Disclaimer: my thesis is about women in Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse texts and how awesome they are. So yes, I’m biased. What follows is the ramblings of a grad student in love with her subject matter and Agent Peggy Carter.
In my thesising today, I was examining the Old English poem Judith which is based on the apocryphal Latin Vulgate text. For those who don’t know the story, the Jewish city of Bethulia is being besieged by the evil general Holofernes. Long story short, the city is saved by Judith who uses her femininity to seduce* the general and subsequently cut off his head. He gets drunk and passes out in her presence.
An interesting variation on this tale is found in The Saga of Hrolf Kraki. Queen Olof pretends to go along with her evil suitor, only to stab him with a sleep thorn when he passes out, drunk, in her chamber. She then tars and feathers him and sends him off packed up in a burlap sack. I kid you not.
Then there’s Jael and Sisera. In the book of Judges, Sisera is a general attacking the Israelites. The judge at the time, Deborah, leads Barak and the Hebrew army to victory, but Sisera escapes. He arrives at Jael’s tent and she offers him hospitality, though he doesn’t know she’s a Hebrew. When he’s asleep, she drives a tent peg through his skull.
And I started noticing a trend. You’d think they’d learn. If you’re an evil general/king/person, do not pass out in the presence of a woman. It will not end well for you. I guarantee it.
Which brings me, perhaps in a not-so-round-about-way to Agent Peggy Carter**. This character means a lot to me***. Not only is Hayley Atwell a dream (I had the ridiculously amazing pleasure of meeting her at Comiccon last summer in a brief 10 second photoshoot, and it remains the HIGHLIGHT of my Comiccon experience), but the character is unashamedly feminine while still kicking ass. She knows her value and retains her moral compass despite all the war took from her. And I love that. And I love that the writers of the show understand that love and romance and happily ever after do not undermine that. With so much media in the atmosphere, it’s hard to escape the still-present message that a woman is incomplete without a man, or that she needs to look or act a certain way, etc. And here we have the brilliant Peggy Carter putting her fist through it all and saying You are enough. And when love does come calling****, she reaches for it as a whole person which makes it so much more beautiful*****.
And this is something I love about the heroines I’m studying, some of whom I’ve mentioned. They say loudly through their actions that They are enough and that they, as women, will get the job done. Any job.
As Shakespeare put it so eloquently, “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
(all gifs from: http://ctgraphy.tumblr.com/post/109153691032/fitzwich-inspired-guess-what-i-started)
*the OE text is rather uneasy with Judith’s sexuality in this regard and downplays it to a certain extent while the Vulgate makes no bones about it. Just fyi.
**If you’re not watching Agent Carter then what are you even doing with your life?
***As in, she’s up there with Eowyn and Jane Eyre, but those are whole other blog posts and I’ll get to them eventually. 😛
*****I was totally grinning and cheering like an idiot during the final moments of the season finale (um…sorry Jack). NOW I NEED SEASON 3 DAMMIT.