In Bedford, An Inside Look at One of TV's Biggest Cult Hits.
Twenty minutes before the theater doors open for seating, the Movie Tavern in Bedford is already packed with people. Still, the staff on hand is attentive.
A small woman wearing a blue “Can't Stop the Serenity” T-shirt and an event staff badge helps me put on a wristband, which is white with the words “PARTY! PARTY! PARTY!” scrawled across it in obnoxious, boxy letters.
Inside the theater — one of two that has been booked for the event — I sink into a giant, squishy chair as likeminded people slump into the seats behind me.
These are the Browncoats, die-hard Firefly fans who take their name from the rebel group of the adored and canceled-too-soon television series, and they are partially the reason why Serenity, the movie continuation of the TV series, exists at all. And their fandom, even 10 years after Firefly's initial cancellation, remains palpable.
Every year, the North Texas Browncoats — one of the many divisions of the Browncoats nationwide — get together to screen Serenity and raise money for Equality Now, a women's rights charity that Firefly creator Joss Whedon is closely associated with.
The woman behind me pulls out a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring and intently stared at the pages as we wait for the show to start. My event booklet, which is covered in inspirational Joss Whedon quotes, says that Dr. Horrible's Evil Blog of Evil will play first, followed by a screening of Serenity.
The screen in front of me flashes images of a stout, bearded man posing with weapons (replicas of the sword and ax that Summer Glau's River Tam character uses in the movie) that are to be auctioned off after the show. That same bearded man brandishing the battle ax in the photo then ambles to the front of the theater.
“Gooooood morning, Browncoats!” he yells at us jovially.
It's 1 p.m.
He continues speaking. After Dr. Horrible, he says, there will be an evil laugh contest. Then? Trivia.
Excited murmurs ripple through the crowd.
After the theater goes dark, something glorious happens, The audience sing along with the entirety of the 2008, Neil Patrick Harris-starring, web-released Dr. Horrible, squealing delightedly at the irreverent musical numbers and releasing the hearty laughs typical of those who are very familiar with (and very fond of) the material.
For the evil laugh contest, the bearded man asks audience members to line up at the front of the theater. Having already had a few beers, I, ridiculously confident, decide to give it a whirl.
For better or worse, I'm one of the last to go.
“What's your name?” the bearded man asks me.
“Janet,” I say.
My name is Chelsea.
I close my eyes and let out a high-pitched shriek that's more “sloshed member of The Monkees” than villainous. The audience gives me a pity clap. That's bad news for me, as the contest is judged by the loudest applause. I watch in envy as the award — a poster of the Firefly character Shepard — is given to a six-year old girl named Olivia.
Distraught, I sit out of the trivia competition.
It's probably for the best. The questions are incredibly specific. An example? “What color were the kitchen walls in Serenity?” It ends up being more of a one-on-one contest between two trivia-savvy Browncoats, anyway.
Eventually, the winner — a bespectacled man who calmly answers questions about Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Firefly crossovers — is declared and Serenity begins screening.
Though, these folks have doubtless seen the film countless times, it's received with pure joy. The crowd laughs at the jokes, gasps at the villains and recites their favorite lines along with the characters.
When the movie ends, the bearded man returns to the front of the theater, whipping the crowd into an excited state for the upcoming raffle. The prize list is extensive. Among the giveaways: signed cast photos, a script of the Firefly episode “Out of Gas,” and a ton of books comprised of unauthorized essays on Joss Whedon. I had bought a bunch of raffle tickets hoping to win a hat that Adam Baldwin''s Jayne character wore in the show, but some man in the back of the theater ends up cockily claiming it as his own.
A few rows in front of me, my six-year-old nemesis Olivia starts crying because she doesn't win anything either.
I feel her pain.
I leave before the auction starts, certain that I don't have enough money to win the art pieces (or battle ax!), all of which will surely go for a hefty chunk of change.
“Goodbye!” the bearded man calls out cheerfully as I exit the theater.
“Bye!” I yell back.
Suddenly, I feel better about leaving empty-handed. I also feel better simply knowing that I'm not alone in my Firefly and Serenity obsession.
I leave with a smile on my face.
Long live the Browncoats!