Diana Rigg died this week. To many, her passing marked an era not only in television history but in our social evolution. Gender relations, male and female roles. Part of the emergence of women, however uncomfortable cult figures like Rigg may be to more overtly serious feminists. To those for whom the topic is not about novelistic flashes of female power, or culture as it approached the digital era. Much has been written on it by people more suited to the topic than I, but… we miss her. The absence and presence of Diana Rigg. Of Emma Peel.
You can read our original comment on her passing (“Dame Diana Rigg RIP”), here. There is a kind of “gonzo” value set we guiltily confess to, here at Wharf21 — an example is this article by one of my colleagues. It’s not so much that we “admire” Hunter F. Thompson. It is more that we acknowledge the affinity, an empathy. It is not our fault the world is crazy.
Cultural Tropes of the Eldorado
One of the striking things about films of the era when The Avengers was made, is the way women’s bodies were depicted. Some people find these films difficult to watch without laughing – but it is not only the absurdity of human style and culture. It’s our discomfort with our own desires and illusions. Tight pullovers, lots of lipstick, bouffant hair.
The exaggerated narrowness of the waist, the aggressive rocket-like encasement of her chest. Reminiscent of a 1954 Cadillac Eldorado grille … gravity-defying, slick, promising. Can’t be ignored. It was marketing.
Emma Peel on the other hand — assertive, not poured into a chrome mold, but confident and m-appealing (ahem…). Sexual, not because she made herself into an object, but toying with the possibility of offering that role to another. Treating the male that way. Incredibly modern for the era.
A delicate market not spoken of
This suggestion, left inarticulate on many levels, of the dominant female (but not too!! — there is a market which is sensitive)…. The shadow of Marlene Dietrich perhaps defined it. Or something even more reluctant to be acknowledged. It has migrated through our cultural tropes and memes.
And no, I do not want to talk about porn, or any forbidden fruit — certainly not of male submission. But it is amazing how there are so many segments of “user interest” that remain without explicit articulation in mainstream culture.
So still even today, we can have a Fifty Shades of Gray — but we haven’t been ready for the role reversal, not really. Fifty Shades Freed? — not so much. Emma Peel expressed the delicacy of this gradual evolution. She has her followers, and she is still present in our narratives and entertainment. Subtly, delicately…
And speaking of portable power, with all the uncertainties of climate, consider Jackery.