On shows created by Joss Whedon

Free Will in a Deterministic Whedonverse

By Thomas Flamson

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me

—Theme from Firefly

The works of Joss Whedon have addressed a number of the timeless questions raised by art and literature. Are women truly “the weaker sex”? Do past evil acts make one irredeemably evil? Can there be any realm more cruel and capricious than that of Fox Network Programming? (For those new to Whedon’s career, the answer to all of those questions is “no.”)

Another fundamental question that has been addressed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly is that of freedom. Or rather, two distinct but related questions: Can we ever be said to be truly free? and, Do people need to be free? in regard to the latter question, the answer has been an emphatic and unwavering yes. But in regard to the former, the answer has been much more equivocal. Despite the seeming contradiction of this state of affairs—how can freedom be worth fighting for if it may not even be available?—we will see that there is, in fact, no necessary contradiction.

The Feeling of Free Will

An inescapable conclusion of human life is that, for much of the time, we are the authors of our own destiny. Every day people experience freely choosing what to do next-whether to cross the street, eat dessert, or buy a house. Some choices may feel less free than others-ask anyone in the midst of quitting  …

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