Thursday 9 March 2017

Heroine Fix: Melinda May of Agents of SHIELD

First things first, I love a good clandestine government agency.  X-files, Fringe, Men In Black and now, Agents of SHIELD.  It satisfies my inner conspiracy theorist.

But even more than secret agencies, I enjoy a strong, super-skilled laconic hero.  Or heroine.

 Agent May doesn't waste time or effort with witty comebacks or clever puns.  She's too busy efficiently kicking ass, or faces.  After over ten years of martial arts training, I can definitely appreciate the latter.  She's a sharp shot with a rifle or a pistol.  Determined and relentless in the pursuit of her target, she's a force to be reckoned with.

In the first few episodes, she was more of a whispered presence than an actual character and I think that worked to the character's benefit.  Someone with her skill level and history would be a legend within the agency.  Showing us that legend rather than telling us made it feel more real.  From the first moment she walked on screen, we believed that Agent May could be sent up against any force, from petty thugs right up to Agent Romanov, the Black Widow herself, and Agent May would win.

Release the Calvary.

 But there's more to Agent May than her fighting skills.  Despite her stoic exterior, she cares deeply for her teammates and about helping the vulnerable.  In the subtle twitch of a lip or eye, she reveals pain that would tear a lesser hero apart.  

Maybe that's why she resonates so strongly with me.  No matter how much crap life throws at her, she doesn't waste time feeling sorry for herself.  She gets on with what needs to be done and never gives up until she's accomplished what's necessary.  In my own life, I often feel as if I'm struggling to cope with the curve balls of fate.  It may not be "fighting-a-guy-with-a-table-saw" level of challenge, but I can still see some parallels.

Guns?  I don't need guns.  There's a perfectly good table saw here.
I admire competence, no matter in what field.  But I also admire people who don't feel the need to cater to other people's opinions.  May doesn't fall into any of the typical female categories and there isn't even a hint of an apology.

The subtlety of the character is a long-term investment but one that pays off big.  By keeping May reserved, the times when she does lose control have a much stronger impact.  It's a lesson that I used with one of my characters, Vincent.  He's irreverent and dismissive, which makes it much more significant when he says something serious or meaningful.

In doing this series, I've been impressed with the range of heroines currently out there.  When I was young, heroines fell into two categories: damsels in distress or token female character.  Neither were particularly strong and even the token females ended up needing frequent rescue.  Now there are all different kinds: witty, laconic, cheerful, brooding, sweet, sexy, powerful, stealthy, manipulative, straight up and all the possible combinations.  No matter what kind of woman a girl wants to look up to, there's a heroine out there for her to emulate and admire.

I'm feeling a little nostalgic and ready for a change of pace, so next month, I'll be looking at  CC Bloom from Beaches.  Bold, brassy and demanding, but still with a heart of gold.

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