With the new Agent Carter series premiering tonight over in the States, it got me thinking about how important giving a female character from a largely male-driven universe her own show really is. For those of you who may not know, Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell) is the female lead in the first Captain America film, and then provides a cameo in its sequel: The Winter Soldier. During the run up to the premiere of the show, Hayley Atwell has become more and more active on twitter, with one particular post catching my eye when I scrolled past someone’s screencap of it on tumblr a few days ago. Hayley was sharing with her followers, the makeup, specifically lipstick, that Peggy uses.
If you asked any fan to describe Peggy Carter, her makeup would inevitably be high on their list as it is an integral part of her aesthetic. However, this particular tumblr user’s post which I scrolled past, seemed extremely disgruntled with this development; saying how ‘pathetic’ this was and that Atwell and fans ‘should be more interested in what guns she uses’. Now, I really hope an eyebrow was raised here, because I sure as hell did when I first read that as I was unwittingly browsing tumblr with my cup of tea the other afternoon. Carter has, more than once, shown us how capable she is in handling guns and taking care of herself, so why having an interest in makeup is pathetic is beyond me.
I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that some fanboys are panicking a little at something being specifically for us. For the mostly female fanbase. (Or boys who wear makeup, y’know, whatever makes you feel badass). Where fans of Thor can collect various forms of Mjolnir and fans of Iron Man can collect mugs of his head (no, seriously you can); Agent Carter fans can collect the makeup that she uses. Interestingly, there’s a large history around male fans shunning female fans from things they deem ‘theirs’, especially on the internet, and accusing them of ‘faking’ their love of all things ‘geeky’ for various reasons including ‘just trying to get boys to fancy them’ and other trivial nonsense when women express being fans of something.
Fans can wear Peggy Carter’s lipstick, feel kickass, and no one else even needs to know that they’re wearing it if they don’t want to inform them. Liking the makeup that Carter wears, and not the guns that she uses, doesn’t make anyone any less of a fan or any less of a feminist. It also doesn’t trivialise Carter’s accomplishments; being taken seriously shouldn’t encroach on your femininity. If that lipstick makes a fan, or even Carter herself, feel amazing, boost their morale and feel like it is their own personal firearm- then what is the problem?
Makeup, more specifically red lipstick, was extremely important during the war effort in the 1940s. So important in fact, that Winston Churchill and Elizabeth Arden teamed up to create the perfect red lipstick in ‘Montezuma Red’, to raise morale in both genders during World War ll. And so, with it’s importance in real life, should it not play a part now..?
Since her character’s success within the fandom, and the unrelenting pressure within internet communities upon Marvel and film studios for more female presences in superhero films, as well as for female characters to be given their own solo films as Thor, Iron Man, Captain American and others have been. It becomes clear that ‘Agent Carter’ is a form of experiment; to gauge audience reaction and success of a female led story line. Peggy Carter battles multiple forms of sexism in ‘Agent Carter’ in the 1940’s, and it seems as though Hayley Atwell faces the 2015 parallels in the entertainment industry. If this experiment of Marvel’s fails, I think we can pretty much kiss goodbye to a Black Widow solo film.
The pilot episode has received rave reviews (here and here for example) and I’m particularly excited. She is an interesting character, has amazing lipstick too lbr, and I hugely want this to be a success even if it just kickstarts a wider interest in the demand for female superheroes to be brought to the forefront.
‘Agent Carter’ premieres tonight in America on ABC. Will you be watching? If you’re not from America, are you gonna watch it once if eventually makes it’s way over this side of the pond? And perhaps more importantly, who’s gonna order that amazing lipstick?!