Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Why I Like Firefly Better Than Buffy (Sometimes)

I might get in a lot of trouble for this. Maybe even "me not liking Hawkeye" kind of trouble. This originally started out as me trying to decide which show was better, but after a lot of thought (and threats of divorce from Mr. Tibbs) I realized that I just couldn't make that sort of decision. I also did a lot of viewing, and took a huge amount of notes on both shows. So this isn't about trying to tell you which show is better. It's more of a preference justification.

Mr. Tibbs argued that trying to compare the two shows was like comparing space apples to vampire oranges. My point was that the two shows were produced, directed, and written by a lot of the same people. Firefly started right after Buffy, and even featured many of the same actors from his other shows. Maybe it would be more fair to compare Buffy to Angel, but I never liked that show so Buffy would win that battle without even trying. I kind of started watching after Cordelia left and Spike came on, but I never liked Captain Forehead (Angel). To me Joss Whedon's two best shows were always Buffy and Firefly (sorry to both of you Dollhouse fans). I just wasn't sure which one I liked better until a few marathons led to the tons of notes I've taken over the last few days. And let me be extremely clear - I LOVE Buffy. This will not be a divorce causing Buffy bashing.

Yes, Firefly only lasted one season so never had the chance to get silly or have a really dark, boring period. Given longer it may have done both, but it had the potential to go on for much longer than it did. I'll admit that even I couldn't get in to Firefly when it first started. Thanks to it being aired out of order the "first" episode was super confusing, and I didn't understand what was going on. It took Serenity to get me interested again, but by then it was too late for all of us. Of course, I didn't start watching Buffy right away either. That was the fault of the movie though. Other than Paul Rubens the movie was pretty lame. I don't remember for sure, but I think I finally fell in to Buffy around season two or three. At least this time when I got hooked I was able to keep watching. Watching all the silly Initiative stuff, the annoying Dawn crap, and the "I'm sad because I'm not dead" whiny bullshit. Don't get me wrong, there was a lot that was great too. And who knows, maybe if Firefly had gone on long enough Mal would have ended up with a super irritating kid sister too. We'll just never have the chance to find out.

So let the justification for this questioning begin. When I started watching Buffy it was great, but sometimes the "monster of the week" thing got old. I enjoyed The Master, and Spike & Drusilla, and the other big bads that had longer story arcs. Except Professor Walsh and Adam. That whole Initiative thing was the worst. In Firefly the big bad was far bigger. There are some various bad guys, but the real evil crossed planetary lines. Mal and company were fighting what basically amounts to the Galactic Empire while Buffy had a Hellmouth. I mean I get that Hellmouths are bad, but they are localized. The Alliance was everywhere doing horrible things to people. Both shows have teenage girls with super powers. One is half-crazy and kills people because of what the aforementioned Alliance did to her. One (at least until the last episode) is the Chosen One and has crazy boy problems. River is far more troubled than Buffy.

Let's move on to the characters. The crew of Serenity were deep and complex even if they all filled specific roles within the story. Buffy and friends (especially at first) are kind of one dimensional. I didn't start off in Buffy wanting to know more about who Xander was, and what made him tick. It could really be because when Buffy started out they were all  kids so they don't have much in the way of back story. I remember when they were kicking around the idea of a young Giles show, and I totally would have watched that. The Adventures of Ripper would have been awesome! I did want to know who the hell Shepard Book really was, and what he was doing before he wound up with a gang of space outlaws. Why did Inara leave her home planet when she says it's so beautiful she can't even describe it? Why does everyone in Firefly speak Chinese, but there's not one single Chinese person anywhere? I want to know more about what the government did to River. I don't want to know anything more about what the government did to Buffy's ex-boyfriend Riley. Ever. The age differences between the actors of both shows may also have made a difference too. In the first few seasons of Buffy only Giles had any acting skill while everyone in Firefly was fantastic right out of the gate because they were all adults who had already matured as actors.

Now Firefly could probably never have given us episodes like "Hush", "The Body", or "Once More with Feeling". Then we also wouldn't have gotten stuff like "Double Meat Palace", "Dracula", or anything to do with Adam or The Initiative from it either. Did I mention how much I hate that whole storyline? While it's true that Firefly never made me cry that's not really something I particularly look for a TV show to do anyway. It's pretty generally something I avoid, and sometimes Buffy could hit a little too close to home. So while the characters in Buffy were relatable they didn't always provide enough escape from reality. The characters in Firefly were compelling and interesting, but you can't really relate to outer space cowboys. You can; however, escape into a well developed sci-fi world with very few real-life situations to get in your way.

I think the show I prefer simply depends on the mood I'm in, and what era of Buffy we're talking about. Since Firefly never had time to have bad episodes there's no tedious skipping around when I'm in a marathon kind of mood. If I want to watch "Ariel" I can just scroll halfway into the season. If I want to watch "Band Candy" I either have to look up what season that was or spend ten minutes scrolling around (of course Mr. Tibbs was immediately able to tell me it was in season 3. My husband is my very own Buffy-wiki). Sometimes I just want outer space sci-fi, and sometimes I want to relive my mid-twenties angst through vampire "Spuffy" drama. Am I going to say which show I think is better because I still can't truly decide. Yeah they're both sci-fi, and neither one takes place in the real world. I've just always had a strong leaning towards anything set in outer space. I'll still watch Buffy anytime it's on TV, or when I feel like pulling out the DVD collection, or nothing else on Netflix grabs my attention. I find myself compelled to watch all of Firefly at least once a year. Now let the yelling at me begin...


Beth got her start writing for a site called Movie Criticism for the Retarded (which has been revived as dorkdroppings.com. Check it out sometime), but was pulled out of an early retirement to write for Needless Things. When she isn't writing she plays video games and watches bad horror movies while eagerly awaiting the zombie apocalypse. She may try to save her husband and/or their cats, but luckily hasn't had to make those tough decisions yet.

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