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“Objects in Space,” Firefly 1.10 (December 13, 2002. Written and Directed by Joss Whedon Brunel Science Fiction Club, December 4th, 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "“Objects in Space,” Firefly 1.10 (December 13, 2002. Written and Directed by Joss Whedon Brunel Science Fiction Club, December 4th, 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 “Objects in Space,” Firefly 1.10 (December 13, Written and Directed by Joss Whedon Brunel Science Fiction Club, December 4th, 2007

2 “Rat Saw God” (Veronica Mars 2.6)

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17 Whedon and Science Fiction

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22 2003

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24 2002

25 2005

26 “Objects in Space”: Talking Points

27 Race in “Objects in Space”

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29 Buffy the Vampire Slayer presents “debilitating images and ideas about people of color.”--Kent Ono in Fantasy Girls

30 “ “Early’s systematic accompaniment with this ominous bass clarinet melody follows in the tradition of not just the ways that Hollywood musically accompanies villains, but more specifically, it follows some traditions in the ways that black rapists get represented. To go back to what most film historians consider the first Hollywood blockbuster, consider how the two black would-be rapists in The Birth of a Nation (1915) are accompanied by Joseph Carl Breil’s musical score that he put together specifically for that film. Breil’s score, a pastiche of both borrowed and original elements, opens with an original melody titled (in a 1916 edition of sheet music from the film) ‘The Motif of Barbarism’” (Gaines and Lerner 252). Neil Lerner, “Music, Race, and Paradoxes of Representation: Jubal Early’s Musical Motif of Barbarism in ‘Objects in Space’”

31 The “Motif of Barbarism” accompanies the first sequence in the entire film with a title card that reads, “The Bringing of the African to America planted the first seed of disunion.” Breil’s music specifies that a tom tom should beat with the pentatonic melody; the music has a simplicity and texture that connote something primitive, especially as compared to the music that accompanies many of the white characters in the film. The Motif of Barbarism returns several times in Breil’s film score, notably during the two attempted rape scenes. Neil Lerner, “Music, Race, and Paradoxes of Representation: Jubal Early’s Musical Motif of Barbarism in ‘Objects in Space’”

32 As Gus, the renegade ex-slave, threatens the Little Sister character with rape, Breil’s motif works to establish Gus as a threatening presence; we see him leering in the background of scenes where we watch Little Sister playing, underscored by the melody first announced to us in connection to the “seeds of disunion.” Later in the film, Silas Lynch (another African-American character who, like Gus, is played by a white actor in blackface) makes sexual advances towards Elsie Stoneman, in a sequence that also calls for the musical “Motif of Barbarism” in the score. In The Birth of a Nation, both of these would-be rapists have their plans foiled by members of the Ku Klux Klan, who are meant to be understood in this film as the heroes; the film has been used as a recruiting tool for this terrorist group ever since. Neil Lerner, “Music, Race, and Paradoxes of Representation: Jubal Early’s Musical Motif of Barbarism in ‘Objects in Space’”

33 “While Edmonson tends to avoid a pure leitmotivic system for his musical characterizations throughout his scoring of Firefly—that is to say, he does not employ recurring and developing melodies that symbolize all of the characters and ideas—he does on occasion attach characters and ideas to specific timbres and even to specific melodic shapes and gestures. The distinctive music that accompanies Early occurs thirteen times throughout the episode, all but once played on a bass clarinet (the other occurrence happens on the guitar), and each time tracing out the interval of a rising perfect fifth (usually between E and B, but at times transposed to other keys); it also, as with many of Edmonson’s melodies in this series, gets accompanied by a drone, or pedal point.” Neil Lerner, “Music, Race, and Paradoxes of Representation: Jubal Early’s Musical Motif of Barbarism in ‘Objects in Space’”

34 “Kaylee is someone that he approaches a different way, through a really horrible form of sexual intimidation. This is one of those scenes, that, you know, you write and then you worry that maybe you’re not as good a person as you hoped you were. You film this scene and everybody kind of wants to avoid you for the rest of the day. It really is just as creepy as possible.”-- Joss Whedon, “Objects in Space” DVD Commentary

35 Given the largely progressive ideology one finds in so much of Whedon’s work, it feels counterintuitive to imagine Whedon wanting to recruit members for the Klan, even though Whedon presents us with what seem the same racist stories that one finds in Birth of a Nation (i.e., that African American men will rape white women unless heroic white men—in “Objects,” men guided by a woman- -protect them). As he often does, Whedon complicates the matter beyond simple binaries like black and white. Whedon has a tremendous gift for words and ideas, and his character’s names reflect that. Whether it be the ironic combining of Buffy with Vampire Slayer, the revealing signifier Cordelia, or a character with the same name as film scholar Robin Wood, Whedon’s names often possess multiple layers of meaning.-- Neil Lerner, “Music, Race, and Paradoxes of Representation: Jubal Early’s Musical Motif of Barbarism in ‘Objects in Space’”

36 Sometimes he has his characters muse on the meaning of the names, as when River notices that Mal’s name means “bad” (“The Train Job,” 1.2). One of his slyest tricks may be the complicated layering present in the name of his Boba Fett-like bounty hunter, Jubal Early. In a brilliantly perverse twist of historical name-dropping, Whedon names his potential rapist after a particularly nasty Confederate States of America general. Jubal Early of the C.S.A. led several successful campaigns against Union forces, including a raid on Washington in 1864, that rather concerned the federal government workers. Early also is credited with being one of the architects of the Lost Cause, the belief by some in the South that the Confederacy had not lost the war but rather had simply been overwhelmed by the Union’s greater numbers (Nolan 11-34). Neil Lerner, “Music, Race, and Paradoxes of Representation: Jubal Early’s Musical Motif of Barbarism in ‘Objects in Space’”

37 Whedon’s Directorial Style in “Objects in Space”

38 Whedon Auteur Signatures: Dream Sequences

39 Whedon Auteur Signatures: The Big Finish

40 Whedon Auteur Signatures: Fight Scenes

41 Whedon Auteur Signatures: Cross-Cutting

42 Whedon Auteur Signatures: Tricks of the Trade/Unusual Framing

43 Whedon Auteur Signatures: Depth of Focus

44 Whedon Auteur Signatures: One-ers

45 Whedon Auteur Signatures: Dream Sequences The Big Finish Fight Scenes Cross-Cutting Tricks of the Trade/Unusual Framing Depth of Focus One-ers

46 Influences on “Objects in Space”

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58 Gaston Bachelard

59 “One of the most significant of the Firefly episodes, for River, is “Objects in Space,” written and directed by Whedon (1.14). In this episode a bounty hunter, Jubal Early, pursues River, who at this point seems to be a weapon highly valued by the Alliance, that bastion of civilization which has in the past supported wealthy families like the Tams while literally destroying the worlds of rebels who refuse their control, such as Serenity’s Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his first mate Zoe Washburne. The hunter who pursues River and the price on her head is himself curiously philosophical, skilled, and intuitive (as Whedon comments) almost to the point of being psychic—and psychotic; in other words, he is very like River herself.”--Rhonda Wilcox, “’I Don’t Hold to That’: Joss Whedon and Original Sin”

60 “The overarching difference is that she, even in her fractured state, is benevolent (thus, for example, when she lifts a gun from the floor, she visualizes it as the branch of a tree) while he is sadistic, as she points out to him in recalling what he did to a neighbor’s dog. And there are few more horrifying scenes than the one in which he threatens to rape Serenity’s young engineer Kaylee if she resists him. Yet he is able to see himself as logical: he shoots Simon, having explained that surgeons should experience wounds just as psychiatrists go through psychoanalysis: insane troll logic, as Buffy’s Xander might say.”--Rhonda Wilcox, “’I Don’t Hold to That’: Joss Whedon and Original Sin”

61 “As Whedon explains in the commentary, Early allows us to learn something about each of those on board the ship, by their reaction to him—and his to them. At the beginning of the episode, they are discussing their new knowledge of River’s weapons ability and her unstable mental condition—discussing whether or not she should stay on board. By the end of the episode, she is literally floating through space down into the welcoming arms of the captain, as she returns from Early’s Boba-Fett-like vessel, having engineered his departure into the emptiness that so suits him. “Objects in Space” seems to be a precapitulation of Serenity in many ways.” --Rhonda Wilcox, “’I Don’t Hold to That’: Joss Whedon and Original Sin”

62 “Certainly the character of Early anticipates the film character of the nameless Alliance operative who relentlessly seeks River: both are extraordinarily skilled men who speak in an extremely polished fashion with great confidence and purpose, and yet are willing to kill without hesitation in their pursuit. (Of their differences, more later.) The pattern also is carried out in that River is, in both “Objects” and Serenity, pivotal in saving the lives of the Firefly folks (or most of them), and she seems to have progressed in terms of mental/emotional stability in both stories; near the end of “Objects,” she beams as she asks the captain for “permission to come aboard”; by the end of Serenity she is helping him pilot the ship.”-- Rhonda Wilcox, “’I Don’t Hold to That’: Joss Whedon and Original Sin”

63 “’Objects,’ like the film, is a story Whedon unquestionably used for spiritual, intellectual, philosophical exploration—in this, non-Christian existentialism. Whedon uses much of the commentary to recall his own experience of existentialism (in particular, Sartre’s Nausea) at River’s age. He focuses on the emptiness of the physical, of ‘objects in space’—from the multicolored world we see in the flash of the episode’s opening to the multicolored ball with which Kaylee and River play jacks at the end, a mirroring which Whedon notes. He ponders the overwhelming fact of their existence and the overwhelming fact of our ability to imbue them with meaning.”--Rhonda Wilcox, “’I Don’t Hold to That’: Joss Whedon and Original Sin”

64 “This imbuing an object with meaning is vividly represented during the part of the episode when River claims to have become the ship Serenity— and in this science fiction world, may have. Even when this turns out not to be literally true, still her benevolent nature, as she claims to be the ship, represents the meaning with which that ship is imbued by its crew and regular passengers. As Whedon says in his commentary, objects ‘do have meaning and it’s the meaning we bring to them and that’s what makes us so extraordinary.’”--Rhonda Wilcox, “’I Don’t Hold to That’: Joss Whedon and Original Sin”

65 “Whedon puts the idea of consciousness entailing choice into a spiritual context with his commentary: “It’s mind-boggling... I believe that whether you have faith or not, to think about consciousness... our ability to... imbue [objects] with meaning.... [River] imbues [things] with a kindness.”--Rhonda Wilcox, “’I Don’t Hold to That’: Joss Whedon and Original Sin”

66 "Ultimately, the auteur theory is not so much a theory as an attitude, a table of values that converts film history into directorial autobiography." Andrews Sarris, "Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962"


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