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.
It’s official: the new 007 will be black and female.
Lashana Lynch has been announced as the actor who will play the iconic role in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s script for the next film.
Hey, Avengers forum dudes! How ya like them apples, eh?
[Image description: photo in color of Lashana Lynch, a black woman with short hair in small dark coils. She is wearing a pale blue seersucker dress and stands in front of a backdrop of a tree trunk and foliage during the day.]
(Thanks to celluloidbroomcloset.tumblr.com for the tip.)
Fellow tumblr celluloidbroomcloset wrote this brilliant analysis dealing with the characters of Cathy Gale from The Avengers and Pussy Galore from the Bond film Goldfinger, both of whom were played by Honor Blackman.
⊗ Content note for rape mention
Cathy Gale and James Bond
(reposted here with permission)
OK, I’ve been thinking about this, and here’s one of my issues with the transition from Honor Blackman playing Cathy Gale to playing P*ssy Galore (asterix included because Tumblr might decide to flag it).
I think most of us can agree that the way Goldfinger (book and film) treats Galore is all kinds of problematic. But there’s an added issue with the way that things went down in terms of Blackman’s contemporary star persona.
Blackman got the role largely because of her performance as Cathy Gale in The Avengers. Cathy, superficially, seems perfect for the Bond franchise: the cool blonde judoka in black leather. But she’s also not good for the Bond franchise at all: she’s independent, intelligent, ridiculously competent, and really does not take any kind of male bullshit. She’s paired with a male character who, for the most part, respects that about her; who, when she pins him, early in their relationship, finds her physical and psychological strength not something to be overcome but something to be loved and respected. Whether or not we accept the idea that they eventually have a romantic and sexual relationship, there’s no doubt that Cathy retains her autonomy and that this is something that Steed supports and does not find threatening.
Cathy Gale, then, cannot be a part of the Bond franchise in 1964. Bond’s sexual politics do not allow for a woman to reject him on any terms. When Blackman takes her Gale persona and transmogrifies into the character of Galore, she’s largely playing Cathy but not – Galore is also a physically capable, psychologically strong female character who demands autonomy and is largely unimpressed by male posturing. While this is something that Steed actually likes about Cathy, that’s something that Bond cannot stand. She has to be dominated; that physical and sexual autonomy has to be made subservient to his desires, otherwise her very existence questions his masculinity.
Unlike Cathy, Galore is typed as a lesbian. (In the book, she’s explicitly lesbian, but even James Bond can’t get away with that in 1964.) So, she presents a double threat, a woman who not only doesn’t want James Bond but doesn’t want men, full stop. Again, Bond’s world view cannot allow for that. He will dominate her and control her desire, even if that means coercing her or raping her outright (which, yes, is what he does). That’s the only way he can bring her existence into line with his own view of masculinity and femininity.
In casting Blackman in the part, the Bond franchise is doing more than just bringing a Bond character to heel; it is trying to reconcile the existence of Cathy Gale with a conservative, patriarchal world. Cathy cannot exist in the same world with James Bond, but she can be transposed, commodified, and dominated as Galore. Cathy Gale is capable of breaking James Bond’s neck; Galore is not. Cathy Gale wouldn’t even permit him to look at her; Galore must, by the nature of the narrative and the franchise.
Cathy Gale is actually a really good cook, and on the rare occasions when she cooks for Steed he heartily approves of whatever it is she makes, and he’s not just being polite. Cathy’s issue is that she gets busy and forgets to eat, and then when she remembers her brain is too on overdrive to fix anything elaborate, so she doesn’t cook very often.
Emma Peel is more or less useless in the kitchen. She can make tea and coffee and a few other very simple things, but otherwise she’d burn water if left unsupervised, because when she tries to cook she also tries to multitask, and cooking + multitasking = disaster for Emma. So if there’s any cooking to be done, Steed usually takes care of that, and he tries to coach her a little sometimes, with mixed success. But Emma knows where all the best delis are, and she gets really good stuff from them.
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.
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.
A new piece has been uploaded to the fan art page, a set of false-color Steeds inspired by Andy Warhol’s “Shot Marilyns.” (https://therealavengers.wordpress.com/fan-art/)
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.
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.
I 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.
Because John Steed’s the most sharp-dressed man there is.
Find my other Avengers music videos on my YouTube channel, Sparkly Waistcoat Productions.