On Firefly/Serenity

River Tam and the Weaponized Women of the Whedonverse

By Michael Marano

Joss Whedon shares a lot in common with the Greek god Hephaestus–and I don’t mean that he’s a hairy, ugly dude conceived by his mom through parthenogenesis in a fit of jealous pique and thrown off Olympus with such force that he fell for nine days.1 Hephaestus was the armorer of the gods. He made Zeus’s thunderbolts and scepter, Athena’s shields, Eros’s arrows, Achilles’s armor, and Helios’s chariot. But there’s a certain blurring of Hephaestus’s specialization, if you rummage through The Iliad. In Book Eighteen, Hephaestus is shown not only as a manufacturer of weapons, but of women, having created two artificial maidens made of gold as his workshop help who are as smart and skilled as any living girl.

I bring this up because the idea of a woman as created by a weapon-maker within Patriarchal contexts is a recurring motif in the worlds imagined by Joss Whedon, the so-called “Whedonverse.”2 It’s a motif, perhaps better defined as “the woman as weapon,” that reaches its apotheosis with the developmental journey of River in Firefly and Serenity. I say it reaches its apotheosis, because as I write this, she’s the most recent example of this trend; there could be more in Whedon’s future work that are more apotheosis-y. But for now, let’s take a look at River’s creation and development as a weapon–as the creation of weapon-makers–by first taking a look at a few of her antecedents. The motif of the woman-as-weapon is a fairly complicated one, with a number of  …

More from Michael Marano

Stay Updated

on our daily essay, giveaways, and other special deals

Our Books

On Our Blog

We Can’t Get Enough of Fifty Shades of Grey

FiftyWritersonFiftyShadesofGrey_Revised_FrontCoverThe movie may have been released in February, but we still can’t get...

Posted April 28th

The Big Bang Theory: A Writer’s Panel at San Diego Comic-Con 2014

Coming just in time for the holidays, Smart Pop is working with George Beahm on an updated edition of Unraveling...

Posted August 14th

San Diego Comic-Con 2014 Recap + Giveaway

A couple weeks ago we headed to San Diego for our fourth year of exhibiting at Comic-Con. It was equal...

Posted August 5th | 13 Comments »

Subscribe via RSS