Agent Carter: The Ana Syndrome

So. Agent Carter. The best thing Marvel has put out in years.

Yeah, I said that.

And I’ll stand by it.

That might be my bias for all things 1940s showing, but I don’t think so. Agent Carter has a well-rounded and fun ensemble cast with many characters that interest me and a fun plot to boot.

There are a ton of blogs and such out there that talk about why Peggy is great and that’s completely fair. Peggy is fantastic, and so are most of the other main characters.

But today, I want to talk about a character we’ve only recently met and who plays a rather minor role in the show most of the time: Ana Jarvis.

Wife of Edwin Jarvis, a major player on the show, Ana is the woman behind the man. The support on the home front. The understanding partner. And she’s perfect in that role.

So of course, she had to go and get herself shot in order to give her man a revenge story.

Sigh.

Now *spoiler alert* she didn’t die, so she wasn’t exactly fridged, as the saying goes, but she was left with an injury that is so cliché as to be eye-rolling in most cases.

Yes, she was left unable to bear children.

At first glance, this is a rare point where Agent Carter disappoints. The show largely has stayed away from such overdone storylines, and frankly after the whole debacle in Age of Ultron about a woman being defined by her ability to bear children, I was surprised to see that can of worms opened again so soon in the Marvel universe.

Because it’s insulting. Ana will live. That’s what matters. The inability to have children is minor in the grand scheme of things, and there are other options for kids (though to be fair adoption and such wasn’t as mainstream in the 40s as it is now) if desired. So on one hand, what’s the big deal? So Ana can’t have children. So what? Why must a woman be defined by this? Doesn’t Agent Carter prove that a woman can have worth without having children? Aren’t there many more things a woman can do with her life? Yes, there are. Maybe Ana doesn’t even want children. Have you considered that, powers that be? Because Peggy is right when she confronts Edwin, saying his wife will live and he can go on as if nothing happened. Life goes on. Literally.

On the other hand, though, Ana’s injury is a big deal. For many couples, having children is very important, and for many women, not being able to bear them does, in fact, make them feel broken. They feel like something is wrong with them. While it’s easy to roll our collective eyes and sigh and get all up in arms about how women are treated as nothing but baby makers and sources for male storylines in entertainment when we see something like this, the fact is that it would be a significant issue for many women – and their partners. So, while it’s overdone in fiction, when viewed in this light, that overuse is the only problem with Ana’s injury. (Aside from Edwin’s not telling her about it yet/the doctor not telling her himself, but that’s another issue for another day.)

Plus, it was played well. Yes, Edwin goes off his rocker for a bit, and frankly impresses with his actual fear in the hospital and then with his unhesitating shot of Whitney, but Ana’s injury serves as more than fuel for male revenge. It also sets up one of the best scenes in the series – one that gives another female character a time to shine. When Edwin quips to Peggy that “everyone around her dies,” we get to see Peggy’s ongoing grief and suffering over the many losses she has endured, chiefly her brother and Steve Rogers. Peggy is a real person here, struggling with real problems. That makes her come alive to the viewer. Plus, after a moment to collect herself, she puts Edwin in his place. He tries to blame Peggy for Ana’s injury in his blind rage, but it’s his own choices that endangered Ana, not hers, and Peggy tells him how it is in one of the most powerful scenes Agent Carter has given us. This is a strong female character. Not because she can shoot a gun, but because she is a survivor. She understands her actions have consequences, and that sometimes those consequences are terrible, but she soldiers on.

So while I’ll never be a fan of this particular trope, I’ll allow it in this case for the reasons above and one very big reason I haven’t touched on yet: Anthony Edward Stark.

He’s on the way, you know, and Howard ain’t got time for that.

So, by ensuring (in theory) that Edwin and Ana can’t have children of their own, Agent Carter just put a nice little bow on why Tony named his computer system J.A.R.V.I.S. in the MCU.

Comics readers know why and how Jarvis and Tony are so close, but MCU viewers don’t necessarily understand that history. The situation created for Ana and Edwin in Agent Carter sets the stage for the relationship of Edwin and Tony through the years. Sure, Edwin is employed by Howard, and it will be part of his job to look after Tony, but with no children of his own and Howard with no time for his son, that bond will become much more than simple servant and young master.

Hopefully, Ana will also be a part of that bond in the MCU and hopefully we will be able to see that through more adventures of everyone’s favorite butler family, but only time will tell.

For now, I’m happy that we got a little nod to why a butler would be so very fond of his charge.

Because if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: greater love hath no man that he that loves the children of another.

And by this measure, Edwin Jarvis is a big damn hero.

GS Blogger: wabbit

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