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 Avengers music videos and fanfiction and now even fan art! So click on a tag or a category or something in the navigation menu, or just keep scrolling, and explore along with me.
The Champions: Richard Barrett, Craig Sterling, and Sharron Macready (L)
The New Avengers: Purdey, Mike Gambit, and John Steed (R)
A while back I started a new blog series about confluences between the 1968 British television series The Champions and the original Avengers series. (You can find the others by scrolling to the bottom of this post or by going to the category menu and selecting Themed Blog Series: The Champions Meet the Avengers.) Soon after I started that set of blogs, I got my copy of the complete New Avengers disks (SQUEE!!!) and started watching those episodes. And what to my wondering eyes should appear but a TNA ep that had many points of confluence with a Champions story. On reflection this is unsurprising, partly because of the precedent already set by Champions in reflecting earlier Avengers stories, and partly because Dennis Spooner, one of the co-writers of the TNA episode, happens to have been one of the creators of Champions. (And now I also have the complete Champions DVDs—also SQUEE!!!—so I can make stills and gifs that actually have decent quality!)
I bet you were beginning to think I had forgotten about this.
Well, I haven’t.
Here’s the next bit: https://therealavengers.wordpress.com/quite-glorified-uncle-8/
In an earlier blog, I discussed the ways in which Steed’s masculinity is sometimes treated dismissively by critics and writers, despite massive evidence to the contrary, in part because of the way the gender binary is constructed in Western society. There’s a corollary to this, deeply entwined with issues of gender and gender performance, and that is the minimization or denial of Steed’s physicality. I’m not sure exactly how or when this started, but at least since the mid-1980s there seems to have been a tendency to relegate Steed to the sidelines when discussing the physical, embodied aspects of the Avengers, with particular reference to combat with the villains.
(I’m hoping to do a more thorough workup of the history of this in the future, but for now I’ll go with what I’ve got. Also, there are other ways Steed expresses his physicality besides combat, but I’m sticking with that one for now, too.)
Well, I did promise I’d mumble some stuff about Season 6 and masculinity, so off I go.
When Diana Rigg left Avengers to become a Bond Girl, Steed’s next partner was Tara King, played by Linda Thorson. Thorson was even younger than Diana Rigg: there was a twenty-five-year age gap between herself and Patrick Macnee. Tara King, therefore, was a youngun, and not just in chronological terms. An agent-in-training assigned to Steed by the Ministry, Tara lacked the maturity and perspicacity of either Cathy Gale or Emma Peel, and she also had a mad pash for John Steed. Unlike Steed’s relationships with Cathy and Emma, which started as friendships that progressed to romance, and which were very much relationships between equals, Steed’s relationship with Tara was … different.
This was something I originally posted on my tumblr blog, but it seems appropriate to repost it here, with a few modifications.
In “The Superlative Seven,” Steed and six others are lured onto a plane by a criminal mastermind (Donald Sutherland!) who is trying to sell his method of martial arts training to a foreign buyer. The captives on the plane include a fencing master, a bullfighter, a sharpshooter, a big game hunter, a military man who has created his own system of unarmed combat (Brian Blessed!), and a strongman. And then there’s Steed. The seven of them are being taken to a remote island in order to put to the test the fighting abilities of the mastermind’s protegé, who is hidden among the seven.
While the seven are on the plane, the strongman bends a poker, which he then tosses to Steed. Steed proceeds to unbend the poker, much to the chagrin of the strongman, who had been billing himself as “the strongest man in the world.” We later see Steed engage in a bit of trick shooting with a revolver.
One of the hallmarks of The Avengers from Season 2 onwards was the way the show frequently turned gender roles on their heads, leading at least one commentator to describe Steed as a “feminized male” and his partner(s) as “masculinized female[s].” Even Patrick Macnee and Honor Blackman stated in interviews that Steed took on the (ostensibly) “female” role while his partner took the “male.” Other writers often remark on the fact that Steed is given to wearing fine clothes and carrying a “bumbershoot” (yes, some writers really use that word, God help them), leading to descriptions of Steed as “effete” or “foppish.” But is Steed really a “feminized male” (a phrase that could certainly do with some unpacking), or is there something else going on?