I'm watching Agent Carter, of course... this thing they do where they only show Agent Carter when Agents of SHIELD is on hiatus is only helping Agent Carter, I think, because the relief I feel of not watching AoS makes my enjoyment of Agent Carter that much greater. I recall narrating the half-season finale to sanguinity
on chat as I watched... "Holy shit, Fitz just travelled to another dimension to kill Simmons's ex-boyfriend. That is a thing I just watched."
Agent Carter is far from perfect, but the effort is there and that's a large part of my 'glorious failure' aesthetic. The reason Agent Carter frustrates is because it's actually trying to deal with important social issues and coming short, not because it's trying to pretend the issues aren't there. So one can certainly call attention to the way Howard Stark's sexism continues to be a joke rather than a character flaw, how Stark's imperviousness to Peggy's frustration with him undermines the show's messages about sexism. It's worth complaining about, it's one of many places where the show fails to deliver on its promise. But it's in the context of a show that's trying to talk about sexism, so we can have a conversation about that failure and what it signifies, rather than objecting to the bankruptcy of the original concept. Its failures are interesting failures, to put it one way.
I thought the scene where Howard Stark invades the all-male social club with his harem was fascinating and worth reflecting on, for its complicated mix of conflicting signals. The club is a safe haven for white, Christian, heterosexual, wealthy men. Howard Stark is white, ostensibly Christian, apparently quite heterosexual, and undeniably wealthy- a prime candidate for membership. He has no interest in joining the club, he says, because of his sympathy with egalitarian principles. One wonders, given the ambiguous signalling of last season, whether his Jewishness has some role in it, if some part of him objects to the club because he knows that if they knew his Jewish origins they would reject him. (I deeply wish Howard Stark's Judaism had been made explicit, it would have been this scene much more interesting) On the other hand, one wonders how much his sexism masks his egalitarianism- Stark could consort with his harem anywhere, but he takes delight in bringing them to the club because they represent a disruption to a social ideal he abhors. He values his harem in this moment not because of any sexual pleasure they provide him, but because of the effect they have on the members of the club: they are, by and large, delighted! Titillated! The general membership has no objection to women on premises, they simply do not have any reason to object to the status quo because it benefits them. It is club management who calls security, who evicts Stark and bans him from the club because of the social protest he has oh-so-innocently offered.
And at the same time, Stark's harem is nameless, just a collection of attractive bodies, sex objects manipulated by the only heroic woman with any brains and intentionality on the show: Peggy Carter. The show's great structural failing remains this. While we occasionally we get the heroism of Angie's acting scene or the wry subversion of Jarvis's amazing wife Anna, for the most part Agent Carter is about Peggy Carter in a man's world, and ultimately that feels like the kind of feminism that emerges from a man's imagination.
And still I love it! I love 1950s Hollywood as the new setting, even though obviously I would not have objected to more 1950s NYC. I love how they keep hitting the theme of Hollywood as a place for reinvention of self, this terribly destructive and terribly powerful myth that has been so important in shaping modern America. And I love Jarvis and Mrs. Jarvis beyond words, I love how at every turn the Peggy/Jarvis relationship subverts the tropes of UST, how the Jarvises represent one of the most compelling marriages I've ever seen on action television. I love the tension of a SF mystery told well and reasonably fairly. And I love Hayley Atwell's Peggy so fucking much. Administering the common cold as torture! (A really intense cold!)
I want to know more about Peggy's fiance backstory from last night. I was really hoping the fiance would be a Hawley, that they would transplant Nick Fury's Pamela Hawley backstory to Peggy, because it would work really well. It didn't quite go that way, but in general we didn't get enough details.
I also watched Ant Man last night, borrowed from the library because I had no interest in paying to see it. It was way more inoffensive than I'd feared. Hank Pym was not a likeable dude, but the story didn't require me to like him, because he was up against a lunatic allied with HYDRA and anyway Scott Lang and CASSIE!!! And Janet died because of her own choices, not because of Hank's mistakes, and we may get Janet back after all, and we're getting a Wasp either way, so the damage from that fuckup was about as minimal as I could have hoped for in the circumstances. And the shrinking stuff was fun! The scale play was really enjoyable, the scene fought on top of an iPhone, the scene in a bathtub flood, all the anthill stuff... Not a great movie, but not as terrible as it could have been.
I also recently finished Jessica Jones. What to say? It's really good, Krysten Ritter was really great. I think it was not a great show to marathon, and did not necessarily benefit from the Netflix release schedule. I needed time to process as I watched, so I watched it over the course of a few months, and everyone I talked to was on their own viewing schedule so we couldn't really talk about it. Very few people I know binged through it, mostly everyone was working through it an episode or two at a time the way I was. But I welcome conversation about it now.
And... I know I've recommended Only Connect a half dozen times already, and I know nobody but me cares, but seriously, even if you're not a quiz show person, watch the season finale. It's mesmerizing. The questions are just ludicrously impossible and the quizzers do a truly heroic job of slogging through it. The connecting walls are absolutely brutal. I think it is the greatest quiz show episode I've ever seen. Only Connect Season finale