Agent Carter, Movement Starter?

by Andrea Jackson

October 18, 2013

agent peggy carter captain america marvel comics shield hayley atwell image whirling girlish wordpress

The Marvel Comics Empire doesn’t show any signs of slowing down its seemingly rapid fire release of blockbuster hit movies and TV shows. As of late, it seems that that the names levitating to the top of the charts and grossing the most money aren’t the ones with new original titles, but rather names that ring a bell from my childhood—names to stories I know the basic plots to.

While this level of familiarity is always somewhat nostalgic and enticing, I find a hard time ignoring male dominated story lines and stereotypical gender roles. Of course, female counterparts have seemingly always played a major part in comics. Whether a sidekick, lover, or quirky character, females have always nudged their way into the arts of audiences, while leaving plenty of room for their male partners to swoop in and save the day.

Exact details are still uncertain, but a story with Deadline Hollywood reveals that there is talk about 60 episode commitments in the works to release new shows for on-demand services and cable networks to fight over.

A name in the mix is that of Agent Carter, or Peggy Carter, portrayed by Hayley Atwell in 2011’s Captain America and as Agent 13 in the TV show, SHIELD. Carter is a cynical, kick-ass revolutionary woman, refusing to take an idle role in important missions of apocalyptic proportions. Captain America quickly became my favorite Marvel film. But it didn’t have to do with his stoic disposition, or quick feet. Nope.Captain America the movie had become my favorite, but not Captain America the superhero. I liked it because of Peggy Carter. I liked that there was a romantic tie between herself and Captain America, but the entire film was not based around it. I liked that she hung out with the boys, and didn’t walk around military grounds during WWII while scantily clad (not that it would have been horrible). She was a professional woman depicted during an era in which most female characters are portrayed as nurses, and noncombatants. Peggy Carter, or rather the potential soon to be Agent Carter, will hopefully be different.

Hopefully, she, as well as future heroines, will be portrayed more comparably to male heroes. In the past, accounts of female heroines in movies, comics, and shows alike tend to be geared more too male demographics rather than female readers. This is almost the exact opposite for males where characters are created to exemplify what all boys want to be, and the object of affection for the girls. Why not level the playing field? Is it outlandish to want a superhero that really is primarily focused on defeating villains and saving the world from impending doom?

This isn’t Agent Carter’s first rodeo. She first appeared in 1966, and has been a part of the secret avengers for a while. Her IMDB profile describes her as this:

“Frustrated at being marginalized at work, Peggy Carter goes on an unauthorized solo field mission”

I do love this, and hope that these shows and films progress towards creating characters that are less based on their gender, and more focused on their abilities, morals, and values.

Some other notable female heroes? Surprisingly, the list is rather extensive, but here are some of the bigger names in order of first appearance:

Wonder Woman, Amazonian Princess

wonder woman princess of the amazon image whirling girlish wordpress

And even the 90s cult classic, Tank girl—raspy voiced, mildly inappropriate, and awesome.

tank girl modern superhereo whirling girlish

Personally, I found a bit of a superhero watching Daria.

daria and jane modern superheros cartoon whirling girlish

That’s right, the cynical, monotone, teenager from the suburbs defeating the trials and tribulations of high school with her family and alternative, artist best friend Jane. It doesn’t take a bunch of special effects and intense story lines to make a hero. Daria won the heart of many during her five seasons, and stood for the anti establishment, the individual, and staying true to yourself. (Not to mention she was hilarious and wore cool boots…)

These gals are great, but I’m ready for more. There isn’t a lack of female villains after all, especially villainous lasses with sex appeal (but that’s a different topic for a different day). An interview on Life Elsewhere in early 2013 spoke with Senior Fellow of the Family Research Council (look this place up, it actually exists despite our existence on planet Earth), Peter Spriggs. The interview explored the world of villains and public deceptions.

Spriggs commented that “we will never see a gay villain”.  Perhaps he is right, we are this far along in cinematic history, after all we are just now equalizing the roles of men and women in entertainment. It leads me to wonder how long it will be before LGBT characters acquire more representation. It is a delicate balance between desensitizing an audience enough to not assume that a queer villain is cast as a villain because they are queer, but rather because they assume villain like qualities completely removed from their sexual orientation. However it can be hard to push forward in this direction, when we are also trying to eliminate prejudices and create a community of people that are, in fact, sensitive and respectful to each other’s’ individual gender, and sexual orientations.

Alas, we’ve got a long way to go before things are the way they should be. But that’s how it will always be. I am pleased with the step we are taking forward and have high hopes for more characters like Agent Carter to emerge from the backseat of the superhero spectrum and to take the wheel like she should.

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