Chuck: Fantasy products

Having watched the first couple of episodes of Chuck, for the most part, I’m pretty impressed. It’s a fun show, with a neat concept–the basic premise of it is that a supremely regular guy, a somewhat underachieving geek, suddenly finds himself in possession of all of the state secrets anyone could ever want. It’s an unsubtle male-geek fantasy fulfillment show, creating a set of circumstances that place a guy they relate to in the role of video-game style hero. A boring life instantly becomes a constant adventure, with no one suspecting just how much the weight of the world rests on the shoulders of one ordinary dude.

And, of course, the excitement would not be complete without the sexy spy girl love interest. Sarah has some genuine potential as a strong female character. Since she works for the CIA, she’s had to demonstrate intelligence, courage and physical strength already. But the scene in the pilot where she’s preparing for her first “date” with Chuck, walking around in lingerie, strapping on kevlar and sticking a gun in her garter establishes her place in the fantasy. If she’s going to be a tough woman, she’s also got to be sexy. The fight scenes all play for the male gaze–if they’re between men, the feeling is that the viewer is placed into the position of the good guy, relating to his struggle and watching as he figures out how to get out of a bad situation, but if they’re between women, the viewer is removed from the thought process and watching from outside, because the details are less important than the titillation.

Thus far, I give major points for not having put her in the position of powerless, must-be-rescued figure, ignoring her training and martial arts skills, but aiming higher, wouldn’t it be nice if the sexiness and sexuality of the strong woman could be completely irrelevant? If we didn’t have to hear at all about her relationship status or history? I don’t know a damn thing about Casey’s (Adam Baldwin) love/sex life, and he’s essentially the same level a character as Sarah. The appearance of a couple of female villain figures using classic sexy femme fatale style seduction/betrayal techniques also doesn’t thrill me. It’s not quite Bond girls, but it’s treading a little too close.

Comments

  1. Laura F says

    Man, this is exactly how I feel about this show, only you managed to articulate it and I couldn’t. I’ve been watching from the first episode and really enjoyed the comedy and ridiculousness of it. Adam Baldwin is fantastic and funny and I think I might even like him more than Chuck. (Though I yelled “Fail!” at him during the last episode.)

    But yeah, the girls are there for the guys, not to be themselves. And I know that’s common in today’s television. But still. Boring.

    I would enjoy it more if it weren’t ALL. ABOUT. THE BOYZ.

  2. sbg says

    I do like that Sarah’s been shown as capable, but it bothers me a lot that she’s also there as Chuck’s unattainable love interest (whom he will eventually attain, natch). Her history with his arch-college-rival is, IMO, unnecessary and I’d probably like her storyline more if they’d just had her and Bryce as partners. Nothing more.

  3. says

    sbg, the Bryce aspect was part of what tipped me over into seriously frustrated. Okay, I get the trope of the “unattainable love interest”, but the romantic element of the Bryce thing makes so much of her character background all romance, all the time. Seriously, we don’t think twice about not knowing a damn thing about Casey’s romantic life–his backstory is being fleshed out in all these other ways–but it’s like we can’t define the female character unless without romance, and especially some sort of tragic romantic past. Plus, of *course* she was involved with Chuck’s arch-rival, which makes his inevitable success so much sweeter, because really, it’s about the competition with another guy.

    Laura–Oh, I totally like Casey better than Chuck. Adam Baldwin rocks.

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