S01xE04: “The Blitzkrieg Button”
So far in Agent Carter, we have explored expectations of women in 1950s society, especially how Peggy navigates through the stereotypes placed on her because of gender. While some reviewers seem to have gotten tired of being reminded of Peggy’s feminism, I find it refreshing that Marvel has taken the realities of discrimination and brought them to the forefront of this hero’s tale. Peggy cannot escape her female-ness, nor should she want to. In addition to sexism, the show also addresses disability discrimination within the character of Daniel Sousa. Regardless of the acts of valor he committed to earn his war wounds, Sousa cannot reverse his disability and the stigma that it holds. Although these two agents (as viewers can note) are closest to solving the mysteries of Stark and Leviathan, they are both berated, disregarded and disrespected in the workplace. This treatment of Peggy and Sousa within the “normal” masculine sphere allows viewers a glimpse into the misogynistic value system that allows for acceptable societal discrimination and harassment.
Spoilers Ahead, Sweetie…
Acceptable Societal Discrimination
In the society Peggy Carter and Sousa reside in, “toxic masculinity” allows for the emasculating of individuals perceived as “other”. Between Sousa, Carter and their fellow agents, there is a consistent belittling of ability, skill and intelligence by agents such as Thompson and Dooley. Thompson has no filter when it comes to Sousa; he reminds him what he considers Sousa’s “worth” to be, calls the office “yo-yo”, undermines his investigation by barging in and teasing him in front of a witness, making it abundantly clear that he is “less than”. For Sousa, his discrimination is based on a handicap that, while irreversible, is still considered an honorable disability. Sousa receives more respect from his peers than Peggy does, because his disability is evidence of the role he played in the war.
Disproportionately, Peggy Carter’s role in the war and skills are consistently downplayed and disregarded. She is joked about in the office, called Captain America’s liaison and considered a sexual object to be ridiculed and abused. Her skill set is blatantly ignored and Agent Thompson takes it upon himself to question Peggy’s reasons for staying with the SSR, stating that she should know that no one will ever take her seriously.
The natural order of the universe. You’re a woman. No man will ever consider you an equal. It’s sad but doesn’t make it any less true. -Thompson
While her coconspirator Howard Stark gives Peggy more respect than her coworkers do, he still asks her to sneak him dinner, saying, “you know what I like. Surprise me.” He also disrespects her home by sneaking around with the neighbors and lies to her about the nature of his inventions. He claims the Button is a light switch for all of New York, but it turns out to be a vial Captain America’s blood. As of yet, Peggy has not been treated as an equal by any of her male counterparts except perhaps Jarvis, who navigates his own gender role precariously.
For Your Consideration
While Sousa experiences discrimination because of an unnatural affliction, Peggy is placed outside of the sphere strictly because of her gender. Luckily for the SSR, neither will allow societal status and stereotypes to jeopardize their mission to “uphold democracy”. Sousa follows a lead and finds a witness who saw a mysterious dark-haired woman and a tall man call in the anonymous tip. While he may not know those two were Peggy and Jarvis, it doesn’t take much to connect the blonde from episode 1 and this woman as the same. On the other hand, Peggy is not working for Stark or the SSR but for a greater good, which she articulates to both Dottie and Stark. It is the value system of her friend, Steve Rogers, a man she cared for and respected long before he became the buff hottie hero, Captain America. It is why, when Peggy reminds Thompson that his truth is not her own, she is also telling him that her democracy is for everyone, the marginalized included.
Peggy and the MCU
We know that Captain America’s blood is out there in the world, just waiting to be used for nefarious purposes and that Peggy is still fighting the good fight because she believes in the premise of democracy. We know that Agent Dooley travelled to Nuremberg Prison and found out from Nazi war criminal Ernst Mueller that no Germans killed Soviets, which means governments are lying, per usual. I’m hoping Peggy’s blonde neighbor Dottie, (who wanted a pickle pocket in her purse) is a secret Russian spy from the same Red Room as Black Widow (and the Winter Soldier!!!). She did eliminate rather easily the bad guy who was on his way to get Peggy, which makes me wonder who she is and what she wants from Agent Carter. Regardless, the players have all been set in their spaces and the game is afoot.
Tune in to the show, live tweet with me @nerdwrldprblms and come back on Mondays for my rantings.
Agent Carter is on ABC, Tuesdays at 8pm.