On Firefly/Serenity

The Bonnie Brown Flag

By Evelyn Vaughn

Need stock villains for some escapist entertainment? You can never go wrong with Nazis. Middle Eastern terrorists also work, but then there’s the messy issue of clarifying that their religion doesn’t make them bad, just their zealous killing-of-people. Gang members as bad guys bring up that sticky socio-economic causal argument, and serial killers . . . well, there just aren’t enough of them to provide unlimited antagonists, the implication of many television series (*cough*Criminal Minds*cough*) to the contrary.

Nope, Nazis probably remain the easiest solution, from their pseudo-historic presentation in the Indiana Jones films (“I hate those guys”) to the thin disguise of the Star Wars series (c’mon-Storm Troopers?).

But before, during, and after we had Nazis, we had stereotypical southerners. Think Ku Klux Klan–unfortunately real but, at least since Birth of a Nation, generally considered less than admirable. Think of the Georgia mountain men/rapists in 1972’s Deliverance. Think Simon Legree, the villain of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s classic novel which helped start the Civil War.

I’m guessing Johnny Reb, and versions thereof, rank in the top ten of the bad-guy listt–o everyone but southerners, anyway, and we’re understandably biased. In a black-and-white (no pun intended) simplification of the American Civil War, the common read is this: The mean old southerners wanted to own slaves, the noble northerners outlawed slavery, and the good abolitionist guys won.

As with most of history, there’s a kernel of truth there and a cob full of truth being left out. Maybe that’s just as well. Slavery’s  …

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