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.

John Steed, Thomas Hoyer Monstery, and the Victorian Art and Philosophy of Self-Defense

While nosing about on the Interweb (like you do), I came across a blog about Victorian self-defense. In the blog were several excerpts from various etiquette and self-defense manuals, and as I read them, I was astonished by how well they describe Steed.

A manual called Our Deportment, written by John Young and published in various editions around 1880, describes what the ideal gentleman should be like:

“A gentleman should not only know how to fence, to box, to ride, to shoot and to swim, but he should also know how to carry himself gracefully, and how to dance, if he would enjoy life to the uttermost…. A man should be able to defend himself from ruffians, if attacked, and also to defend women from their insults.” [1]

Sound like anybody we know?

But I don’t propose to make this a post that trolls through Victorian etiquette manuals, although that certainly would have its own delights. What I’m really interested in is the martial aspect of nineteenth-century male culture, which brings us to the figure of Thomas Hoyer Monstery (1824–1901), whose writings and career were also discussed in the blog post I linked to above. I am going to focus on Monstery for the bulk of this post because he was a total original badass and because his philosophy of martial arts and self-defense is remarkably like that of John Steed.


How “The Forget-Me-Knot” and Season 6 Unraveled The Avengers: or, Why I Hate Brian Clemens’ Guts

The groundbreaking nature of The Avengers is something that deservedly gets mentioned repeatedly in analyses and discussions of the show. Creating Cathy Gale as the strong, talented, take-no-shit equal of John Steed in Season 2 was a stroke of genius, resulting in a winning formula that continued through the Emma Peel era, propelling the show into cult status. Unfortunately, however, once Diana Rigg left at the end of Season 5, all the good work that had been done on the show came unraveled in Season 6, largely because the producers and writers insisted on walking back many of the progressive elements that had made the show what it was in earlier seasons. I’ve discussed elements of this in other posts, but here I want to focus on the physicality and fighting skills of the female leads as the springboard for (yet another) discussion of the frankly misogynist turn the series took in Season 6, not only with respect to the character of Tara King, but also with respect to Steed himself.