This week we talk all about Captain America: Civil War. And Anya gets mad about what she calls the 45 minute fight she says is in all Marvel movies…except this one. We also determine that a Sharon – Steve match up is wrong because Captain Carter is the OTP of all OTPs, so move over Lizzie & Darcy. Anya also learns that she can’t talk if she’s sitting on her hands. We also talk about the Black Widow movie (finally) and critique the pictures in the latest Rolling Stone article about Chris Evans. Yeah, there’s a lot of episode in here!
Tagged: Peggy Carter
It’s that time of year to pause and look back at the best of and the coolest stuff of the year. It’s always fascinating to compare and contrast what you feel was more important with what everyone else feels what was important. It doesn’t really matter what the topic or industry is – there’s bound to be disagreements. I was especially amused when the roundtable on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show was criticizing Time magazine’s choice for Person of the Year. So naturally, I started thinking about who should be the Person of the Year in Geek Culture. And the more I thought about it – the more I was convinced this was the time for one of those high concept pronunciations. So for Geek Culture Person of the Year – I choose The Cosplayer.
The Cosplayer embraces and exemplifies so much of pop culture. Its almost as if cosplayer collectively are playing another role – the proxy hero for Geek Culture.
Cosplayers, by definition, dress in costumes at comic conventions. Oh, sure, we saw a lot of cosplay during Star Wars’ opening weekend, recently on Back to the Future Day and a slightly different flavor of it all at the various Santa Con pub crawls. But by and large, cosplayers cosplay at comic cons. And that’s where so many of the big stories have been this year. In 2016, there were more comic conventions than ever before. And there were more high quality conventions. And there were more fun small conventions. And more international conventions. Attendance records were routinely shattered and the convention season now stretches to cover the entire calendar from January to December.
But with this growth has also come some growing pains. The mix of attendees, and their reasons for attending conventions, is changing dramatically. Geek Culture at comic conventions now means so many things beyond comics. At some conventions, some dealers of old comics struggle to find their place in the new order. New, often unexpected, exhibitors are always jumping into the fray. Even the traffic patterns of convention aisles is changing, especially as taking photos is now a much bigger part of the experience than it once was.
And the Cosplayers aren’t the only reason for these changes – but they are a big part of it. Their goals at a convention might not include shopping, treasure hunting or snagging artwork from a favorite artist. On the other hand they bring a level of enthusiasm and creativity that’s not seen in any other gathering. So many gatherings of super-passionate fans, everything from the US Open Tennis Championships to the National Dog Show, encourage fans to be there as spectators – not participants.
Diversity and Acceptance
Baked into the idea of today’s cosplay is a wonderful non-judgmentalism. If you cosplay as Superman, you don’t have to be tall and muscular. You don’t have to be a man or white. You’re even applauded for stretching the original character’s concepts into something new and different. And that’s whey we may see a steampunk Superman or a Stormtrooper Superman.
So you don’t need a super-physique to cosplay super-characters. Sure, there’s some shallow, judgmental lunkheads out there, but the wonderful overwhelming mindset that cosplay brings is a celebration of all different body types. And in today’s hypercritical social media atmosphere, so often based on passing judgments via “likes”, it’s an important cultural counterbalance.
Back in the day, there were always a few blowhard know-it-all-fans (cough, cough) who took great pride in their knowledge of trivia and backstory about certain comic characters. New fans often felt condescension when these fans, the industry’s culture version of Wine Snobs, looked down their noses at the rest of fandom.
But Cosplaying has worked to change that. If someone wants to cosplay as a certain character, but doesn’t know all-there-is-to-know about a character, it’s fine! There have been reports of the old guard shaming new fans when they cosplayed “incorrectly” (i.e., not getting their characters’ details correct.) But lately, it seems that this unfortunate paradigm is flipped on its head, and now cosplayers are applauded for trying new things and celebrating them in the costumes.
How wonderful it is to see the way that Geek Culture now embraces families. I’m a second-generation comic fan. Both my mom and dad read and traded them back in the way. And my dad would flip through my new comics stack and enjoy the latest Jonah Hex or Master of Kung Fu.
At conventions today, it’s wonderfully common to see families cosplaying together. Usually, it’s a dad who’s introducing the kids to his favorite hobby. But at the recent New Jersey Comic Expo (it was a great show), I was thrilled to see two brilliant cosplayers dressed as Captain America and a female Red Skull bring their parents, portraying a Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers.
Cosplay Knows No Borders
Like Geek Culture, it’s a worldwide phenomenon. Cosplay is now a part of every major Comic Convention. In fact, this morning I was sent a Buzzfeed link showcasing “27 Cosplayers from Comic Con who are Absolutely Nailing this Costume Thing”.
So here’s a holiday toast to the creativity and passion of all 2015’s cosplayers. Congratulations on being voted as my “Geek Culture Person of the Year”. Now start planning for next year.
(Note: The Editor is profoundly embarrassed to note that it is he who is standing to our right of Blackhawk, in a photo taken at the ComicMix booth at this year’s Baltimore Comic Con.)
A caveat before I dig in: I’ve not seen this week’s episode of Agents of SHIELD (and screw typing all those periods!). That being said, I doubt the snark I’m about to wield will be undone over one episode. In fact, I bet my beard on it. But I digress.
With the ending of the limited run on Agent Carter, we’ve returned to the inhumanly angsty agents under Phil Coulson. And it didn’t take long into their mighty return for me to wind up longing for Manhattan in 1946 again. Funnier still to me is the fact that when Peggy was to replace Phil on the squawk box, I lamented even programming the DVR. SHIELD boasted new technology, a major Hydra conspiracy, ties to the modern day Marvel Movieverse™, and plenty of butt-kickery to enjoy. Peggy and pals could only promise pugilists and palookas, gender inequality, and light British tomfoolery. Oh how wrong I was!
What Agents of SHIELD brought back to the forefront when it returned to air, was the considerable yoke of backstory weighing heavily around its neck. And while serial dramas bank on intricate relationships, lofty past adventures, and plenty of narrative short hands, after the breath of fresh air Agent Carter offered up, it became plainly obvious how some of those crutches are useless to stand on with fresh legs ready to run again.
The intricate relationships between Coulson’s team – between Mack and Fitz, Coulson and Skye, May and Coulson, Skye and May, Bobbi and British Guy, Mack and Bobbi, and Simmons and Fitz – all flooded back without any real reintroduction. Because the show stopped at a mid-season finale, it was evidently pressured to return us only seconds after we’d originally left. It removed any chance for us to reacclimate to the beats of the show. It was jarring. It was slow. It was angsty as a high schooler being dumped at the prom. Without any runway to travel down, everything felt superficial – as if all the character-driven moments of the episode were just boxes left to be checked, not moments to be lived in.
While I know the past of the show enough to appreciate Agent Simmons’ new-found power-xenophobia, it simply read as the plot device it clearly is. Agent Coulson bounced between guttural barking and sappy moping. Mockingbird and her beau (whose name I still fail to recall) remain jovial… using their verbal foreplay to remind us that we truly know nothing about them outside what little we’ve been shown. Mack continues to just be a collection of ticks and tallies instead of a human being. Fitz now fully embraces his less-smart-but-still-as-smart-as-the-plot-demands device. Skye, crying through literally every scene she was in, reminds us that with great powers come great big cow eyes. And by the end of the episode – where the team sat together to have a last laugh and tribute to their fallen compatriot – the moment we should feel reconnected to the team hit me as cold and lifeless. They’re telling me how to feel. I could hear it being whispered through the end credits. Why?
Because over the course of all the episodes involving the fallen Agent Triplett, he served more as an expository device than a character. Triplett enjoyed being tied to Ward and Crazy Bill Pulman when he debuted. And shortly after a cocktease of is he actually bad or can we trust him, he was reduced to the black guy until Mack showed up. Then he become the black guy who knew a lot about the Howling Commandos. A soldier, made hero, all to serve as the unifying agent to reset the season. But his death was in vein. He was a sacrifice to the gods of smaller casts, or at very least to the only one black guy on a team initiative. His loss was there more to fluster Skye then make us care. And coming out of a Whedon-led writers room? That’s quite the sin.
The evidence that Agents of SHIELD needs to take a step back and find the wonder and joy it once had comes when we look to the contrasts between our potent proxies.
Over eight episodes, Peggy Carter came to life. More than a sweet red hat and some fine hosiery, she was built as a smart, tough, world-weary spy worthy of a position of power. We got to enjoy this through the contrast of the world built around her. And over those eight episodes, Peggy was able to prove to everyone else what she knew all along. It was fun, fitting, and fast without being frenetic.
In contrast we have Skye. Or Daisy. Whatever. Once our proxy as the savvy hacker fighting against the man, over thirty-two episodes she has forgotten that life altogether. Instead, her toughness is gifted to her via montages with Ward and May. Her smarts, written in pseudo-cyber speak when the plot demands it. And now, she’ll have some emotionally driven superpowers to round off any edges that formerly existed to her character. What was once a woman is now just a sum of plot parts. She is without joy and wonder. She strives for nothing more than the show demands of her week to week.
And it’s on her shoulders that Agents of SHIELD is failing to grab me back from the nostalgic clutches of Agent Carter. Here’s hoping a wormhole is open soon, so Peggy can knock some sense in her future fem fatale.
With only one episode left (as of this writing), Marvel’s Agent Carter is sadly coming to a close. This exciting, entertaining and funny show is Marvel’s first serious foray into spotlighting a leading female hero.
Yes, that’s right. I called Peggy Carter, brought to life by Hayley Atwell, a hero. Her deductive skills and intuition border on superhuman and her desire to search for the truth. If that doesn’t sell you, her willingness to help another human being should.
So if you haven’t been watching Agent Carter, then you have been doing yourself a serious disservice. Carter brings a whole new look to the SSR and SHIELD while delicately laying ground work and clues for the future. Marvel shows how well they excel at long-term planning in these episodes. They have episodes tying into TV and movie properties and adding backstory to popular characters.
Peggy Carter’s story played second fiddle to Captain America in the movies but Atwell’s portrayal always resonates with me. She is a character who I could see as a strong female role model, as well as a hero. The conviction of this character translates beautifully to an expanded story, adding more depth to the character. We get to see Peggy deal with an unhappy workplace while wanting more from her life and missing her lost love. She spends her days with friends and enemies, and still manages to support those around her. Even though this show takes place over 50 years ago, this is still a character almost everyone could relate to.
This show also acknowledges the misogyny of the times. In last week’s episode, Peggy points out to her colleagues they only see her as the helpless woman in their midst. They all see her as they want to see her rather than as a peer. I admit, sometimes the near constant criticisms of women make me cringe inside. Still, it brings a sense of reality to an otherwise unreal world. Superhero or not, every woman has had to deal with “gender discrepancies.”
Agent Carter took a major step for comic fans by showcasing a female lead. We need to show Marvel our thanks so they and other companies see this is what we want. Strong female characters, not women in refrigerators. Thank you Marvel. Keep Peggy Carter in mind when you write for fans, and you will keep bringing in all types of fans.