Sunday, January 11, 2015

Agent Carter is the show we need

by Germar Derron

Riding the success of a kickass season of Agents of Shield, Agent Carter more than lived up to expectations. Critics’ reviews run the gamut, but fans appear perfectly quenched--or whelmed--by Carter content. Marvel made no attempt to hide the placeholder nature of the series. It’s the perfect solution to this new-fangled season splitting networks have grown fond of, in spite of fans' complaints. Apparently, the season premieres' ratings surpassed all but one episode of AoS’s second season. But like any television show covered at this site, Agent Carter is more than just a fun ride and hearty laughs.

Hayley Atwell stars as Carter, a female lead, in a real-world scape that is still unfortunately dominated by “square-jawed rugged-handsome smart white men." Though the show exists as a small piece of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, it could hold its own as noir, comedy, or spy fare.  Because it’s a period piece, set in the 40s, Carter endures endless catcalls, coffee demands, "darlings," and "sweethearts." Like similar shows, this series could serve as a friendly reminder of a harsher past—a cautionary tale. Unlike similar shows, so far, Marvel’s Carter crew seems to have a clue.

Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Mad Men show creator Matthew Weiner acknowledges that the rampant sexism in his show acts as a history lesson and shaming—a cautionary tale. Unfortunately, and likely for all the wrong reasons, sexism sells (like in this Galavant promo – he’s a live action Gaston, but the protagonist). Much like The Wolf of Wall St, these supposed cautionary tales, seem to excite and motivate much of the male audience. Guys sit around and spout “those were the good old days!” Most of this content isn’t actually cautionary because it just looks so damn awesome. These misogynistic pigs suffer no real consequences. So far, the primary players end up ok—some jail time, some health issues . . . but the lessons are small prices to pay for all that awesomeness. So, the water cooler convo turns to the hot blonde in that one scene, or how to get Quaaludes. No one discusses how we should continue to work on oppression in today’s world. Agent Carter could be the missing variable, in this equation that most men don't want solved.

This world feels like Mad Men due to the butt smacks, “darlings,” and Stepford woman background. But here, the strongest and smartest character--the eponymous lead—is a woman. Have we really seen this before? Tomb Raider type movies? Maybe, plus boobs.  Black Widow? Not a lead yet, plus boobs. Carter is sexy, but in the cool calm well-dressed way that men seem to be written. And beyond her confidence and dominance, even in the first two episodes, it’s clear that she’s multidimensional—not perfect, not cardboard, and not a copy. She's what Peggy and Joan could've been, in a better world, and what they should be in today's world. She inspires like Wonder Woman, but without the swimsuit and tiara (though WW is important and progressive too).

Carter openly rebels at her peers’ not subtle suggestions that she’s anything less than competent, a peer, an agent, and a war hero. She’s right, and she wins. But clearly she will need help sometimes, often from a man, and that’s ok too. She'll learn that it’s ok—eventually. The world they've designed isn't a man-bad woman-good dichotomy. Daniel Sousa--a co-agent, sympathizer, and potential future love interest of Carter—appears to be a man who’s on the up and up, in a 2015 feminist way. Sousa respects her, and she's sure to respect him eventually. She loved and respected Cap. Carter isn't a man-hater. She’s a trained, experienced leader, and integral part of their covert world. She won’t accept any speech, actions, or assignments that would undermine that role.

I hope this isn't an anomaly. I hope Carter starts a movement. Jessica Jones, Wonder Woman, AoS, Black Cat? writers, directors, and showrunners take note. 

And most importantly, what was that upside down fancy B?  
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