I’ve been overdosing on spy shows lately. This caused an unconscious pet peeve with Alias to finally rise to the surface: there’s just no way someone as nice and happy and sweet and kind and loved by friends as Sydney Bristow would choose to be a spy.
Spies are messed-up people. From James Bond to Michael Weston (Burn Notice), they don’t come from happy homes, and because of their experience they don’t see the world in a positive, upbeat, optimistic kind of way. While Sydney also comes from a dysfunctional and tragic home life, she doesn’t show any of the expected scars like her male counterparts do: she never lashes out at loved ones, never screws up a relationship out of paranoia, isn’t suspicious when something good happens. She remains America’s Sweetheart despite everything.
You can fanwank it if you squint a little, maybe imagine her sweetness to be a facade – another layer to her double life. But even though Michael Weston on Burn Notice seems incapable of losing his temper, we get enough flashes of what might be lurking under that unflappable exterior to match up the adult with the childhood we know he had.
Bottom line: can you imagine someone writing a show or movie about a really nice guy who loves his friends and his girlfriend and his puppy and baseball and helping old ladies cross the street who then chose a career that demands he lie to all those people, abandon the puppy for weeks on end, and come home with a lot of inexplicable wounds?
Alias tried to make the pieces fit – with very little fan wanking, you can make sense of it, I admit. But at the end of the day, we have lots of very intriguingly fucked-up male spies and one very sweet and kind, if a bit sad, female spy. I want to give them all great big hugs… but I’d be at least a little afraid to hug the guys, you know? Sydney… not so much. She’s harmless.