‘Marvel’s Agent Carter’ Explains Feminism Perfectly

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged on this site. For that, I apologize. Being a student journalist is often an unequal balance of being either a student or a journalist. This semester, I have been a fair share of both. The downside is most of what I want to write for the blog often goes to College Avenue, The Fashion Report, or class. Not this time.

This Tuesday was the first season finale for one of ABC’s newest shows, “Marvel’s Agent Carter.” The show takes place right where the first Captain America movie left off. It’s 1946, a year after Steve Rodgers – aka Captain America – was presumed dead (if you’ve seen the Captain America movies or “The Avengers,” then you know that’s not true). The show follows SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve) Agent Peggy Carter, who was first introduced in “Captain America” as a key aid and love interest to Steve Rodgers. The show kicks off with her faced with an old ally, Howard Stark, who has been framed for supplying deadly weapons to top bidders. He wants her to work as a double agent, using her resources with the SSR, to clear his name. The eight-episode first season follows Carter as she works against the SSR to clear Stark’s name and to prevent his inventions from getting into the wrong hands. Like any double agent, she gets caught in the act by the other agents at the SSR, Thompson and Sousa. They believe Carter is performing treason until she tells the truth about what she is really doing and enlists her to help clear Stark’s name.

The idea of feminism has blown up greatly since Emma Watson’s He For She speech last fall. There has been big controversy as to what the word means. Feminism is a simple idea – gender equality. “Marvel’s Agent Carter” boils down to just that; equality between the genders.

The show is accurate for the 1940s in that once the war was over, women were expected to return to their positions as homemakers. Not for Agent Carter. Or her roommate at the beginning of the season, who was an actual riveter during the war. She symbolically fights her way through a sea of men to prove that men and women can be looked at equally.

She is looked at by her colleagues at the SSR as just the secretary, only good for filing and getting the lunch order. She finds a way to game the system and to use her femininity to her advantage. The only ally she has at the office is Agent Sousa, who stands up for Peggy every chance he can. Though she appreciates his chivalry, she denies it, saying she can take whatever anyone throws at her. Agent Thompson is the one who makes her feel the most useless – he is the one who asks her to do the “feminine” jobs, such as filing, because she is “better at that sort of thing,” to which Peggy replies “What, knowing the alphabet?”

This is one of the reasons Carter jumps at the chance to help Stark. He is one of the only characters who believes in her and trusts her judgment. From working with her on the Captain America case, he knows what she is capable of and doesn’t underestimate her or think less of her because she is a woman.

Jarvis, the comedic humor to the series, is in reverse gender roles with his wife, in that he is the one to take care of the home, cooking and washing the linens. It is a warming change to what is expected of both men and women in the 1940s.

Peggy stands up for herself, and doesn’t let anyone call her a secretary, for she is an agent. She will also stand up for her friends, like Angie, who constantly gets verbally abused at her workplace by other men. She will insist that she doesn’t need help, but Jarvis reminds her that she’ll be equally as successful if she lets others help her.

On top of all that, when Agent Krzeminski dies, Carter doesn’t wish the worst upon her enemies, further proving that feminism isn’t “man-hating” like everyone assumes it is. However, she does command male authority in order to be more respected, just as she should.

It was because of her seemingly harmlessness that Carter was able to work under the radar. The same goes with Dottie, the original Black Widow. They were able to fool their male counterparts into thinking they meant no harm, but really, they were pretty lethal. They are both seen only as a stereotype, not a true person.

Carter is (finally!) recognized at the end for saving the day, mostly because they are twice as competent as they are. Thompson is the one recognized by the U.S. government for being a hero, when really Peggy should be the one. Sousa tells Peggy she shouldn’t accept that, to which Peggy tells him that she doesn’t need to be recognized to know her worth.

Peggy Carter is undeniably a total bad ass. She is the ideal role model for the feminist idea. She wants to assert her independence to show she doesn’t need to be dependent on men. All she strives for is equality, something that has progressed significantly, but is not yet there. She knows her worth as a person, and finally gets her male co-workers to see it.

 

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