• Conor Malcolm Crockford

    My major guess here is that opinion towards the Companions might be based on class and where you live in the ‘Verse (it makes sense that the Alliance would be so controlling considering the obvious diversity of ways of living). But that’s a stab in the dark – I’d have liked to see more Companion world building but obviously that didn’t much happen.

  • In “Heart of Gold”, I don’t think they were Companions. Didn’t Inara call them “whores” herself? I’ve always thought of Companions like geishas. Sex is there, but so is a particular social training, and they’re recognized as respectable. Other prostitutes exist, but they don’t have the same social standing.

    • Conor Malcolm Crockford

      Also I think the best interpretation.

  • lgauge

    I interpreted the line about Wing having to rely on his own charms from now on to be less about sex and more about companionship. Whores probably still exist, but they would hardly be acceptable as dates to any official function (like he attends a lot of if we are to interpret the cliched upper class society he lives in like the episode seems to want us to) like the Companions are (while also providing sex). So it’s less “you’ll never get laid again” and more “you’ll never get to bring a date again” which would probably make him look very bad in the eyes of his peers. The extent to which it even makes sense that having a Companion as a date to one of these things is perfectly okay is something we’ll have to leave for another discussion since it seems that’s part of the show’s explicit world building.

    • ZoeZ

      This is what I was thinking, too, and that it’s also class-based: the Companions aren’t the only option for paid sex, but they’re the only glamorous option, and people like Atherton probably generally consider themselves “too good” to bother with anything lower. Having to look elsewhere basically tells the world that he can’t land a Companion, and it’s embarrassing.

      That said, it’s also a minor, minor ding in the grand scheme of things, and I have to think it’s meant to be: Inara’s power is entirely social, and it depends upon everybody agreeing that she has it.

    • DJ JD

      I could see that. It’s embarrassing to say, but perhaps I misread the situation. I took it more as a statement of fact, and like I (over-) said here, it stood out to me in several ways.

  • Babalugats

    You’ve said everything I wanted to say here.

    The way “companions” are the highest class of society and “whores” are still the lowest. The idea that what men really look for in a prostitute is years of training and intellectually stimulating conversation. Even cow folk in the backwoods of space. Just the fact that you’re valuing one women’s sexuality so much higher than any others is weird. Whedon seems to have an odd view of prostitution. There’s no competition here? Nobody’s undercutting companion prices, but only offering “pretty good” conversation? And you’re right that there really ought to be an intergalactic pimping guild to go along with the companions. And for a woman that graduated sex school, Inara doesn’t seem all that sexual. Look, there’s a way to approach this as fantasy, where Inara’s clients are all handsome men that love and respect her, and she enjoys her time with them; The Client List style. And there’s a way to approach this realistically, where prostitution is a hard job that robs you of your dignity and your agency, but not your value as a human being; the Deadwood style. But the show settles for something in the middle, which just comes off naive and insulting.

    What it looks like to me, is that Whedon was making a space western, and westerns have prostitutes so he wrote one in, and then because its sci-fi he thought it would be neat if the prostitute was at the top of the social order, and then didn’t follow that idea at all to think about what that would mean for his world or the characters who grew up in it. It’s a relatively small element, but it hits on so much of what I dislike about the show. The flimsy world building, the lack of commitment to the genre elements, the inconsistent characters, the preachiness, the shallowness, the prudishness. It’s all just crystallized in Mal calling Inara a whore.

    Oh and the Christina Hendricks episode- A grown woman can’t choose whether or not she wants too have sex because her religious views make her functionally a child, but isn’t that childishness really hot? Oh, but she’s really a hooker, and that’s even hotter! Jesus fucking Christ man, what are you doing here?! Hendricks manages to make something out of the character, but damn was that script misguided.

    • Miller

      An intergalactic pimping guild suggests a sadly-unseen crossover with Futurama, or at the very least Bender.

      The lack of competition stuff is weird, I think besides the class stuff talked about above it comes down to professionalism. I can get 22 friends together to play football while charging people to come watch and technically be competing with the NFL but no one will pay for my shoddy-ass product even if it’s cheaper – they want to see the best. That said, I think it would be a lot easier to start up the XFL version of Companions.

      • Babalugats

        Yeah. The difference between the best quarterback in the world, and the 10th best quarterback in the world, and the 110th best quarterback in the world, is mammoth. But the difference between the best lay in the world and one that’s merely in the top 30th percentile, isn’t all that much. And even a girl who’s bad at it, still beats football. It’s never been a profession with a particularly high bar of entry.

        • Miller

          I think we’ve found our selling point! Fuckbuddies: Not As Good As Companions, But Still Better Than Football

    • DJ JD

      I’m encouraged to read your take on this, because I came away from this wondering if I’d completely misunderstood the show. Thanks muchly!

      • Babalugats

        Likewise

  • jroberts548

    I don’t think they clarified this (there’s a lot they didn’t clarify in 14 episodes and a movie), but does the alliance government sanction the companions and ban un-sanctioned prostitution? I can see that being the case and it would be consistent with what we’ve seen.

    The show takes place on the edge of civilization. There’s a weird, inconsistent relationship between the outer planets’ laws and cultures, the central planets’ laws and cultures, and our laws and culture. I can live with that.

  • BurgundySuit

    Year of the Month update!

    https://letterboxd.com/films/year/1928/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1928_in_literature
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1928_in_music
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1928_in_art

    NO DATE: Son of Griff: Show People

    Jan 8th: BurgundySuit: The House at Pooh Corner
    Jan 11th: Pico: The House on Trubnaya
    Jan 12th: Gillianren: Steamboat Willie
    Jan 15th: Joseph Finn: All Quiet on the Western Front
    Jan 20th: Conor Malcolm Crockford: Steamboat Bill Jr.
    Jan 28th: The Ploughman: The Circus
    Jan 30th: Miller: Decline and Fall
    Jan 31st: ZoeZ: Ashenden