Marvel's Agent Carter could have been cartoonishly sexist, but instead, the new ABC series, which premiered Jan. 6, is full of subtle and not-so-subtle moments of woman power that are great — just great. Set in the 1940s, it follows Agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), a single woman, secret agent, and hero, as she struggles against sexist oppression without becoming a caricature of femininity or the might-as-well-be-a-male-character type that so often appears within action movies and TV shows.
Here are the show's best feminist moments:
1. Agent Carter starts the series with an awesome roommate who IS A LITERAL RIVETER.
2. She also meets woman-on-woman misogyny with sass.
3. There is a shot early in the first episode where Agent Carter is symbolically fighting through men standing in her way.
4. Agent Carter's male bosses treat her like a secretary, but she keeps finding ways to game the system.
5. Agent Carter has a male ally in the office.
6. When her male colleague Agent Thompson (Chad Michael Murray) asks her to file something — because she's "better at that kind of thing" — she has the best response.
But, for some reason, she still takes these files from him, which kind of undermines her offer to teach Thompson the alphabet.
7. Being a woman is part of Agent Carter's experience, and so she has realistic gendered concerns.
8. Almost all of her male co-workers see her as less capable, so she uses their mistake against them.
9. She also plays the period card.
10. Jarvis (James D'Arcy), Howard Stark's (Dominic Cooper) butler and Carter's ally, attends to his wife's "needs."
11. Also, Jarvis cooks and washes the linens.
12. Agent Carter uses "feminine" things in the line of duty.
She deactivates a bomb with some chemistry and a perfume bottle. She opens a locked drawer with a key disguised as a feminine decoration. She incapacitates a man using drugged lipstick. These items look "frivolous" because they're feminine, but actually, they're incredibly powerful. Just like Agent Carter herself.
13. Agent Carter has an awesome fight scene that gives new meaning to the phrase "a woman's place is in the kitchen."
14. Agent Carter does not let a scientist mansplain.
15. Nor does she let a man assume she's a secretary.
16. And her relationships with other women are supportive.
17. There's a radio show in the second episode about Captain America and a hot triage nurse who can't do anything, and Agent Carter is having none of it.
18. And there is an amazing fight scene that happens while the radio is blasting the silly Captain America show.
"If only Captain America were here to rescue me," says hot triage nurse Betty Carver on the radio, as Agent Carter proceeds to rescue herself. The make-believe heroism on the radio is a man's heroism, because no one can imagine a woman being heroic. The real heroism is a woman's, because duh.
19. Agent Carter doesn't need a man to help her.
20. But Agent Carter does need a person to help her, and Jarvis reminds her that cooperation — and not a hollow rhetoric of individualism — is necessary.
21. And Agent Carter will pretend to have stereotypical goals if it gets her a dope apartment.
22. Carter puts her own needs and desires over the comfort of men.
When a man scales the side of her building looking for his girlfriend's window and accidentally comes to Carter's, he notes that it would be easier if he could come through her room. Carter doesn't give a shit if it would be easier for him, and she closes the window in his face.
23. When Ms. Fry (Meagan Fay) describes the building as "impenetrable," this is the face Angie (Lyndsy Fonseca) makes:
Carter's neighbor and friend Angie is not amused when the landlady kicks out a tenant for being penetrable. WE ARE ALL PENETRABLE, MS. FRY.
24. Jarvis automatically starts clearing the dishes over his wife's objections.
25. Some men would be hesitant to admit they enjoy candlelight. Jarvis, however, is not!
26. When Agent Carter is called "honey" by a male colleague, she fires back not by defending herself, but by bringing up his disrespectful treatment of other women.
27. Carter is not afraid to get dirty — as in literally covered in dirt.
28. Jarvis will put himself on the line to protect a woman.
29. Carter doesn't wish ill upon her enemies. In fact, their suffering pains her.
30. Although it would be easier to pull away, Carter cultivates female friendships.
31. Carter can do pushups.
32. When a man's chattering is counter-productive, she stops listening.
33. Carter questions the notion of "virtue" as it relates to women's sexuality.
34. The hypocrisy of sexual "virtue" is really apparent.
35. Carter doesn't think Stark's promiscuity is cute.
36. Carter continually uses her lower status — she's taking lunch orders in Episode 4 — to sneak around under the radar.
37. Sousa questions the objectification of disabled people, and also tries to establish solidarity with a homeless man, recognizing that they're both marginalized.
38. Women are using their gendered skill set to subvert the system.
39. Thompson asks Carter an offensive question, and she has a sharp answer as usual.
40. Thompson says something that, at least in Episode 4, actually turns out to be true.
41. Carter refuses to let Stark play the "is it that time of the month" card.
42. Carter calls out Stark on his capitalist man-baby status.
43. Dottie (Bridget Regan) also uses her perceived harmlessness to her advantage.
"Oh, a girl, she couldn't hurt me" whoops you're dead.
44. We see how insidious misogyny can be when PEGGY CARTER HERSELF doesn't recognize Dottie as a threat.
45. Carter challenges male authority.
There IS no one more qualified for this covert mission, after all.
46. Carter stops Dugan (Neal McDonough) from blowing up a little girl who stabbed him.
Good thing Carter was there to stop this war-crazed maniac from murdering a child!
47. She's forced to invoke the authority of a man to get another man to respect her opinion.
Why is it that she only gains respect through her association with men? Patriarchy is terrible.
48. Thompson's confession that he's a murderer further underscores the horrors of war.
49. Peggy is way too pleased to be invited for drinks by her misogynist co-workers.
50. Dr. Ivchenko (Ralph Brown) tells some men that underestimating women is dumb.
51. Carter calls out her boss on his belief that "little girls" — and the women they become — can't be dangerous.
Forces to be reckoned with, yo. Like Ivchenko said.
52. Stark's former sex partners call out patriarchal double-standards.
53. A man is immediately punished for sexually harassing a woman.
Violence isn't the answer, but, um, don't try to coerce job applicants into performing sex acts?
54. Ms. Fry knows that even cops can be dangerous to women.
55. Angie stands up for her friend even though people in power tell her not to.
56. Carter knows that her male co-workers can only see her as a stereotype, not as a person.
57. Carter doesn't give Captain America's blood to Stark in part because she believes he will seek to profit from it.
58. After all, this entire series is about a woman cleaning up after a man-child who feels entitled to make deadly weapons for his own amusement.
59. On Agent Carter, a man recognizes that he is responsible for fixing the mess he made.
60. And that same man — who builds weapons for a living — isn't allowed to live with his delusions.
You are a bad person if you invent things that kill humans for a living. Don't be a moral relativist, Stark.
61. Jarvis knows he's the sidekick.
"I would be honored to assist you." You are a treasure, Jarvis. You really are.