Posts Tagged ‘sunglasses’

Why am I so Goofy for Burn Notice?

February 26, 2010

My Four Favorite Imaginary Friends

“In my experience, people get hurt and things get complicated no matter what you do”
–Fiona Glenanne

Why am I so Goofy for Burn Notice?

For the uninitiated, Burn Notice is a television show about love, vulnerability, friendship, pyrotechnics, loyalty, violence, family, duty, honor, deceit, murder, depravity, greed, sunglasses and yogurt.

But mostly it’s about decisions. A friend once chastised me for being “so damn existential,” but I’m practically a Calvinist compared to whoever writes Burn Notice.

For reasons related to my own mental health more than anything else, I am trying to figure out why Michael, Fiona, Sam and Madeline are my four favorite imaginary friends:

Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) is a near-perfect hero. He’s brave, loyal, handsome, and honor-bound to do good in this fallen world. Week after week, this ascetic Good Soldier is reluctantly enlisted to aid and protect the helpless and downtrodden, and he just can’t say no. My favorite thing about Donovan is the way he can make his mouth smile while the rest of his face is saying, “You got to be kidding me.”

“The essential function of art is moral,” argued D. H Lawrence. That is why I get so upset when violence, the ugliest and stupidest thing people do, is portrayed in a stylish and witty fashion. I can’t stand philosophically nihilistic and morally empty movies like Snatch, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Pulp Fiction, and Kill Bill, no matter how elegant and clever they may be. Thus, I am troubled by my intense affection for Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), an extremely stylish assassin. I reconcile my love for Fiona with my feelings about cinematic violence by telling myself that Fiona (unlike, say, Beatrix Kiddo) is driven in equal measure by an appetite for both vengeance and compassion. But I can’t quite convince myself that this is true.

Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell) is the carefree, fun-loving guardian uncle that everyone should have. (I’m embarrassed to admit how unhip I am, but I really didn’t know that Campbell was a B-movie legend until my friend Tim who knows about these things recently schooled me.)

I am less embarrassed about my previous ignorance of Sharon Gless’s estimable talent (The shapes a bright container can contain!). I never watched Cagney and Lacey because it’s the kind of show my mom would (and did) watch. (My loss) Gless plays Madeline Westen, a haggard nicotine addict who is interminably stretched to the limit. Without getting too maudlin, the Westens represent a compelling mother-son relationship due to their heroic efforts to attempt to negotiate beyond her hurt and denial and his deeply constrained psyche which is fettered by a monomaniacal sense of duty.

But the main reason I love Burn Notice so much is probably because the show somehow manages to take a stand against wicked things like torture, mercenaries, and dehumanizing corporate greed without ever losing its cool.

by Richard W. Bray