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You’re going to have to forgive me for this one. It’s not really an educational or informative piece. Unless, of course, I am the subject for which you are seeking information. =) This is really more of an ego piece for me. But I’ll try to entertain you as I go along. And maybe you will learn something too.
Anyway, Mrs. Emma Peel of the Brit TV show “The Avengers” made her premiere on American TV on 14 January, 1967. I don’t think it too much of a coincidence that I was born nine months later. I also don’t think it a coincidence that I grew to a height of 5’8½” tall and have chestnut hair. (Okay. My hair is more of a medium brown, but I really am exactly 5’8½”).
It’s true that I was too young to have ever seen an original episode of Mrs. Peel’s Avengers. But one of my first recollections of waiting for a show to come on TV (that wasn’t Sesame Street) was the reruns of the Avengers they used to show on channel 11 or channel 5 or whatever. And in a real way, Mrs. Peel and Steed raised me. I grew up to believe that it is extremely important to be intelligent, well-read, and well-spoken as well as to interact with people on a number of levels. It is important to be strong as well as smart (and being an expert fencer or skilled in judo won’t hurt at all). It is necessary to be functional while being dressed impeccably (high heels are never worn). Brightly coloured clothes are awesome. The mod look is cool. What you make for dinner is reservations. And hot chicks drive cool two-seater convertibles (the first car I owned on my own was a 1992 Mazda Miata, a car that was strongly based on the 1967 Lotus Elan, the car Mrs. Peel drove).
Funny thing is that I named my Audi TT “Pussy Galore”, not “Mrs. Peel”. But Honor Blackman wasn’t my hero. Yeah, she kicked James Bond’s ass in “Goldfinger” but then she submitted to his superior will and did whatever he told her. Our Mrs. Peel would have had a mind of her own. Besides, I didn’t see the Mrs. Gale episodes of the Avengers until 2002 or 2003 when I bought them on VHS. I don’t know if they were ever broadcast on American TV. They were in black and white and horrifically produced (actors flub their lines, you can hear noises off-set, actors and techs jostle the camera, and once a camera accidentally got caught in the shot!), so maybe they weren’t up to snuff. But where Cathy Gale’s wit is biting and sarcastic and her judo a little too angry and real, Mrs. Peel delivers the kind of snappy retorts that make her (usually male) opponents take the hit and say, “Thank you, ma’am. Can I have another?”
She’s probably also why I love black leather riding boots, although black leather was far more Mrs. Gale’s line of country.
The other women in Avengers episodes are frankly ridiculous next to Mrs. Peel. They are all vapid, silly, helpless females. With the exception of her first few episodes when it’s clear her character was not yet fully formed, more often than not Mrs. Peel saves Steed instead of the other way around. Once every few episodes, Mrs. Peel is talked down to by a male counterpart. But soon, that counterpart is backing down and recognizing Mrs. Peel’s superior intellect.
Mrs. Peel is my hero. And a big part of her character was the wit and strength of actress Dame Diana Rigg.
2011 is the 50th anniversary of the first Avengers episodes. Reconstructing History celebrates Mrs. Peel.
© 2011 Kass McGann. All Rights Reserved. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.