Femslash Friday: I’ll Be In My Bunk For Kaylee/Inara -The Toast

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Inara wearing a dress that was clearly repurposed from Tara's wardrobe. Inara wearing a dress that was clearly repurposed from Tara’s wardrobe.

Other entries in the series can be found here. Most recently: Ann/Leslie Are Endgame

I feel nervous about this one, like Indiana Jones right before he stole that idol and got crushed to death by the giant rock. Talking about Joss Whedon shows on the Internet is a fraught prospect. And yet I am willing to put my head in the lion’s mouth, because for all the ink that has been flung about over Firefly over the last ten years, not nearly enough of it has been about lesbians in outer space.

[10,000-word {951 of which are “problematic”} essay about Joss Whedon and intersectional feminism]

[20,000-word essay about why Zoë is the most attractive woman in the ‘Verse]

Okay, moving on: it is my deeply-held personal belief that Kaylee Frye and Inara Serra from Firefly should be having lesbian sex (with each other) in outer space. In order to get there, however, there are a few preexisting entanglements that we’re going to have to get out of the way; namely Mal Reynolds and Simon Tam.

Mal, I’m sorry. We have almost the same name, and it’s real fun when you insult people, but you are going to have to get gone for the greater good (the greater good is space lesbianism). It is my understanding that there are people who consider this character to be sexually charismatic: I have nothing to say to you. Nathan Fillion is a great many things: smooth-faced, a human man, fun on Twitter. To say that this makes Mal Reynolds a romantically compelling character is not only incorrect but a grave disservice to the concept of sexual attraction in general. He dresses like a butch lesbian and I like him a lot, but he is clearly the Dorothy in the Golden Girls lineup of Firefly: like the angels in heaven, he neither gives nor is given in marriage.

It’s become an altogether-too-common trope for two characters who routinely snipe at one another to secretly want to bone one another up (I don’t know how sex works). While this can be done well (see: future installment of Blair/Jo, The Facts of Life), more often it just makes viewers wonder what on earth these people would talk about if they ever got together and “sexy insults” turned into “regular insults that wear down affection.” I don’t find it charming when Mal calls Inara a whore. It does not make me root for these two crazy kids to get together, even if he does get angry when other people call her names.

For all Mal’s posturing about defending Inara from outsiders, he sure doesn’t have a problem insulting her in front of strangers. Kaylee’s not like that.

Inara: “Ambassador” is Mal’s way of saying —

Mal: She’s a whore, Shepherd.

Kaylee: The term is “companion.”

Damn right.

Having disposed of Mal (he’ll be fine, he has the ship, don’t worry about our little buddy), we must turn our attention to Simon.

[pause for laughter]

Simon Tam is perhaps the least convincing heterosexual on television in the last fifteen years. He has a lovely face and is a terrific brother and really outstanding moral fiber, but he has never once in his life wanted to touch a woman’s body outside of his capacity as a doctor. Search within yourself; you know it to be true.

“Ah, Kaylee,” he has never said. “How good to see you, and your breasts. Let us kiss each other with our mouths, now; me with my man’s mouth, and you with your mouth that is a woman’s mouth.”

And yet each of his scenes with Jayne are like watching an old Spencer Tracy/Katharine Hepburn film. 90% of their dialogue could be replaced with “You damned brute. You awful, dirty, monstrous ape of a man, you [pounds ineffectually on chest with fists]. I hate you. I simply can’t stand you” and “Shut your pretty mouth [rough kiss]” and the show would have been substantially improved by it. Simon was the Hepburn of Firefly: smart, arch, lovely, aristocratic, and desperately in need of a rough, earthy man to ground him. Jayne Cobb was his Spencer Tracy. (This, by the way, is how to write sexually charged arguments. Take note, Mal.)

Here is an actual line that Simon has actually said to Jayne:

Simon [to Jayne]: My god. You’re like a trained ape. Without the training.

Which, if I am not mistaken, is also a line from the Hepburn/Tracy classic Woman of the Year.

Simon is Kaylee’s Xander. She needs to go through the experience of having a crush on him, but he is not endgame for her. But this series is not called Why Simon Tam Should Be Explicitly Homosexual; this series is called Femslash Fridays and we must move on to our real goal: praising the hushed, luscious, supportive, mutual love that springs up between the ship’s mechanic and the ship’s Companion over the course of the series.

Who is a better partner for a sex worker: someone who calls her a whore, or someone who cheerfully says “Bye now! Have good sex!” as she goes to her next appointment?

“You have such lovely hair.” One of the first scenes between Kaylee and Inara is quiet, domestic, intimate, and tender — something there’s very little of in the series as a whole. The two of them talk about longing, and art, and swan sculptures, and they motherfucking support one another. They don’t snipe at each other, and they don’t tear each other down, and they don’t send each other mixed signals, and they both think the other is an unbelievably beautiful woman.

Can you imagine how celebratory their sex life would be? It would be like if a living statue of Athena had sex with a living statue of Artemis. There would be nothing but soft silk pillows and low music and jumpsuits and strong character and slippers and strawberries and soft, delighted hums of discovery. It would be playful. Kaylee would almost certainly rig up a series of homemade, ship-powered sex toys the two could use for going to town on one another. (Try to imagine Simon’s terrified reaction to that and tell me the two of them belong together.)

Inara’s work requires an enormous amount of mental and physical energy and generosity — the first lesson a Companion learns, she tells us, is control — and the last thing she needs is a partner who requires constant reassurance and emotional management. I love Mal, but he would be exhausting. Kaylee, though. Kaylee is sexually inquisitive in a way that would charm and delight Inara, but she’s also easygoing and the least moody person to ever draw breath. She would look for ways to make Inara happy; she would bring her gifts, she would ask her questions while respecting her boundaries, and the two of them together would make the ship quake.

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