Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Struggle for Dominance Between Lingerie Clad Special Agents


If it is true, as some say, that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is being used as a metaphor for our civilization, then we would expect to see certain signs that show that its purpose and attributes are of the highest order.

There can be no compromise in art, certainly not in fine art, which this purports to be. But can we say that all the Marvel Cinematic Universe aspires to this pinnacle of excellence? Sure it might be true for the movies, but what about the “television” spin offs? Whatever, that is, "television" may mean in the era of the bold new Internet paradigm that has put the knife into the heart of what we used to call “broadcast”.

I am happy to report that I have seen excellent evidence that even the lesser manifestations of the MCU, the television version, is clearly aspiring to the highest aesthetics of our cinema. I am still working my way through the back episodes, but very early on in the Second Season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, I came across a sequence that proved to me that indeed there was a lot of very serious thought and ideas behind this show.

What convinced me was the sequence in Season 2, Episode 4 in which Hydra disguises one of their agents as Coulson's sidekick, May, thus setting up a most excellent encounter between the anti-May and real/good May in the form of an extensive “catfight”.

As we all know, the catfight is an honored trope of exploitative B movies. Two women beating the shit out of each other in scanty outfits have contributed to the cinema since the very early days and have a special place in the heart of the American adolescent male. A stronger statement could be made about the value of the catfight to contemporary cinema and aesthetics.  I believe that it should be rated much higher than it is and be considered on the same level as a fight between giant robots or a 15 minute car chase (how old-fashioned!) When properly executed with vigor and imagination, it can greatly contribute to the cinematic experience.

Important examples of the genre include the fight between Sharon Stone and Rachel Ticotin in Total Recall (1990) (see hereand Charlize Therone and Teri Hatcher in Two Days in the Valley (1994).  (see on youtube here). When critics discuss what was important about these two movies, they often refer to these memorable sequences.

In the following images we begin with the good May in bondage in her lingerie who first must escape in order to confront the impostor.

As a practical note, for those of you interested in how these sequences of trick photography are achieved, notice that somehow we do not see a representation of a "nipple" in spite of the flimsy lingerie and tremendous exertions of the two competing women, one in lingerie/slip and the other in her revealing evening gown. No shallow exploitation of the female form that might endanger a general audience rating here. You can be sure that some special effort was required to achieve this.

Meanwhile the bad May has stolen the good May's evening gown to try to fool Agent Coulson, but it doesn't work. This sets up the climactic encounter between good and evil, real May vs bad May, who slug it out.  Of course this is all played by one actress, at least one stunt double, and the power of visual effects.  Note the use of wires in one part of the struggle, as well as the true hatred between the two women, who are, of course, in real life, one and the same.

Now that I know what is being offered here, I look forward to reviewing the rest of the series. Greatness may lie within even the humble Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on IMDB

Total Recall (1990) on IMDB

Two Days in the Valley (1994) on IMDB

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