Archive for the ‘Sexed-Up Killer Fembots’ Category

Oh, boy. Here we ago again. The fourth reiteration of “Nikita”, a juvenile delinquent taken into the folds of a secret government agency and turned into a cold-blooded assassin extraordinaire! has premiered on television…again…

Of course, the 1990 original (and best) has already been covered, and I refuse, absolutely refuse, to discuss the 1993 American remake, or it’s bastard-step-sister, the 1997 television series. Because, really, they were poor and unsatisfying imitations of the French classic, so they do not bear mentioning let alone any sort of analysis. That being said, let’s just get on to the new girl in town.

So Nikita is back. She is Asian-American and embodied by the martial arts star Maggie Q. That alone is enough to spike my interest since I really liked her character in the severely underrated Mission Impossible 3. Unfortunately, it seems the show is heading in the direction of sexed-killer-fembottery and you need only to glance at the promotional poster to ascertain that. The plot, this time, picks up three years after Nikita leaves/escapes the agency and shows her as a woman returned, scorned, and hellbent on revenge.

In the film versions, Nikita leaves not only the  agency, but leaves behind her boyfriend as well because she sees herself as dangerous, damaged goods and beyond redemption. And I liked this ending because it doesn’t tie everything up with a pink bow, white wedding, and a house in the ‘burbs. Nikita is a messy character, she has enough control to take a life but no control when it comes to managing her own affairs. So, I rather dislike Nikita 4.0 because now the boyfriend has been killed by “Division” and Nikita wants to avenge not only his death but avenge her perceived ruin life, and save those in the evil agency’s evil clutches.

Now to me, this flattens Nikita, makes her boring and predictable. The whole “girl-meets-boy, boy-gets-killed, girl-gets-revenge” plot is tired and played out. Been there. Done That. Bought the T-Shirt. What made the original Nikita so interesting is that she really didn’t have a problem with the killing as much as she had problems between managing her day job and managing her cover. And that’s interesting. Why not run with that? Oh yeah, because that, too, has already been done…

Have Nikita return simply because she bored and she can. Or because she wants to take over. Or because she’s out of her ever-livin-gourd. The impetus of the dead boyfriend cheapens the original little sociopath we have come to love. That, and it rips off another girl-gone-rogue show, ALIAS, big time. And the bit about the planted protegé/mole? Really? I’m not hopeful of that plot element, I guess we’ll just have to see where it goes.

But I think this issue with Nikita and her new-found nobility is an extension of this blog’s last post. When it comes to the dames, popular culture portrays them as the Madonnas or the Whores with the heart of gold. Mass media, and maybe people in general, are not prepared to see women as unconscionable killers. Too bad, because if you want to do something fresh with this character, or the personality of an assassin, then you need to explore that dark side no matter how ugly or uncomfortable it may be.

I received a heads up from a reader (thanks, 2blake2) regarding a Spy Conference being held in Raleigh, NC next March and I admit, I eagerly clicked the link to take a look.

So let me now just say how utterly disappointed I am.

Yes, I realize, the organizers are using sex to sell their product, but there’s a few people speaking at the conference whose work I respect and frankly, the respect levels plummet when they involve themselves in an enterprise selling female participation in the spy-trade under the banner of Sexpionage.

As I have written previously, that term, as it applies to women, and is used to sum up the female experience in intelligence, is insulting.

I am not at all trying to express that this is a topic not worth exploring, but the problem is most people view this as the only topic when it comes to women in intelligence and it effectively ends any further discussion. Women using sex as tradecraft is an extremely small sliver of a much larger pie. Yeah, let’s forget all the broads who contributed as inventors, managers, operatives, radio operators, cryptanalysts, analysts, etc. Forget that these dames jumped out of airplanes, brandished weapons, performed acts of sabotage, found it necessary to take a life or two, or sacrificed their own lives in the process.

Just because a precious few gals of the whole  used their female lucky charms as a means to an end, they are the only ones seemingly worthy of comment time and time again (wishing there was an emoticon for sarcasm presently) while the rest of the bunch is routinely ignored.

I could rant on and on about the overt misogyny of a conference speech of this nature, but what’s the point? The organizer seems like an aware fellow who usually puts on an interesting event but he really ought to get a clue (or a hundred) about the ladies.

Before I lambast this movie into the great hereafter, this Agent must make a confession: she laughed her hiny off when first she saw it…at the dollar show. And in retrospect, I think I want my dollar back.

Sandra Bullock plays Gracie Hart, a foul and unkempt FBI agent amongst a group of Frat-Pack FBI dudes who regard her warily. What we get to witness is Gracie being turned into a Sexed-Up-Fembot. Not of the Killer variety, but a Fembot nonetheless.

The plot goes that there is a beauty pageant that is about to go kaboom, literally, and the FBI is on the case. Gracie goes undercover as a New Jersey beauty queen after monumental help from Michael Caine who teaches her to masticate her food with her mouth closed.

Frivolity and hilarity ensues as Gracie tries to ingratiate herself with the contestants (all of whom are suspect), learn their bizare tribal behavior (like swilling fat-free hot cocoa, waving, and fluttering her hands while faking tears), all while duking it out with her pageant handler, Caine, who declares her to be an unfinished woman.

Hmmmmm….so it’s not enough to be competent, smart, and have to put up with the thinly veiled misogyny on the job, but you also have to endure it while looking “hot” as well? Any Intell analysis aside, what the hell kind of message does this send to all the young girls who saw this flick?

Back to movie: Largely, Gracie gets by using her gut instinct. Basically what we call Abductive Logic. And not to diminish finely tuned instincts for a job, but we’re talking bomb threats here and mass murder on a public scale, you’d think they’d use more than just a gut feeling to solve the case. Yes, I know, this is Hollywood…

As you might have guessed, Gracie cracks the case, gets the guy, and finds a balance between between her kill-instinct and her feminine side. Sigh, how sweet. How sweet that the FBI is portrayed as bunch of bumbling idiots not totally up to the task of matching wits with a psychotic pageant mistress. But I’ll give kudos to the film for being equally insulting to both men and women. Points for parity!

Personally, if this is how the film industry insists on portraying women, then this Agent sides with the La Femme Nakita course of action. Nakita learns refinement, but only as a tool and nothing more. At heart, Nakita is a goofy, maladjusted, awkward girl, and her alias “Josephine” is the one with the mascara and the lipstick. “Josephine” is not the end-all-be-all of Nakita’s existence as an agent or a person.

Like Gracie, Nakita operates on almost pure instinct, but there’s training, skill, technique and method to back it up- not a frilly dress and and antiquated sense on how a woman should handle herself.

And to this Agent, that’s one finishing school I think all dames should attend.

Of all the Sexed-Up-Killer-Fembots out there, Aeon Flux has to be this agent’s favorite. Launched as a series of short animated films on the infamous MTV show “Liquid Television” in 1991, Aeon immediately garnered a twisted and cultish fan base (as twisted and cultish as the anime I suppose).

The run down on Aeon is as follows: She is an agent (assassin actually, but apparently that term is interchangeable to most) from the futuristic country of Monica. Aeon’s unstated mission is apparently to antagonize her former lover/evil leader Trevor Goodchild as best as one can tell. Aeon is silent, she is deadly, and more often than not is racking up a body-count the size of most college football teams.

Killer-fembottery aside, this Agent loved the series. Mostly because it was the best of silent films with only the occasional grunt and sound effect filling the silence. Also because the show was weird. And I do mean weird. Weird in a bat-poop insanity kind of way which made it innocuous and delightfully wicked at the same time. Deliciously improbable and terribly fun, I am sorry to say (actually I’m not, I enjoyed it anyway) there is zero intelligence analysis to be provided from this series.

However, like the channel itself, MTV managed to ruin the whole endeavor when it launched the show as its own series and started giving the character dialogue. That’s when this Agent left the building. MTV would have done better to just leave everyone mute. “The Hills” would benefit greatly from the same ideology. And oddly enough, as its own series, Aeon manages to kick the bucket at the end of every show. Now what the heck do you suppose MTV is trying to say about our Sister Assassin, eh?

Anyhoo-Aeon went by the wayside back in the late 1990’s only to be rebooted in movie form in 2005. “Aeon Flux”, starring Charlize Theron, embarked upon a similar mission in a really, really, really, really, one more for good measure, really, bad film. A film so bad, this Agent is beginning to wonder if she doesn’t actually kinda like it – something she can only admit to in the deep and dark recesses or her psyche.

Whatever, see it for yourself and be the judge. About the only comment to be made is that I really dug the futuristic “brush pass” Aeon performs in the film. Here’s the scene: Aeon is walking down the street, she encounters a random guy, momentarily plays tonsil-hockey with said guy, guy slips her a pill that is then swallowed, and then Aeon is psychically transported into a strange sort of meeting room with her handler.

Like I said, weird. However, if there must be a world where sexed-up-killer-fembots exist, then this is the horse this Agent is betting on.

“We can rebuild her. We have the technology.We can make her better than she was before: better, stronger, faster.”

And so begins the career of Jaime Sommers, The Bionic Woman (1976-1978). A tennis pro nearly killed in a skydiving accident, she is rebuilt and becomes an agent for the Office of Scientific Intelligence a fictional and secret branch of the CIA and working for the fantastically bureaucratic Oscar Goldman.

(As a matter of note: this Agent actually had a Bionic Woman Halloween costume one year. Complete with blue jumpsuit, face mask and elastic armband to expose the arm’s “circuitry”)

Hmmm, so what is there to say about this show? That it was as silly and ridiculous as the “Six Million Dollar Man”? At least it had good company.

Mostly it was about Jaime poking around in a situation (which I suppose the writers would have you believe is investigating), getting drugged/knocked unconscious, kidnapped, and then using her super strength to escape. Oh! And there was the pop-culture rise of Jaime’s nemesis: The FEMBOTS! Truly, one could watch the show for nothing else if only to see the Fembots.

This blog tries to find even the smallest morsel of actual intelligence work in every fictional spy character out there, but this show? This show bothers me on so many levels but mostly for the fact that there’s just nothing there. No logic, methodology, research, analysis, mental exertion…this Agent has put more effort into writing this lone post than the writers of that show did in making it, oh say, realistic

But nothing bothers me so much as to why The Bionic Woman was remade in 2007. Reasons I do not wish to venture a guess about. No new ground was covered. Ridiculous “covert ops” any sexed-up-killer-fembot could perform. Just more emotions and feelings about being “bionic” and “different”, sheesh…The Powers That Be over there at NBC really should have let that sleeping dog lie.

Oh, what is there to write about the Bond Girls that hasn’t already been written? After many, many years of Ian Fleming’s 007, some patterns begin to develop with regards to all girls Bond:

Some are spies, most are not.

They enjoy 15 minutes of fame in one film and then disappear.

They have wildly inappropriate names and then all sorts of wildly inappropriate whathaveyou with Bond and then disappear.

They end up with Bond at the end of the film or are killed by Bond at the end of the film, and then disappear.

So basically, the key to being a Bond Girl is this: look great, have a truly interesting moniker, and make sure you don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Aside from the latest Bond installment, most of the Bond Babes have been truly forgettable. Except for the names of course. Oh, sure, there’s the naughty, cheeky, sauciness of it all (since there’s always 2 Bond Girls per film), but if you’re really looking for in-depth psychoanalysis of that whole thing, then may I suggest Hef as a better source for that kind of Intel?

For this blog’s purpose, the only Bond Girl worth analyzing is Vesper Lynd from 2006’s “Casino Royale”. Eva Green portrays the British Treasury Agent who breaks Bond’s heart and while there’s no tradecraft to speak of, Vesper Lynd’s act of treason is worth taking a look at.

There’s a theory about why people commit treason and that theory is called M.I.C.E.. It holds that one commits treason for either Money, Ideology, Compromise, or Ego. Vesper Lynd is clearly caught between the rock and the hard space called Compromise. Evil, bad men have her fiance and are forcing her to use her position to manipulate a high stakes poker game that will potentially finance terrorism.

The movie is a little light on the finer details: like what happens to her fiance at the end of the film?! Seriously, huge loose end! But Eva Green works it, sells it, and still manages to garner sympathy with her tragic demise.

Dame Judi Dench’s “M”, sums it up nicely about a specific failure in intelligence work: “We’re so busy watching our enemies, we sometimes forget to watch out for our friends”.

Since the Bond-Powers-That-Be used this last film to “re-energize” the franchise, I’d like to hope that they use the opportunity to develop a few more worthy female adversaries for Bond. Vesper makes the ultimate femme fatale without the use of roundhouse kicks, guns, silly gadgets, or sexed-up-killer-fembottery. She’s completely disarming with just her smarts and verbal sparing, and for that, Vesper Lynd may prove to be a tough act to follow.

…oh, and if you must, have some fun with the Bond Girl Name Generator…mine (Abbie Gail) is a total snoozer…

Associated Posts: M, Bond Girls Part Deux, Bond Girls 3.0

 

If you’re not watching “Burn Notice” you best get to it. Gabrielle Anwar as a former IRA guerilla who specializes in bomb making and selling light weaponry on the side makes me all weepy for The Old Sod.

Season 1, Episode 3: Fiona is guarding a witness to a crime when she receives a phone call that a hit squad is on the way over. While her man friend on the other end of the line is all fretful, Fiona calmly cuts him off, asks her hostess for the location of the liquor cabinet, and then proceeds to rain Hell-Fire (of the Molotov-Cocktail variety) down upon the would-be assassins. Ah…good times.

So what if her Irish accent floats in and out with the breeze? Aside from Killer-Fembottery, the girl’s got tradecraft. She can pick a pocket and perform a brush pass like Ginger Rogers performs a waltz. Of course, who wouldn’t notice her on a stake out, but whatever, she knows her weapons and can cook up a tasty bomb in under 20 minutes.

What keeps Fiona fresh is the tight rope the character walks. In one scene, she’s headbutting the local drug dealer, in the another, she’s cooking up Grandma’s secret recipe for pseudo-C4. But to me, Fiona is never more interesting than when she’s performing what most people assume is the drudge work of spying.

Word of warning though, this is one feisty Irish woman (is there any other kind?), best stay on her good side.

Anne Parillaud in the 1990 movie classic “La Femme Nikita”, never opened a can of whoop-ass on someone she didn’t like. A junkie slated for execution for her part in a robbery gone wrong, “Nikita” is given a last minute reprieve, provided she agrees to become a trained assassin for French government. All of which suits an adorable little sociopath like Nikita just fine.

Do yourself a favor and skip the terrifically bad American version of this film (“Point of No Return” with Bridget Fonda who will never be forgiven for that travesty) and stick with the original. You don’t want to miss Jeanne Moreau teaching our little Nikita a thing or two, or three, or four, about the wily ways of females getting what they want.

But what continues to strike me about this film is the use of discipline. Unwavering discipline. After a few years of being locked up in killer-school, Nikita is taken out to dinner by her handler, Bob, only to discover that it’s a final exam she hadn’t exactly studied for. But after a brief freak out, Bang! Zoom! Nikita switches off all thought and just goes on autopilot. The nearly executed junkie has finally learned a thing or two about control and whether that ultimately ends up being a good thing or not, I’ll leave up to you.

An absolutely hilarious moment in the film is when Nikita, after years of being training to kill people, is sent out on her first mission. She is dressed up as a hotel maid and sent to a guest’s room to deliver a teapot with a bug planted inside. She delivers. She leaves. And she’s thinking to herself the entire time: is that it after all this training? It certainly makes one wonder whether or not that one scene sums up the majority of covert ops: bug planting.

But the movie soon kicks into high gear of assassinations galore. Fanciful? Yup. Far fetched? Totally. Positively thrilling? Abso-freakin-lutely.

It’s a toss up for me as to whether I like Irina or Sidney better on TV’s “ALIAS”, but since Sidney came first with the teeth thing, Irina has to settle for second.

The terrifically eeeeevil Irina Derevko, a KGB spy and Sidney’s mammasita, was all trouble and no brownies. First she’s dead, then she’s a alive, now she’s a CIA asset, next she’s a the head of the nefarious criminal organization, then she’s dead again, but, wait for it, oops! She’s alive! My bad…

No tradecraft to speak of, but the role is fun nonetheless. It was a little more than ridiculous what the writers of the show did with Irina’s character, but when you have someone like actress Lena Olin working it (see the movie “Romeo is Bleeding“), you can pretty much get away with her being anything short of being a cyborg.

So is there any element of truth to Irina? Possibly. The character of Irina is presented as a sleeper cell, an agent under deep cover who stays inactive until such time they are made operational. They live a normal life within their target environment and under the the best circumstances, can do so for many years. This type of sleeper cell has been covered in movies such “Little Nikita” and “No Way Out”.

Irina’s target was Sidney’s CIA daddy, Jack Bristow. Irina married him, had little Sidney, became operational, and once she under threat of being discovered, fakes her own death and disappears when Sidney is a child only to return many moons later.

What ensues in the series, of course, is whole big bunch of nonsense, but hey, it was fun while it lasted. And I did so enjoy the Sidney/Irina Death Match Battle Royale at the end of the series. Very Luke/Darth Vader in nature, only Irina never comes over from the Dark side…

The TV show “ALIAS” had me at first tooth pull. Tied to a chair, drugged out of her gourd and about to be tortured by having her chompers yanked by a Chinese agent, “Sidney” sasses her torturer by asking if he could “start with the back?”. Teeth that is. And he obliges. One aerial chair flip and a few bad-guy-dispensing minutes later, Sidney traipses into the CIA offices to offer herself as a double agent against the dastardly men of SD-6.

The show began with a decent enough premise and the characters were using some basic terminology like “dead drop“, “walk-in”, and “burn notice” in those first few episodes, but then the dialogue became less important than the overt sex-bomb competition in the wardrobe department. Was it just me or did it seem like the costume people on that show went out of their way to gussy-up Sidney in the most insane (and uncomfortable looking) get-ups known to spydom?

Another upshot to the show is that they went out of their way to make working for the CIA a noble and worthy profession, akin to serving in the military, instead of just being government group of reprobates out to eff with the world at large, as is sometimes portrayed in the media.

Where ALIAS does manage some elements of reality is how Sidney is only operational overseas. The CIA mission is that of a foreign intelligence unit, which means it is not operational inside the US. Or at least, it shouldn’t be. Which means the show ALIAS crosses the line when the CIA is employed to bring down SD-6. That would have been the FBI’s job, thank you very much.

Ultimately, the show grew into a silly monstrosity with all the supernatural nonsense of Rimbaldi, the zombie plague, and face switcheroos that made the show seem more like a bad combination of “The DaVinci Code” meets “Face Off” during a “Night of the Living Dead” triple feature. But I didn’t care and neither did you. Garner always sold it with a winning combination of vulnerability and roundhouse kick to the teeth. She’s the big sister you wished you had. Psychotic parents and all.