Friday, January 10, 2014

Strong Female Character Friday: Melinda May (Agents of SHIELD)

Let's get one thing straight here: Agents of SHIELD isn't the world's greatest show. It's not bad or anything, and not even interesting enough for me to have something to say about it on a regular basis. It's not good, precisely, more...like meatloaf. Like the televisual equivalent of meatloaf. 

Because it's not like it's terrible or anything, and you'll totally eat it if it's in front of you, but you're probably not going to order it at a restaurant.

Then again, most of the diners I like have meatloaf on the menu, so what do I know?

What I'm saying is that Agents of SHIELD, while a perfectly respectable piece of television, isn't great. It's not Marvel Movie Universe great, anyway. It's solid, and fun, and perfectly enjoyable to watch. But it's not really anything to write home about. Except for, and this is why we're talking about it today, Melinda May.

I knew I was going to love Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) from the pilot, because she was just so freaking cool - even if I didn't yet know really why I would love her. The answer, it turns out, is because Melinda May is a perfect, stereotypical action hero. And she's also a woman. She's not a stereotypical action woman. Nope. She's every single action hero trope piled into one character, and oh yeah, she has boobs.

This woman is my hero.

Let's go down the list, shall we? I mean an actual list, too. I got this off of TVTropes.org, because I am a nerd like that. (Do not visit that site if you are short on time. It's a vortex and will suck you in only to spit you out eight hours later, craving salty food and more television.)

1. (S)he* always ends up believing that Violence Really Is The Answer. What I mean here, with relation to Melinda May, is that while she starts the series as the backup, as the "bus" driver and the paperwork person, Coulson's second and just generally the backgroud person, by a couple episodes in, Melinda May is kicking some serious ass. Sure, she believed that she was done with fieldwork and totally not going to fight anymore, but look where that got her. It got her on a specialized team. Where she fights bad guys. All the time.

Hey, sometimes the action life just chooses you, man. And by man, I mean woman. And by action life, I mean exact replication of all of the action hero tropes. Woooo, specificity!

2. She is a Badass. Do I even have to explain this one? I mean, I will. 

Part of the fun with Agent Melinda May is that she's the kind of agent that the other agents tell stories about. Confusing, wildly inaccurate stories. The legend of how she got her nickname, "The Cavalry", grows more ridiculous with every telling, but it turns out that the truth is just as badass, if not more, than the fiction. Basically, Melinda May is the kind of hero where just hearing her name makes people want to surrender, which is actually a plot point when Skye (Chloe Bennet) impersonates her in order to scare a bad guy.

Because being Melinda May was the most intimidating thing she could think of. I'm not crying, that's just happiness leaking out of my eyes.

3. When problems arise, she solves them by Cutting the Knot. This (a reference to the Gordian knot and one of the lighter Greek myths) pretty much just means that when a complex problem arises, Melinda May is apt to stare it dead in the eyes, punch something, and solve it.

Like, say you've got a berserker staff being passed around and you really need to grab it before it falls into the wrong hands (like the ones it's currently in), but touching it means you go berserker and - sorry, can't finish the thought, Melinda May has already grabbed the staff, taken down the enemy combatants and managed to not go crazy like literally everyone else to touch it ever.

I mean, those are just three perfect examples straight off the Action Hero list**, and here are a couple more.

4. She's got the kind of cold dead stare usually reserved for Clint Eastwood.

I really mean it. She just looks at a suspect and it's like they burst into flame. Or wish they could burst into flame. Or both. Probably both. It's most hilarious when she turns it on the crew, too. Skye spends the first half of the season terrified of her, but also a little in awe. And by this point, all that fear is just more awe. And still fear, because fear is a healthy response to this much awesome.


5. She's the one that everyone turns to for advice. When Skye needs to know how to deal with a situation, she asks What Would Melinda May Do? When Grant needs to figure something out, he takes a tip from his hero. When Coulson is stuck and not sure how to go on, he asks Melinda May her advice. And then manages to interpret her steely silence into something usable.

6. She's completely comfortable with herself. Like, completely comfortable. She doesn't necessarily like everything, but she knows exactly what's there. Massive guilt over casualties sustained on a mission? Nah. She knows it's already there. Raging PTSD? Got it covered. 

In short, Melinda May is the kind of action hero that most character really wish they could be. And it's made all the better by the fact that she manages to avoid most of the major pitfalls and stereotypes of being a female action hero.

She's not fetishized at all, we have barely seen her out of uniform, even, and her uniform is perfectly functional and reasonable for her position. She's not a ditz, nor does she have anger management issues. Rather, she's a very reasonable person who keeps her problems in the inside so they can chew on her liver. (I never said Action Heroes were healthy or stable people, for the record.)

And she doesn't fall into any racial stereotypes either. While she is, yes, Asian, she's not an expert at kung-fu or anything. She just fights like all the SHIELD agents fight. Effectively.

I guess what I'm saying is that while Agents of SHIELD is really just an okay show, I will keep watching it for one simple thing: I need Agent Melinda May in my life. I'm never going to bust down a door with my food (I hope) or beat up supersoldiers or fly an airbus, dodging missiles and evading enemy planes, but I do need a badass-spiration every once in a while.

Sometimes it helps just to look at the badass over there and thing, yeah. Yeah. If she can do that, then I can do this.

Sometimes that's all it takes. So thanks, Melinda May.


*Yeah, so apparently TVTropes was just as surprised as I was to find out that Melinda May fits their definition so well. Because all their pronouns are masculine. I shall be changing them to make more sense, but I guess this is here to let you know that TVTropes is a little sexist. Shocker.

**Technically it does say on there that because Melinda May isn't the main character she can't be the Action Hero, but screw them. We all know the truth.

41 comments:

  1. What strikes me about the auto male pronoun for the tropes action hero is that they are always men! Which makes Melinda both trope laden and original! Well rare at least. Sure we have other badass action heroes who are women... but fully clothed ones? All the time? Ones were their sexiness isn't also a foundation? Or (my personal favourite and by favourite I mean nauseating) ones who, for all their badassery, will still need rescuing. At least once. It's a rule.

    There are others but not a lot

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Added bonus: she's 50. (Well, Ming-Na Wen is 50).

      Old enough to be plausible mentor-material.

      Delete
    2. She actually is a mentor, well sort of, to Agent Ward, who thinks she hung the moon. But they have a casual sexual relationship (which is handled shockingly well), so I'm not sure if that counts.

      But yeah. One of the things that drew me to her was the fact that her strength is never undermined. She's never defined by her sexuality, but she's not sexless, either. She's, dare I say it, a well written female action hero?

      Delete
  2. I've never seen this series, but Melinda May is the reason I want to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She's pretty much the best reason I can think of to watch it.

      Delete
  3. Oh I love Melinda May! I was so happy to find such a cool kick ass hero portrayed by a woman without the extra sexualisation we are used to in female superheroes (catwoman, scarlett in the avengers). And you are completely right with that cold dead stare. she is beyond cool:)

    ReplyDelete
  4. INTRODUCTION - Perhaps I should start by asking the question "What is a Home Based Business? This is any business operated from the comfort of the residential home of the owner. ideas

    ReplyDelete
  5. So you have an affiliate business but it's not really delivering. You persist anyway out of stubbornness to all those people who told you to give up! In the back of your mind you catch yourself thinking "Am I wasting my time with this?". AdmireMe Reviews

    ReplyDelete
  6. After 20 years of working with Senior Executives across the world it's interesting to see the mistakes when appointing Senior Executives. There can be many reasons why, but one reason is not understanding the differences of working in a Family Business and a Non-Family Business. I've recently met several Senior Executives who are unhappy with their employment because of this lack of knowledge and understanding and I'm meeting Business owners who didn't realise there was a difference. These Business Owners feel that money and title is enough and stick to the Mantra of "Surely experienced 'C' level Executives can work in any company?" best mlm in UK

    ReplyDelete
  7. INTRODUCTION - Perhaps I should start by asking the question "What is a Home Based Business? This is any business operated from the comfort of the residential home of the owner. multi-level marketing

    ReplyDelete
  8. INTRODUCTION - Perhaps I should start by asking the question "What is a Home Based Business? This is any business operated from the comfort of the residential home of the owner. Customer Feedback

    ReplyDelete
  9. The promise of technology has been seductive. Tiny slivers of silvery metallic material known as silicon wafers artfully injected into the bowels of businesses are supposed to increase efficiency and improve the bottom line. And make the world better. But have they? Let's take a look. Mesa masonry

    ReplyDelete
  10. The promise of technology has been seductive. Tiny slivers of silvery metallic material known as silicon wafers artfully injected into the bowels of businesses are supposed to increase efficiency and improve the bottom line. And make the world better. But have they? Let's take a look. Mesa masonry

    ReplyDelete
  11. So, you want to start a plumbing business. This could be a terrific decision, or, it could be the worst idea ever. Starting a plumbing business, or any business really, involves a certain amount of structured thinking to put everything in place, and making sure that you have thought of everything. 출장안마

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hello. I don’t know whether it is too much, but this site is pretty eye-pleasing. Forex Trading Strategy

    ReplyDelete
  13. Starting a business is tough.. no exaggeration. To start and run a business is both nerve-racking, petrifying.. and a dozen other emotions. It doesn't matter if you are drafting the initial business plan, just opened the doors, or been around for awhile. Planning will alleviate much of the risk, but not all. You can't control everything in life, nor in business. Want to grow your company? Here are five guidelines to help you do that. Autoankauf Leverkusen

    ReplyDelete
  14. As far as me being a member here, I wasn’t aware that I was a member for any days, actually. When the article was published I received a notification, so that I could participate in the discussion of the post, That would explain me stumbuling upon this post. But we’re certainly all members in the world of ideas. Autoankauf Gelsenkirchen

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hello. I don’t know whether it is too much, but this site is pretty eye-pleasing. best CBD organic oil

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow, cool post. I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but I procrastinate too much and never seem to get started. Thanks though. 세종출장안마

    ReplyDelete
  17. Will you mind basically if I refer to several of your current content on condition that I give you credit and moreover sources back to your web site? My web blog is within the comparable area of interest as your own and my subscribers will make full use of some of the expertise you actually offer on this site. Feel free to let me know if it is okay with you. Best wishes! Best Web Hosting Providers

    ReplyDelete
  18. Keep up the fantastic piece of work, I read few blog posts on this web site and I believe that your site is real interesting and has lots of great information. foto video nunta suceava

    ReplyDelete
  19. I am glad that I observed this blog , exactly the right information that I was looking for! . 메이저사이트

    ReplyDelete
  20. hello!,I like your writing very much! share we communicate more about your post on AOL? I require a specialist on this area to solve my problem. May be that’s you! Looking forward to see you. 메이저사이트

    ReplyDelete
  21. I am impressed with this website , really I am a big fan . Visa Tchad

    ReplyDelete
  22. So you have an affiliate business but it's not really delivering. You persist anyway out of stubbornness to all those people who told you to give up! In the back of your mind you catch yourself thinking "Am I wasting my time with this?". Best IPO Service in Bangladesh

    ReplyDelete
  23. Imagine you receive an email in the middle of the night while you are asleep. The mail shows that you just made $40 after one of your customers used their debit card to purchase an item from your online store. This online store is available 24/7 and displays over 80 web based solution for business owners. If one would ask: what is the best internet business?" I would say any business that allows 24 hours online access, quality customer service support staff and marketing tools to help your business stand out in your niche. You are about to discover why so many online marketers become successful running their own internet business. Let's look at the features and benefits of running an internet business in today's economy. You will learn, among other things; who are Web Host Resellers, what is involved in the Domain Name industry, the pros and cons of running a Domain Name Reseller Business, and the costs involved in setting up this venture Digital Marketing West Palm Beach

    ReplyDelete
  24. Why are you not applying for a small business loan? Do you think you will be turned down? Not so. Here are three places you need to apply today. international divorce law firm

    ReplyDelete
  25. Over the past few years, unemployment rates have increased to higher levels than ever before, which has resulted in many people deciding to start up their own small businesses instead. While small business ownership is a good thing, many entrepreneurs can in fact benefit greatly from using small business loans or other types of business funding to help them get ahead. personal injury lawyer boynton

    ReplyDelete
  26. You made some decent points there. I looked on the internet for that problem and located most people will go in addition to with the web site. เช็ค backlink google

    ReplyDelete
  27. I conceive this web site holds some real superb information for everyone : D. Matthew Fleeger is CEO of Dallas company Gulf Coast Western

    ReplyDelete
  28. I just now learned your site a couple weeks ago so i are looking at it also on a daily basis. There is a massive amount information at this site and i relish your personal style belonging to the world-wide-web site very. Continue the high quality hard work! buy sugar paste

    ReplyDelete
  29. One thing I enjoy about reading sites like this, is the fact that there aren’t any spelling or even grammatical errors! Causes it to be difficult about the readers sometimes. Excellent job on might also the subject of this site. Many thanks! gaming pc deal

    ReplyDelete
  30. Starting and maintaining a home business enterprise is a bold move. Home businesses can be immensely successful if you know how to maintain your businesses affairs in the right way. This article will cover some of the essentials you need to consider, to ensure the growth, success and profitability of your online business attorneys in boynton beach fl

    ReplyDelete
  31. I am curious to find out what blog system you’re using? I’m experiencing some small security problems with my latest website and I would like to find something more risk-free. Do you have any solutions? ross levinsohn medium

    ReplyDelete
  32. Throughout the awesome design of things you actually secure a B+ with regard to effort and hard work. Where exactly you actually lost me personally was first on the details. You know, they say, the devil is in the details… And it couldn’t be much more correct here. Having said that, permit me say to you what did deliver the results. Your text is highly convincing and this is probably the reason why I am making an effort in order to opine. I do not really make it a regular habit of doing that. Second, whilst I can easily notice a leaps in reasoning you make, I am definitely not convinced of exactly how you appear to unite your details which in turn help to make your final result. For now I shall yield to your issue however trust in the future you actually connect your facts better. Angel profile Ross Levinsohn

    ReplyDelete
  33. In talking with many different friends, colleagues, and various martial artists turned instructors on Facebook; I have come to find that there's a lot of people that don't have any idea how to begin their business. I was talking with my wife the other day I really wanted to write some things down to help those starting a business get a good footing and a reference point to start from. I am going to attempt to make this a multi part series to help all of you interested. personal injury lawyer Boynton Beach fl

    ReplyDelete
  34. I am glad for commenting to make you be aware of of the remarkable experience my cousin’s princess developed reading the blog. She realized a wide variety of details, including what it is like to possess a very effective teaching nature to make other individuals completely fully understand certain grueling topics. You truly surpassed our expected results. Many thanks for supplying the insightful, safe, edifying and as well as easy thoughts on that topic to Lizeth. cryptocurrencies

    ReplyDelete
  35. Nice site. On your blogs very interest and i will tell a friends. watch free movies online

    ReplyDelete
  36. Nice site. On your blogs very interest and i will tell a friends. Versicherungen

    ReplyDelete
  37. This is a terrific website, will you be interested in doing an interview regarding how you developed it? If so e-mail me! للمطاعم

    ReplyDelete
  38. Nice site. On your blogs very interest and i will tell a friends. Buy Psilocybe azurescens Online in UK

    ReplyDelete