Fans of Hayley Atwell over in US can currently find her on Starz, as Margaret Schlegel in E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End. But many of us are more familiar with Hayley as another Margaret, Agent Peggy Carter, a woman equally at odds with the social mores of her day.
Marvel’s Agent Carter was set immediately after the second world war. Agent Carter herself, future founder of S.H.I.E.L.D. and veteran of many a wartime raid, is sent to act as, basically, a secretary in the US’ Strategic Scientific Reserve.
Frustrated at the lack of excitement or even respect offered by the organisation, she agrees to help Howard Stark, genius founder of Stark Industries and father to the Avengers’ Tony Stark, clear his name after he is framed and accused of selling weaponry to enemies of the US. Accompanied by Stark’s butler, Edwin Jarvis, she embarks on a series of missions to discover and destroy the weapons Stark has been accused of supplying.
The series, produced by ABC, was popular but ran for just two seasons, even though Marvel were keen to take it further. There were even online petitions from fans to get the show re-instated, to no avail.
During an interview with The AV Club, Hayley hinted that she has an idea why the show was cut.
It was, she thought, down to basic economics: “I think it was just a network economical thing: ‘Let’s put Hayley Atwell in something more mainstream that’s less genre-specific and see if we can get higher ratings.’ And unfortunately, that isn’t, as an actor, anything I’ve got control over.”
So out went Agent Carter, and in came ABC’s legal drama Conviction – which in the end only ran for one series.
Agent Carter has popped up in a few Marvel movies, but there is still no sign of a series return. However, since both Marvel and Atwell are interested in resurrecting the character, are there hopes for an Agent Carter movie?
The world now seems more accepting of the idea of a female lead for the genre. And Atwell has been approached by girls at conventions who would welcome it: “They’re proud to have a strong woman [like Peggy Carter] to look up to, who doesn’t have any superpowers, who uses her intelligence and her wit to fight the bad guys…”
Personally I’d welcome an Agent Carter movie, and not just because I am a fan of the character, and of Atwell’s interpretation of the character. Strong female leads in genre movies send a positive message, and anything that reinforces that can only be a good thing.
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