misogyny

Thoughts on “Obsession”: Part 2

A continuation of my blog on the TNA Season 2 episode, “Obsession.” Read Part 1 here.
⊕ Content warning for discussion of intimate partner abuse

“A Beautiful Woman Belongs to the World”

One of the themes of the episode is whether anyone has the right to possess Purdey, and therefore her status as a woman vis-à-vis Steed, Gambit, and Larry as men. The way each of these men interact with Purdey is different. Larry is Purdey’s former lover and fiancé, but he’s also her former abuser and still thinks she belongs to him. Gambit is Purdey’s colleague and friend. He doesn’t have a romantic relationship with her, but from time to time he hints that he would like one. Steed is Purdey’s friend, supervisor, and mentor. She looks to him for guidance, and in other episodes we see that she would also like a romantic relationship with him, but that this is something that Steed himself does not want and cannot give her.

There are also overlapping needs that drive the interactions among these characters. Larry needs to get Purdey back, and he also needs to make sure his rocket gets launched. Gambit needs to protect Purdey from Larry, and he also needs to catch the bad guys, which in this episode includes a man that he knows Purdey still loves despite her past history with him. Steed needs to help Purdey face her fears so that she can stay on track with her job, he needs to cultivate Larry as a witness and suspect in the case, and he has to stop Larry from carrying out his plan. Purdey needs to navigate her complex and conflicting feelings about Larry while both protecting herself from him and also dealing with him as a suspect and, as it turns out, the villain of the case. All of these needs, personal and professional alike, hinge on Purdey in one way or another.

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A Red-Blooded Dynamic: Steed and Masculinity in The Avengers

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].”[1]  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?

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Avenging Misogyny

In many ways, The Avengers is dated. Sexism and racism are sadly present in many of the episodes, and none of the characters (including our heroes, alas) are perfect in this respect. But the series was also groundbreaking in its treatment of Steed’s female partners: these are strong, talented, capable women, whom Steed treats as his equals. He values and respects their skills and intelligence, and quite rightly expects others to do the same.

An early scene in “Room Without a View” exemplifies this (and also Steed’s general disdain for officialdom, but that’s a story for another time). Steed and Mrs. Peel arrive to take over the case and have to deal with Mr. Varnals, (more…)