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Superheroes Round 15: Agent Carter


If you don’t want to read the rest of this post, here’s a summary: yeeeeeeees.  More please.

In other news, I watched Marvel’s Agent Carter, the short series that will be running until Agents of SHIELD comes back.  And it was fun.

That's the title.  Oh, and that character does show up.  A little bit.

That’s the title. Oh, and that character does show up. A little bit.

Oh, Geez, The Blatant Sexism

This was… a mixed bag, I think.

The show is set in 1946.

It is also filled with sexism, from the fact that the titular heroine’s coworkers largely treat her as a secretary rather than a highly qualified agent, to her friend Angie (a waitress) being harrassed at work, to the Captain America radio broadcasts featuring the perpetually imperilled “Betty Carver.”

Sadly, it’s entirely plausible — consider these posters from the 1950s that Buzzfeed collected.  (Wish I could find the sources for all those…)  Or you could just do a Google image search on “1946 advertisements.”  Yikes.

The one thing that worries me about this is just how blantant it is.  Sure, some people do still sexually harass waitresses like that, and it’s not a good thing to do.  But I worry that people will just pat themselves on the back, thinking they aren’t so obviously bigoted, and move on.  It turns out, there’s still a lot of more subtle sexism in play.  For instance, consider this study, where a set of almost identical resumes were sent to a sample of science professors.  Identical, that is, except for the gender of the name at the top.  The result?  Despite having exactly the same qualifications, the imaginary women were rated as less qualified and offered lower starting salaries than the men.  (I also note that the result held independent of the gender of the professor.  Also, that study garnered this reaction from the Internet — yikes again.)

I will note, however: Bechdel test passed repeatedly, with flying colors.  (I note also that the reverse — a man talking to a man about a subject other than a woman — is also passed.)

Jarvis Is Sweet

The setup for the plot is that somebody broke into Howard Stark’s basement, and stole the technology and ideas that he, as a weapons manufacturer, deemed too dangerous to sell.  He’s being framed as a traitor, and wants Peggy Carter to act as his inside man while he’s being investigated.  He heads off, to try to catch some of these people.

Meanwhile, Carter is left with Edwin Jarvis, Stark’s butler, to help her.

Jarvis’s reaction is priceless.  He’s a bit more human than the stereotypical unflappable butler.  He likes to be home by a certain time, and is shown cooking for his wife.

I am also happy about the big fight scene that shows up at the end of the first two episodes: Jarvis is doing the non-fighting job, and trying to dodge bullets, while Carter is busy punching somebody’s lights out on top of the vehicle he’s driving.  At the end, it’s Jarvis who patches Carter up.

It’s a fun reversal from the stereotype, although I think the best contrast was between a broadcast of Captain America rescuing Betty Carver while Peggy Carter was having her own fight scene.

Nitromene

Okay, it’s time to hit the hard stuff.

The name of the distressingly explosive compound is good — a lot of nasty explody things have lots of nitrogen in them, like trinitrotoluene (aka TNT) and nitroglycerin — conveniently short, easy to remember, and thoroughly ficticious.

The stuff, however, is nasty: a hand-grenade-size item can blow up an entire factory.

Leaving out questions of scale there — since we don’t need complete conversion of matter into energy to make that work — let’s ask another question: where did that vacuum backwash come from?  And is it feasible?

From a theoretical standpoint, it actually makes sense to have an implosion after an explosion — the explosion forces a lot of air out of the way, creating a low pressure area that pulls back in after the exploding part is over.

But that can’t pull back in with a greater force than was needed to push the air out of the way in the first place.  And it’s just ridiculous that only the rear bumper of the escaping car was sucked in, and that all the surviving material from the factory could, somehow, end up in a single tangled mess of riebar and who-knows-what that’s small enough to fit on a single truck.

I’m officially classifying nitromene as phlebotinum.

I do have to admit, though, it looks pretty awesome.

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