I know. I am the last person in the world who hasn’t seen this show. It’s like that I’m in that Twilight Zone episode – you know, the one where the man wakes up in the future, and everyone around him has alien features and is like, You haven’t seen Community?!
The aftermath of the 2016 election was a brutal blow for all women. Nearly a year later, it still pains me to revisit that night: The long walk to my dorm. My hopes for progress on gender equality dashed by the grim confirmation that America once again chose the side of misogyny. I was likely not the only ambitious young woman who thought, So this is the world I am graduating into. This is how that world treats women who want more for themselves.
The November 2016 election is the starting point for Anne Helen Petersen’s collection of essays, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman. Petersen holds a Ph. D. in media studies; you may recognize her as a senior culture writer at Buzzfeed. In the Introduction, Petersen describes about how she, like many of us, was crushed when she saw perhaps the most prominent woman in America, the toughest and most capable in her field, lose to a man who openly boasted about sexual assault. The election, and what it revealed about how severely society delimits the definition of “a good woman,” was the impetus for Petersen’s collection.
Enter seven unruly women. For the subjects of her essays, Petersen chose to examine a prominent woman in the public eye who has somehow been deemed “unruly,” improper, deviant. In this state of national uncertainty, Petersen argues that “unruliness,” in all fields and from all women, is more necessary than ever.
This weekend, my friend So Yun and I meandered through the crisp, perennially sweater-weather air of San Francisco. We were in Hayes Valley for the San Francisco Urban Air Market, a marketplace that features independent artists and sustainable design. Vendor tents lined several blocks of the neighborhood, with a free painting party in the center and live musicians tucked into the corners. So Yun and I weaved through wares from jewelry makers, illustrators, alpaca fleece weavers, and a surprising number of handmade baby clothes makers.
Welcome to the first installment of Friday Night In! Today, I’m talking about a TV series whose premature cancellation (15 years ago!) did little to erode its lasting cult following.
Set in a future ruled by the tyrannical interplanetary Alliance, Firefly follows the roguish crew of the space vessel Serenity. Firefly fuses genre conventions of sci-fi and classic Western – a combination that might be played off as wacky and disingenuous in the wrong writer’s hands.
Thankfully, the creative lead on Firefly is none other than Joss Whedon. (Bless that man.) His work – Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – is defined by action-packed fantasy that doesn’t lose sight of the ethical, emotional issues that drive a story.
Firefly is, thus, gritty and multidimensional: There are deep-space fight scenes and clever cowboy retorts, moments of grief and beauty in turns.
Here’s why Firefly (and Serenity) should be your date on a Friday Night In:
My roommate and I were watching TV when a nightclub scene came on. All of a sudden, she made this disgusted face and said, “That’s, like, my worst nightmare! It’s dark and crowded, and there’s no boba.” I love my roommate.
If you know me personally, you already know that I’m not about that club life. On a Friday after work, I would much prefer slipping on some fuzzy socks and catching up on TV. And if you do like to go hard, or if you fall somewhere in between, that’s awesome, too! This series is still for you.
I have this theory that your bookshelf is a portrait of who you are, particularly if you bought a lot of books growing up. Study your bookshelf closely enough and you can trace the ideas that compelled you at different point in your life. The seven volumes of Harry Potter captured my imagination between the ages of five and thirteen. There’s the Eragon series from my 5th grade dragon phase, those tomes that only Comparative Literature majors read, and some poetry that I thought was good when I was sixteen but now find extremely questionable.
My bookshelf reveals the meandering path I’ve taken to build an understanding of the world. And if you’re also like me, the majority of my bookshelves was occupied by books written by white authors. It’s not a totally bad thing. I truly value some of those books – even from a white, European perspective, they could touch on some universalities that I felt as an Asian American girl. But my bookshelf also revealed my blind spots: there was little that I knew about Black, Latinx, Native American, LGBTQ+, and disability experiences. I didn’t even come across an Asian American protagonist until I was seventeen, and I didn’t read a FilAm protagonist until I was 20!
The disparities on my bookshelf have less to do with conscious choices than subconscious biases, the lack of diversity in the publishing industry, the systemic barriers to entry for authors of color, and the dominance of a straight-white-male literary canon that is taught and valued in American high schools.
Since college, I’ve made it a point to diversify my bookshelf and deepen my understanding of stories that aren’t my own (after all, reading diversely is an act of resistance). Here are the 10 diverse books that helped shape my understanding of perspectives outside my own:
Not to perpetuate a stereotype or anything, but summers growing up in Southern California were amazing. With the ocean a quick drive away and warm nights in Los Angeles, there was always a wealth of fun, carpe diem-y things to do. Summer was a sparkler – bright, ardent, and fading fast.