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.

“More Than Seguin Loved Valensa”: Gender and Gender Roles in Troubadour/Trobairitz Song and in the Steed-Peel Relationship in Avengers

Another in a series of occasional posts about confluences between medieval culture and The Avengers

In a previous post in this series, I told the story of the troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (fl. 1180–1207) and his Bel Cavalher, the noblewoman with whom Raimbaut had a courtly love relationship. The name “Bel Cavalher” (Beautiful Knight) is a senhal, or nickname. Senhals were frequently used by troubadours to refer to their lovers, not only as a way of avoiding naming the woman directly, since she was already married to someone else, but also as a way of  creating resonances and additional layers of meaning within their poetry, especially when the senhal contained a literary reference.


It’s that time of year again

As April approaches, here’s your annual reminder that

  • Auti$m $peak$ is a hate group that wants people like me to not exist, so don’t give money, time, or attention to those self-important genocidal turnips.
  • Autism isn’t just a childhood thing, it’s a neurology and therefore lifelong.
  • Autism isn’t something that can be “cured,” and you shouldn’t even try because it’s actually a lot like conversion therapy when you do, and conversion therapy is Very Bad.
  • Autistic adults exist! <waves>
  • Neurodivergence isn’t a sin or a crime or any other bad thing; it’s a normal variation in the human neurotype.
  • Autistic folks don’t need awareness, we need acceptance.
  • Just be kind to autistic people. We have to navigate a world that isn’t set up for us, and it’s hard. Don’t make it harder by being ableist.
  • Vaccines. Do. Not. Cause. Autism.
  • And did I mention that Auti$m $peak$ is basically a collection of twenty turds in a trenchcoat? Well, it is.

Some Thoughts About Bond vs Steed

James Bond is a tool of the state. M winds him up and sets him toddling off to destroy whatever needs destroying. There’s no moral or ethical aspect to Bond. He’s simply a machine that performs its function. And his other activities—sex, wine, horseback riding—are ancillaries tacked on to give him something to do when he’s not out blowing things up or riddling them with bullets. Those other activities are not integral to who he is, which I suspect is part of the reason why Bond treats women like consumable objects. Bond himself is an object, a mechanism that does what it’s programmed to do, so he can’t see other people as human beings, either.

Steed, on the other hand, might be an agent of the state, but he is not a tool of the state. He is not a destructive mechanism that is programmed to go out and Blow Up The Thing. In fact, Steed keeps the state at arm’s length as much as he can: he cheerfully bucks the authority of his bosses, and he prefers to select his own partners when he can, and to select those partners from outside the Ministry.

There are also moral and ethical underpinnings to Steed’s work. The reason he does it is to keep innocent people from being hurt or killed. Preserving life is always on his agenda, even if that life belongs to the villain; he only kills when he absolutely has to. Steed is always going to solve the case, and sometimes that solution involves fighting and making a mess, but the human beings involved are always part of his calculations on how to go about it. Whereas Bond goes after the bad guys in a mechanical, calculated way, Steed actually has visceral reactions to the villains, to the point where he sometimes has a hard time disguising his loathing for them.

Steed’s other passions—horses, cars, wine—are real passions. He feels deeply about these things, and his pursuit of them is part of who he is. And for Steed, sex is something that you do with another person, in concert with them and with their consent, not something you do to them, as it is with Bond. Because Steed is a whole, integrated human being, he’s able to see other people as human too, and that includes women, whether or not he sees them as actual or potential sexual partners.

And to step out-of-world for a moment: I suspect that this is one of the reasons why the Bond franchise has been consistently successful even with multiple changes of actors to play the role. Bond doesn’t really have his own personality, so anyone who can be suave and do action stuff and look good in a tux can play the character. Bond is an automaton that can change skins as needed.

Steed, on the other hand, was very much a creature of Patrick Macnee’s own making. He gave a lot of thought to what kind of a man Steed would be, and many of his costars noted how much of Patrick was in Steed. This is why it is so difficult to create a successful Avengers reboot: Patrick was a unique human being, and embodied the character in an integrated way that is neither necessary nor even possible with Bond. Steed’s moral sense, his zest for life, his treatment of women as full human beings and equals are all things that Patrick brought to the role in his own unique way, and he is a tough act to follow.