Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Alias nothing

Weird things that happen when you rewatch Alias for the first time in five years:

1. OH GOOD GOD THE CULTURAL DRAG IS FUCKING UNBEARABLE. Nope, dressing up as a geisha or an Indian lady is really, really not the same as doing your sneaky spy biz disguised as a maid or a soldier or a hot girl. Other people's cultures: not your fancy dress.

2. Speaking of Hot Girl, good grief there is a whole lot of pandering to the male gaze going on. Are you aware that Jennifer Garner has breasts? She does! Two of them, right there on her upper chest! Barely covered with a filmy layer of nothing! Let's take a long, slow, camera-trawl over them, taking in some stomach and butt and legs for good measure.

"The key to doing this well," Sydney informs Marshall, is to "be inconspicuous". And what's more inconspicuous than a skin tight rubber mini dress?

I mean, I get that there is more than one way to be inconspicuous, and that dulling evil doers' suspicions by hypnotising them with your tits before kicking them in the head and stealing their microwave bomb laser could be construed as a quasi-feminist girl power kind of dynamic, but the entirely gratuitous "HEY LOOK BOOBS!" shots that are apparently obligatory every time she changes outfit (ie. six or seven times per episode) take the shine off this message of empowerment somewhat.

3. Thinking about it, the scenes where she's at home, having discarded all aliases and disguise, she's usually dressed in jeans, no apparent make up, no "FOLLOW THE BOOBS" camera work: the implication being that this is Sydney in her natural state. This posits femininity as performance, inherently artificial, and used to deceive and befuddle men - which is troublesome enough. But it also implies that the other cultures she plunders for her dressing up box are equally artificial, whereas early 21st century urban middle class life is neutral, default humanity.

4. At the same time that I was coasting through season three, I was reading up about MKUltra and Project Artichoke, and the roads that led to Guantanamo. The cognitive dissonance between "the CIA are wackily, bizarrely, and yet grindingly prosaically evil" and "the CIA are our only defence against cartoon villains with nukes designed by a 15th century prophet, go team USA!" is kind of odd.

5. The phones look so quaint.