Science fiction and sisters (part 1)Posted: June 11, 2009
I’m a sci-fi geek. I am in one camp – but just barely – in the Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate. (There will be a Star Trek themed entry or two in the future. Lily is, in her own way, a sci-fi fan, too.) Most of my books and movies have sci-fi themes, and oh yeah, the sci-fi section is my first destination in the local used bookstore. I took a class about science fiction in college. For those who aren’t sci-fi afficionados, something that has stuck with me was a point made by the professor during that course: sci-fi is no different from other literature, as it’s just another way to explore the human experience. I think I like performance sci-fi (movies & television) for the same reason; the very best stories are fundamentally about what it means to be human. But with aliens or technology or alternative realities, too…
I suppose it was just a matter of time before I found characters with whom I could identify when it came to having a sibling with special needs.
In this case, the sci-fi is a show called Firefly. It’s become something of a cult hit, as the complete first season never aired. Here’s the show’s context: we outgrew Earth and colonized new planets/moons, and the two dominant national/cultural influences that came along for the ride were American and Chinese. Technology has advanced, but as is the case now, not everyone has equal access to it; this results in an almost western feel. The storylines within the show focus on the lives of the captain and crew.
Anyways, without giving away too much of the plot for those who might want to watch it (it’s available on Hulu and DVD), there are two characters who are siblings. The older one is a doctor, and he loves his sister, who has, um, suffered some trauma and needs a lot of help. One of my friends sent me a “which character are you?” quiz (hey, we all need diversions sometimes!), and sure enough, I came up as the doctor. This came as no surprise, because yeah, I’m smart and driven and loyal, but maybe just a litle uptight or awkward sometimes.
But beyond that, there were many moments, watching the show, when I felt resonance with the character, although it took me a long time to recognize that. I’ve never had responsibility for Lily’s welfare the way the doctor does for his sister, but some of his experiences invoke the same emotions. The wondering about what life would be like without needing to help with care. The feeling of obligation…the feeling of needing to meet obligations in the face of one’s own desires, and the attendant resentment and resignation. The fierceness of the protective urge that’s certainly not unique to special needs families, but perhaps triggered in a different way for us. There are even times when the younger sibling gets to exercise her independence…and her brother seems to go through everything I’ve felt there, too. (That part must be so much harder for parents – aside from the pride and anxiety, there’s so much entanglement to release, and many of us siblings grow into our roles as helpers.)
I really enjoyed watching the relationships of the siblings change over the course of the series, and into the following movie. According to the commentaries (I told you I was a nerd!), the actors were also friends, and there are moments when that friendship shines through. It’s also fascinating to watch the interactions between the sibs and the rest of the crew, and how all of the characters develop. It’s an interesting reflection on one aspect of my life – like a funhouse mirror, not really showing reality, but a useful tool for introspection.