Develop a Distinctive Identity, Like Firefly

Not So Different

There’s a defining moment in the second episode of Joss Whedon’s short-lived television series, Firefly. Nathan Fillion stands at the edge of town, talking to a community leader. Fillion’s character—the captain of a small spaceship that makes ends meet through odd jobs that more often than not involve smuggling or illegal trade—has just returned a shipment of crates that he stole on behalf of a third party. He returned them because he learned that they were medicine that was vitally needed by the community from which he stole.

The community leader approves of the decision and tells Fillion that when a man recognizes what he has stolen he then has the opportunity to make a conscious choice about what to do.

Fillion shakes his head and intimates that in matters of pure right and grave wrong, no, a man does not have a choice.

In this culminating moment of the episode, says a great deal about the overall culture and identity of the show. Yes, it’s a sci-fi show about space travelers. And yes, it’s an old-fashioned morality play where good men make responsible decisions, even when the decisions are made at their own detriment.

As a space western, Firefly appealed to a committed audience that continues to rave about the series years after it has gone off the air. A part of what makes the show subject to such intense admiration is the fusion of different styles used to develop a unique identity for the show on the whole.

There comes a point when each a cappella group should consider its own identity. There are fundamental pieces—you’re all-female, all-male, or co-ed; you’re high school, collegiate, or post-collegiate; and so on. But then there are other considerations. Are you primarily focused on one genre—jazz, pop, industrial rock? Do you choreograph? Do you tour? Do you serve the local community?

It’s a lot to ask for a group to act as a jack of all trades. It’s worth considering, though, how the group members want to be perceived, and what steps they are taking to get to that point. There’s no need to fit a cookie-cutter mold; groups have a lot to gain by having their own, distinct, multifaceted personalities.