It’s a truth rarely acknowledged that if you’re a lady in any industry, even when you win, sometimes you just can’t win. And for all it’s glamour, show biz is no different. (Don’t believe me? Then tell me, Where’s Rey?)
And while there does seem to be a general upswing for the portrayal of women in pop culture, “better” should never be mistaken for “good”. I can count on one hand the number of well-rounded, realistic, inspiring females in film or TV that aren’t also overly sexualized and whose character arc doesn’t ultimately lead her on a quest for romantic fulfillment. Calling a woman in TV “complicated” is shorthand for saying that she has a dark past. Calling her “strong” is another way of saying she’s emotionally unavailable. These have become the hallmarks of an empowered and sexy woman on TV.
When viewed as a whole, the representation of ladies in TV can seem pretty bleak. Luckily, there are some shows that are getting it so right, it’s hard not to feel optimistic. Enter ABC’s Agent Carter.
If you aren’t watching the second season premiere of this Marvel spin-off tonight, you’re either not aware of just how good it is, or (frankly) a dude. Or possibly, you’ve been scared off by accusations of skewed gender politics (side note: it’s a show about a working woman in the 40’s. The fact that she’s surrounded by white men is just an accurate reflection of the time). Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is exactly the kind of hero prime time needs. She’s carving her own path in a male dominated industry.
And she’s doing it better than most of the males dominating that industry.
She’s got an infallible sense of self…
And self worth.
Is the least interesting thing about her.
The real tragedy of Peggy Carter’s situation is that her struggles with being looked over, objectified, underestimated, and undervalued aren’t specific to the 1940’s. Perhaps the reason this show has resonated with audiences and critics is because, almost 100 years after the ratification of the 19th amendment, it’s still easy for women to feel like an accessory. So if you’re still not watching this show, you might want to rethink your stance on Agent Carter. Watch it because it’s well-written. Watch it because it’s good TV. Watch it because it explores the conflict between perceived weakness and inner strength. Or maybe watch it because Peggy Carter has a wicked right hook.
You’ve been warned.