Bleeding Cool contributor Jude Terror likes to call Firefly and Serenity fans by the phrase “Firebronies” rather than the more popular term, “Browncoats”. He did it on the Outhouse, he has continued doing it here.
It utterly pierces the seriousness that some fans take this comedy sci-fi show and movie, who insist on Browncoats — the nickname given in the show to the defeated Independent Planets fighters, who wore brown coats in battle. And in a world where there is a roaring trade in dyeing said coats different colours, it’s seen as a defining phrase standing against Fox TV, who cancelled the show (though not before actually making the show).
And I am utterly a Firefly fan. One of my favourite geek moments was at San Diego Comic-Con watching Joss Whedon surprise the crowd by bringing on the cast of the Serenity movie all at once and showing us all the trailer for the first time. With that word echoing, “Reavers”… And then showing it again so we could hear what people were saying that time, instead of all the screaming. It’s one of the few bits of media that I’ve been able to bond with my father over — the other being another sci-fi comedy Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. And… it’s really funny.
And so, firebrony? I like it. Derived from the nickname given to older male fans of My Little Pony, it’s self-deprecating, self-mocking, and very much in fitting with the theme of the show — wherein the most serious of things become the most ridiculous and the most ridiculous become the most serious. It shows self-confidence, self-awareness, and frankly, it’s funnier than Browncoats.
Which is also a word that frankly grates to my ear. It’s too close to Brownshirts, the name given for the Sturmabteilung, the actual stormtroopers from Nazi Germany — the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party that played a significant role in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in the ’20s and ’30s. Providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupting the meetings of opposing parties, fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties, especially the Communist Party of Germany, and intimidating Jews, trade unionists and others, including enforcing the boycott of Jewish businesses. The name “Brownshirts” came from their uniform and played off Mussolini’s Blackshirts. They were later superseded by the SS.
Yes, Browncoats is just a name — the connotation was unlikely to have been intended. But I’ve always found it hard to dissociate the similarity of nicknames, and I’m not alone. To my ear, Firebronies is cleverer, funnier, more in keeping with the tone of the show, and, yes, a little less Nazi-sounding than Browncoats.
America has had a recent history of taking names of sports teams or sport fans that have unfortunate connotations or similarities, names, mascots, and the like, and replacing them with animals, to which far fewer people take offense. This usually takes an awfully long time, but it’s the direction of travel. Could Firebronies be seen in that light?
Because those who start screaming about the indignity of anyone calling Firefly fans “Firebronies” only end up sounding like… well, Jayne.
After all, it’s a whole big verse out there. Room for everyone. Brownshirts, Firebronies, and even people who like The Orville. I know. There are plenty of words that one might be offended by being called or hearing someone call another — but Firebronies is not a hate crime.
Okay — said my piece, time for dinner. Burn the lamb, boil the tea, you can’t take firebrony from me.