Funnier in Latin

Deconstructing Fred
by Syrenslure of Wide Awake and Dreaming


In the second season, we met a shy, young physicist, who was trying to survive in a dimension of demons. She was rescued by the Angel Investigation gang and joined them in L.A. Two years later, we see Fred a little more grown up, but still personifying those characteristics that made us fall in love with her. She is beautiful and smart, and still a little shy, but she is also strong, and loyal, and doing her part as a member of Angel Investigations.

Winifred Burke can be a difficult character to write convincingly. She is very multi-dimensional, and often seems to be a personified contradiction. This is because she is a very emotional character who is also very intellectual. She is a daydreamer, who is most comfortable with experiences that can be analyzed and catalogued.

She may seem flighty, but is very detail-oriented. Once she decides how to best solve a problem, she is dedicated in seeing it through to its solution. She finds comfort in trying to order the world around her. She is safe and at ease, if she can reduce experiences and ideas to facts, figures and theorems. She values the intellectual over the physical because this is where she has confidence. She is very observant of those around her, but does not always understand emotional undercurrents and motivations, because she has no real basis for these interactions. They are emotional and harder to analyze.

She is unaware of her physical appeal. Part of the conflict with Cordelia, especially in her early appearances comes from the fact that she does not believe that she can compete with the beautiful seer who is already accepted and a part of Angel Investigations. She is partly intimidated and partly in awe of Cordelia. It isn't until she becomes more comfortable with herself, that her relationship with Cordelia, and the other members of Angel Investigations, improves and deepens.

She projects a child-like innocence that belies her real age. We do not know how old Fred is, but we do know that she was a graduate student before she spent five years in Pylea. Even allowing for the fact that she was accepted into college early, worked through her curriculum quickly, and time may move different in different dimensions, she is far from the teenager that she sometimes appears to be. Part of this perception of innocence, is the fact that she can appear very naive. She may not have a broad knowledge of interpersonal relationships, mostly because she lacks experience, but she is aware of the world around her. She is always cataloguing details. The problem is that she is slightly detached because she approaches things analytically, rather than subjectively.

At the same time, Fred is very much the romantic. She believes in flowers and puppies and happily-ever-after. Her initial crush on Angel was very much of the schoolgirl, fairy tale variety. He was the beast to her beauty, and there was a fair amount of hero worship involved. She eventually begins to see him as he really is, and the crush fades, but her ideas of romance to not change much. She begins a relationship with Gunn that while is physical and adult on one level, is also that of a schoolgirl in love. He indulges her with tacos and pancakes, perfect days, and giddy romance. She has trouble dealing when serious problems disrupt her fantasy.

Her romantic ideals are based partly on her need for unconditional support. Home and family are very important to her and probably what she missed most on Pylea. She craves closeness and companionship. Her family is loving and supportive. However, they probably didn't know how to relate to their overly intellectual daughter. They had blue-collar jobs and were fairly "normal." She cares for them very much. They just don't understand her.

Her identity is very much influenced by her sense of not belonging. She is quiet and tries to make herself invisible. Men dominate theoretic physics, like many of the scientific academic communities. She was a young girl, impressionable and very smart. She likely went to college very young, and despite her teenage forays into the stoner fringe, it isn't likely that she had much of a social life. She is smarter than most of her peers and not overly concerned about her appearance. This is intimidating to most teenagers. This sense of being different was probably isolating, and caused her to rely even more on her strengths and areas where she could excel: studying, learning, reading, and other solitary pursuits.

One of the only times we see Fred truly excited are when she can share her knowledge and shine in the areas that she feels comfortable. Even then she tends to babble and speak quickly. Perhaps she is afraid that if she doesn't get it all out, she might not get another chance, or she will be rebuffed. She also has to sort through all of this information that she has in her mind, and she tends to do that verbally. Interrupting her flow can jar her and make her feel frustrated.

The other we see Fred excitable is when she is truly happy. This can be an intellectual situation, such as being recognized by her peers for her theories, or simply a meeting of minds, such as when she was with Willow, or when she is being shown the labs at Wolfram and Hart. However, it is usually in a relationship situation. We see a relaxed happy Fred when she is comfortable with her relationship with Gunn. Also, her other friendships are going well at this point, and she is finally feeling a sense of home. She feels relaxed and safe and happy, and as such, free to be herself.

This is a freedom she was denied for a long time, as she almost lost her entire identity in Pylea. In writing Fred, unless you are going very pre-Angel, you have to take a close look at her time in Pylea, and decide how you are going to let that affect her motivations. While she has come a long way since then, there will always be a part of her who is that scared young girl, writing on the wall to keep her thoughts straight. She was tortured, treated as a slave, and the only refuge that she had was in her own mind, and the one she managed to create for herself. She tries to recreate this refuge in her room at the Hyperion. It is months before they convince her to venture out and join them.

She is vulnerable and sensitive, but is very dedicated and determined with the things and people that she cares about. She has a sense of humor -though it is cerebral and slightly warped, but she is not likely to laugh off important issues. She can become extremely frustrated when people don't take her seriously, or don't lend things the weight that she thinks that they deserve. This vulnerability frightens her, because she craves stability. So much of her life has been uncertain. She doesn't care for change, or anything that challenges her ideals.

Due to this vulnerability and her emotional immaturity, those around her can easily influence her. While she is strong and sticks to her ideals, she is not used to people paying close attention to her. She tends to fall hard for this type of attention, and then feel even more betrayed when it turns out not to be genuine.

This is the one situation that tends to bring out the darker side of Fred. This betrayal challenges her sense of self worth, her desire to believe that people are mostly good, and makes her feel stupid for trusting her betrayer. Both of the times that we have seen Fred truly violent come out of this type of situation. She attacks Connor when she finds out that he is the reason that Angel is missing, and he has been lying to them all summer. She attacks her professor when she learns that he is the reason that she spent five years in the hell of Pylea. When she is truly threatened, Fred will strike back with any weapon available to her, especially in a situation when her emotions manage to override her intellect.

She may appear helpless at times, but she is actually quite a strong character. She survived for five years, as a refugee on Pylea, with only her wits and her will to guide her. She has a keen sense of self-preservation. This may cause her to hide in dark corners, but it is the same instinct that allows her to fight back to protect herself and those that she cares about.

Just keep in mind that Fred is a very complex character, who is often in conflict with herself. She is innocent in some ways, but not totally naive. She is very intelligent, but is very vulnerable emotionally. She isn't likely to question her own motivations, or those of anyone else. She isn't a weak, simpering female, even if she does need to be rescued occasionally. She's just a girl, trying to make her way in a world of super heroes and things that go bump in the night, and occasionally helping to kick a little ass.