Last week, we started exploring the similarities between Marvel’s Peggy Carter and Doctor Who‘s Sarah Jane Smith, in terms of their roles as supporting and leading ladies.
This week, I’d like to continue this exploration by going into what makes these characters tick. What is it that we love about these characters so much? I confess, it is hard to put into words (and even harder to find evidence in video or gif form). But finally, I think these words best sum it up:
Maria, there are two types of people in the world. Those who panic, and then there’s us. – Sarah Jane Smith, “Invasion of the Bane.”
And then there’s Peggy Carter and Sarah Jane Smith. Bold and intrepid, they face danger unflinchingly, doing what must be done to save others. Where others may panic, they stay calm and figure a way of the situation. This, ultimately, is what makes them valuable both as supporting characters and as leads.
So yes – I, like many others last week, have jumped on the Agent Carter bandwagon. Captain America: The First Avenger, I’m not ashamed to admit, is my favorite film of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (though Avengers and the first Iron Man are very close seconds). But, much as I love Steve Rogers (and I do, I really do), his leading lady Peggy Carter is a big part of why I loved that film.Though I don’t like that Peggy is the only substantive female role in the film, I can overlook that due to the depth of the role she is given.
Agent Peggy Carter is a direct, no nonsense, unflinching woman in a man’s job, who constantly proves she is just as, if not more, capable. Rising from her mere love interest status in the comics, Peggy’s character stood out so much to fans and to creators that she has not only appeared in a number of Marvel companion works, but is now the center of her own mini-spinoff.
Which is so awesome! She is so far the only female character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have her perspective as the central narrative**. Steve Rogers might be Peggy’s inspiration and the story’s jumping-off point, but Agent Carter truly is Peggy’s story.
Y’know who’s another awesome female character who went from a supporting role to starring in her own series?
Sarah Jane Smith is acknowledged by much of the Doctor Who fandom to be the most iconic and beloved of the Doctor’s companions (friends who travel with him through time and space, for all you non-Whovians out there). A strong-willed feminist journalist, she appeared on the long-running series from 1973-1976, and was intended to break from the typical female companion of the time, who often screamed at the sight of danger. Though she still acted as the Watson to the Doctor’s Sherlock, she was confident and courageous, and often held her own in bad situations. After leaving the show, she reappeared in an anniversary episode or two, but not much that furthered her story…
…That is until 2006, when the character was brought back for an episode of the rebooted Doctor Who (as the showrunner had been a fan of her character as a child). Viewers appreciated her reappearance so much that she was soon given a spinoff series, The Sarah Jane Adventures, which was aimed towards a slightly younger audience.
In her spinoff, Sarah Jane becomes the leader of a group of children, using brains instead of brawn to deal with alien threats. Is it childish? A little. There are less developed stories, some gross-out jokes, hammy aliens. But Sarah Jane kept it grounded, always making the stories believable, and causing a new generation of children to fall in love with her.
Just what is special about these two ladies that caused them to break out from supporting roles to lead their own stories? Perhaps in seeing what they have in common, we can pinpoint that touch of star quality. Though their stories are rather different, we can see a number of parallels in their personalities, initial roles, and later development. Here is part one of our exploration into these two characters.
(SPOILERS for both Captain America films, Agent Carter 1×01-1×02, Doctor Who, and Sarah Jane Adventures)