When Firefly posters are outlawed, only outlaws will have Firefly posters

September 26, 2011

For a show that only lasted 14 episodes almost 10 years ago, Joss Whedon’s sci-fi/western mashup Firefly sure has left a lasting impression. There were enough clamoring fans to merit a feature-film sequel (but not enough for any further ones). Its premature cancellation gave geeks a decade’s worth of “Friday night on FOX” jokes. And it gave libertarians everywhere a science fiction show to call their very own, if only for a little while.

And now, here’s the latest misbehavior it’s been aimed at. From the website of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education):

A professor has been censored twice, reported to the “threat assessment team,” and threatened with criminal charges because of satirical postings on his office door.

Campus police at the University of Wisconsin–Stout (UWS) censored theater professor James Miller’s poster depicting a quotation from actor Nathan Fillion’s character in the television series Firefly, and the police chief threatened Miller with criminal charges for disorderly conduct. After UWS censored his second poster, which stated, “Warning: Fascism,” Miller came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.

“Colleges and universities are supposed to foster brave and bold environments of freewheeling intellectual inquiry and expression. If a quote from a network science fiction show is a bridge too far, something has gone seriously wrong,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “As both president of FIRE and a huge Firefly fan, I call on the chancellor of UW–Stout to rein in his overreaching administration and to restore both free speech and basic common sense.”

On September 12, 2011, Professor Miller posted on his office door an image of Nathan Fillion in Firefly and a line from an episode: “You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.” On September 16, UWS Chief of Police Lisa A. Walter emailed Miller, notifying him that she had removed the poster and that “it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing.”

Well, okay, that is kind of a weird thing to put up on your office door. And it’s probably not the best line of dialogue in that particular episode, let alone the series. But is it really worth bringing criminal charges against the guy? Over a Nathan Fillion poster? Sure, he’s dangerously handsome, but just looking at him has never killed anybody. Presumably.

Firefly was all about pursuing liberty and refusing to bend to overweening authority. No wonder the Wisconsin university system doesn’t like it.

(Hat tip: Some guy named Adam Baldwin)

P.S. And here’s another piece of news that’s not quite a shock to Firefly fans

Schools: University of Wisconsin – Stout Cases: University of Wisconsin – Stout: Censorship, Referral to Threat Assessment Team, and Threat of Criminal Charges after Professor Puts Posters Outside Office Door