Proof that political progress needn’t be PC, Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel definitely gave the ’60s women’s movement a pop-culture kick in the pants. Ironically, the Shakespearean actress did it by becoming a kinky sex icon in her two-year, leather-clad, take-charge stint on the James Bond-ish Avengers.
By 1966, the show had already been a hit for five years in Britain. But Stateside, Mrs. Peel’s sexy martial artist took it to a whole ‘nother level, playing equal partner to suave and tweedy agent Mr. Steed (Patrick Macnee).
The liberated part? She saved Steed at least as often as he saved her, and each got off witty lines at the expense of the other.
What a team. Macnee was even cooler than Bond when the various Doomsday machines began their brief countdowns. But he couldn’t have shut down those buggers without the amazingly flexible, deceptively violent Peel around to karate-chop away all those gun-toting oafs guarding the controls.
The show’s big-screen brush-up, with Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes, caused a big publicity ruckus, but see the original, and you’ll agree that its Emma kicks Uma’s tail. But there’s no shame in that.
She could lick anybody else on the planet as well.