Thoughts on Burn Notice and waif-fu.

So, as some of you know, I'm a sucker for a good Super-Competent Character. I love people who are good at what they do, especially if they're kick-ass and super dangerous.

Which brings me to waif-fu.

Waif-fu is a television trope where "The tiny, hundred-pounds-when-soaking-wet Damsel In Distress can take down a man three times her size without breaking a sweat."

In waif-fu it doesn't matter if your arms are skinny or you're so light that you blow away in high winds. With the magic of movie martial arts, you can defeat any burly enemy that comes your way.

(And somehow the hours of practice needed to build those skills still give you no muscles whatsoever.)

Don't believe me? Here are two pictures. The left one is Uma Thurman in the movie Kill Bill, where she plays "the deadliest woman in the world" and kills about a hundred people. The right one is Julie Kedzie, a mixed martial arts fighter. She's a third degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and specializes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Who do you think would win in this fight?

Waif-fu is incredibly common. In the better stories, the heroine's ability to win in a fight is attributed to some supernatural strength or genetic engineering.

Waif-fu is a Slayer power! 

She can kick your head in OR kill you with her brain. Your choice.

In the worst case, waif-fu is just plain ridiculous. Which was why it was so refreshing when I started watching Burn Notice.

Let me introduce you to Fiona Glenanne.

No superpowers here. Unless you count the gun.

Fiona is a former IRA operative and a part-time gunnrunner. She's a little crazy. And she's so good at being badass that it took me almost two full seasons to realize that she has almost no waif-fu at all. When she takes people down, it's by shooting them or blowing them up or hitting them with hard objects. The one time I've ever seen her get into a full-on fist fight, it was with another girl. And she lost.

Fiona's not invincible, and she's not incredibly strong. When she gets in trouble or is surrounded by burly men trying to take her down, she does what any normal person would do. She runs.  But she still manages to rescue the male main character just as much as he rescues her. It's pretty awesome.

Fiona is a good example of how one can be waifish and dangerous in a realistic fashion. (Hollywood, please take note.)  Now what we need is an action heroine who is feminine and and muscular.

Someone like these amazing MMA fighters might be a good start. I'd go see them in an action movie.

EDIT: Holy crap, ask and you will receive. Kathleen in the comments just pointed me to this AMAZING looking movie. But it's not out on video yet. *waits impatiently*

What do you think of waif-fu?

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Fabric art in the header by Carol Riggs.