Aiming to Misbehave: Agency and Ethics in Serenity and Blade Runner


Good and evil. Hero and villain. Human and monster. These are dichotomies, binaries which shape our fiction, our ethics and our lives, or at least our conceptions of our lives. Real life isn’t that simple, and good fiction usually isn’t, either, but we often still persist in using this binary thinking to describe the things around us. We may recognize shades of gray, but when we relate the narrative in casual conversation it still often gets stripped down to the binary, the difference. Even when we step away from the terms “hero” and “villain” in our examination of a story, call the characters the “protagonist” and “antagonist” instead, the underlying dichotomy still persists. The term antagonist may only refer to one who opposes the protagonist, and thus be stripped of any moral judgment, but in the majority of stories the antagonist is somehow differentiated from the protagonist by being the character who makes more questionable moral choices. In the cases where a story is told from the point of view of a protagonist who is more questionably moral than his antagonist (Macbeth comes to mind), if we were to describe the plot to someone, inevitably that moral judgment would still emerge, likely constructed from the morality and ethics with which the reader shapes her world.

The idea that these are constructed binaries with no inherent meaning or truth is not new, but stories are still structured as if the binaries are real, and everyday language generally works in that space. Instead of arguing about the lack of real distinction in the binaries of Western thought, in general, I want to focus on how four characters (protagonist/antagonist) from two particular stories push at these binaries, and examine how the constructedness of the characters and their agency or lack thereof is implicated in their actions, the story arc and their position in the binary. The characters in question are Malcolm Reynolds (Mal) and the Operative from Joss Whedon’s Serenity and Rick Deckard and Roy Batty from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Rather than just giving us a narrative which follows the hero’s journey, all four of these characters want something, some of them badly, and they are all on a journey. What is particularly interesting about these four characters, and why I chose them to examine, is the lack of moral clarity in both characters in each film and the ease with which the story could have been written with the opposite character in the nominal “hero” or protagonist position.

The exploration of subject position, agency and social construction of self in these characters requires stepping past the obvious first layer of constructedness—that these are fictional characters created by a living person who therefore made up their lives, their thoughts and their actions. Instead of authorial constructedness, I want to enter the world narrative and examine the characters from within their stories, as if they were real people. Three essays offer varying archetypal frameworks through which they examine Mal, which nevertheless create an interplay and overlap of ideas in their examination of his character. Although all three essays are focused on Mal, they can easily be applied to the other three characters, as well. This interchangeability in role and perspective strikes at the heart of the potential to break down the binaries in these two films.

In “‘Them as Feel the Need to Be Free’: Reworking the Frontier Myth,” Hillary Jones positions Mal in a tradition of frontier heroes, characters who are independent and refuse to rely on society’s resources and who “perform[s] society’s dirty work with great skill (but only after resisting as long as possible)” (233). Mark Gelineau argues that Mal represents a Trickster figure who develops into a Trickster-Shaman through the course of Firefly and Serenity (4). Rhonda Wilcox takes the same character traits the other scholars apply to their archetypes and uses them to argue that Firefly and Serenity are Whedon’s reworking of Original Sin, highlighting the importance of knowledge and free will in the narrative (164).

In Phillip Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep, on which Blade Runner is based, the Christ-like character Mercer tells Deckard to “go and do your task, even though you know it’s wrong.” When Deckard asks why, Mercer says he will be required to do wrong no matter where he goes because the violation of one’s own identity is a basic condition of life (179). Mercer and his advice are lacking from Blade Runner, but the idea of being required to do wrong is one that operates in Mal, the Operative, Deckard and Batty. On some fundamental level, all four characters are required to do wrong, to violate their construction of themselves. They justify it by telling themselves their actions are for the right reasons, but though the justification may be one with which we can agree from our own subject positions, it nevertheless does not alter the moral ambiguity of their actions. One character in each dyad may be positioned for the audience as the hero, the other as the villain, but, in many ways, their actions are structurally indistinguishable.

This requirement to do wrong and the characters’ ability to choose their actions problematizes questions about their agency. Insofar as how we define ourselves by our actions, morally and ethically, it also questions the notion of humanity, or lack thereof. Each of the villains is Othered into something inhuman. This is literal in Batty’s case, as he is a replicant, and explicit in the Operative’s narration of himself, despite his biological makeup, as well. “I’m a monster, Mal,” he says, after slaughtering those who might give the crew of Serenity aid and shelter (Serenity).  But Deckard and Mal, our nominal heroes, also both violate at least our ethics surrounding what it means to be a decent human being, and the question of Deckard’s literal humanity remains unresolved in variations of the film. Humanity aside, for the moment, the questions of agency versus determination still remain.

As previously noted, Rhonda Wilcox compellingly reads Serenity as Joss Whedon’s reworking of the myth of Original Sin, arguing that the story of Fall from Eden can be roughly separated into two themes: the acknowledgment of sexuality and the coming into full personhood and consciousness. “If Buffy deals primarily with the element of sex in the myth of Original Sin, Firefly/Serenity deal with the elements of knowledge and consciousness, knowledge and personhood” (157). Pointing out that the terms of the original myth required that the price for knowledge and personhood was sin and death, Wilcox argues that Whedon instead posits that a world without sin—a new Eden—is, in fact, a world of death. It is in the world of knowledge that we find ourselves and are able to be fully human, to fully live. However, that implicates the other element of the Fall, free will, which Wilcox ties to one of the things Serenity is about, “the right to be wrong” (166).  The concept of the right to be wrong echoes Mercer’s requirement to do wrong, but implies far more choice and agency than determinism. Wilcox and Whedon posit that Mal was driven by free will—had full agency, though the Operative may not. Phillip Dick, through Mercer, seems to say the opposite: that, at least in some ways, our actions are determined by the nature of our condition (which could also be read as Original Sin). So, are these characters exercising agency? Or are they playing out roles their lives dictated they would play choice or no? Or is the answer somewhere in between?

In developing his theory of structuration, sociologist Anthony Giddens suggested the latter, when he fused individual actions and social forces into one theoretical approach. The theory of structuration holds that “social life is more than random individual acts, but is not merely determined by social forces” (Gauntlett 101). Instead of being separate concepts, human agency and social structure create an infinite loop, feeding each other and structuring each other (Gauntlett 102). While Giddens criticized Foucault for ignoring agency and erasing its consequences from history, later works by Foucault actually support Giddens’ assertions.

It is true that Foucault’s concerns with ethics and self-constitution cannot fully separate agency and actions within discursive practices, but in arguing for ethical discourses as ways in which people constitute themselves, he opens up a subject position which allows agency to occur (Barker 232). Therefore, while it is discourses of power that produce subjects, agency is its own discursive construction which shows that productive character of power (i.e. individual actions and society are continuously constructing each other, rather than one or the other controlling actions). While Giddens stresses the agency part of the equation and Foucault stresses discipline and determination by discourses of power, both “suggest it might be possible to think of subjects as having agency as a consequence of determination” (Barker 234, emphasis mine).

This blend of agency from determination is visible in each of the four characters, and its implications reach outward to concepts of ethics, heroism and villainy. The circumstances and construction of each character’s life are directly implicated in their choices. So functionally parallel are these constructions in some ways, that it is easy to see how the binary could be switched bringing us back around to Mercer’s notion of people being required to do wrong and Wilcox’s consideration of Original Sin. We are only given sketches of background for each character, and less than a sketch for some, like Deckard and the Operative. But there is enough there to examine this social construction and how it plays into their potential for agency.

In a world where humanity has left Earth behind and populated a distant solar system, Malcolm Reynolds was born and raised on a planet called Shadow, one of the outlying border planets, away from the core planets where most of the government (the Alliance) power is centralized. Mal never makes any mention of a father, saying he was raised by his mother and about forty ranch hands, indicating a childhood with diffuse instead of direct authoritative control (“Our Mrs. Reynolds”). Growing up on a rim planet, on the frontier, establishes Mal as being formed away from the rigid power structures of the more civilized power center of human society. When war breaks out among humanity, it is one for self-determination: the Independents do not want to be part of the Alliance of planets, but free to govern themselves (“Serenity”). Although never explicitly stated, the implication rests there that it was the rim planets who wanted separate governance from the Core worlds, though Unification was to pull the core together, as well, instead of planetary governance. Mal’s upbringing, then, directly relates to his position in the War.

Further, this life on the fringe has conditioned Mal in general toward choices that resist authority and valorize independence, but these choices are not always ones that are aiming for the greater good. Mal is a thief prone to violence. While usually his thieving is less harmful, it is not pure-minded, either. He steals a priceless gun from a man who was nothing but a pawn to a woman who had likewise used Mal in “Trash;” he throws a man into his ship’s engine, slicing him to pieces for refusing to carry a message to his boss in “The Train Job;” he bribes Jayne into working for him in “Out of Gas” then threatens to dump him out of the airlock in “Ariel.” While most of these actions can be justified (the man could afford the loss, the sliced and diced man was the henchman of a bad guy, and Jayne had betrayed him), his actions at the beginning of Serenity are even more suspect.

After robbing an Alliance payroll, the crew is chased by Reavers—madmen who have become barbarians, living for nothing but to rape, kill and cannibalize others. A boy from the town chases after their fleeing ship when he is unable to get to safety, begging them to take him with them, jumping and holding on to the ship. In an act that stuns his crew, Mal pries the boy loose and tosses him to the Reavers. He shoots him to keep him from suffering, admittedly, but nonetheless, he is responsible for his death, and this time, when Zoe confronts him about it, his attempts to justify his actions are hard and cold and pragmatic and not the least bit heroic:

Mal: We couldn’t take the weight. Woulda slowed us down. Mule won’t run with five. I shoulda dumped the girl? Or you? Or Jayne? Well, Jayne…
Zoe: Coulda tossed the payload.
Mal: Toss the payload…? In case you haven’t noticed, I have parts fallin’ off my ship, I have a crew that hasn’t been paid, and, oh yeah, a powerful need to eat sometime next month!
Zoe: Sir, I don’t disagree on any particular point, it’s just…in the time of war, we woulda never left a man stranded.
Mal: Maybe that’s why we lost. (Serenity)

This is shocking callousness, as is Mal’s later threat to shoot any of his crew, any of his family, who won’t follow his orders to desecrate their ship and the bodies of their friends:

I mean to live. I mean for us to live. The Alliance won’t have that, so we go where they won’t follow. [The crew protests; he pulls a gun] This is how it is. Anyone who doesn’t want to fly with me anymore, this is your port of harbor. There’s a lot of fine ways to die. I’m not waiting for the Alliance to choose mine. I mean to confound these buggers. Take my shot at getting to Miranda; maybe find something I can use to get clear of this. So I hear a word out of any of you that ain’t helping me out or taking your leave, I will shoot you down. Get to work. (Serenity)

Rather than finer feelings or noble causes or “right” reasons, Mal’s actions in both of these scenes are solely pragmatic. They are understandable, perhaps, as the right to survive, but they are not decisions which coincide with the usual construction of the good guy. They are also choices which come from his profound loss of faith.

In contrast to Mal’s frontier upbringing, the Operative reads as someone from the Core. His diction, his word choice, his polished formality all echo those of Simon and Inara rather than the rough and tumble nature of the rest of the crew. We are not given any notable background about him, not even a name, because he “does not exist” (Serenity). In the director’s commentary on the DVD, Whedon says that the Operative is “a perfect product of the Alliance—or, rather, what’s wrong with the Alliance…He is reasonable, understanding, and in his own way very honorable” but “he is, in fact, not entirely well” (emphasis mine). As a product of the Alliance, the Operative has been stripped of his individuality, shaped by his training into a perfect weapon, but fueled not by trained obedience to power, but by belief. Wilcox argues that this service to power has stripped him of his will (160).

However, when we consider him in light of Giddens and Foucault’s theories, that we see something more subtle in effect, and it comes from this notion of belief, of the construction of self within the discourses of ethics and power. The Operative acknowledges that his actions are evil, that he is a monster. He knows the difference between right and wrong, and he knows that there will be no reward for him. But his power, his self, burns from a place of belief in something greater than himself, which is a constant motif in the film. In counseling Mal about how to face the oncoming storm, Shepherd Book tells him, “Only one thing’s gonna walk you through this, Mal. And that’s belief.” He extends the commentary further, putting Mal’s need for belief in contrast to the Operative: “The sorta man they’re likely to send believes hard. Kills and never asks why.” (Serenity). Serenity is, in many ways, Mal’s journey back to the belief he lost in Serenity Valley. By contrast, however, it is also the story of the Operative’s loss of belief.

It is not difficult to imagine the story told with the two men’s roles reversed, with the Operative as the protagonist. We get to see pieces of that when he functions as a point of view character, so the reversal of the construction is not a difficult leap. If the story, as is, tells of Mal’s redemption and coming into full knowledge of himself, so, too, does the Operative. He is a man fighting for a cause, a better world, a world where people are safe; his motives are pure even if his actions are not. While he will kill innocents in pursuit of this world, he also is angered, deeply, by the loss of innocent life unnecessarily. For instance, he accuses Mal of killing a lot of innocent people by bringing the Reavers to engage the Alliance, and his outrage is clear and one of the only times we see him angry in the film. In his opinion, these were unnecessary deaths, an unethical tactic worse than his own actions which he sees as necessary.

If we bring in the construction from Star Trek of space as the final frontier, the Operative, too, can be read like Mal as the frontier hero–a man who must make a great personal sacrifice (his name, his being), who does not take comfort in the benefits of community (he is a shadow, a ghost, with no connections) and who “performs society’s dirty work with great skill” (he kills, but with regret for the necessity of it, and knowing it is wrong, but because that is the only way to create the better world) (Jones 233). When his faith in the society for whose good he has believed himself working is shattered, he is lost, but ceases his errant ways and searches for a path more in line with his ethics. In this way, Mal operates not just as antagonist to the Agent of Order and Reason, but also as the Shaman who can heal others because of the wounds he endured and survived (Gelineau). In a deleted scene from the end of the film, the Operative, in fact, seeks this guidance:

The Operative: “Serenity.” You lost everything in that battle. Everything you had, everything you were…how did you go on?
Mal: You’re still standing there when that engine starts, you never will figure it out. (Serenity)

The how of going on is not a question that can be answered; it is a journey that must be taken. By bringing knowledge, Mal has started the Operative on that journey, arguably the hero’s journey, and Serenity becomes the first chapter of a new narrative.

Mal and the Operative both make choices which alter the discourses of power in their world. Both of them can be seen as agents of change, both of them working from a subject position where they do wrong in order to do right. Their positions as “hero” or “villain” are not clear cut, and could be interchanged. In Blade Runner, Roy Batty and Rick Deckard operate in a similar fashion as potentially interchangeable foils and from similar constructed positions. In fact, if anything, the interchangeability of the characters, the actual questioning of the roles of protagonist and antagonist are far more explicit in Blade Runner. Deckard is read as the protagonist by (relatively) minor details: his construction as most likely human, and a character with which a human audience can identify; his narrative point of view and (in some versions) explicit narration of the text; his survival at the end (we rarely see the antagonist driving away at the end with the protagonist dead on a rooftop). As far as moral choices, causes to fight for, operative agency—Deckard and Batty are two sides of the same coin (possibly, literally, the exact coin)—and Batty, the “antagonist,” actually comes out a bit ahead of Deckard in justification for his actions.

While Phillip Dick gives us some sense of Deckard’s outside of his job in the book, the audience is offered very little of that in Blade Runner. Depending on the version, however, Deckard gives us some notion of his construction of himself and the place he occupies in the world through noir-esque voice over narrations. In all versions of the film, we see Deckard through the eyes of his peers, at least, and get a sense of him as a Blade Runner. Gaff, another Blade Runner, says that Deckard is known as “the Boogeyman” and that he was involved in a slaughter in a steel shop that earned him the name “Mister Nighttime” (Blade Runner, shooting script).  Bryant, Deckard’s boss, thinks Deckard is the best Blade Runner he’s got, and he pulls him back in from retirement with a threat, because he needs the old Blade Runner, he needs Deckard’s “magic.”

In the book, Deckard sees his job as getting rid of the replicants, but without any identification of it as an immoral action until the end. In the movie, Deckard’s identification with the replicants and understanding of what he does from the start is far more like that of the Operative. “I’d quit because I’d had a belly full of killing,” he tells us in the theatrical cut of the film. Earlier, he informs the audience that Bryant’s term for the replicants (“skin jobs” ) makes Bryant the “kind of cop used to call black men niggers.” Beyond seeing retiring the replicants as “killing,” then, Deckard sees the discrimination in their treatment as akin to racial discrimination against human beings. But despite this potential empathy, Deckard still takes the job to kill the four replicants who have made their way to Earth, and the only reason we’re given is that he’d “rather be a killer than a victim” (Blade Runner, theatrical cut). He knows what he is doing is evil, but his justification lacks the Operative’s belief in a moral goal. In fact, his justification for his actions is far more akin to Mal’s reasoning for dumping the boy who was trying to escape the Reavers or desecrating friends, family and home on the off-chance of finding a way to get free of the Alliance. It is just as socially determined, as well—an understanding of how to survive in their worlds.

Deckard is the product of a dying world, a world where simulation is replacing the authentic—in animals, in people, in society itself. Humanity is clinging to the edge of survival, and is in danger of being replaced. Replicants may have been created in order to be slaves, but the line between them is growing more narrow. “More human than human” is the motto of the Tyrell Corporation which created the replicants. Bryant tells Deckard about the new model, the Nexus 6, “They were designed to copy human beings in every way except their emotions. The designers reckoned that after a few years they might develop their own emotional responses. You know, hate, love, fear, anger, envy. So they built in a fail-safe device.” The failsafe is the automatic death of the replicants at four years of age, to keep them from becoming indistinguishable from humans, and, pragmatically, allowing them to feel might awaken them to opinions about their state in life. But some versions of the film strip even this distinction—automatic expiration date—away. In the theatrical cut of the movie, Deckard informs us that the new, experimental model with implanted memories, that believes itself human—made manifest in Rachael—is different. “Gaff had been there, and let her live. Four years, he figured. He was wrong. Tyrell had told me Rachael was special: no termination date. I didn’t know how long we had together. Who does?” (Blade Runner, theatrical cut). With no termination date, and the ability to develop emotions as they mature, the line between the replicants and humans is for all intents and purposes, obliterated.

The line seems rather arbitrary anyway. The replicants we see in the movie, especially Roy, seem to be human in all but their strength. They are maybe a bit cold and distant—but so are the humans in Deckard’s world. They are violent, destructive and seem to kill without mercy or regret—but so do the humans. In fact, it is very easy to paint the humans as the villains in this movie, especially when we understand more about Roy and his world and why he is as violent as he is. The film hints around at this theme—more human than human vs. humanity as the monsters—but it is not fully developed. However, such a reading of the film is made even more manifest when set against films and television shows in the genre that came after it.

The idea of the robot seeking humanity, seeking life, is one that has begun to be thoroughly explored, giving us the robots as protagonists on a journey toward life and self-actualization rather than as the enemies of humans (The Bicentennial Man and A.I. come most to mind). The new version of Battlestar Galactica likewise takes up thematically where Blade Runner leaves off. The Cylons were created to be slaves to humanity, but as they gained consciousness, they rebelled. Eventually, they created humanoid Cylons (derisively called “skin jobs” by some humans, as Bryant calls the replicants), who further sought their freedom and right to live by attempting to wipe out humanity who they felt were a threat and would only do the same to them. The Cylons have emotions, consciousness and empathy. They even have a religion, and are able to reproduce with humans, rendering them, like the new replicants, virtually identical to humans. In many ways, Battlestar Galactica could be the next logical place the world of Blade Runner is heading, especially with the removal of the failsafe in new models.

Roy’s existence and mission fall directly in line with these later androids seeking freedom and the right to live. His violence, like that of the Cylons, is striking out at those humans who made him a slave, created him to fight and die in the place of humans, but gave him a consciousness and the ability to develop feelings to live through that. A piece not really examined in the film is that of the positionality of Pris, one of the other replicants Deckard is meant to kill. Pris is a “pleasure model” sent out to human military outposts to keep the troops happy–for all intents and purposes, a sex slave, not allowed to refuse the men who want to use her. When the replicants’ ability to develop emotion and greater self-awareness is made so clear, this kind of treatment becomes more atrocious on the part of humans, as they have made themselves a contingent of sex slaves. Pris is not a blow up doll. She is meant to be “more human than human,” programmed to be a willing whore, but so she will be realistic enough, also made a living, feeling, sentient being, capable of emotion and self-actualization and knowing how she is being used. In a human woman, we would call that systematic rape, and not find it at all unbelievable that she would lash out and kill the men who forced her into that life. In our legal system, with human women, we often call that justifiable homicide, in fact.

Likewise, Roy is not a drone, sent to automatically fight the enemy with no conscious thought or agency. He is a living, feeling, sentient creature, also created to be “more human than human.” He is created to kill, but he speaks of the beauty and horror of the things he has seen, exhibiting awe, fear and grief. His capacity to feel, to understand what he is, renders him capable of comprehending that horror, and the majesty of life and the universe. It also makes him capable of regret for things he has done, and for mercy.  His killing his masters to escape and flee to Earth can be read as no different than slave revolts in the American South. His killing Tyrell and Sebastian is understandable rage for being created, being given life, solely to be a slave and then die just as he is able to comprehend it. And his saving of Deckard is one of the single most human acts in the film. Even Deckard realizes this, making Roy’s humanity, his likeness to us explicit:

I don’t know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life, anybody’s life, my life. All he’d wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die (Blade Runner, theatrical cut).

With this humanizing of Roy and the tradition of androids seeking just this sort of understanding, it is harder to read him as “antagonist,” let alone “villain.” Tyrell is a man creating sentient slaves, not machines. Roy tells Deckard, right before he saves him, “Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave” (Blade Runner, multiple versions). All of the violence, the coldness we have seen from him is rendered completely understandable by that line. To live in fear is a traumatic way of living, one capable of a great deal of psychological harm.

Of the four characters, Roy is perhaps the one most consciously constructed—deliberately made, given purpose, given consciousness, given the knowledge of self Wilcox equated to the product of the Fall and the inception of Original Sin. His choices come immediately from that construction, from where he places himself in the discourses of power around him and from his resistance to that power. And in his killing of Tyrell, he has possibly brought about the beginning of some form of social change, reconstructing the world around him. He has, if nothing else, changed Deckard’s life, given him insight into himself maybe a belief in something, or at least the willingness to be okay with loving an android, seeing her as a person, not a thing.

It is not Deckard who kills Roy, just as Mal does not kill the Operative. It is Roy who saves Deckard, just as the Operative saves Mal when he orders his men to stand down, to let the crew of Serenity go. It is Roy who comes to an understanding of himself and leads Deckard to one of his own, in some versions, a profound one:

I knew it on the roof that night. We were brothers, Roy Batty and I! Combat models of the highest order. We had fought in wars not yet dreamed of… in vast nightmares still unnamed.  We were the new people… Roy and me and Rachael! We were made for this world. It was ours! (Fancher and Peoples)

Even where Deckard may or may not be a replicant, Roy, as much as Rachael, brings him to a fullness of understanding about the immateriality of the line between human and android. The Operative’s quest brings Mal back to his faith. Roy’s does the same for Deckard, though Deckard has less influence on Roy than Mal on the Operative. In this reversal, Deckard is more of the classic antagonist, the one who kills Roy’s friends, who hunts after him (as the Operative does to Mal). But Deckard does serve, perhaps, a healing, if passively so, role for Roy. He gives him the chance to reach for life—even one not his own, and, more importantly, he bears witness. The battle done, the two of them wounded, Deckard bears witness, he hears Roy’s memories, he sees his grief, he stays until it is over, and he tells Roy’s story, presenting him as not-a-monster:

I watched him die all night.  It was a long, slow thing and he fought it all the way.  He never whimpered and he never quit.  He took all the time he had… as though he loved life very much…every second of it…even the pain.  Then he was dead (Fancher and Peoples).

As the Operative bears witness to the truth of the Reavers’ creation and his world is changed, Deckard bears witness to the truth of Roy’s humanity, the implications of his creation and his death, and his world is changed.

All four of these characters are products of their worlds. Some of their choices were foregone conclusions from that construction—Mal’s fight for Independence and distaste for controlling people, the Operative’s faith, Deckard’s scramble for survival in a dying world, Roy’s fight for life that was pre-determined to end at a prescribed moment. None of them always make moral choices. All of them do things which they know are morally wrong, but their circumstances require it. To choose to do otherwise is nearly impossible, and yet their actions over the course of their plots all show resistance to the discourses of power they are supposed to operate within. They all four attempt to change their social order in some way by their own actions, but in ways prescribed by their particular positions within the world—agency as a consequence of determination, regulated by the structural properties of their social systems. Viewed this way, the traditional narrative lines of “hero” and “villain” are obliterated, and the roles of protagonist and antagonist become interchangeable. All four characters have a journey and obstacles. All four of them are changed by their interaction with their counterpart. And all four of them support the argument that what is true and real about the world depends on your perspective.

Works Cited

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Fancher, Hampton and David Peoples. Blade Runner (shooting script). Feb. 23, 1981. Web. Accessed on May 1, 2013.

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Gelineau, Mark. “Coyote in the Black: The Evolution of Malcolm Reynolds the Trickser-Shaman.” Slayage 25 (Winter 2008). Web.

Jones, Hillary. “‘Them as Feel the Need to Be Free’: Reworking the Frontier Myth.” Southern Communication Journal. 76.3 (2011): 230-247. Print.

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“The Train Job.” Firefly. Fox. 20 Sept. 2002.

Wilcox, Rhonda V. “‘I Do Not Hold to That’: Joss Whedon and Original Sin.” Investigating Firefly and Serenity: Science Fiction on the Frontier. Ed. Rhonda V. Wilcox and Tanya R. Cochran. New York: I.B. Taurus & Co, Ltd., 2008. 155-166. Print.