John Steed, wearing his bowler and carrying his umbrella over his arm, opens a bottle of champagne. He is backlit and in silhouette.Welcome to Feather Dusters at 400 Yards, my blog about the British television series The Avengers. There’s a lot of cool stuff to explore in this groundbreaking series that spanned the entire decade of the 1960s: the characters, the performances, scene and episode analysis, technical aspects of the production, and more. Plus there are pages for Avengers fanfiction, music videos, and fan art! Links to audio versions of my blogs and fanfic are available on the podcasts page. So click on a tag or a category or something in the navigation menu, or just keep scrolling, and explore along with me.

A Ponderable Blog from Elsewhere

In an article in The Baffler, Kate Wagner, creator of McMansion Hell, takes on the problematic nature of the “Let People Enjoy Things” meme and the culture it represents.

Kate writes:

There are unlimited problems with the “Let People Enjoy Things” (henceforth abbreviated to LPET) approach to art and culture, first and foremost among them the fact that franchises in question (GoT and Marvel Comics) are multi-billion-dollar corporate entities engineered to entertain in the same way Doritos are made so that you can’t eat just one. These are some of the most profitable media empires in history, and they will plainly not be harmed by a Twitter user posting about why they personally don’t like them.

The subtext LPET image is a fourfold confession: 1) “I do not want to feel judged for my consumption choices”; 2) “I want to silence people who disagree with me about this particular piece of media by making them feel like they are cheerless or judgmental”; 3) “I recognize an aspect of this piece of media that is worthy of criticism, and I am defensive of this;” and (4) “I do not want to think critically about the things I consume, and if I absorb any criticism about the things I consume it will magically ruin my enjoyment of them.” We’ll break these down.

To read the whole article, click here.

Got Your Six

A conversation with fellow tumblr celluloidbroomcloset about the ways in which Cathy and Steed show affection for each other got me thinking about a few episodes where the two of them are shown expressing physical affection. This is relatively rare for Cathy, who is a very reserved person with strong boundaries, but it’s clear from many instances across Seasons 2 and 3 that she does love Steed very much, and part of the expression of that love comes with physical touch.

As the conversation unfolded, I was reminded of two instances in particular, one from Dressed to Kill and the other from The Undertakers, both of which end with Steed and Cathy drinking champagne together while sitting back to back, or nearly so. These two instances are some of the clearest expressions of the physical comfort Cathy and Steed have with each other: in each one, they lean back against each other and enjoy that physical contact while also celebrating the end of the case with some champagne.

secondsight.steed.cathy.champagne  undertakers.steed.cathy.champagne
L/top: Dressed to Kill. Cathy and Steed sit back to back on the tiger-skin rug in Steed’s flat. They are both wearing dark casual clothing. Cathy holds a glass of champagne in her right hand. Her head is tilted back slightly, and she seems happy. Steed is smiling and holding a bottle of champagne in his left hand and a champagne glass in his right. He is about to pour himself some champagne.

R/bottom: The Undertakers. Cathy and Steed sit nearly back to back on the settee in Cathy’s flat. Steed wears a light-colored suit and tie. Cathy wears dark trousers and a light-colored shirt with ruffles down the front. Steed holds a glass of champagne in his left hand, and with his right he pours some into the glass that Cathy holds. They are both smiling and happy.

warlock.finalbattle.02I think it’s significant that one of the ways they express their affection and comfort with one another is by sitting back to back. This is because one of the most important moments of their first case together—and of the beginning of their journey as colleagues and lovers— takes place with that very thing: standing back to back. I’m thinking of the final battle in Warlock, where Steed is standing at bay inside a ring of evil warlocks and Cathy descends from the dais and moves to position herself at Steed’s back. She does this without being asked, and Steed accepts it as the right and natural thing for her to do. They’re both ready to go down fighting right there, to take on the whole coven of warlocks by themselves if necessary.

Now, I don’t know whether the blocking decisions at the end of Dressed to Kill and Undertakers were consciously chosen by either the directors or the actors to be explicit references to the way Steed and Cathy start their personal and professional lives together. But even absent that out-of-world decision, I still think the Cathy-Steed back-to-back thing is a metaphor for their relationship as a whole. They both care about each other, and they’d each die protecting the other. I like to think that in terms of the characters in-world they continue to enjoy sitting back to back in peaceful moments not only because it’s cozy and affectionate but also because for them it is a reference to that first battle and to that first case that brought them together. Cathy has Steed’s back, and he has hers, without fail, in their relationship as lovers and in battles with the enemy alike.

The Avengers International Fan Forum: Still Racist. Surprise.

update 11 april 2019

The moderators have removed the entire Bond thread.

I’m still not going back to the forum.

Just for fun, I decided to check whether anything had been added to the Bond thread on the forum.

Yep, there are new posts there.

And neither the racists nor the mods understand what the problem is.

So just in case nobody else understands why I lost my shit, here’s an explanation in plain language:

There’s a difference between nominating an actor who happens to be white on the one hand, and saying “I’m open to suggestions as long as it’s a white dude” on the other.

The former is neutral on its face, until such time as the nominator says that the actor’s whiteness is the deciding factor in their choice.

The latter is racist, because it states specifically that no POC should be allowed to play the role because only a white person should do it.

The former nominates a particular person that someone thinks would be good for the role, which isn’t necessarily a racist statement even if the actor is white.

The latter excludes an entire class of actors based solely on race, which is racist by definition.

And it doesn’t matter one jot what Ian Fleming might or might not have intended when he created the character.

The racist posters on the forum were saying explicitly and repeatedly that the only thing that mattered to them in choosing an actor to play Bond was that the actor be white, and the mods backed them up on this, saying that folks are entitled to their “opinions.”

That’s why it’s a problem.

That’s why I challenged the racists and the mods.

That’s why I left.

(And yeah, I got screen shots of most of the new stuff, too.)

Today I sent messages to the mods asking that my account and all my posts be deleted, because I don’t want to be associated with racists and white nationalists, and I don’t want to be associated with people who think that racism and white nationalism aren’t things to be concerned about.

bondcartoonJust substitute “black” for “female” and you’ll get my point.
(Cartoon by Tom Gauld)

[Image description: a three-panel cartoon. The first panel shows a helmeted person riding in a kind of underwater car, with the caption “James Bond is driving in his underwater car.” The top half of the middle panel shows a forearm and hand of a white person. There’s a watch around the wrist, and a piece of paper is coming out of one side of the watch. The watch is making “bip bip bip” noises. This is captioned “He gets a teleprinted message on his laser-beam watch.” The bottom half shows a white person’s fingers holding a piece of paper with the message “A female 007?” on it. The third panel shows a person flying around with a jet pack, trying to avoid a flying Stetson hat, while a giant rages next to a rocket ship in the background. This is captioned “‘What a silly idea!’ thinks Bond, as he jetpacks towards his spaceship, avoiding a metal-toothed giant and a razor-sharp hat.”]

Disability, Humanity, and Assistive Technology in the “Cybernauts” Cycle

Content note for discussion of ableism and tropes of disabled/disfigured-as-villain

One unfortunate facet of both The Avengers and The New Avengers is their often problematic portrayal of disability. The writers and producers of these shows bought into the age-old trope of the disabled/disfigured villain, portraying these kinds of characters with greater or lesser emphasis on how the disability or disfigurement itself is somehow either the root cause of the villainy, or else an outward expression or reflection thereof. (You can read some of my other thoughts on this sort of thing here and here.)

The three episodes that comprise what I am calling the “Cybernauts cycle” are “The Cybernauts” (Season 4) and “Return of the Cybernauts” (Season 5), both by Philip Levene; and “Last of the Cybernauts” (The New Avengers), by Brian Clemens. Each of these episodes rings various changes on both the trope of disabled/disfigured villain and also the perceived conflicts between technology and humanity. However, it is not only tech writ large that is at issue, but also the more specific question of the relationship between humanity and assistive technology. The ways in which the disability/humanity/tech nexus is painted creates arcs within each individual episode, and also an arc that works its way across the cycle as a whole.


A Ponderable Blog from Elsewhere

Somehow it seems appropriate to link to this today…..

Dear Entitled Old Racist White Men, We Are Sick of You

“Because you are no longer free, old white men of the world, to spout your racist and anti-LBGTQ bullshit. You think we have to put up with it because we’re the women, children, people of color, or queer. You believe because you’re grandpa, your evil words get some kind of twisted respect at the Thanksgiving dinner table. You think that this year, like every year, we’ll stare down at our plates while you use racial slurs. No more. Our government is throwing kids in concentration camps in the name of making America Great Again, and you think we’ll take it with a side of mashed potatoes? Those days are over. Our respect for you is finished.”