A stupid thing that annoyed me about "Firefly" / "Serenity"

Joss Whedon says in his DVD commentary that the culture of the “Firefly” universe is a fusion of American and Chinese cultures - that sometime in the coming century, China will come to be a dominant cultural force in the world on par to the U.S.A. (Actually, a shrewd bit of foresight, since the series & movie both came out BEFORE China’s sudden rise in ecomomic power.)

Many of the signs are written in Mandarin/Cantonese. Characters often make chinese-language exclamations (likely profanities), showing that at least one chinese language is as familiar to the characters as english.

Well then, how come there were never any asian people on the show?

It’s been a while since I’ve watched it, but I can’t remember seeing a single asian person in any of the episodes. If chinese culture is so all pervasive as Whedon might suggest, where are all the chinese?

I’m pretty sure I remember seeing Asian people on the show, background characters mostly, but it’s been a while since I’ve watched an episode and I may be misremembering.

The actress that plays River Tam looks a lot like a friend of mine from Shanghai. I assume from their last name that they have some Chinese ancestry.

The Chinese people on the show are upstanding, hardworking citizens of a type not likely to associate with the criminal element represented by Mal and his crew (and his customers, for that matter).

Or something like that.

I thought Summer Glau looked partially Asian. Not Sean Maher, though.

There were indeed a few Asians in the background a few times. Though I admit I did find it weird that none of the fairly-large cast was Asian.

The Anglos ate the Chinese during the Great Hunger of 2308. They kept eating and EATING.

Well sure. Two hours later they were hungry again.

The child playing young River in Safe was definitely Asian, but beyond that, yes, they were only background characters.

It’s possible there’s some background reason behind it, such as the Chinese were wholly behind the Alliance and as such can only be found on Core worlds, which Serenity most definitely stays away from. (Although I can’t recall if there were any in the hospital on Ariel, for that matter.)

My understanding of the culture is that the Chinese represent the upper-crust of the Firefly society.

There is also an argument that, just because the Chinese were strongly represented in the Alliance, doesn’t mean a lot of them made it off of Earth-that-Was. Even if they had an active space program, that doesn’t mean they had ready access to the launching pads–if the call came to evacuate Earth today, given a ready supply of space shuttles, the population would be heavily skewed towards people from Florida or Baikonur (or wherever the Russians are launching from these days).

Wow, you need to go back and re-watch the series. Asians were major characters in Episodes #15, 17, 20 and 22!

:dubious: China’s sudden rise in economic power? The series came out in 2002, Serenity came out in 2005. China became the 2nd largest economy, after the US, in 1999 with a GDP of $4.8 trillion and growth of 7%. Anyone with half a brain back then could already see China on the ascendant.

never need much reason to rewatch Firefly. Lets go again! :slight_smile:


It most certainly did not.

Don’t forget the awesome arc spanning the entire third season. Absolute genius on Whedon and Co.

While this is a sad joke, it’s probably the real answer behind the OP’s question. We never saw very many Asians because Whedon and company never had any time to really delve into that part of the universe.

But as such, it was already mentioned that Simon and River likely came from a very rich family that had interbred with Anglo and Chinese members for who knows how long.

Also, there were Asian characters doing an Irish jig in the episode “Safe.”

If the line you quoted made sense to you, I’m gonna have to borrow your DVDs.

I always thought it was a nod to Bladerunner.

It’s a bit of a fan-wank maybe, but in the future, why should Chinese look Asian? That could be like asking why Americans don’t all look white.

I think this is certainly, to some degree, possible (although it doesn’t totally account for the series omission). You could argue that River, Kaylee and Inara all have some facial features that might be construed as “Asian” (even though AFAIK none of these actresses has any direct Asian antecedents). My kids are first generation mixed, and it’s likely that their children or grandchildren may not be perceptibly “Asian” depending on whom they mate with. Whedon’s timeline puts them many generations into the future.

That said, you’d expect to see fewer “European” looking folks and more that are a mix like Brazilians or Peruvians.