Whedon TM).





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Thursday, February 21, 2013 5:30 PM

BYTEMITE


Oh Riona, somehow I didn't notice your post, must have been working on mine.

Quote:


I'm pretty flexible about backstories really, whatever people want to write in fanfic is usually fine by me as long as it fits with the person we know.



True.

We do have some hints that Mal's mother taught him to dance and also taught him literature and poetry.

But that could be that his mother or father were from the core, or it could be his mother wanted him to be "cultured."


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Thursday, February 21, 2013 5:34 PM

BYTEMITE


PN:

Quote:


Is it possible Mal's dad was murdered by the Alliance during the war, either as a Browncoat or collateral damage?



Very possible. Or before it, seems his dad wasn't around on the ranch. Unless they had a gender role reversal where his mother ran the place and dad did all the cooking. Which, considering Joss... Maybe not that surprising.

It's interesting how we assumed that because Mal mentioned his mothers ranch, we assumed that meant his dad wasn't around. I never really noticed that before now.

But, actually, still kinda think his dad really wasn't around.

In Shepherd's Tale, there were some proto-Independent types I think 16 years before the war started. Mal's dad could have been involved.

My personal theory is that Mal's dad was from the core, and upper-class, but unconventional and rebellious against Blue Sun and the government, and it got him killed.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013 6:02 PM

MANATEE

We're still flyin: 'Firefly' Lives!


Mal's dad could have died in a stampede while Mal was young, forcing him to become a leader, teaching him to value & protect a good crew.

If we follow the western frontier analogy, about the only big-time entertainment available on the range was when a landholder would throw a party, and everyone within a hundred miles would show up. There'd be singing, dancing, matchmaking, eating & drinking for a week or more. Mal would dance, coming from that environment.

"Take my love, take my land..." -- makes me think the Alliance somehow took not only his birthright, but his [beloved/betrothed/wife] too.

-----
"Any sufficiently-advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."


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Thursday, February 21, 2013 7:55 PM

BYTEMITE


Could be. I also interpret that as maybe meaning he's lost whatever niceties or softness he might have had too. Like the capacity to express affection, because he's a pretty ornery guy after Serenity Valley. Either one works though.

I think that the absence of Mal's dad and his involvement with the hands on the ranch probably did teach Mal leadership.

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Friday, February 22, 2013 4:10 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Meet Mal's Father in Serenity Tales: The Black by Bill Mudron.
Mal disagrees with his Father and it wasn't because Mal wears suspenders while his Dad and the Alliance wear belts.
www.webcomicsnation.com/serenitytales/st_the_black/toc.php
Father and Son cleaning The Gun by the campfire


The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity," where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly

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Saturday, February 23, 2013 6:50 AM

BYTEMITE


I've read that comic before over on the site Serenity Tales. Good, although I'm pretty sure that song was written in canon after the Battle of Serenity Valley.

The Notes on a Fridge from the same site are hilarious though.

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Saturday, February 23, 2013 1:10 PM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
I've read that comic before over on the site Serenity Tales.

I like that The Black explains why Mal is still at war with the Alliance while other defeated soldiers have accepted peace. What makes Mal so very different? What happened to him before war started!

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity," where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly

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Monday, February 25, 2013 3:25 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


In the scene in Our Mrs. Reynolds where Mal mentions his mama's ranch and the hired hands, he gives the impression that he doesn't have an "actual" father as I recall. So that's why I've always assumed that most of Mal's boyhood was without his father. Technically it could be that his father just wasn't part of the picture, had run off or something, but I somehow always assumed that he was dead, or might as well have been.

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

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013 7:02 AM

BYTEMITE


But what if his mom owned the ranch and ran it, but Mal's dad was still in the picture as the cook or something?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013 9:54 AM

EBFIDDLER


Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
But what if his mom owned the ranch and ran it, but Mal's dad was still in the picture as the cook or something?


Very cool idea. Why should we assume it was HIS ranch and she would only run it if he were gone?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013 10:35 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
But what if his mom owned the ranch and ran it, but Mal's dad was still in the picture as the cook or something?

Who was the cook and who's the rancher has zero power to explain Mal's spectacularly unique behavior. Mal has this superheated hatred of the Alliance that interferes with everything. That hatred has got to be about more than losing the war or else there would be millions of Mals roaming the 'Verse.

Mal's backstory needs some reasons unique to Mal explaining why he is ruining his life (and Zoe's) by forever being at War. He just doesn't know when to quit smuggling and get a regular job and pay his taxes. Why? why? why? is Mal the way he is? Serenity Tales: The Black by Bill Mudron gave one explanation out of many possible.

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity," where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013 3:12 PM

RIONAEIRE

Beir bua agus beannacht


I might need to watch it again, but what Mal said about the ranch hands providing guidence of the paternal variety made me think he didn't have a fixed and steady father figure. that's why I assumed Mal didn't have a father. Am I remembering that scene wrong? Of course Mal's mom could have run the ranch and his dad could have been the cook, but what he said about paternal guidence from the ranch hands indicated to me that, more likely than not, Mal's actual father wasn't part of the picture.

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

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013 5:06 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

Originally posted by ebfiddler:
Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
But what if his mom owned the ranch and ran it, but Mal's dad was still in the picture as the cook or something?


Very cool idea. Why should we assume it was HIS ranch and she would only run it if he were gone?



In fairness, even in the big RPG handbook with Mal giving his own bio, he doesn't mention his dad at all. He mentions his mother and a ranch overseer. No father. So something probably DID happen. Or maybe one of the hands on the ranch was his father but he never found out which one, could have been born out of wedlock which would probably have been a big deal on Shadow.

But why indeed? Mal's mother could have had both a strict education regiment with a strong dose of core dance and manners, AND run the ranch as a savvy businesswoman.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013 5:43 AM

EBFIDDLER


I agree with Riona that Mal's father is probably out of the picture -- that's how I wrote it in my headcanon backstory for Mal. But I like challenging the stereotype that a woman wouldn't run a ranch unless there were no man to run it; and also the stereotype that all the ranch hands have to be male. Joss Whedon's future 'Verse seems to have more gender equality than the world we live in today -- I like extrapolating on that. Two's got a good point that Mal's anger has more than simply "losing the war" behind it. I tend to think that losing a war AND having your home planet rendered uninhabitable would do it.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013 8:15 AM

TWO

The Joss Whedon script for Serenity, where Wash lives, is Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly


Quote:

Originally posted by ebfiddler:
Two's got a good point that Mal's anger has more than simply "losing the war" behind it. I tend to think that losing a war AND having your home planet rendered uninhabitable would do it.

Then many veterans from Mal's planet would be like Mal. And many veterans from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden would have gone Mal-ish on the USA. But they didn't. Mal ( & poor Zoe ) seem all alone.

I like a backstory where something uniquely terrible happened only to [young, prewar] Mal and set him on course for Serenity and a rendezvous with River and his heroic destiny. His story gets wilder, stranger and faster AFTER the movie. If he slows down, there wouldn't be a good reason for a sequel in Hollywood.

The Joss Whedon script for "Serenity," where Wash lives, is
Serenity-190pages.pdf at www.mediafire.com/folder/1uwh75oa407q8/Firefly

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013 10:47 AM

EBFIDDLER


Quote:

Originally posted by two:
I like a backstory where something uniquely terrible happened only to [young, prewar] Mal and set him on course for Serenity and a rendezvous with River and his heroic destiny.



Agreed! Something happened to Mal, that didn't happen to Zoe, that pre-dates their first meeting (which we presume was in the war -- although I've read fanfics where they knew each other before the war, too). I've worked something of that kind into my headcanon backstory for Mal, but I most certainly won't reveal it here! ;-) No, it will be revealed in good time in my fanfic, where it has already been hinted at. (It was also hinted at in the series.)

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Thursday, February 28, 2013 6:35 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

Then many veterans from Mal's planet would be like Mal. And many veterans from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden would have gone Mal-ish on the USA. But they didn't. Mal ( & poor Zoe ) seem all alone.


Not so sure about that. The Ballad of Serenity Valley (the theme song of the show) supposedly also exists in the show's canon 'verse, which means unless Mal himself wrote it, someone else is pretty sad about Shadow being destroyed and the loss of Serenity Valley.

Another example when Zoe joined the Dust Devils, there had to be people there to JOIN.

And what about Monty? What's his story? He's got a big heart it seems, but it also seems like he's had to turn to crime after the war ended and maybe didn't have a place to go home to.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013 6:37 AM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

Agreed! Something happened to Mal, that didn't happen to Zoe, that pre-dates their first meeting (which we presume was in the war -- although I've read fanfics where they knew each other before the war, too). I've worked something of that kind into my headcanon backstory for Mal, but I most certainly won't reveal it here! ;-) No, it will be revealed in good time in my fanfic, where it has already been hinted at. (It was also hinted at in the series.)


I do agree that something at least made Mal join the war effort, though I don't necessarily think anything other than what we know had to affect Mal after the war to make him the way he is.

Also I have guesses about your fanfic. :)

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Thursday, February 28, 2013 7:01 AM

EBFIDDLER


Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
Quote:

Then many veterans from Mal's planet would be like Mal. And many veterans from Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden would have gone Mal-ish on the USA. But they didn't. Mal ( & poor Zoe ) seem all alone.


Not so sure about that. The Ballad of Serenity Valley (the theme song of the show) supposedly also exists in the show's canon 'verse, which means unless Mal himself wrote it, someone else is pretty sad about Shadow being destroyed and the loss of Serenity Valley.

Another example when Zoe joined the Dust Devils, there had to be people there to JOIN.

And what about Monty? What's his story? He's got a big heart it seems, but it also seems like he's had to turn to crime after the war ended and maybe didn't have a place to go home to.



As Two so rightly points out, losing the war and losing Shadow could have happened to many people, and they are not Mal, and do not all behave as Mal does. But Mal is not simply a product of what happened to him. He also is the way he is because of how he reacts to what happened to him. And the way he reacts doesn't have to be the result solely of traumas that occurred in his youth. He might react this way because it's part of his personality, in his nature. Or he could have been taught to react this way, either actively ("this is what you have to do to survive here, son") or passively (sees adults in his community reacting to stresses this way, imitates their behavior without conscious thought). Doesn't necessarily have to be a catastrophic occurrence in his youth, although it could be.

And as Bytemite points out, there are people in the 'Verse who reacted just as badly as Mal, or even worse than him, to losses of the war and Shadow.

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Thursday, February 28, 2013 7:05 AM

BYTEMITE


I mean Badger could be bitter about it, I'm not sure he even fought, but Persephone supposedly supported the browncoats. Some of his irritation with Mal and Zoe may be him projecting on them, blaming them for losing.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013 12:02 PM

TDBROWN


Just a small observation, based on experience....

My Grandparents had a ranch in Oklahoma, and they had an average 4-5 hands at any time during the 40s and 50s. My point though is that Ranch hands are transient. So when Mal says he had 40 ranch hands raise him as a kid, he probably meant "All together, over time".

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Saturday, November 16, 2013 3:43 PM

GWEK


I like to think that Mal's dad was a charming young drifter and ne'er-do-well who seduced him mom, left her pregnant, then moved on. Had the series continued, of course, he would have returned, in cahoots with (and possibly married to) Saffron, preferably played by Bruce Campbell.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013 12:18 PM

BYTEMITE


Father issues with someone who abandoned Mal and his mother could explain Mal's attitude towards Wash and Zoe hooking up and his opinion of Inara's clients.

And I could just imagine Saffron trolling the bejesus out of Mal by showing up on his father's arm.

All the same, Mal never says anything about a father in the series, movie, comics, or any of the other supplemental information. Could be Mal just doesn't know, which could be consistent with either a deadbeat or just plain dead. It's kind of a mystery though, and narratively speaking, mysteries are fun. I'd actually like to see Mal's backstory tie in with some kind of Alliance conspiracy and the Unification War, since that itself would relate to the myth arc and River.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013 8:54 PM

EBFIDDLER


Quote:

Originally posted by TDBrown:
they had an average 4-5 hands at any time during the 40s and 50s. My point though is that Ranch hands are transient. So when Mal says he had 40 ranch hands raise him as a kid, he probably meant "All together, over time".



Good point. Wouldn't have had to have had 40 ranch hands all at once. Although I'd imagine some of them would stay for more than one season, and there probably were a few who were constant fixtures throughout the years.

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013 8:56 PM

EBFIDDLER


Quote:

Originally posted by GWEK:
I like to think that Mal's dad was a charming young drifter and ne'er-do-well who seduced him mom, left her pregnant, then moved on. Had the series continued, of course, he would have returned, in cahoots with (and possibly married to) Saffron.



Oh, hahahaha! I love this! If he returned with Saffron, of course he'd be married to her, because who in the galaxy ain't?

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013 9:01 PM

EBFIDDLER


Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
Mal never says anything about a father in the series, movie, comics, or any of the other supplemental information. Could be Mal just doesn't know, which could be consistent with either a deadbeat or just plain dead. It's kind of a mystery though, and narratively speaking, mysteries are fun. I'd actually like to see Mal's backstory tie in with some kind of Alliance conspiracy and the Unification War, since that itself would relate to the myth arc and River.



Once again, Bytemite, I think you're sneaking looks at my hard drive or something, the way you guess at the story arcs I want to play out in my as-yet-incomplete fanfics. Either that, or your uncanny use of logic and character insight has graduated into full-blown impossible prediction levels! ;-)

Maybe this is the kick in the seat I need to get out of fanfic stasis and start writing again.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013 4:13 PM

BYTEMITE


>Good point. Wouldn't have had to have had 40 ranch hands all at once. Although I'd imagine some of them would stay for more than one season, and there probably were a few who were constant fixtures throughout the years.

Still seems like they probably had a good spread though. I'm still pretty sure from this representation that Mal came from a fairly well-off background, otherwise I'm not sure why his mother would be so concerned about him having a classical education and ballroom dance and all that.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013 4:16 PM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

Originally posted by ebfiddler:
Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
Mal never says anything about a father in the series, movie, comics, or any of the other supplemental information. Could be Mal just doesn't know, which could be consistent with either a deadbeat or just plain dead. It's kind of a mystery though, and narratively speaking, mysteries are fun. I'd actually like to see Mal's backstory tie in with some kind of Alliance conspiracy and the Unification War, since that itself would relate to the myth arc and River.



Once again, Bytemite, I think you're sneaking looks at my hard drive or something, the way you guess at the story arcs I want to play out in my as-yet-incomplete fanfics. Either that, or your uncanny use of logic and character insight has graduated into full-blown impossible prediction levels! ;-)

Maybe this is the kick in the seat I need to get out of fanfic stasis and start writing again.



More of a case of strange minds think alike. I've mentioned that I thought Mal's father might've been a politician who stumbled on a Blue Sun secret and got assassinated for it a couple times, and hinted at it in some of my fanfics.

I don't think that's exactly what you have planned, based on what I can remember about your plans for Light and Shadow.

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Friday, February 7, 2014 12:38 AM

DICKKING


Generally speaking I think Tim Minear had more to do with Mal's character development than Joss Whedon. Mal is classic liberal ie. Libertarian. Tim Minear has a long history of being involved with libertarian fiction. Including writing a screen play for the libertarian bible "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress" by Heinlein. Mal volunteers to fight for the independents. This is not contrary to non-agression since he is basically defending his way of life. The right to live your life without being meddled with or exterminated, as a campaign by the alliance would possibly have done. Family must have been well off since it's normally those that have something to lose that would like to keep it. The poor, defenseless, and hungry rarely start the war, they normally join later if at all. That's why tyrannical governments first disarm and then nationalize food production. When you have nothing to fight with and government has your next meal, you start to obey your masters very quickly. Many in tbe American revolution were land owners and merchants.
Another item I often see written about Mal is that he practices a form of moral relativism. I tend to disagree wirh that notion. Shooting first at an assassin, fed pointing gun at defenseless girl he plans to abduct, is not amoral. You can argue he's doing what anyone would do when confronted with a rabid dog. You don't let the dog live just because it hadn't bitten you. All advise and actions taken by him all point to a man of principle. Saffron is treated as an individual and not chattel. All his transactions are attempted to in fair trade.About the only fuzzy area in his logic is being OK with taking from the alliance. Theft from a crook is still theft. As Wash would say "stealing from the rich and selling to the poor'. Nonetheless the point is arguable. His hatred of the alliance is therefore easily explained before the war as rising against tyranny and supporting his principles of freedom. His hatred after the war is a given. Yet he still says the war is long over, we're all just people now. He lives on the edges of Alliance influence and ignores unjust laws. A scofflaw and not quite a hero, just regular folk that wishes to be free is what he is.
As for his father? Well that could be made into an interesting story since anything can be said.
Just my 1$ worth since 1$ is worth about 2¢ these days.

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Friday, February 7, 2014 2:32 PM

BYTEMITE


Quote:

About the only fuzzy area in his logic is being OK with taking from the alliance. Theft from a crook is still theft.


In this regards, Mal is both worse than and better than it initially appears.

There is a sort of moral greyness in continuing to rebel via crime - steal from the Alliance or slavers, and the people who will get hurt will be Rim citizens and the slaves. Plus Mal often ends up stealing from local proxies of the Alliance as opposed to directly.

At the same time, there's sort of extenuating circumstances here, in that the Alliance has basically taken EVERYTHING from Mal. If you steal from the people who stole from you, well it's not exactly taking the moral high ground sure, but is it WRONG?

And what about theft of information, say something along the lines of Miranda. Still wrong?

What about revenge on someone who just committed an atrocity murdering an entire settlement via bombardment? Is that wrong?

Also, Wash isn't always being entirely fair to Mal. In the Train Job, Mal stole medicines from the Alliance, and then gave it to the people who needed the medicine (admittedly, the medicine was intended for them, but he still technically stole from the Alliance, not them) when he found out their situation.

If it was really more about selling to the poor than doing the right thing, he wouldn't have had that crisis of conscience. There's also the time when Mal ran off bandits on Triumph apparently pro-bono, or offering to help Inara's friend free-of-charge (which she refuses).

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Friday, February 7, 2014 7:58 PM

DICKKING


Yep, nothing I disagree with there. A bit of an enigma in some areas. "A man of honor in a den of thieves ..." without a fine hat.
I still have a bit of an OCD issue going with this show this month. Think I'll tackle the fan fiction section next. Hopefully that'll get me through the withdrawal.
:)

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014 2:16 PM

FEMMEFAN1946


<>.

There is a fanfic out there starring Saffron, who has been made into the conman we know and love by her father. I think it’s a series on fanfiction.net- but I couldn’t find it. He turns up from time to time in the series. She hates him, but wants to please him. Hmm, put those two ideas together and Saffron is Mal’s sister.
I’m somewhat astonished that fen are so conservative in their social mores.
In addition to the possibility that Mal’s mother was the rancher, it is also possible that she chose single motherhood. Even today this is not rare, although it is unusual,among comfortably off single women of a certain age.
And of course, he might have had two mothers, another recent development perhaps, but our provincial premier (Kathleen Wynne- Ontario, Canada) divorced the father of her three children and is now married to another woman. The couple and the children were all on her official Christmas card.
One possiblity I would discount would be a polyamorous marriage, because Mal has most of the traits of an only child and because his mother is apparently the sole owner of the ranch. The polyamorists I know tend to a more communal lifestyle with several children, though rarely more than one child per woman.


femmefan1946

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014 2:20 PM

FEMMEFAN1946


I haven't figured out the quote thing yet.
My reply was in response to this:
"I like to think that Mal's dad was a charming young drifter and ne'er-do-well who seduced him mom, left her pregnant, then moved on. Had the series continued, of course, he would have returned, in cahoots with (and possibly married to) Saffron, preferably played by Bruce Campbell"

Does it make any more sense now?

femmefan1946

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014 2:53 PM

BYTEMITE


Just remember, Mal's less progressive attitudes have to come from somewhere.

We know he was raised christian. He doesn't appear to have any problems with people being gay, or non-traditional gender roles, but there do appear to be some limitations on his thinking that probably result from his upbringing.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014 10:47 AM

AGENTROUKA


Quote:

Originally posted by BYTEMITE:
Just remember, Mal's less progressive attitudes have to come from somewhere.

We know he was raised christian. He doesn't appear to have any problems with people being gay, or non-traditional gender roles, but there do appear to be some limitations on his thinking that probably result from his upbringing.



I've recently watched "Winter's Bone" and Jennifer Lawrence's character is pretty much my image of Mal's mom. Boom. She is very, very much like Mal, with different struggles but a very similar way of showing love or breaking through her own limits to "get things done". I find it hard now, to imagine Mal growing up in context that is very different from that movie's, i.e. a verrry rugged, corrupt and imperfect place that bred fierce independence because of how shit it was, rather than out of deep philosophical thought.

The main difference being that Mal, growing up, must have been well-off enough to be able to idealize such a society, they would have had to be reasonably comfortable to keep 40 ranch hands, right? And while he likes protecting the helpless, he doesn't strike me as someone who can truly identify with them.


Considering how much of an issue Mal has with men, I'm verrrry certain his father was a dead-beat and he probably never met him.


Anyway. It's a great movie and clicked into the Firefly area of my brain.

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Friday, April 25, 2014 3:26 PM

JEWELSTAITEFAN


I never got the impression Mal's dad was an abandonment situtation.
Mal's hatred for the Alliance burns strong largely because they destroyed his home planet, and apparently his mom somewhere along the way.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016 3:39 PM

THGRRI

May the Good Lord take a liking to you... but not too soon!


Originally posted by ebfiddler:


Well, Bytemite, you know what my backstory for Mal is, and I suppose anyone who's been reading Light and Shadow knows some of it, too.

Of course, there's lots of room for others to think differently, but here's my headcanon, with a few supporting pieces of evidence:

Rich/poor: Definitely well-off. It's said that Mal's mother had about 40 hands working on her ranch. This would be an operation of substantial size, as there are plenty of large ranches in the western US with fewer than 10 employees. Might not have been cash-wealthy, but this was no subsistence farm.

Core/Rim: Mal's mother came from the Core (to teach English on Shadow, a kind of "Teach for America" program) and took to life on Shadow like a duck to water, and decided to stay. Hence the poetry in Mal's educational background. Mal's father was a native of Shadow.

Father: Dead. Not deadbeat, runaway, or abusive, but died in tragic circumstances that affected Mal's life pretty profoundly.

Happy/unhappy: Mal's early life was happy, until the above-mentioned tragedy struck; and then even still, he was still upbeat, until the rug was pulled from under him at Serenity Valley and brought everything crashing down with it. It's more of a fall if he was not already closed-off and cynical beforehand, more of a shock, from which he takes longer to recover, if he even can.

Anyway, that's my headcanon. I'm curious to see what other people think!

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