One of the things I have been most looking forward to about 2016 is the return of Marvel’s Agent Carter for its second season. When I immersed myself in comics in preparation for 2015’s summer reading program, I immediately fell in love with the Marvel universe in general, and with Agent Peggy Carter, portrayed by Hayley Atwell, in particular. I enjoyed her character in the two Captain America movies, as well as her cameos in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and Agents of SHIELD, but as the titular character in Agent Carter, she truly shines. Far from being just a romantic interest for Captain America, Agent Carter is a superhero in her own right, and quickly became one of my favorite fictional role models.
The first season of Agent Carter finds Peggy living and working in New York in 1946. Although World War II has wrought great changes in America, Peggy Carter is still a woman working in a male-dominated profession in a man’s world. Well-respected by her colleagues during the war, she has trouble finding that respect in the post-war world. However, as much as she longs to be accepted by her coworkers, Peggy would rather earn their respect than have it handed to her. In fact, when one colleague demands that another apologize for disrespecting Peggy, she asks him not to defend her. Later, during an argument with her partner-in-crime, Edwin Jarvis, Jarvis taunts her by asking whether she honestly expects her coworkers to change their minds about her. Peggy never misses a beat before responding, “I expect I will make them.” And while others might see a need to forsake femininity in Peggy’s workplace, Agent Carter uses her womanly wiles to her advantage as often as they work against her, for example, in seducing a man to gain access to a formula for a dangerous chemical, with the help of her sedative-laced lipstick.