Ultimately, Mal Reynolds is a man that just wants to be left the hell alone. He fought a war for that right, and though the hostilities officially ended with his side losing, he continued to dispute the issue in the way he lived. I like that fierce independence–a desire not to rule or be ruled, but simply to live on his own terms, and the willingness to fight as best he can those that would try not to let him.

In an increasingly feminized culture, it was also a surprise to see so proudly a masculine character. In contrast to our modern Rules of Oprah where no behavior, regardless how disgusting or antisocial, can be judged save judging the disgusting and antisocial, Mal wasn’t afraid to pass judgment. Take Mal’s interactions with the lovely Inara, a high status registered companion to the wealthy and powerful. Mal never hesitated to call her a whore. Unkind to be sure, especially considering how good a person Inara was. Yet Mal’s slur, one gets the sense, was said out of caring: cruel but true words meant not simply to hurt, but by hurting to push someone worth saving towards a better path. I like that brute force honesty, and the intention behind it. Sometimes a father has to be tough to better the child. Sometimes to make a better society you have to tell people unhappy truths, their hurt feelings be damned.

I like too Mal’s morality: "Someone ever tries to kill you, you try to kill ’em right back." Do unto others as they do unto you. He practiced what he preached, kicking a crime lord’s chief enforcer into an starship engine when the killer continued vowing vengeance on Mal’s crew. A refreshing counterpoint to the hyper-Golden Rule naivety of mainstream superheroes that spare mass murderers like The Joker because… why? That they can one day break free and kill more people? Mal’s code will save more lives in the long run than one like Batman’s.

Malcolm Reynolds isn’t due to be born until 2468. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of his spirit today, though.

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