I've got to say, up front, I watch White Collar with the slash goggles on at all times, so I'm wildly biased. I'm also churning out badly written fan fic for my own amusement, so I'm doubly biased towards a certain reading of the text. And it's hard to discuss Neal's attraction, or complete lack thereof, to any of the guest girlies without mentioning the young actor involved, and, to be fair, Mr Bomer was The Sex on Chuck (Oh, Bryce!), but on White Collar, he's really been banging out the 'so not interested' vibes week after a week re the chick of the aforementioned week, and it's really, really noticeable. As my friend says, the writing and casting of guest stars on series can be, and usually is, dire, nevertheless, there is a complete lack of sparkage. And I'm not talking about Neal being a gentleman, I'm sure he is, I'm just talking about the lack of anything with the folks, mainly women, the script throws his way, that he's supposed to show some non professional plot complicating interest in. Keeping it strictly business, means to and end, makes him seem a touch remote, and more than a bit fastidious.
Neal is fastidious though. He seems to need everything to be neat and pretty and just so (and just how many minutes does he likes his eggs boiled for - grin). It makes the odd messy bits points of interest. Too bad the whole Kate thing is such a yawn fest. I'm much more interested in his bizarre attraction to Peter, but that's just me. That's bizarre as it's obviously completely unexpected for Neal to have connected with anyone, let alone his arresting officer, yet he has, and it's really cute, he's like a kid, always trying to impress, and I wonder how it will play out, as there's a bit of the warring houses going on, a bit Montague and Capulet with the FBI on one side and Neal's criminal fraternity on the other. Neal and Peter are friends, intensely 'I'd die for you' battleline buddies, but how far would they go for each other, or against each other, if it came down to it? That's where the real interest, for me, lies. (And, no, I haven't seen the finale, we're quite a bit behind, down here at the ends of the earth).
Now, as to Neal being a hands off guy, I'm not sure I entirely buy that. Not that I see him as a complete libertine or lothario, but I do see Neal doing what it takes to get what he wants. Again, more means to an end. It's like when you see him preening before he goes out on the job, he takes as much care of his appearance and the role he is going to play as you'd see Michael Westen carefully constructing a bomb or field stripping a weapon before a job. Neal's looks and charms are his weapons of choice, and he'll use them accordingly, and, being nice telly, we rarely see any messy, sticky follow through. Perhaps that accounts for the seeming hollowness of his interactions?
Well, first I've got to own up to casting Neal as a bit of a man slut in my crapfics, but only in a socoipathic means to an end way, so now this article has turned that theory on its head. And yes, I have noticed Neal's complete lack of anything with the women thrown his way (not entirely Bomer's fault, because he does click with actresses he likes, but the only day player so far on White Collar was Sarah Winter's scuzzie journo), but much could be said of any show, including Supernatural and the Barbie of the week syndrome.
I'd definitely buy the highly controlled personality thing. Everything has to be just so (and he gets tissy and messy when it isn't). He seems like a lad who rarely lets himself fall - he imagined himself in love with Kate, he is in love with Peter and I don't think he knows what to do with that because he's supposed to be faithful to Kate, it pus him at odds with his friends, himself, his lifestyle and beliefs and all sorts.
But no, not sure what to make of Neal, but the obvious disinterest in most folks who cross his path had me thinking he mainly lives in his head and uses his charm without thinking that anyone else might think they were seriously in with a chance. Business transaction only, surcharge on weekends.
The worst my fictional interpretation of Neal does is the old shag then blag (though if he can get away with just the blag he's happy) which he only ever does when he needs a starting stake and it's something I picked up from watching the Mavericks in action: the boys will often arrive in town perilously low on funds (having had to skedaddle in a hurry previously) and will flirt their way to a starting stake which they'll then gamble into something more solid and then roll that into a bigger more complex con. So I wrote Neal as no stranger to the old rent boy roll, but it was only something he did when he was in desperate need of funds quickly. It's also all conjecture in the fic as that's only what Peter assumes Neal is up to, putting some cash together quickly as an emergency slush fund, since Peter is keeping a close eye on any large movements of cash or goods, and Neal knows it (this tacit blind eye Peter gives to Neal, with the fake credit cards, the B&E and the like, okay, still got a few episodes to view out here, but it's really gonna bite him on the arse if Neal ever has to cut and run, or if anyone wanted to hold something over them).
But no, I don't think Neal is driven to see out human company just for fun, except Peter. For some reason, he can't stay away, even if it is just the idea of Peter. I mean, he was so keen for Peter to come stay at his place (and so puppy hurt when Peter turned him down at first), but the reality of Peter inhabiting his space was an entirely different experience to our poor boy. Bit OCD, bit fussy, bit aesthetic and I really shouldn't have been reading that article on Ruskin today (http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2010/mar/14/john-ruskin-wedding-effie-gray) but it kind of tracks, you know, ideal versus sweaty reality equals icky. Neal pretty much did the Ruskin recoil when hot sweaty Peter flopped on the couch beside him (Oh, Neal! How much encouragement do you need?!).
Mind you, Peter was playing it up, once he knew he was annoying Neal, just to get Neal to skedaddle to Peter could spy on him. Wicked and manipulative, and a massive invasion of Neal's privacy but then again Peter is responsible for Neal and Neal will get up to no good in his off hours if left completely unsupervised so it's not entirely unjustified, if illegal.
So, Peter slobbing all over Neal's place = control issues vapours! As I was thinking, prison must have been murder for the poor dear, but it probably made things even more pathological (sorry, too much Crimal Justice and Oz in my tv diet, not to mention Life and The Fixer, which tread far darker paths). But yeah, poor conflicted Neal, he wants Peter for a sleepover so long as Peter doesn't touch his stuff, eat his food or sit on his furniture...the poor man. That said, I'm not sure Peter didn't wind up Neal, once he realised he was giving the poor boy the vapours, just so he could go snooping. Peter is nothing if not evil and manipulative when he wants to be.
But yeah, having Peter actually messing up his place, his things, his routine, his space, that was too much for Neal. Prison must have been a confronting experience for the poor boy, but he seems to have swung his own privileges (and if he thinks Peter is a harsh gaoler he should swap with John Mercer on The Fixer. Lenny makes Peter look like the fairy godmother. I see Neal in prison as more a James Garner like scrounger, than a player, but lets not ask how...) but I think Neal has always been this fussy and standoffish. Not to mention precise and prissy. I loved his reaction to the philistine fanboy. That was so cute. I've seen that wince close up in folks I know, so that was very true to life - grin. I can just see him having a hissy fit over a non contextual curation at some gallery somewhere.
And now I'm stuck because he should be far more squeamish in my fic but he just isn't. I wouldn't have much of a slash fic if he was. I've written Neal as very giddy for Peter, but he kind of is. At least now I can go back and re-write just why I made Peter suddenly make the first move (too much teasing from Neal had the poor man just move into put up or shut up mode), and not Neal (though I originally wanted Neal to be at least on the same page at the same time, so his consent was implicit, otherwise it brings up issues of control, power and abuse as Neal is still technically in Peter's custody).
It is kind of a Peter only thing with Neal. Peter really is the only one to ever get that far inside the walls. Everyone else just sort of bounces off, or is satisfied with the projected illusion of Neal, and I'm not sure Neal is even really interested in their lives, except June, and the Burkes. We certainly don't get much background on Kate, bar the fact that nobody thought it was the real thing except for poor Neal. Even on the show I really get the idea that Neal was in love with the idea of being in love with Kate and maybe she knew which buttons to push to make it convincing but it was all kind of calculated and acting roles, where Neal and Peter just click and get each other and it's odd that you don't really see either of them having any other close friendships. So this is one of those weirdly intense friendships and it has already pushed over boundaries for both of them. Peter suddenly starts cutting corners and Neal starts getting messy, angry, impulsive and careless. Now I buy impulsive Neal because he's all about the reward (wish I could find that article on criminals and their overdeveloped 'reward' brain chemistry that overrides all other considerations, but that'd be Neal to some extent), but careless? Not so much. Not unless he's bothered and has, very uncharacteristically, lost control of the situation.
I agree that Neal comes at it from a head rather than heart place. he likes art and pretty, but he also likes money: to forge, to con, to give him a high standard of living. Money = pretty, a means to an end, a way to get that reward high. I think there's a lot of means to an end with Neal and his modus operandi. Peter was meant to be a means to an end but, shock, horror, Neal started to care. And that's made things a bit untidy and it's gone a bit off book, as far as Neal's concerned, and Moz too, to some extent (almost always disapproving of the relationship). I always feel Moz is unimpressed that Peter is keeping Neal hanging about, keeping Neal from his true calling (does Neal see it as a calling?) making Neal vulnerable, and, essentially, ruining the fine aesthetic piece of art that Neal has made of himself, not to mention the squandering of finely honed talents. I get the feeling that Moz sees Neal as slumming it, like a classically trained muscian demeaning himself in a grotty rock band, performing for people without the wit or flair to recognise true art for what it is.
Neal as performance art? Oh yes, I think so. I think it's fairly implicit that Neal Caffrey is a fiction, a construction, a performance, much like Remington Steele was (and I was on the money with spotting that major influence) and, well, to use another analogy, slowly Peter is making Neal become a real boy, with tears and feelings and broken hearts and all the other mess that reality involves, and not this fictional perfection, this aesthetic ideal that Neal strives to live.
Okay, so I'm still wrapped up in Desperate Romantics, because it's screening out here, but it's there, right there, in Neal. His ideas of beauty, chilvary, romantic love, the way he mythologises love and beauty, the way he invents his life and lives out his script. Very, very PRB. There's a lot of pretend and play and borrowing from the classics. Or, if you want a slightly more modern example, Remington Steele did it too (the thing with the classic films).
The controlled personality in love and cons also makes me think of Michael on Burn Notice. Someone somewhere on LJ once asked How far would Michael go to sell one of his covers?
I wonder how far Neal would go? (bearing in mind I've not yet seen the last few episodes of WC). How much do control and reward war in Neal's head? Given the right, or wrong, motivation, where would he draw the line? I dare say it's a thought that keeps Peter up at nights (and probably Neal, too).
I'd really like Neal with a harder, darker, sassier edge. Sigh. Maybe a little less stable (surely four years in max would have left some sort of mark, or am I just watching too much Brit telly?).
Then again, Peter isn't as authoritarian as he would be in a British show. Not a bit of it. There's a lot more give and take, blurring of the lines. Sometimes too blurred, I think, at times. Peter probably should draw the line more often, instead of giving into Neal's playful charms. Peter is meant to be a proper grown up senior FBI agent, afterall, not an easily impressed playtime pal to sit and applaude the wonder that is Neal in full flight.
Neal has a Puck like playfulness (not to mention a whole lotta Loki/trickster/raven/coyote), a love of gamesmanship and I agree, he sometimes can't understand why other's won't play, especially Peter, he's seen Peter can do it, has skills, but he won't use them like Neal. Just just for the thrill of it. That Neal operates for the thrill of the game, the hunt and chase proves that he's capable of getting his jollies from something, at least. I wonder what would have if Neal took on the darker aspects of the trickster, the play or else, with high stakes in the offing (now I'm thinking of old Doctor Who episodes with trickster like characters who made you play their games, like it or not).
Neal, in some ways, is a bit of a corrupting influence on Peter, with his mischevious 'let's bend the rules and have fun' ethos. I think I'd quite happily go with this charming amorality being innate, rather than the product of a shitty childhood. Besides, Rossetti had a very supportive family (oh, how they suffered and supported their wayward boy) and he was still a charming rogue and sensualist.
Oh yeah, to imagine a real background for Neal that doesn't involve a shitty childhood? Oh, my, a challenge. How about oddly solitary yet pretty young prodigy who lived mostly in his head and was overly swayed by early exposure to the Pre-Raphs and their romantic ideals (and also ideals of beauty)? Gotta get a Gatsby ref in there somewhere, too.
Oh, that's one thing. I was trying to write Neal as more as a Rossetti-like sensualist but now I'm thinking they may be right, he may be more of a Ruskin like aesthete. Oh dear...
That said, he does like his silk jim jams and superior coffee...
I think Neal does take pleasure in the finer things, that pleasure and reward thing again, but that said, it's mainly for the accessories of life, or how he imagines life should be. Real people, in Neal's world, seem to exist only to be objects admired or moved around the chess board in whatever game he's playing, and yes, that constant chessboard is a highly obvious metaphor for Neal's life and the way he plays the game. Question is, is Peter a pawn or an opponent? I think Peter's taken himself off the board, he's become real to Neal, in ways nobody else ever has.
Which makes you wonder what the hell was going on with all of Neal's supposed previous relationships. The Peter Pan remark hits the mark fairly closely. He seems to have a very read too much romantic poetry book learned idea of love, as opposed to the messy reality - Ruskin again? Or Rossetti, who failed to ever see who Lizzie really was, no matter how many times he painted her, she was always playing a role, the tragic heroine.
The whole Kate thing-- aside from the tedium as a sluggish storyline, to me it makes Neal look very young? I don't know if I can explain it. Like, he's had enough experience at something that's given him an aversion to guns, but hasn't yet had up close and personal experience of betrayal and getting his heart stomped. Why so delayed on that, his reserve kept him from a grand romance (not sex, just the breathless ideal of poetic luuuuv)?
He does seem somewhat delayed or disinterested in that area, and, for a jetsetting thief, a touch sheltered, but I'm reading Casino Royale right now and Bond is crowing cockily that he's yet to have his luck run out or his heart broke (way to dare the fates, Jim) and he, in this book, reminded me a lot of Neal, and the reason given is that he'd never put himself out there before, never let himself take risks, or get sloppy, or give a damn, especially about a mere woman, so perhaps Neal has been cold and careful and calculated thus far? Played the role but never felt the role (and I refrain from examining if that's how Mr Bomer plays Neal at times, but perhaps that's exactly how he's playing him, not really engaged, or an actor, as Bond himself puts it, but for when life grabs him by the neck).
Is there anyone, aside from the writers, not over the whole Kate thing? Can we not move onto scarred Neal now?
As to what Neal would or wouldn't do? It depends. Sometimes he's very hands on, getting that game playing reward, no doubt, at other times, he seems to stand back and gets others to do his bidding for him (poor Moz, PA, broker, cleaner - as in the criminal sense - fence, lawyer, confessor...I wonder what Moz gets out of it? I think he's one of those faithful yet unregarded retainers who gets what he can just from being in Neal's shining orbit).
I'll fall back to my Lovejoy comparison-- Lovejoy, you know he'd be okay rolling through a dunny to get to an objet d' art that set off his internal Choice Antique GPS. Neal would stand back and consider the smartest way to con someone else into getting it for him (and wind up thanking him for the opportunity to commando through the dunny).
I really have to rewatch my Lovejoy...and yes, Neal would con someone else into doing his dirty work, which probably goes back to why he lacks experience in some areas, an unwillingness to get his hands dirty. Pulling off a job with the minimum of fuss seems to be part of the art for Neal. That said, he does like the artistry of it and he will be hands on if there is some reward, be it in actual creating of art or the intellectual challenge of the game. Again, mostly intellectual thrills rather than yearnings from the heart. His cons all seem to be carefully calculated, rehearsed and performed art.
Has Neal ever worked with a partner? A true partner rather than someone just performing duties in service to the con/performance. I don't think so. And while Neal can think on his feet, I think, with Peter, this is the first time he's ever met anyone he's ever considered his equal. Vain, is Neal, and egotistical, and the rest of it, but he respects Peter, and I don't think he respects anyone else, at all. Peter challenges him, pushes him, tramples all over his boundaries, and pretty much won't take no for an answer (like a big friendly dog, covering Neal in dog hair and slobber) and yet Peter has broken through and Neal, well, it's almost puppyish hero worship at times, but again, Neal is playing at being the good guy.
How far has Neal changed? How far is he willing to change? I think I really need to see those few remaining episodes because most of this will probably be rubbish and you'll laugh at me, but please bear with me, and I'm sorry this is a bit of a ramble, I was trying to put together several emails, as well as going off on fresh tangents and getting interrupted every five minutes. At least I didn't mention The Saint. Not once (or The Baron, which is just The Saint rehashed for the American tv market anyway).
To sum up, yes, I think Neal hold himself aloof, I think he is very controlled and controlling, he holds strong, romantic and idealised ideals of love and beauty, I think he's been playing at having the perfect life so much that he's missed out on real life and he might be a polymath and obscenely talented and charming at anything he turns his hand to and I think it's been a bit too easy for him, he doesn't have to try, so he hasn't, he doesn't have to feel, so he doesn't, he's always playing a role and only now are we seeing cracks appears and pieces of the real Neal emerge. All to do with Peter, of course. But like I said, I'm watching it with my slash goggles on. I don't really care if Neal doesn't connect with any of the folks/chicks who cross his path. Neal has his very small inner circle and that's where his heart is at. Where Neal has made mistakes is in atrributing emotions and loyalties to a couple of women who were perhaps not deserving on them, and Neal's idealised fancies were probably no more real than their promises.
Oooh, how very Fleming: all women are untrustworthy femme fatales and Neal is right to distrust and keep his distance. Whereas Peter is the only one trusted, befriended, not to mention risked and sacrificed for. Hmmm. It's hard to ignore that homoerotic elephant in the room, ain't it?
Meanwhile, back in the real world, such as it is, thank you so much for the lovely warm day, the complete lack of She Who Must Be Obeyed and Annoying Person, one of my external disk drives finally talking to one of my pcs, and the lovely long lunch in the park where I actually had a chance to touch pen to paper. Not porn as such, they were just snogging.
And I'm wondering, pokies is slot machines in American, right? I've no real desire to write in American, I mean, Rosemary Sutcliffe was never impelled to write in Latin, that would just be silly, but I understand the need not to jar too much with unaccustomed jargon. Also, what's the most common denomination fed into said machines over there?
Yeah, I'm thinking my random snatching up of Casino Royale to read on the bus was no bad thing, as I do have a casino scene in the story (Neal, in a casino, oh dear). True, the idea for such scenes was merrily filched from The Saint, Randall & Hopkirk and Maverick, but why not throw the big boy in there as well, eh?
Oh, can can anyone nudge me in the direction of Supernatural viewing opportunities for the terminally foreign? It seems I've developed a forbidden taste for episodes uncut, in screening order and with the original soundtrack (because, in any show you care to mention, library muzak or no music at all, it just ain't the same).
Also, what was with the mass unfriending? Something I said? Didn't say? Sick of the Bomer spammage? And I'd been trying so hard to behave myself, too. You've no idea what I've sat on my hands about. No idea at all. Oh well. Whatever.
Oh, damn, work stuff... (well, I suppose it was getting onto 4pm. Figures).
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