We don't always know where our strongest influences and deepest dreams are sourced. Nor do we know what event might reveal the man – or woman – behind the curtain. I enjoyed, last night, the first good night's sleep since Mrs. Peel (feline) took up residence here, so I can say, with great assurance, that the arrival of a kitten, however small that kitten may be, can qualify as an Event. My memory gates are being pulled open by a little white-tipped paw.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I saw The Avengers when my family was living in Europe, in the 1960s. The first episodes were in black and white. I think the series went to color when it started showing in the States. Perhaps there was an infusion of dollars into the production budget. But the feel of the show was already firmly established. A little zany, a little camp, very chic, and much more wry and understated than anything else I remember watching. And much much more sexy. Mrs. Emma Peel (and my teacher in Paris, Mlle.Thériot), gave me the first clue about what a sensuous, sexy woman is.
Dame Diana Rigg, at 72, is a stunningly beautiful woman; when she joined the cast of The Avengers, she was 27, and simply gorgeous. Auburn hair, long legs, a lovely figure, a supple voice, and a light in her eyes. Wow. The boys I knew were thinking "that's what I want!", but the girls were thinking, "that's what I want to be", a big difference, as life would repeatedly reveal. She was lovely, very smart (a certified genius, as I recall), quite independent, and self-assured. This suggested that – perhaps – one could get away with being intelligent, and thinking well of oneself. Somewhere, someone would be delighted by exactly that. Confirmation of that radical idea? John Steed.
Steed was a government agent, a Bond but not as young, probably not as promiscuous, and not as gadgety. He was the professional to Peel's "talented amateur", and clearly adored and respected her. Played by Patrick Macnee, Steed was urbane, unflappable, witty, and deadly when necessary. There was a tremendous mutual appreciation and sexual sizzle between the two characters, even though (or perhaps because) the nature of their relationship off-hours was never clearly spelled out to the viewer. There was also an obvious age difference: Macnee was 43 when the Steed-and-Emma episodes began.
To a certain extent, that kind of age difference is the Hollywood standard, even today. The parts seem to keep coming for aging male actors in a way that they do not for women. In fact, the parts for older women are so few that Meryl Streep can almost play them all and still have days off.
I don't know whether that thinking was in play when Mrs. Peel hit the small screen, and I didn't much care. The sparkling relationship entranced me. In it, I saw (subconsciously) that it takes a very confident man to give a smart woman the kind of acceptance that allows her to reveal how just how smart she really is. That kind of confidence has many roots; one of them is having lived a lot of life. So, perhaps from henceforth, the older and wiser man for me.
John Steed, preferably. But, you say, he is only a fictional character. Yeah, well, that there would be a problem, maybe. Or maybe not. Because to a certain extent, maybe we all are fictional characters. Really, how often do we look at someone and see them as they really are? Or as God sees them? Not very often, I think. We tend to see projections of what we want and need superimposed on the persons upon whom we're focused. When they turn out to be just themselves, and not our fantasy about them, disappointment ensues. Friendships shatter. Marriages fail. Who knew that Lassie would turn out to be a dog with shedding issues, and really big teeth?
I think it is safe to say that I still have not met my John Steed. If I have, I have not recognized him, perhaps because he is already partnered, or because he is only five years old so far in this lifetime. It's OK. I still have a fair amount of work and play to do in the living of this life, and I pray I will keep going, and going strong, until the day I die. At which time I hope that sweet five-year old, aged forty-five or so by then, will think, "Oh, how sad. She always reminded me of Emma Peel."