First and foremost, this is the first and hopefully not last in a series that hopefully becomes a mainstay of the Observation Deck entitled “Pop Discourse”. The focus will be a series of point/counterpoint/alternate-point type discussions on matters of popular culture and speculative fiction media.
We really enjoyed the point/counterpoint posts that folks engaged in back in 2014, like Lightninglouie and Gretnablue discussing developing a universe versus creating sequels to established properties. We wanted to take it one step further and have two-sided (or even multi-sided) discussions within one post which will hopefully lead to even further discussion in the comments among the wider commentariat. Consolidation is the name of the game.
We have some additional thoughts for Pop Discourse type discussions on this over on THIS POST.
Today, Bang I Shot You (BISY) and Behind Dark Glasses (BDG) discuss Agent Carter. Specifically, if Agent Carter the TV show will have a lasting impact on the TV landscape or will it fade away into the pop culture landscape? Will it become this decade’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Carrying on the torch of nuanced female characters thrust into a world of super-science and super-powered people? Will it instead become, like Angel, an addendum to the universe from which it was spawned?
Make no mistakes, critics overwhelmingly loved Agent Carter, as did many a fan (which you can count BISY and BDG). However, Agent Carter’s ratings started out strong and then declined making fans anxious as to whether or not we would see a second season. Alas, we will be seeing Peggy in action again this coming winter where she’ll have a change of location and a new mystery to investigate.
Need a refresher of Agent Carter’s season one?
This spoiler filled Easter Egg Recap video can give you a good idea of what happened in Season 1.
Now onto to the lively discussion!
Will Agent Carter Have a Lasting Impact on the TV Landscape? To What End?
BISY: So I should start off by saying I only recently binged the entire series, I started watching as it originally aired but patience isn’t always my thing and I am easily distracted at home. That said I think it helped for this particular point/counterpoint topic/discussion.
I personally feel Agent Carter has the potential to have a lasting impact on television. This is apparent, to me at least, for a few reasons. First off, we have a strong female lead courtesy of Hayley Atwell who plays the titular character in the show. It is readily apparent she loves the role and would be delighted to continue playing it further and developing the character a bit more and adding more through her to the MCU.
Secondly, this has been long overdue. What do I mean by that? Frankly, it’s been some time since we had a show on television that had a female lead such as this. Peggy is absolutely phenomenal to watch on the screen, whether she’s conducting her own investigation on the sly or knocking grown men out left and right. I can’t get enough of her and neither can a great many others. In a world overflowing with white male leads on both the big screen and little one it was about damn time!
Agent Carter is the show I feel at the right place and time to put men on the back burner, so to speak, and let women shine. Of course, that might just be me (and if you ask my offline friends they’ll tell you I read comics with mostly female heroes and listen to bands with strong female vocalists and guitarists and a great many other things) but with the success of Mad Max: Fury Road and Mark Ruffalo tweeting about a need for Black Widow merchandise it’s seriously about freaking time for women to “break out” so to speak into bigger and better things.
BDG: I watched it as it aired, with my dad who loved it as much I did. I totally agree with you about the need for greater, but also broader and diverse, representation of women in “genre” shows as well as movies. We need to be seeing more well developed female characters, period. As well as all the attendant merchandising too.
While I certainly welcome Agent Carter to my TV, I am hesitant to say that it will have the lasting impact on the TV landscape that a show like Buffy had. One reason is that the show is tied to an existing cinematic universe. By being tied to the MCU, it has limitations in characters it can use and storylines from which it can draw for inspiration.
I totally think what Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas brought to the the first season was awesome. I also think they could have done a bit more to make it feel more in line with the movies and Agents of Shield, like super-powered folks. There is also the issue of Butters and Fazekas taking over writing responsibilities for the Captain Marvel comic. Which might lead to them not being as attentive to Agent Carter as they were during season 1.
For example, when Joss spun off Angel, he was less attentive to Buffy which had a slip in overall quality. It wasn’t huge, but fans noticed. I sincerely hope we don’t see something like that happen with Agent Carter.
While I am happy that ABC, Marvel, and Disney are letting their shows continue to play out because of cross promotion and synergy, we should be realistic that they could also pull the plug on these shows at any time. One of the most interesting things about Buffy was Joss saying he felt he was able to do as much with that show as he did because the networks weren’t looking over his shoulder constantly (I can’t find the citation for that, but I read it recently). For Agent Carter (and all the MCU properties) it is the opposite.
Will It Become This Decade’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Carrying on the Torch of Nuanced Female Characters Thrust Into a World of Super-science and Super-powered People?
BISY: Will it become this decade’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That’s a little hard to say just yet, especially seeing as how it was iffy as to whether the show would get another season or not. The fan support though sold the network on it and that’s always a good sign, but does it have the longevity to go that kind of distance? I’m not sure, but I’d like to see it given the chance.
Also, and I might be tarred and feathered for this [BDG: stirs the tar, empties a down pillow], I preferred the Buffy film over the show and would watch the former over the latter any day of the week. Not the least reason for which is this scene here. Judge me if you’d like but that scene leaves me in stitches every single time. I think it has a chance to become this decade’s Buffy though, not the same thing as “it will become this decade’s Buffy” but it could happen.
BDG: Bang, there is no shame in liking (or even loving) Buffy the film. It is a fun film, even if it wasn’t the exact vision Joss had for the property. Heck, while Joss is adamant that the film is NOT canon in the Buffyverse some of the plot (burning down her high school, living in L.A., and Oliver Pike) is canon in the TV show. Now what am I going to do with all this tar and these feathers?
There have certainly been other pop culture touchstones before and after BtVS. Off the top of my head, I’d consider films like Alien(s), Halloween (I & II), and A Nightmare on Elm Street (I & III) in helping to define current expectations of female heros. Star Trek and Star Wars provided templates for sci-fi and space operas while also resonating with fans and galvanizing the idea of fandom. The Dr. Who reboot has an iconic character (even if the actor and parts of the characterization change quite often) AND has spurred some much needed discussions about representation both behind the camera and in front of it.
On the deeper level of BtVS becoming a cultural touchstone, I think it had the odds stacked in its favor. The interweb was just starting to go mainstream, Joss and company gave us a story and characters that resonated with fans, and third wave feminism was moving into the mainstream.
Agent Carter is well written character and has much fan love. Heck, the TV show came about partly in response to the fan love of the One Shot: Agent Carter that was included on the Iron Man 3 DVD/Blu-ray release. That is awesome.
However the internet is no longer a shiny, new frontier, it is ubiquitous in the most mundane parts of our everyday lives. While new applications are released every day to help us “connect”, we seem to be siloing ourselves more and more. We are no longer limited to the AOL chatrooms or seeking out the (relatively) few fan-sites to espouse our love of a character, show, or movie. This, in my opinion, helped to consolidate fandom. However, I recognize the power of social media to mobilize, and amplify, a fan community in ways unprecedented before the likes of Twitter and Facebook.
Third wave feminism has been replaced with intersectional feminism in the mainstream discourse, however Agent Carter’s feminism is definitely rooted in a second wave/third wave sort of framework.
I might hope Agent Carter could become a pop culture touchstone. But I’m not going to bet all my chips on that wager unless the writers, directors, and showrunners make some changes.
Will It Instead Become, Like Angel, an Addendum to the Universe from Which It Was Spawned?
BISY: Full disclosure, I never saw a single episode of Angel. I am, however, familiar enough with the property to say this is definitely not going to happen to Agent Carter. It might be coming from a much larger place, the overall MCU, but it has a few things going for it that won’t leave it relegated to the sidelines. Again, the strong lead in Hayley Atwell. A character beloved by fans, Agent Carter.
But it’s got the one thing I really like about the MCU, a regular person dealing with life as best they can in the face of actual superheroes (Captain America himself) and villains (the Red Skull). If I may be so bold as to say it, in a way Agent Carter is herself a woman out of time. She’s independent, tough as nails, and absolutely amazing in a number of ways I don’t feel I need to touch on since we’re all familiar with the character and her attributes. She’s something more than just “a kickass woman”.
There’s no way in hell she goes down as just a footnote in the MCU. No way! And if that happens I’ll buy a damn hat and then eat it and you can quote me on that. (But don’t actually do that, plus I had my fingers crossed behind my back. So it doesn’t count.)
BDG: I honestly think that the more likely outcome for Agent Carter is becoming Angel to the MCU film’s Buffy. I think it adds much female representation to the MCU by providing a platform for a female protagonist. I don’t think it will inspire the sort of fandom, scholarship, or conventions that BtVS has.
I do think that Marvel does have an opportunity right now to have one of their comic properties become a cultural touchstone. I truly believe that Kamala Khan (aka Ms. Marvel) could become this decade and generations Buffy. The only thing holding this back from happening is Marvel itself. Perhaps we’ll see Kamala in that secret TV show that John Ridley is developing or it might not be until July 2019 when we get The Inhumans movie. I do think that Marvel needs to strike sooner rather than later in bringing Kamala to the screen in order to capitalize on this opportunity since four years in comic book fandom can mean life or death (Sometimes both! Rinse, lather, repeat) of a character and fan interest in that character.
So What Do You Hope Season 2 of Agent Carter Brings?
BISY: I know it’s been stated before, but it bears repeating. Diversity! I know the show is set in a specific time period, right after the war and in New York no less, but come on. You’re telling me there was nothing but white folk there? I find that hard to believe. We need a more diverse cast, not too mention heroes and villains. This show is set during the golden age of comics, show me who and what else was around at the time. Make it fun! Make it exciting! I certainly enjoyed the first season, but of course I would. Being a spy myself and all for the entire decade of the 1940s according to BDG [BDG: He is, there is no according]. What I definitely don’t want is the show to become stale and cater to the “traditional audience”. If it does then that’ll be the end of it, it’ll lose what spark it has and what really speaks to fans. This show is different unlike a lot of what we’ve seen in television recently, hopefully they keep it that way while doing so much more with it at the same time.
BDG: I want to see a bunch of stuff! I’d love the introduction of some golden age superheroes and villains, more diversity in the cast (the whole argument of ‘but it was the time period’ is a lazy excuse for exclusion of non-white and queer folk. They existed and white hetero folk did interact with them), and for the writing and storyline to stay strong. If we get a third season, then I’d like to see a time jump into the 50s. I really like the compelling case fans on Odeck have made about having that be Agent Carter’s “thing”, to jump a decade each season in order to show the changes in the MCU landscape as we move towards the present day MCU.
We’re Fans, So What Kinda Post Would This be Without a Little Fan Service Fun? Let’s Play a 1940s Version of F$#%, Marry, Kill!
Which Characters from Agent Carter Would You Smooch, Hitch, Give a Knuckle Sandwich?
Bang I Shot You:
I would smooch Angie. I absolutely love her character, she’s adorable in all the right ways. If a little neurotic to a degree, but I have to be honest here: that totally drives me wild!
Peggy Carter is a given for who I’d get hitched to. Of course she’d never have me cause I’m no Steve but damn if I wouldn’t try.
The knuckle sandwich would have to be delivered sorely into Agent Thompson’s face because of all the people on the show I feel he is the one who treats Peggy the worst and to quote the Dude, “This aggression will not stand, man!”
Behind Dark Glasses:
I would smooch Agent Souza. I’ve had a crush on that actor since Dollhouse. Le sigh.
I’d get hitched with Peggy Carter, obviously. She’s swell!
I’d give a knuckle sandwich to Agent Thompson. Jerk.
So Odeck friends, what say you? Is Agent Carter a TV show for the ages, redefining and strengthening the role of female characters in genre media? Will Agent Carter end up a (interesting and enjoyable) footnote to the larger MCU’s effect on popular culture? Where do you stand on the ever important “Smooch, Hitch, Give a Knuckle Sandwich” query?
We’ll meet you in the comments!
About the Pop Discourse Discussion Participants
Bang I Shot You is a Marvel fanboy and has been since he was old enough to read, which according to his mother started at the age of 3 when he got tired of waiting on her to read to him. His favorite Marvel characters (in no particular order) are: Spider-Man (Peter Parker), Deadpool, X-23, Silk (Cindy Moon, who has the best last name ever!) and Spider-Gwen. From time to time he’s been known to force upon you all the knowledge of all things Android and Android related and he can be found at almost any given moment drawing pictures of ferrets at his desk at either work or home, instead of practicing drawing people like he said he would a month ago.
Behind Dark Glasses is a Marvel fanboy that adores the MCU. He also has a fondness for DC’s Teen Titans which helped in developing his crush on Gar and an unattainable desire to have the perky posterior of Dick. In his spare time he sits around wearing his disco crime fighting costume and re-enacts scenes from Daria with his two cats.