I must warn you. Talking about Sydney Bristow turns me into an eight-year old. I have been watching the first two seasons of Alias on DVDs I rented from netflix. OK, and can I say this show *kicks ass*? Or, more to the point, Sydney kicks ass. She kicks high! She could kick you butt. Kapow! giggle
But despite all the hot babe butt-kicking, I don’t think I would have quite descended into fandom if it weren’t for the family element. I have become close to obsessed in the last year with the notion of biological family, and the connection between parent and child in particular. I am fascinated by the similarities and differences between offspring and their parents, grandparents, etc. How am I a reflection of my ancestors? What bits and pieces of me, whole parts of me, come from them? And how would I be reflected in my own child (if I had one)?
I think this recent interest probably comes from my own ticking biological clock, and my decision (which I am pondering right now) not to have children. My body is feeling a different imperative. A biological imperative. Reproduce, reproduce, reproduce. However, besides the practical matter of getting pregnant, there is, for me, the practical matters involved in 18+ of childcare and commitment. I am fascinated by the genetic connection of parent and child, by the bonds of love and pain that seem to exceed any other kind of relationship, even romantic. But could I deal with the day-to-day realities of the commitment one would have for one’s child? This is the part I ponder. My cats tax me, and they’re grown-ups.
“You know, some people go miniature golfing with their parents, we go to India to look for nukes.”
I think the fact that Sydney is this super-talented agent/spy and that it is in no insignificant part because her parents are the same way, is fascinating. I am about mid-way through season 2 now, and I about jumped out of my seat to see her there, with her parents, on the mission in Kashmir. Suddenly, being a spy isn’t just a job, it’s the family business. But it’s more than that. It goes as deep as blood. It’s in the DNA itself in some pre-disposition for butt-kicking, danger, and sneakiness kind of way.
Added to that is the fact that Sydney believed her mother had been dead since she was a child, and then she found out that she wasn’t, and they not only looked alike, they were alike in smarts and talent. I adore watching Sydney get to know her mother and vice-versa, watching them bond emotionally (some amazing casting there, because Jennifer Garner resembles both of the actors that play her parents). Instead of the child I never knew theme, it’s the parent I never knew.
And that goes for her dad as well. They had a superficial relationship for years as he pretended to be an plane manufacturing executive and hid his spy career from her. Then in her darkest moment, the one thing she least expects happens. Her father whisks in and saves her from a spy-bad guy. She of course assumes he’s another spy bad guy in Dad-disguise. But he’s not. He’s her father, and he’s in the same business as her. Or maybe it’s the other way around. But the daughter-and-dad double-agents thing worked for me big time while it lasted. It was kewl on kewl.
Despite the coolness of the family factor, I think my favorite character is Will. (You were wondering when I’d get to the icon, right?) I like Will because he is the Character of Invitation. One of the things I want in a TV show/movie/book is for it take me into some sort of fantasy world where I can hang out and pretend I’m there. But for it to work for me, there has to be some sort of connection to the real world. Take Buffy, for example. As I understand it, the BtVS/Angel world is supposed to be our world. Not an alternate universe, or anything like that. It’s our world, but what most of us don’t realize is that magic is real if you know how to tap into it. Demons exist, just hope you don’t run into one.
This kind of real-world connection allows me to think, “Underneath all this drab, dreary mundanity and pain is a fantastic world full of excitement and magic.” All I need is the right book/movie/TV show to reveal what’s hidden all around me.
The Character of Invitation is a normal person who sees the world more or less like all of us do everyday. It’s the boring old mundane world, *yawn*, nothing special or magical about it. S/he’s just living their life. Then one day, they discover there’s a lot more to the world around them then they ever imagined. The Scoobies discover that Buffy is a Slayer and that vampires exist! Their whole world changes forever in a moment. The Character of Invitation is the person through which the audience in their normal mundane lives can enter into the broader fantastic world hidden around them.
Will’s that character on Alias (and I would say Richie Ryan is that character on Highlander–hence also my favorite). He’s a reporter. He has a couple of friends he hangs out with. One of them, Sydney, works too much for someone supposedly interested in getting her literature degree. But Sydney is sweet and feminine and intellectual.
Then Will decides to investigate the death of Sydney’s fiancé. Things start to get scary, but that happens to reporters. Normal, normal. He keeps digging. Then Sydney’s dad pops up in the middle of the investigation. OK, it makes sense, the father might be involved in his future son-in-law’s murder. Normal, normal. Then things get weird. In the midst of trying to solve a simple murder mystery, Will gets caught up in the Spy Game. And in a moment of peril, who comes martial-artsing her way into a back room to save him? Sydney.
Of course he screams. His world 180s in one dizzying moment, and then snaps back into place completely changed. It’s the same world he walked in before; nothing has changed but his knowledge of it. And he returns to that normal mundane world after all the excitement is over, but he sees it in a completely new way. The same old places and people take on a new, deeper meaning. He has experienced a non-spiritual sort of enlightenment.
I love when that happens in a story.
The fun in Alias, the fantasy, for me, is imaging what it would be like to be a spy in our present real world. That’s what I’m watching the show for. So it sort of follows that this whole Rambaldi thing just doesn’t work for me. I’m big on the genre of fantasy. I love the immortals of Highlander and the witches and vampires of BtVS/Angel. If you start out a story and you say, “Here’s the rules. Magic and vampires exist”, I’m OK. I enter the story accepting those rules.
The Rambaldi thing on Alias takes me right out of my suspension of disbelief. Because the “rules”, it seems to me, when I entered the story were, “This is the real CIA, and the real CIA’s enemies.” And if this were the real CIA, as I’m into pretending that it is (and let’s face, despite some “YeahRightIDon’tThingSo” technology and events, Alias does strive for a lot of authenticity), the powers of the world would not be fighting each other over the alleged “technology” of 500-year old man.
That kind of story element could work in a different show/book/movie, a show already predicated on some other element of fantasy like time-travel or alternate history or something, but those things don’t exist in the Alias world. It’s a world of big political events and hard technology and ambitious bad guys. Those are the rules of that world (IMO). And in that means that the normal history and evolution of science and technology applies.
Putting on PhD minor in History of Science hat
500 years ago, Europe and most of the rest of the world lived in a world-view that couldn’t conceive of science and technology as we know it today. They didn’t have the basic metaphysical precepts (physicalism, reductionism), much less the 300 years of precursor scientific concepts that would be required to experiment with electro-magnetic fields or genetics or etc. And they certainly would not have the materials we have today that would allow successful experimentation (I’m thinking for example of Da Vinci’s attempts to create a flying machine. Even if his designs had been based on sound aero-dynamic principles, which most of them weren’t, they would never have gotten off the ground; the metal alloys he had available in his day were too heavy and there was no technology for building light enough alloys).
Even if Rambaldi was an alleged prophet who could see into the future, he would not be able to make sense of the highly technical aspects of our culture from his 15th/16th century point of view.
So in order to get through this bit of the story, I just pretend that Rambaldi is a present-day mad genius. I think that works much better, anyway. And who knows? Since I’m unspoiled for any eps beyond the one’s I’ve seen, I might just be right.