Character Analysis

Cathy Gale vs Pussy Galore: A Guest Post

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

by celluloidbroomcloset.tumblr.com
(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.

Headcanon: A Bloglet

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.

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.

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“In for an Interesting Challenge”: Steed vs Dr Campbell in “The Master Minds”

Sir Clive Todd, an important British politician, has been found shot in the head in a safe containing secret documents, which he apparently was helping to steal. Steed and Mrs Peel go to Sir Clive’s house, where he is recuperating from his injuries. Mrs Peel is placed under cover as Sir Clive’s nurse. When Sir Clive finally regains consciousness, Steed and Mrs Peel question him, but he has no memory of the robbery, and his memories of other important things seem to be fuzzy as well.

Steed decides that it would be a good idea to have a psychiatrist examine Sir Clive, to see whether the amnesia is real or a clever cover for illegal activities. The Ministry sends Dr Fergus Campbell to help with the case, and his first interaction with Steed is a testy dick-smacking contest, which is worth reproducing in full:

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“You’re Pretty Good, for a Girl”: Thoughts on the Subversion of Gendered Tropes in “Warlock”

Storytelling in many ways is simply the repetition and reworking of tropes, some of which have been in circulation as long as humans have been telling stories. The hero and the villain, the beast that must be slain, the damsel in the tower, and many others form the canvas or skeleton upon which new tales are created and fleshed out. One common trope (in modern times, at least) is that of the ambitious, skilled female who wants to join in male activities, only to be ignored or told that she’s not welcome, because she’s a girl. Stories based on this trope usually involve the female having to prove that she’s just as badass, or even more badass, than the males, in order to win their respect, if not admiration. I am here calling this the “you’re pretty good, for a girl” (YPGFG) trope.

YPGFG functions simultaneously as subversion and as reinforcement of traditional gender roles. It is subversive because it allows the female character to assume a putatively “male/masculine” role. However, this subversion ultimately is built on a foundation of male/masculine hegemony, because it makes the degree to which the female is able to enact male/masculine behaviors the degree to which she becomes acceptable and worthy, which in turn depends on the assumption that male/masculine is both the default and the better part.

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What Price Steed?

A shadowy enemy agent named PSEV has been giving the Ministry fits and conniptions, so Steed comes up with a cunning plan to figure out who PSEV really is and put a stop to their machinations. To do this, Steed pretends to be his own evil twin, a man called “Webster.” The idea is to get PSEV to accept Webster as someone who could impersonate Steed and, once he is in their confidence as Webster, Steed will be able to unmask them.

Steed’s plan involves creating Webster as a fashion model, and then sending tickets to the show to PSEV. Of course PSEV themselves don’t go, because in actuality PSEV is a collection of four enemy agents who have created the fiction of PSEV as a way to divert attention from their own activities. So the four agents who speak for the fictional PSEV decide to send Ambassador Brodny and an aide named Ivenko, to see whether there are any fashions at the show that the mythical PSEV might like to wear.

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Ableism, Sexism, and Toxic Masculinity: The Intersectional Violence at the Heart of “Noon Doomsday” and Season 6

Another in an occasional series on disability in the Avengers


Recently on social media, I saw a link to a story about comic book author Farida Bedwei, the creator of Karmzah, a superhero with cerebral palsy who derives her powers from her crutches. Ms Bedwei, who herself has cerebral palsy, created Karmzah because she wants to see heroes who are like herself, and to share them with other disabled people. She also wants to use Karmzah as a way to end the stigma over the need for assistive devices such as crutches, which are so vital for disabled people, but the use of which all too often comes with additional costs and frustrations because the world has not been constructed to be accessible to the disabled.

This terrific story about Bedwei’s comic and her crutch-wielding superhero set me thinking about the third act of the Season 6 episode “Noon Doomsday,” in which Tara’s ableist attitude ends up endangering both herself and a crutch-wielding Steed, and how Steed’s adaptability, foresight, and approach towards his temporary disability allow him to defeat the villain and rescue Tara. Further, the ableism of this episode exists in intersection with sexism and toxic masculinity, and the presence of all three of these issues is a direct result of the way Tara’s character and her relationship with Steed was handled by the Season 6 producers in general and by “Noon Doomsday” screenwriter Terry Nation in particular.

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