Burn Notice is a fun show about spies. It features two women: Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar) and Madeline (Sharon Gless). As per usual, they exist only to orbit our usual White Male Lead as his love interest and mommy, respectively.
Now, both of them are potentially interesting characters. Fiona likes to blow things up, which sounds promising at first (TV being so devoid of violent women). Madeline is middle-aged and looks it and she’s already had sex here in the first half of the first season. Kudos on all that. And since Madeline has been well-drawn so far – no cut and paste stereotype haracterizations – kudos on her, full stop.
Fiona, I have some problems with.
First: her body is always overtly on display for viewers. Not only does she dress in tight and/or revealing clothes, she poses and struts like a peacock all the freakin’ time. She can’t just sit: she has to lean back sexily on her hands, let her feet swing sexily and sexily tip her sultry head back to let the sun sexily tan her sexy neck. Give it a rest, people – seriously.
Second: unfortunately, her violent tendencies are safely contained within the usual Feisty Female package. To ameliorate audience fears that she might simply be violent despite having a vagina, she’s Irish and used to work for the IRA. Oh, good, an excuse! Fiona comes from one o’ them deviant barbarian cultures, you see, which once allowed their females to fight in war, so it’s understandable why she’s an anomaly. She doesn’t threaten anyone’s assumption that women are, by nature, non-violent because she has reasons (and they’re ethnic stereotypes, no less) why she likes bombs.
Third: she stalks Michael to talk about why he left her. It’s the whole, “I don’t want to talk about this”, “Well, I do”, “Well, not right now”, “Well, when can we?”, “Oh, no, it’s time for The Big Talk” Standard TV Relationship Package #4, in which the man doesn’t want to discuss it and the woman does. Because women are all about the relationships and the talkin’.
My biggest problem with Fiona, really, is that I don’t know her. She’s not a person to me. She’s very good at what she does as a spy, she relishes blowing things up the same way I would; but I don’t know who she is or what her life has been like, or even why she’s interested in resuming her relationship with this guy. She’s a sexual, feisty, competent satellite as opposed to the dim-witted, passive, virginal satellites of years past, but she is still ultimately just a satellite of our White Male Lead.