Mal Reynolds was a sergeant at the time of the the Battle of Serenity Valley.

Why does Zoe call him "Sir" (even during the battle) when any self respecting TV Non Commissioned Officer will yell "Sir? I work for a living" in response to being called "Sir"?

2 Answers 2


Malcolm is called Sir by multiple people through out the series, including Zoe and Kaylee and even Rayne (sarcasticly). He's also called Sarge, Sergeant, Cap and Captain. All titles of authority, both earned and given.

As you mentioned, this is more of a TV thing than real life. In real life, the don't call me Sir thing varies by person, and situation. Drill Sergeants on a peace time base require the cadets to call then Sir, (yes sir).

Firefly is also set a few hundred years into the future, in a neo- wild west. The terms and slang and speech has clearly changed, as noted by the inclusion of Mandarin as a lingua franca.

During the battle, the whole rebellion really, Zoe's use of formalities (Sir) is also done to keep the lower ranks inspired, reinforcing the chain of command, and the need for strict adhesion to the rules. A loose troop falls apart easier than a strict one, if current military doctrine is accurate.

Oh. And if Wash is to be believed:

Don't forget to call him "sir". He likes that.

Indicating he genuinely likes the title, or Zoe likes to screw with him cause he doesn't.


Because he is the captain of the ship and is a male authority over her. It doesn't specifically have to do with him being "Captain" as it does him being an authority. Sir is a title of respect no matter the context.

noun: sir; plural noun: sirs; noun: Sir; plural noun: Sirs
used as a polite or respectful way of addressing a man, especially one in a position of authority.


  • 1
    Ok, but she calls him Sir during the flashbacks to the battle before he bought a ship. He wasn't a captain then. "Sir" is reserved for commissioned officers in the military, and many NCOs resent the implication that they didn't earn the rank but were born into it if they are called Sir. It's a no-no in the military.
    – Hippyjim
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 20:55
  • Note definition, it doesn't specifically have to do with him being "Captain" as it does him being an authority. Sir is a title of respect no matter the context.
    – sanpaco
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 20:56
  • 1
    Part of the issue may be that there's a well-known TV Trope from sergeants that is "Don't call me sir, I work for a living". tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DontCallMeSir
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 21:05
  • 1
    Sir is a title of respect no matter the context. You sure about that youtube.com/watch?v=Qkqki5wLZW0 picturequotes.org/_nw/1/22058367.jpg
    – cde
    Commented Apr 15, 2016 at 5:56
  • 1
    The Independents Army in Firefly was analogous to the Confederate Army of the Southern States during the American Civil War. Malcolm Reynolds was in a regiment called the 57th Overlanders, indicating that they had some kind of command structure and order of battle. This may have fallen apart by the time of the Battle of Serenity Valley but it was more than them just acting as a bunch of rebels without structure.
    – Sarriesfan
    Commented Aug 31, 2016 at 21:55

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