I wanna be Emma Peel. In a lot of ways I’m already like her. I’m smart, independent. I don’t take guff from anyone. O.K., I don’t do karate, so I probably could stand to learn a few more self-defense moves.
A Pierre Cardin-clad Steed of my own wouldn’t be too shabby, either. I could get used to drinking champagne more often. And every woman wants to feel needed.
And I definitely wouldn’t mind having Emma Peel’s wardrobe (most of it designed by John Bates). Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks she was a fashion icon. But Mrs. Peel was more that just a groovy sixties clothes-horse. She was a female super-hero. My first female super-hero feminist icon. Steed couldn’t function without her (sorry Tara, etc.) She was the brains and the brawn.
In one of my favorite episodes of The Avengers, “Murdersville,” Mrs. Peel goes to visit an old friend in his new home and runs into a village full of twisted, crooked individuals. Her friend is murdered and she is hell-bound to solve it. In an extended scene she is hunted and then imprisoned in a chastity belt, and then later placed in the dunking stool, which is a torture device that was also used once upon a time to ferret out “witches.” What human beings did and will do to one another is astounding. This scene of public humiliation and torture to a modern, athletic, kick-ass woman brought the horror of how deadly a crowd can be and how a strong woman can be perceived as very threatening.
Steed does come at the end of the episode to help save the day, thanks to some clever hints that Mrs. Peel gives him over the phone. But there is never a sense of the hero saving the maiden. Rather, two partners helping each other out, risking their lives for another. I find all the CSI etc. shows so boring. I know they try to be politically correct in their casting, and by the distribution of women and ethnicities. But I also yearn for a show to come along where there is a truly strong, kick-ass woman. She doesn’t have to be the chief of police, a la Kyra Sedgewick’s The Closer (who I do like, and it can be a fun show-Mary McDonnell!) Admittedly, there are a few good policiers out there. Brennan and Booth of Bones can be a lot of fun, too. But I guess I’ve always enjoyed the action/fantasy genre the most and yearn for a feminist heroine and hero. It’s not impossible. Hello, Buffy. There was Alias, too (although I never got into that one.)
It really is time for a new Mrs. Peel. And I don’t mean a stupendously lame remake. It’s time for a new character. A new female super hero.