Character-Driven Conflict in "Firefly"
Firefly is among the best television ever created. If you're a nerd then you'll probably like it.
We like characters who create conflict because stories are about conflict and we like characters who drive their own stories. That's why Professor Moriarty is more fun than Sherlock Holmes.
Firefly exemplifies the technique of using characters to drive story.
Mal is a soldier on the losing side of a failed civil war.
- Mal's history as a Browncoat puts him at conflict with the government of his whole solar system.
- Mal is a man of honor among a den of thieves which puts him at conflict with the cheats.
- Since losing the war, Mal feels there is no God. But I think it's more accurate to say he feels as if he's been abandoned by God. This puts him at conflict with Shepherd [see below].
- Mal is in love with Inara [see below] but refuses to admit it to himself because he's afraid to put his heart into anything again.
- Mal is loyal to his crew. Mal's determination to protect his crew cascades conflict when they're endangered.
- Mal keeps his crew at at arm's length, which creates conflict with Kaylee [see below].
Zoe & Wash
Zoe served under Mal in the civil war. As a soldier, Zoe is her woman doing a man's job. Wash is a wimpy pilot. He feels like he isn't manly enough.
- Wash doesn't like how Mal is dominant over Zoe who is dominant over himself. He feels it's emasculating. Zoe doesn't care. She loves Wash more than anything else in the world. Marrying Wash was the one thing Zoe did which was against Mal's orders.
- Zoe wants children but Wash doesn't.
- Zoe's combativeness creates lots of the same conflicts Mal's does. [See above.]
- Wash's wimpiness puts him into conflict with the harsh world they live in.
Inara is a courtesan.
- Prostitution is a low-class activity but in the world of Firefly it's made respectable by an ancient order.
- Inara is the only hero dependent on legal work. This puts her into conflict with the rest of the crew when they decide where to go.
- Inara's clients are constantly falling in love with her. She does not reciprocate. She leaves a string of broken hearts behind her.
- Inara is in love with Mal but refuses to admit it to herself because it violates her order's rules.
Jayne is a mercenary. He likes sex, guns and money.
- Jayne is willing to sell out his boss to the highest bidder. This puts him into conflict with his boss Mal.
- Jayne is crude and mean, which puts him into conflict with the nice characters.
- Jayne has no morals, which puts him into conflict with characters who have morals.
- Jayne likes to torture enemies, which puts him into conflict with his enemies.
- Jayne likes to be glorified as a good guy but won't admit it to himself.
- Jayne hates Simon [see below].
Kaylee is the engineer.
- Like Zoe, Kaylee is a woman doing a man's job. Conflict is created when people underestimate her.
- Kaylee loves girly stuff like parties and poofy dresses but is bad at it. Conflict is created when she tries to fit in among socially-adept women.
- Kaylee is in love with Simon [see below] but Simon is oblivious.
- Kaylee gets her feelings hurt easily which creates conflict with Mal and Jayne.
- Kaylee constantly wants parts for the ship's engine but our heros are chronically short on money.
- Kaylee is a softie in a harsh world.
Simon is a doctor.
- Simon is an upper-class dork which makes Jayne hate him.
- Simon is socially-inept and focused on his sister River [see below] which causes him to overlook Kaylee's flirtation.
- Simon rescued his sister from the government which puts him into conflict with the government. This is a different kind of conflict with the government than Mal's. Mal is opposed on ideological grounds. Simon has personal motivations.
- Simon has a moral code over harming others because he's a doctor.
- Simon loves his sister River which creates conflict whenever River is in danger.
River is a crazy teenage girl experimental super soldier.
- River says weird, creepy things which makes everyone uncomfortable.
- River is unpredictable, which creates difficulties for everyone (which is a form of conflict).
- River has weird things going on in her head nobody understands which creates mystery (which is a form of conflict).
- River has superpowers but can't control them which creates conflict.
Serenity is their ship.
- Their transport ship Serenity requires constant repairs and a supply of fuel. Our heros are chronically short on money. They must frequently to take risks to get money to keek Serenity flying.
- The Serenity is full of places to hide things. This creates opportunities for conflict with the authorities.
- The Serenity has no weapons. Conflict builds because our heros are missing this method of resolving conflict.
- The writers can make the ship break down whenever they need a source of conflict.