In Search of the Modern American Trickster
I was all set to write a post about how modern America needs a Trickster figure. It made sense. In our fiction, we’re always making references to mythic Tricksters: Coyote, Loki, Anansi, Reynard, Monkey and others. But what Tricksters has America produced?
I was sure that none had truly captured the public fancy, and that this lack had had an adverse effect on the national psyche and explained the American fixation with the likes of confidence men and Jesse James-type bandits. But then those images came together in my mind and I realized I had an obvious answer, one hugely popular character: Malcom Reynolds.
As a browncoat, Mal actively fought against authority. As an independent, he goes out of his way to tweak the establishment, steals as much for fun as for profit (when the target suits him), and even mocks Inara for her perfectly legal profession (arguably because he considers its societal position absurd, a classic Trickster trait).
But he doesn’t stop there. He plays the buffoon (comically married, occasionally nude, etc.) and occasionally suffers for his choices (including nasty bouts of torture), yet refuses to change or bow to pressure.
In terms of Mal’s place among the tricksters of fiction, Firefly’s early death helps. The show did not survive long enough for Mal to grow and change, or worse become a parody of himself. Instead, the show has left us fourteen episodes that could as easily have been titled The Trickster Tales of Browncoat Mal.
Agree? Disagree? Have another idea for an American Trickster? Let me know below!