Not Your Typical Woman: Agent Carter tackles gender constructs

Will Hyde

Series introduction: Though 2015 just began, it’s proven to be the year that TV shows begin to feature strong, smart women of all types. Women on the small screen are now represented with more diverse and complicated roles than ever. Interestingly, this trend is closely linked to the rise of the Marvel and DC television productions.  

Continuing Marvel’s ambitious new line-up, “Agent Carter” brings viewers the full package.

Peggy Carter, known by most of the world from her brief romantic entanglement with Captain America, continues her life as she struggles to succeed in a male-centric world, after his apparent death. 

Marvel’s Carter focuses on the agent’s struggle to endure through post-WWII sexism, masculine ignorance and strict gender roles. In each episode, Peggy Carter seeks to prove to the men around her that she’s the real deal.  With a quick wit, flawless curls and blood red lipstick, Carter makes taking down bad guys look easy.

The first episode begins with Carter defending herself against a well-trained spy. She manages, with some irony, to disarm him using her household kitchen items. 

As the camera pans across the room, Carter inventively smashes her assailant with refrigerator doors and burns him with the stove top before eventually throwing him out of the kitchen window. 

Carter, though not initially physically threatening, proves her tactical prowess time and time again. Undercover, she takes on men using calculated technique. In episode two, “Bridge and Tunnel,” Carter confronts an armed man, twice her size, with enough grace to avoid wrinkling her top.

“Agent Carter” is an important milestone for contemporary TV. She takes on gender expectations of the past, especially ones still held today. Ideas of daintiness and weakness are reversed and preconceived notions of beauty and softness are tossed aside. 

Carter proves that it’s not only okay to be feminine and smart, but that being tough doesn’t automatically equate to being manly. Even when going into a mission that is sure to result in physical combat, she refuses to sacrifice her image and well-maintained style.

“Agent Carter,” though set decades in the past, connects to viewers on an intimate level. She rejects the gender constructs of her day, redefining stereotypes viewers still hold, proving that being feminine and being tough are not mutually exclusive.

Agent Carter can be viewed every Tuesday at 8 p.m. CT on ABC.