So… A lot has happened since Thanksgiving–nothing above-the-fold newsworthy, but progress on several fronts. The above piece is the last of the Sentinels’ character pics and now the artist is beginning work on the gamebook’s cover. And that’s just the most visible sign of progress.
The playtest files for the hero-creation round are now going out to willing victims–I mean generous gamers–and several concepts for superhero roleplaying using Fate Core will be tested. Since, while I have played numerous tabletop RPGs in my time I’ve never designed one, I am more than a little worried about this stage; it could prove traumatic.
On the Ronin Games front, the plotlines of the story are still coming together although I know how it will begin and end. Among other things, it will involve a rather abrupt reevaluation of a recurring “villain.” And Magical Girls.
Meanwhile, I have found myself prodigiously entertained by some unexpected treasures. The most notable is Agent Carter:
I was leery of the concept of the mini-series–not because of the character but because I doubted the studio’s ability to pull it off. While I enjoy Agents of Shield, I’ll be the first to admit it has a few problems, and in its way Agent Carter is even more ambitious. However, if the rest of the show lives up to the first two hours, it will be the best “superhero” TV show of 2015 (possibly of the decade). The writing and production is top-notch, and Hayley Atwell is, again, amazing as Peggy Carter. On top of that, James D’Arcy steals every scene he is in as Jarvis, Howard Stark’s omnicompetent butler (and I wonder if we will ever meet Mrs. Jarvis?).
One comment I have to make after watching the show, is that it reminds me again of the difference between sexism and misogyny. Sexism is the belief that one gender is superior to the other; misogyny is the hatred of women.
Why was I thinking about that? Because Agent Carter is showing us a world that might as well be another planet for 21st Century Westerners; the 60s, 70s, and 80s saw a cultural shift unlike any in history–watching Peggy Carter navigate post-war society is painful at times since most of the men in her world are blindly sexist.
Even Howard Stark, the man who recruits her to his mission, is sexist–he simply makes an exception for Agent Carter based on his personal experience with her. While there are few misogynists in the show (and what Agent Carter does to one is fun to watch), the sexism of 1950s society is on full display–even hilariously highlighted by the tendency for the Captain America Radio Show to be on in the background, featuring “Nurse” or “Aid” Peggy Carter being threatened by villains and rescued by Cap, while Agent Carter hands out serious beat-downs.
I have only one objection here, and it’s not directly about Agent Carter but a trend.
It’s not universal, but in Hollywood and on TV the pure Action Hero–strong, competent, and without major flaws or humorous ticks–is almost always a Female Action Hero. Take, for example, my favorite humor-mystery series, Castle; Detective Beckett is the Action Hero, Rick Castle the comedic sidekick.
It’s funny, and I love it, but the other day Agent Carter/Butler Jarvis dynamic made me think about how pervasive the trend is becoming. Let’s look at other “action” shows.
Eureka: Director Allison Blair is much smarter than Sheriff Jack Carter, Deputy Jo Lupo much more dangerous.
Warehouse 13: Agent Mykay Bering is in every way superior to Agent Pete Lattimer (other than his intuition, not a traditionally masculine trait).
Agents of Shield: In a plane full of ridiculously competent people, the most physically dangerous is…Agent May.
I could go on, but I will summarize instead by arguing that most male action-heroes today either have female counterparts more physically dangerous than they are, or have some flaw or tick that renders them funny–often flaws and ticks that, if applied to female characters, would be labeled sexist (Castle’s metrosexual behavior, Sheriff Carter’s baseline state of exasperated confusion, Agent Lattimer’s dumb-guy/slut act, etc).
Keep in mind that these examples are from some of my favorite shows, and it goes without saying that I purely love strong female characters. But I am seeing the trend, one rising to the level of cliche, and as a writer I find myself wanting to fight it–to restore balance to the force, as it were.
A final note: Small Town Heroes has been a tremendous success. While I am not sure it is the strongest book in the series, reader comments have been mostly very positive and it has performed as well as the others on Amazon–making for a good financial year for me. Now if only I can write faster.