On shows created by Joss Whedon

The Adaptive, the Maladaptive, and the Mal-Adaptive

By Robert F. Krueger, Nicholas R. Eaton

Although Firefly lasted only one season, it was filled with so much information that viewers could get quite an education. Those interested in learning interplanetary diplomacy, the art of seduction, or how to curse in Mandarin were not disappointed, and the breadth and detail of the Firefly universe allowed audience members with widely varying tastes to find something to their liking. The character development of the series was outstanding (especially given its brief run on television), and each of the dramatis personae became increasingly fleshed out as the episodes progressed. While several loose ends remained after its cancellation (e.g., what was Shepherd Book’s past? Would Mal and Inara ever express their mutual affection? What possessed Wash to grow that horrible moustache?), most characters’ personalities were explored to such an extent that we can describe their traits with relative clarity.

This is particularly true of Mal and Jayne. And although Mal and Jayne often showed similar traits-mostly when it came to criminal behaviors-close inspection of their personalities can allow us to differentiate them in psychologically meaningful ways and to make hypotheses about disorders they may have.

Personality Traits: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Everyone has a personality-even people who seem not to because they are so bland (e.g., those who are not outgoing and friendly may be high in the “introversion” trait, while those who do not enjoy many activities may be considered low in “sensation seeking” or high in “schizoid” or “depressive” traits). Many of our personality traits are considered adaptive  …

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