Agent Carter, Feminism, and Why Fans Are So Damn Upset!
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have probably heard that most major tv networks recently announced which of their prime time shows would be renewed for another season. The cancellation to have made the biggest stir, no doubt, was that of Marvel’s Agent Carter on ABC. However, the true excitement is less in the show’s cancellation (unfortunately, we all probably saw it coming) and more in how fans are reacting to it. From posts on social media including the tag #SaveAgentCarter, to a change.org petition that collected its goal of 25,000 signatures (and then some) in less than 48 hours, this fan base understands the value of Agent Carter and does not plan on letting her go without a fight.
Feminism is alive and very real today. Its presence is acknowledged more and more each day, its concept understood and accepted by many. Agent Carter accurately portrays all of the feminist fundamentals and that is primarily why viewers are so upset over the cancellation. First and foremost, we have a strong female lead. Margaret “Peggy” Carter (Hayley Atwell) is tough in every sense of the word, creative, witty, and intelligent. Despite how many of her male colleagues treat her, Peggy does not hate men and shows great tolerance when most would breakdown or lash out. More than anything, she wants to do what is right. Even so, she is stubborn and at times impulsive, making her human- which is perhaps her most appealing quality. Peggy is a superhero without the super powers, real and tangible. The show’s unjust ending pulls her out of our reach.
What would a hero be without their villains? Two of Peggy’s main foes in the series are also strong-minded ladies because feminism doesn’t mean women always need to be portrayed as pure, pristine creatures. If the idea is that women and men are equal, then absolutely, make her a villain- give her imperfections, make her intriguing, mysterious, give her substance. Dottie Underwood (Bridget Regan), for instance, is a Soviet assassin that is as deadly as she is clever. Their ideals might be different, but Peggy and Dottie share the same conviction for their own causes and, in their rivalry, share a level of respect for one another. Whitney Frost (Wynn Everett), a brilliant scientist and Hollywood starlet, is a genius driven mad by her insatiable desire for power. These are characters we see all the time portrayed by men and these ladies build them up and tell their stories brilliantly.
Next, the show is not anti-men. Too often people assume that if something is feminist it is also against men. The fellas surrounding Peggy have just as much character as she does. There’s Agent Daniel Sousa (Enver Gjokaj), Chief of the SSR’s LA branch. Matching her in intelligence and virtue, he was Peggy’s first friend when she joined the office in New York. He believes she is just as (if not more so) capable than any of the other guys in the office, and never intentionally treats her differently for being a woman (I say "intentionally" because "Chief Sousa has a special kind of worry about Peggy"). Sousa knows how it feels to be underestimated, being a bit of an outcast himself because of his post-war limp leg. Edwin Jarvis (James D'Arcy), butler to Howard Stark, is Peggy’s number one sidekick. Also a severely intelligent and clever person, Jarvis is just as much the brain of the operation as Peggy is. But where he lacks in braun, he brings a voice of reason to her in times of irrationality. Jarvis is not intimidated by Peggy’s strengths and is always happy to back her up. Then there’s Jack Thompson (Chad Michael Murray)- smug, egotistical Chief of the SSR’s New York branch and Peggy’s constant frenemy. Mostly, you want to hate him since everything that comes out of his mouth makes your eyes roll. Yet just when you’re ready to give up on him, he either redeems himself or at least does something to keep you intrigued. These are all well developed male characters- they don’t outshine Peggy but they also don’t have to be dumbed down to make her look good.
Speaking of looking good, let’s talk Peggy’s wardrobe, shall we? Costume designer Gigi Ottobre-Melton is a genius! With previous work like Mob City in her repertoire, she already had a solid grasp on 1940s fashions. And I’m sure she was more than ready to take on Season 2’s move to Los Angeles, having grown up there herself! Gigi is an amazing story teller in her chosen medium, allowing the audience to successfully transport to another time through her costumes. Not only are her designs thoroughly researched for historical accuracy, they are aesthetically pleasing. Most impressive of all is that she dresses Peggy in ways that allow her to look fabulous AND kick ass without over-sexualizing her. From pencil skirts with sensible heels at the office in New York to gorgeous jewel toned blouses with high-waisted pants in Los Angeles and form flattering gowns on undercover assignments, Agent Carter always exudes glamour and class.
With all this to offer and so much more, it’s no wonder fans are up in arms to salvage this television show. Peggy's story, which takes place over 70 years ago, is so very relevant to the people and social issues of today. You would think that we would have evolved so much further than this but it seems history continues to repeat itself. But we will not be silenced and cast to the side. If for nothing else than Peggy's sake, we know our value.