December Rambletopics Days - What's the deal with White Collar? ([personal profile] thebaconfat)

Dec. 4th, 2014 02:12 pm
magibrain: Peter Burke would like to know where you are at all times. (White Collar)
[personal profile] magibrain
[personal profile] thebaconfat: What's the deal with you and White Collar? I think i have maybe watched one episode but whenever you bring it up I'm startled because I never would have figured it would be a show you'd be into.


Ahaha, well, one thing you have to remember is that the things I tend to get wildly, fanficcingly into are the thigns that make me fall absolutely in love with their potential and then annoy me enough to make me go "I NEED TO FIX THIS. AND THIS. AND THIS AND THIS AND THIS." So this may turn into a post of me squeeing over half of the show and ranting about the rest. We'll see.

I think one of the things that might clear up your confusion is that I seem to disagree with the show itself about who the main character is. (The show seems to think it's Charming Ladies' Man Conman Neal, and puts him on all of the DVD covers and stuff. I remain firmly convinced that it's Lawful Good FBI Agent Peter Burke, whom I adore. My feelings on Neal are a lot more complicated.)

And, okay. I fell into White Collar during a time of a lot of fannish turmoil for me, which may or may not sound absolutely crazy depending on what your feelings are on having characters that talk to you and whom you relate to as real, if contraextant, people. I needed to extricate myself from the fan desperately shocking another fandom relationship with an AED in hopes that this time it would get up and dance for me; I eventually decided that I might as well click on White Collar in Netflix, because it was recommended based on something or other that I'd watched or it was just popular or I'd heard good things about it or whatever. I was basically just looking for a distraction.

(I want to say it was recommended because I had watched Chuck, but I'm pretty sure I started watching Chuck after watching White Collar. And oh, Chuck probably deserves a post of its own one of these days. It's a show that I desperately wish I could recommend to people, because there's so much of it that I absolutely love... but I cannot recommended it to anyone, ever, because it insists on having two side characters who are basically the Sexual Harassment Comedy Hour in a way that I very nearly find triggering and I do not have triggers. I want to find whoever thought those two were a good idea and make them suffer in some undefinable way.)

So anyway, I went into White Collar with no real expectations, and no real hopes beyond "make me feel not miserable".

And then I really enjoyed it.

First of all, it's often quite a lot of fun. Sometimes ridiculous fun, and sometimes not entirely plausible fun, but the writing is clever and the dialogue is good and I don't usually get the sense that the writers are taking themselves too seriously. And all the actors seem to be having fun with their roles. It has its serious moments, but it's kind of Firefly-esque in its balance of comedy and drama.

Second, to varying degrees, I adore the entire main cast. In the interests of space, I'll confine myself to mentioning just a few of them.

So, you have Peter Burke. Who's the Lawful Good FBI agent in charge of the White Collar department, who's by-the-book and methodical and brilliant, but in a way that isn't abrasive or aggressive or arrogant. He genuinely cares for his people, even when he doesn't quite get them, and despite the cynicism that tends to go along with career law-enforcement types, he retains the ability to see criminals as people. He's intuitive and steadfastly loyal, but he's willing to see the evidence and admit that he might be wrong and re-assess the things he knows. He's kinda got the trappings of your traditional Guy's Guy, with the beer and the football and baseball and he bad-at-emotions thing, but there's no machismo there, and no posturing. And he's not-so-secretly a gigantic dork. He gleefits over dinosaur skeletons and he owns – and knows how to use – a sextant.

And you have Neal Caffrey, who's pretty much Chaotic Good with a varibly-secret desire to be Lawful Good (and perhaps some internalized assumption that this is not a thing which is possible for him), and a tendency not to really anticipate how his actions effect others. And he has a few metric fucktons of damage, most of which he seems to stuff behind a carefully-polished facade and pretend that if he's not looking at them, they can't see him. Plus, most of his skillsets are rooted in cons and crimes, and you know what they say about how you think when you've only got a hammer... So, he wants to be a good person, doesn't really believe he is, and only halfway believes that he can be, and tries to be in ways that are often a little fucked-up. And "fucked-up people trying to do good things in fucked-up ways" is a big fiction kink of mine. He's also, despite the whole Chaotic thing, extremely loyal. ...I may have a thing for loyalty.

There's Elizabeth Burke, who's smart as a whip, adaptable, witty, pragmatic, and generally ready to roll up her sleeves and get into the midst of things rather than fretting on the sidelines. But she's also capable of throwing a flag and saying "This sounds completely stupid and you need to consider this a lot more;" she's not a yes-woman. She has her own thoughts and opinions which influence the other characters in a way that's not played for drama or plot contrivance but make a much rounder basis of perspective.

There is Diana Barrigan, whose name I could probably just write as ~*♥Diana Barrigan♥*~, and maybe add a few stars in there, or get one of those sparkle backgrounds. I adore her. Badass black lesbian FBI agent who loves guns and modern art and has the respect of her peers, who is fiercely competent and fiercely loyal and warm and affectionate with those she likes and maintains a kind of amused, snarky, "I'm-watching-you" tolerance of Neal, for the most part, and who will fucking put a bullet through your shoulder if you try to damsel-in-distress her. If I was going to make my Competence Porn Dream Team, it'd probably involve Diana Barrigan and Sam Carter.

Third, oh my god the power dynamics. The premise is that Neal's getting out of sitting in prison for four years by offering up his services to the FBI, which still significantly restricts his freedoms – he's not allowed outside of a two-mile radius except for work, for example, and his location is strictly monitored. And it's Peter's job to monitor Neal and keep him in line. (There are the occasional references to the tracking anklet as a "collar", and at least one person makes a reference to Peter's "pet convict.") Of course, Neal being Neal, he does his best to circumvent every restriction he can.

...there's also this giant fox-and-the-hound metaphor that I play with that is TOO MUCH FUN and which works too well.

Peter genuinely likes and doesn't entirely trust Neal. Neal genuinely likes Peter and kinda wants to trust him, but has trouble really buying into the whole "trust" thing. So there's a genuine affinity between them, but they're both kinda eyeing each other and waiting to get stabbed in the back, even if they don't want to be.

Peter and Neal also have really different ideas of morality, and what constitutes the right or responsible thing to do. But it balances with the awareness both of them have that the other is trying to do the best they can.

White Collar also treats a lot with chosen families. Neal and his criminal friends all kinda end up getting drawn into the weird FBI family, and there are a lot of ad-hoc alliances and unlikely bedfellows. And Neal ends up with Peter and Elizabeth as his kinda de-facto accidental parent figures, which is too adorable.

And the teamfeels. Oh god, the teamfeels. There's an episode kinda early on where Peter tries something risky, gets himself in trouble over it, and needs to get as much as he can sorted out on a very short deadline. So he goes in late to the office to work... and without him actually having called anyone to help, the rest of his team shows up around him. And you never get the sense that this is just authorial fiat (thought there are other things that I will absolutely without hesitation flag down as authorial fiat, grargh lamp ring scene rarrgh); you can see why these people all love Peter. Even if he is irascable at times.

And I'm not sure there are any two characters who don't have their own excellent chemistry. Peter and Neal? Endless tangledy entertainment. Neal and Mozzie? Comedy gold. Peter and Elizabeth? I SHIP THEM. ME, BACO, ME. I HAVE FOUR SHIPS: ONE I ONLY SHIP WHILE THE ROMANCE ISN'T HAPPENING, TWO ARE WILDLY AU AND INVOLVE JACK HARKNESS, AND THIS IS THE FOURTH. Peter and Diana? I just want to draw hearts all over the screen. Diana and Neal? Yesssssss. Mozzie and Elizabeth? Awkwardly heartwarming hilarity, with the added bonus of getting to see Peter make That Face so many times. Diana and Mozzie? They are constantly annoyed at each other but still work together and it is the best. Elizabeth and Abby Bartlet? Okay, this one never happened, but by god it should. And all the chemistries are great in different ways!

And I have entirely left out Jones, poor man, but Jones is the quintessential straight man and manages to be quietly excellent and play off of everyone. He's never boring! He just stays out of the spotlight and lets you forget how awesome he is, and then BAM! AWESOME JONES.

Speaking of Peter and Elizabeth, oh my god I never knew how much I needed an on-screen relationship between a stably married couple where the participants could talk things out and respect and trust each other and not have manufactured jealousy played for cheap drama and where they both had their own lives and both loved and supported each other in their own lives and both loved and respected each others idiosyncrasies and weren't trying to mould the other or change the other and where the relationship didn't completely consume them to the point of closing them off to interactions with other people and oh my god. Everyone ships Peter/Elizabeth. Even the characters on the show do. Even Neal figures out pretty early on that This Is A Good Thing And Should Be Supported And Preserved. But it doesn't come across as saccharine, and it doesn't come across as The Authorial Ship Which Everyone Ships Because We Say So. It's just a healthy relationship between mature and responsible adults and it works and it's part of the show's infrastructure instead of being the drama wagon. They are partners, and this is a part of their lives, and it is a good and enriching thing for them both. Full stop.

And basically just everything about it is the perfect thing to nest in.

Also, I really have a thing for shoulder holsters.



Hey, it was less ranty than I thought! More rambledy, though.

Of late I've been falling out of love with the ongoing White Collar canon, which is just normal progression for me with shows; I fell out of love with Stargate: SG-1 over late S7 through S8, and eventually just stopped watching. I took my gathered fandom love and headcanon and parked myself on a little parcel of magibrain land and just considered that my SG-1. In the grand scheme of things, I think my White Collar may be concentrated around in S2, with occasional forays out of it.

This post has been brought to you as a service of the December Posting Meme.
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