Today is Valentine’s Day. So I thought it fitting to compose a Valentine to one of my favorite shows of all time: The Avengers.
I was first introduced to The Avengers when I was thirteen. And no, I am not talking about the mega-franchise collection of Marvel superheroes. For me, there is and will always be only one, true Avengers – and that is the 1960′s cult pop TV show from Great Britain.
John Steed and Emma Peel. *sigh*
Has there ever been a screen duo quite like these two? For those who do not know, The Avengers was a stylish spy show, shown on ITV during the ’60′s. The show was campy, quirky, and fun. It was absurdly unrealistic. (Like characters torn up by bullets and not a single drop of blood to be seen.) Yet it maintained a drizzled layer of style. Of panache.
There are two reasons I adore The Avengers. The first is nostalgia. I remember completing 7th grade science projects with The Avengers playing in the background. I wanted to be Emma Peel. Learn judo, study thermodynamics, wear leather catsuits. (Okay, not the last one.) She was iconic: brave, bold, sexy, strong. She kicked ass. Some people associate certain life moments with Friends, Seinfeld, or The Simpsons. For me, that show was The Avengers.
Second reason? Now, nearly fifteen years later, I still watch The Avengers – this time with a Master’s of film and television perspective. Because I studied in England, I encountered articles galore on The Avengers. The program was entirely a product of its time, something I did not fully appreciate as a kid. “Swinging London” became a cosmopolitan destination city in the 60′s. In a time of dramatic cultural shift, The Avengers offered a “combination of exaggerated civility, casual violence and sexual subtlety, all accomplished on a spectrum of style, appeal[ing] to a broad cross-section of accepting and skeptical viewers” (Miller 153).
Exaggerated is the perfect word to describe the show. The Avengers made fun of itself. It knew how absurd it was and relished in it. From Steed drinking brandy for brunch and using such words as, “indubitably,” to plots in which power-hungry scientists invent a rain-making machine to be sold as a mass weapon of warfare, The Avengers captures a moment in history when the old, imperialistic view of England ebbed away, replaced with the often-chaotic, changing milieu of postmoderism. Steed is a momento from the past in all his dapper, bowler-hat style; Emma is a symbol of a fresh, new era in which women advanced in the workplace and beyond.
As one aca-fan writes, “Its focus on the bizarre and the improbably provides weightlessness to the principal characters, lifting them beyond the contingencies of time and place that mark out naturalism and realism” (Miller 129). The Avengers is something “not quite real” (Carr-Martindale in Miller), and the result is a playful circus of a television show, self-reflective and self-critical.
I think we could all take a note from The Avengers. Every now and then, it’s healthy to make fun of ourselves. Laugh at the absurdity in life. Play. Dress in outrageous fashions. Embrace the eccentric.
The Avengers reminds me of these things. And that is why I love them. Always.
Any other Avengers fans out there? Share your favorite episode below!
Source: Miller, Toby (2008). The Avengers. London: British Film Institute.