“I know my value”
The end of 2015 felt like a giant win in regards to female representation in fantasy and science fiction. Just in the past three months we’ve gotten Jessica Jones (of the eponymous show) and Rey from Star Wars.
But the woman who really kicked off 2015 wasn’t in a record-breaking blockbuster or a critically-acclaimed Netflix show.
Instead she showed up in your local listings on ABC, the same channel you tune into for your Shondaland fix.
I’m talking about Peggy Carter, who after first appearing in Captain America, was given her own miniseries four years later in the aptly-named Agent Carter.
That’s right. Agent.
What could have been a one-off love interest in the oversaturated Marvel universe turned into one of my favorite women on TV since Leslie Knope.
Set after the events of Captain America, Agent Carter is Peggy’s life as an agent of the Strategic Scientific Reserve (SSR) (If you’ve seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier you know she afterward goes on to found S.H.I.E.L.D.). The show returns for its second season on Jan. 19.
The first season of Agent Carter, however, proved the show to be more than just another b-plot in the ever-growing Marvel machine.
The mini series never shied away from portraying a realistic glass ceiling that put Peggy at odds with her co-workers who undervalue her ability as an agent. In short, Agent Carter explores the less charming side of the old-fashioned values Steve Rogers embodies.
And while I’m not going to lie about the fact that the show is a bit campy (in a good way), it does more than just explore sexism it also does a great job of exploring complex issues like loneliness, grief and trust.
After the war, Peggy is isolated not only at work but also for the most part in her personal life. She welcomes the upheaval the return of Howard Stark brings, if only because it gives her a purpose her job does not.
And for me, it was the exploration of Peggy as a character and not the action-driven plot that caused me to fall in love with Agent Carter.
The show premiered in the middle of an incredibly rough patch of my life, one where I was struggling to find value in anything let alone myself. Watching how Peggy could struggle yet not lose her sense of self reminded me to know my value.
Throughout the first season, Peggy does struggle with trust issues and loneliness. And while she eventually accepts help (from a certain butler by the name of Edwin Jarvis-yes, that Jarvis), she’s resistant to it. She pushes away Angie’s attempts at friendship over and over again.
Peggy is strong, but like the best of us, vulnerable and sometimes scared. So for a fictional character with a made-up job, she is pretty damn relatable.
But it is that core strength that makes Peggy so inspirational. Despite her challenges she doesn’t lose her sense of self. She knows when she is right and doesn’t back down because of intimidation or uncertainty. After watching Agent Carter last year, I wanted to learn to be that way. I’m still learning to be that way.
At the conclusion of the season one’s storyline (no spoilers!), Peggy is finally acknowledged by the same colleagues who have spent the entire season doubting her and putting her down. To which she replies:
“I don’t need a congressional honor. I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval or the President’s. I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”
Agent Peggy Carter is just a TV character, but at the time she reminded me something I had long forgotten. Your value isn’t defined by how others see you. It’s defined by what you see in yourself.
A year later, I still find myself repeating “I know my value” as a mantra. When I feel alone. When I’m facing rejection. When I’m just having an awful day. A simple reminder that what happens doesn’t make me any less valuable as a person.
I don’t know much about what season two has in store other than a change of scenery from New York to Los Angeles. But I’ll be tuning in to answer the question I often ask myself, “What would Peggy do?”