This past weekend was our annual Can’t Stop the Serenity event in Tucson, and I thought I’d share a few observations about the evening. There are still many upcoming CSTS events for 2013 scheduled around the world (including Melbourne, Phoenix, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta and Philadelphia), so you might be able to find one near you. If not, there’s always next year.
This year’s CSTS in Tucson was at the gorgeous 1920’s Fox theatre, for the 3rd year in a row. It’s a great location, with lots of seating, a balcony, and an awesome ambiance, except there’s one problem. Tucson is in the middle of constructing a streetcar through downtown, which has large sections of major streets completely closed. Parking and access are a nightmare. The project has almost killed the downtown area. The nightclubs that are usually booming on the walk back to the parking lot after the show were deserted. The Subway restaurant next to the theater, that we used to always eat dinner at before a movie at the Fox now closes at 5pm on Saturdays, because there’s generally no business. So needless to say, the crowd this year, while still sizeable, was noticeably smaller than last year.
The crowd was as enthusiastic as always, however. I saw many Jayne Cobb hats (in addition to my own), and the costume contest had a sizable number of entrants. The merchandise booths and the raffle table seemed to be doing steady business, though without the insanely long lines that usually accompany the bigger crowds. Someone in the balcony won my cross-stitch, which I hope they enjoy.
The festivities followed their usual course. Our MC opened up with his usual schtick, including the Whedonite version of The Lord’s Prayer (“Our Joss, who art in Hollywood…” “Give us this day our daily Fruity Oaty Bars”), though throwing in a “Rupert Murdoch can suck it!” for good measure.. There was a clip about Joss’s “strong women characters” which was a big hit with the crowd. They didn’t show my favorite clip, but perhaps people are tired of it. While the clip they showed (below, which they edited to add quotes from the Joss speech that I love) was a good reminder of all the great characters Joss has written, it doesn’t do a lot to show what really is meant by “strong women characters”. Strength in writing is a lot more than just a woman who can kick ass, which I think the maker of the video knows by ending with the description “human”. (Read what I mean here, from an author who says it far better than I could.) But I guess it’s hard to make a clip reel without making them simply look like badasses. However, every character that popped up reminded me of the depth of the way they were written, so for Whedonites out there it’s worth a watch.
I was surprised by how enthusiastic the crowd was for Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Last year, there were a few people besides me singing along, but this year it was a pretty loud chorus. Not only did they sing loudly, in harmony covering multiple parts, but they did much of the dialogue too. (“The status is not quo.” “What a crazy, random happenstance.” “The Hammer is my penis.” “I hate the homeless………..ness problem that plagues this city.” “That’s not a good sound.”) There were also several shouts of “Kiss her!” while Penny and Billy are in the laundry.
I hope the public’s appreciation for Dr. Horrible continues to grow. In many ways, I think it speaks more to audiences as time goes on than it did when it was first released. As the inequality and injustice in our system becomes more apparent to more people, Dr. Horrible’s goals and methods become more relatable. He may be in the Evil League of Evil, but he’s a much more admirable character than Captain Hammer, whose speech at the homeless shelter dedication is still funnier every time I see it. It’s easy to see a lot of Captain Hammer in our politicians these days.
As for the main event, the moments in Serenity that got the reactions from the crowd were Kaylee saying, “The hell with this, I’m gonna live!” as well as she and Simon finally getting together in the end. River got a big cheer as she saved the day, which I understand with regards to the hero shot at the end, but which feels a little misplaced when she says “My turn” and dives through the hole in the door to protect her brother and the crew. I think a big cheer, while fun, misses a bit of the element of sacrifice in her actions. As fans, we obviously know how it’s going to end, but it’s important to remember that she’s diving into a hopeless situation in order to save her friends, knowing she probably won’t survive, and the fact that she does is simply a reflection of her awesomeness. As for the person who yelled out “Kiss him” while Mal was holding a dying Book, I have no words to respond to that.
There seemed to be quite a few people in the audience who had seen Firefly but not Serenity, judging by the noises of surprise that I heard in the crowd. Wash’s death got some shocked responses, as did several other moments. If I had one real complaint about the evening, it’s that I wish they would go back to using an actual 35mm film copy for the screening. The digital projector/DVD or Blu-ray setup they’ve used in recent years has some poor color sections. In particular, the reds of Wash’s death and the Fanty and Mingo scene look very bad when shown this way. Nothing beats real film, of course.
I had an interesting encounter while in line for popcorn (which was our dinner, because the stupid Subway closed at 5). In front of me were two nicely-dressed ladies who seemed to be around 50, one of whom had red and blue hair. They were looking at their programs when the one with colorful hair said, “Oh, you were wrong, the movie doesn’t start until 7:45. At 6 is a sing-along blog. Should we stay?” It seems they had heard about the event on the radio, and the non-colorful hair lady wanted to come because it sounded like something different. So I listened while they debated whether they should just leave, until I finally decided to tell them a bit about Dr. Horrible so they could make a better decision. In the end they decided to stay, and left to find seats with their glasses of wine. Then the lady behind me in line, who was also probably around 50, randomly told me that she used to knit hats just like my Jayne Cobb hat when she was in high school. She happened to be dressed as Kaylee, and when she and her two friends who were also in costume got on stage for the costume contest during intermission, they all sounded very stoned. Needless to say, it was an interesting crowd.
All in all, we had a great time. CSTS is my favorite event of the year, and it just happens to be at my favorite place in town. The proceeds go to groups that support women locally and worldwide, while the event itself is a celebration of strong women and geeks of all types (for some reason, there seems to be a large contingent of steampunk cosplayers in Tucson). I can’t recommend enough for people out there to find a CSTS event near them. As for me, I’ll be back again next year, ready to laugh, cry and sing with a bunch of strangers who all share a common passion. What could be better than that?