Hi! It’s Annie!
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR ‘AVENGERS: ENDGAME’ AND ‘AGENT CARTER’!
If you’re anything like me, you were thrilled when Hayley Atwell was confirmed for a cameo in ‘Avengers: Endgame’. Who wasn’t? Peggy Carter is definitely one of the best female characters in all of Marvel and even one of the most badass women to ever grace cinema screens. I have to admit, the first time I watched ‘Avengers: Endgame’, I thought the ending was adorable. It just felt so cute! Steve and Peggy finally got their dance and Steve was able to rest after long years of soldiering. But walking out of the theatre, there was something that didn’t quite sit right with me about the pairing at the end of the movie. I wasn’t able to pinpoint what exactly was holding me back from liking this couple until I decided to watch ‘Agent Carter’, one of my favorite television shows of all time, again to dive back into the bright lights and unfortunate sexism of 1940’s America. It was clear after re-watching only a few episodes that the ending of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ was incredibly misguided and really didn’t suit either character. Let’s go over why this ending was so messed up.
One of the major plot points of both seasons of ‘Agent Carter’ is Peggy dealing with the fact that Steve Rogers, the love of her life, is gone. Through this grief, Peggy realizes that people have a lot less sympathy for her after Steve dies. She is Steve’s girl rather than a human being of her own. Peggy has to deal with grieving over Steve at the same time she has to deal with her relationship with Steve being used against her at every moment possible. The end of Season 1 of ‘Agent Carter’ is even about everyone letting go of Steve. Howard almost dies for it, and we see Peggy pour the last vial of Steve’s blood out, finally symbolically letting go of Steve. Having Steve come back completely retcons this arc. There’s also the issue of Steve visiting an old Peggy with dementia and Peggy reacts several times as though she has just seen Steve after a long time of thinking he’s dead. Some argue that Peggy is lying to Steve here when she talks about having lived a life without him later in the conversation; but that argument doesn’t necessarily track, especially with her having dementia. But that’s just taking that at face value. It is possible that Steve went back and created an entirely different timeline where Peggy never had to do any of that. Steve might have made it to their dance and everything after that would be fine, wouldn’t it? Well…no. If this happened it effectively erases all of ‘Agent Carter’. ‘Agent Carter’ is the first major female led media that Marvel created in recent history; it might have even been the kicking off point for seeing so many other women lead actual superhero movies rather than just television shows. Why would you effectively erase one of the only examples of female led media in the superhero genre? There is a giant argument going on between the director and writers of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ as to whether or not Steve created a separate timeline or if he just changed the original. Whatever the answer to this argument is, it’s very unclear. It really could go either way. But either way you want to look at it, Peggy seems to be robbed of telling her own story.
Take a first look at this ending and it looks cute. Take a second look and you may realize just how out of character it is for Steve Rogers. Let’s take a look back at ‘Captain America: The Winter Solider’ where Steve finds out that Peggy had a family. He’s happy for her! She seems happy with her own life as well and even says that her only regret is that Steve didn’t get to live a life like she did. When did Steve Rogers become a selfish home-wrecker? Did he and Peggy ever have that conversation? You know, the one where he mentions that she had a happy life without him but he just REALLY wanted her so he went back and either destroyed or erased the life she lived without him? That’s on top of the conversation they would have had to have about Steve kissing her niece. Because…that’s really gross. Does noble, puppy-dog, Steve Rogers really seem like the home-wrecking type? Definitely not to me. I can definitely see him retiring after everything he went through, but I think the way they portrayed his retirement was a serious misstep and really didn’t make sense for either character.
Here is where I should point out that Steve and Peggy knew each other for only a few years. And that was on and off because Peggy and Steve had very different roles to play in the war. Peggy spent much more time with her colleagues in ‘Agent Carter’ and Steve spent much more time with the Avengers. But, you know who Steve spent even more time with? Bucky Barnes. Bucky was the person who knew Steve best and was, of everyone, closest to Steve. A lot of people were hoping that this would turn into a romantic involvement, and I kind of hoped for that too. I do feel we were all jipped when it comes to that. But even if you aren’t going to look at that, there is no way Steve would have ever left Bucky. Who did Steve say “I’m with you ’til the end of the line” to? Not Peggy, that’s for sure. I’m not entirely sure Steve can be with Bucky ” ’til the end of the line” if he goes back in time, effectively stranding Bucky in an unfamiliar time period and still leaving him with so much untouched trauma. What if Bucky had somehow gotten stuck in the ice with Steve, traveled with him to the future in ‘Avengers’, found a time machine, and then just left Steve behind? Bucky always meant more to Steve than Peggy, who he had only just barely started dating. This doesn’t make any sense.
If you’ve watched ‘Agent Carter’, you know that this was basically the endgame for Peggy in the show. We all know this would have been the husband she talked to Steve about in the hospital. Daniel Sousa was a raging feminist with a gimp leg and was still portrayed as a complete badass. This was one of the best examples I’ve seen of somebody with a disability not being portrayed as ‘that person with the disability’ in anything ever. But there is something seriously messed up that happens in Season 1 because of Daniel Sousa’s obvious crush on Peggy. Another detective tells him that no one would give up “a red, white, and blue shield for an aluminum crutch.” Way to go, Marvel! You just proved right someone who bullied a disabled character about their disability! They later tried to settle the fans by adding Agent Sousa into ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D’ and pairing him off with Daisy, another badass character. But he had so much more chemistry with Peggy, not to mention that show effectively writes out his disability. Little tip when dealing with disabled characters; don’t write out their disability because it’s inconvenient for you.
Marvel’s Awful Relationship Track Record:
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Marvel can be really really bad when it comes to writing relationships. Steve and Sharon? No chemistry. Natasha and Bruce? Oh my god. Let’s all take a moment to remember how Joss Whedon compared women who can’t have children to monsters. Thanks for that one Joss. They even managed to screw up Peggy and Steve’s relationship, which almost all of us were fine with until we actually saw what they did with that. One of the only relationships that I liked was Daniel and Peggy, which was partly because this relationship was written by different people than the ones who write on the movies. Marvel keeps effectively tearing apart all of their good couples either because of plot for drama or because they screw the couple up so badly that they just don’t work together anymore. Wanda and Vision are quite possibly the only semi-functional, plot relevant, good couple left. Which is probably scarier than you think.
I think it’s clear to most of us that female representation in especially action movies has a long way to go. The fact that Marvel decided to interfere in one of their only female led pieces of media is kind of scary. Marvel movies have generally been portrayed as being the better movies versus DC, which I largely agree with. But it’s hard to not see that DC is worlds better at female representation than Marvel is. (Except for ‘Justice League’ because that’s more Joss Whedon.) ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Birds of Prey’ are some of the most important movies for female representation in superhero movies and in action movies. Marvel is seriously lagging behind when it comes to this, and ‘Agent Carter’ was one of their only defending points when it came to female led media. Then they effectively erased both it and the voice of Peggy Carter. I’d like to live in the happy fake reality where the ending of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ didn’t actually happen; but the fact is that it did. And it is an excellent example of how women in action movies are still, first and foremost, seen as love interests rather than their own characters.
See you across the pond!