Category: women

Why Agent Carter Was the Best

Agent CarterAs the saying goes, all good things must end.  While I had hoped that “Agent Carter” would get six seasons and a movie, I am happy that we got two seasons (and parts ranging from major character to cameo to photograph in five movies). Still, I will sorely miss Peggy Carter, played so well by Hayley Atwell. Here’s why:

  1. The woman could hold her ownand everyone else’s. She was a strong, uncompromising female character who I have been proud to share with my young daughter. She doesn’t get rescued by Prince Charming; she gets things DONE.
  2. She had zero fucks to give. When a male counterpart asks why she lets someone take the credit for her achievement, she tells him she doesn’t need the credit, and delivers that defining line: “I know my value.” #LIFEGOALS.
  3. Femininity without fetishism. Her feminine wiles were but one tool in her toolbelt, and were used sparinglyusually on only the least formidable opponents. She did not, however, abhor femininity; in fact, her outfits, hair and makeup were the perfect mix of beauty and function. Not to mention a possible camouflagewhat better way to get away with more in a man’s world than by flying under the radar and playing by the rules, at least on the surface?
  4. That 40s style. I know it’s cliche, but what a fun time to revisit in fashion and style. TV has largely abandoned the era for hipper turns of nostalgia, such as the 80s mania that never seems to go away. It’s refreshing to see something set in this time period, which also shows the all-too-real struggles that women faced when they decided they liked working but the men came home from war and were given their jobs.
  5. This is a show that didn’t take itself too seriously. As such, it was able to blend into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and to do so seamlessly, since it didn’t have to keep up with the ever-evolving story.
  6. Not for nothing, but this was a charming cast. The baddies got a bit cartoony at times, but in that “Dick Tracy”-kinda way that made sense for a show set in the 40s. In addition to Hayley Atwell’s stellar performance, James D’Arcy as Jarvis was often comic relief, at times a calming influence, and when it came down to it, a serious moral center for the show. Dominic Cooper’s Howard Stark was comic relief’s comic relief, coming into the picture not often enough to be overbearing but just enough to leave you wanting more. Another highlight was Enver Gjokaj as Daniel Sousa, a real character to root for. Maybe some day I’ll write that fan fiction I’ve been meaning to get to wherein Howard Stark designs a bionic leg for him.
  7. That red hat! (A replica of which may or may not be living in my closet for use every Halloween or so.) DON’T JUDGE ME.

We were lucky to have the show as long as we did, due to sinking viewership from season 1 to season 2, though I don’t think it ever got the promotion it deserved. (I know, tiny violins …) A girl can dream, though I’m not expecting “Agent Carter” to get rescued by Netflix like some have suggested. I hope, however, that this show and this character are the beginning of stronger female-driven positive storylines on television. Thanks, Agent Carter. We know your value too.

UPDATE: Don’t tease us, Hayley!

Five women I admire.

  1. Jamie Lee Curtis. For this magazine spread she did without makeup or photoshop. For writing these children’s books. For caring about children.
  2. Amy Poehler, for this initiative she helped start called Smart Girls at the Party. And for Parks and Recreation.
  3. Elizabeth Smart, for speaking out about her experience and the negative affect abstinence-only sex education had on her. If anyone has an excuse to be a huge mess of a human being, it’s her, but she’s seems to have made it through and is using her experience to help others.
  4. Carol Kaye, for being a very successful player at a man’s game.
  5. Tina Fey, for being smart, funny and in charge. Bossypants was an entertaining and enlightening read.

Reading: You’re Doing it Wrong

Back in my book club days, I became notorious for my need for a likable character. I know that not every book should have one, or need one, but time is precious, and I don’t spend my time with real unlikable people. Why would I want to spend my inner, literary time and energy on fictitious unlikable people? I guess that means I’m not really an intellectual. at this point, my time and will and energy to read has all but come to a standstill, so it’s really a moot point. (It’s also pertinent to point out that I read a lot more ABOUT books than I do actual books these days.)

But reading this piece in Slate got me all riled up about it again.

” … If you want self-help that’s going to make you feel good, or you want the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, fantastic, that’s a great thing to read, I have no complaints about that. But it’s not compatible with serious endeavor.”

-Claire Messud, author of the recent novel “The Woman Upstairs”

Now, I used to try SO hard at “serious endeavor” as she calls it. Our book club read “The Satanic Verses,” for Christ’s sake. We read Dostoyevsky! We read lots of other serious stuff, and not ONE Candace Bushnell book! And I enjoyed it, because I enjoyed the discussion. We started the club because we missed the extra something we had gotten out of books while in school, that came from the academic discussion of books. But there’s always someone out there telling you you’re doing it wrong.

Messud tries to paint it as a feminist issue; like “No one says that male protagonists have to be likable.” I call bulls**t. I don’t want to hang around with a fictitious male idiot, jerk or ne’er-do-well for 300 pages any more than I do a female one.

So I guess the question is, WHY SHOULD I READ YOUR BOOK? Why do we read? For most of us, (i.e., the people you want to buy your book), we aren’t reading for an assignment. We aren’t reading as research for a role or because we want to see what’s happening in literature for when we write OUR next serious novel, and we aren’t literary critics. We’re reading because we want an escape; we want to learn; we want to be entertained; we need a break from our own lives. We read because we want to relax. If you don’t care why we read, and want to write what you want to write the way you want to write it, that’s all well and good, just don’t yell at the interviewer who is helping you get publicity to sell your book.

And for the record, I can think of a few female protagonists who perhaps wouldn’t be great slumber party guests but who were not loathsome companions for the 3-600 pages we spent with them. (Katniss Everdeen. Lisbeth Salander. Even Hermione Granger. OK, give me a break, I said I haven’t gotten much reading done lately.)

 

“The Princess-Industrial Complex”

There was a great piece in Salon about the recent dust-up over Disney’s princess-ized version of Merida from Brave. Someone recently asked me why I’m anti-princess for my daughter, and I had trouble putting it into words at that moment. (If she comes to it on her own, that’s one thing, but I will in no way be encouraging it.) I think this says it very well:

” … When little girls say they like it because it’s more sparkly, that’s all fine and good but, subconsciously, they are soaking in the sexy ‘come hither’ look and the skinny aspect of the new version. It’s horrible! Merida was created to break that mold — to give young girls a better, stronger role model, a more attainable role model, something of substance, not just a pretty face that waits around for romance.”

-Oscar-winning co-writer and co-director of Brave, Brenda Chapman

Disney has given us a lot of really wonderful entertainment and memories over the years. The whole “princess” phenomenon is not among them.

Some Suggested Reading from Tina Brown

Malala Yousafzai (photo credit: NPR)

Malala Yousafzai (photo credit: NPR)

In honor of the Women in the World Summit coming up in New York this week, Tina Brown has some suggested reading on her regular feature on NPR, “Word of Mouth,” pertaining to women’s issues in the developing world. I’m especially interested in the Vanity Fair piece about Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani student who was shot by the Taliban after voicing demand for school access for girls.

Making sure my kid has all the educational opportunities she needs to be successful at whatever she wants to do, and making sure she knows that her gender in no way affects her ability to achieve, is a big priority for me. Imagine living in a place where girls must fight for their right to education. We are lucky humans, to have been born in a developed nation.

Thanks for the reading list, Tina.