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Fear not: this is not the usual long-winded post about nothing in particular, although there will obviously be more of those to come in the future, sporadically though they may.

Instead, a housekeeping note: I noticed recently that the Fun With Song Lyrics posts seem to be taking over here. And, while I enjoy those quite a bit, it seems like maybe not the sort of content the 3 of your signed up for when you subscribed to this blog. So I’ve decided to branch those out into their very own blog – funwithsonglyrics.wordpress.com, which you can choose to subscribe to or not in whatever fashion you choose.

To get with the times, there’s even a twitter account – @funwithlyrics – you can follow for updates, or send me requests if there’s a song you desperately want me ruin for you. In a couple of years, there will probably be an Instagram presence, and maybe a while after that, I’ll look into Periscope. Oh, and Reddit! Because that I’m sure will always be a thing. Just like blogging.

Anyway, there’s new content there right now – a close look at the weirdly bleak depiction of love in The Power of Love, by Huey Lewis and the News.

One other housekeeping note, which goes for that blog and this one too:  if you get the content sent to you in some fashion – like a reader or something – I’d appreciate it if you could still at least click over to the actual site  so I know someone besides me is reading this. I know I’ll always be my own biggest fan, but it would be nice to know that someone else is out there too.

Okay! Back to your Tuesday. Wait – Wednesday; back to your Wednesday.

For those who didn’t watch (and judging by the ratings, that’s just about everyone), Marvel’s Agent Carter is the story of Margaret Carter, aka Peggy, who, although she once dated the man who would become Captain America, does not quite live in the world of superheroes. Instead, she’s a modern ’50s gal-slash-spy whose savvy and tough regularly win the day.

In season 1, Peggy thwarted some plans involving Russian operatives undercover in the U.S., cracking wise and a few skulls all while wearing a sensible pantsuit, unless she was under cover at some fancy gala; never underestimate the nefarious potential of formal events. Her success in the field, however, was not enough for her colleagues back in the office to trust her fully, in part because she was British but mostly because they were all males and it was the ’50s and competent spy was not regarded as an acceptable career path for a lady. Yet, Peggy knows her worth and continues to fight for truth, justice, and the American way, in spite of the lack of respect and recognition from the men around her.

Unfortunately, season 2, which wrapped on Tuesday, was missing a lot of the spunk and verve that made season 1 such a delight. In the second season, Peggy relocated to Los Angeles to meet up with a few other members of her team that had also coincidentally relocated to the west coast. Peggy’s main office antagonist from season 1 – Jack Thomas – did not make the transition, leaving Peggy solely with a team of men who recognized her leadership and deferred to her judgement.

Which shouldn’t have been a problem, but, weirdly, the lack of sexism was a running disappointment throughout the season. I understand that the writers might have wanted to tell a different story than season 1, but, as a viewer, watching a woman fight monsters or secret KGB assassins is perfectly fine, but seeing that same woman fight again and again the everyday spectre of sexism – a very real threat we still face, lo these 60 years later -without feeling diminished or the need to prove herself, all the while wearing comfortable shoes? That is appointment viewing. Certainly, the long overdue recognition was nice to see, but the occasional appearance of Jack Thomas, who popped up from time to time to needle Peggy and flaunt his special brand of untrustworthy smarm, served mostly to highlight how vital that tension had been to the first season.

With Peggy getting along well with everyone at work – about which, more later – the burden of conflict for the season fell almost entirely on the villain, and here, too, this season was inferior to the first. Whitney Frost, a moderately famous actress and brilliant yet unappreciated scientist, absorbs a deadly otherworldly substance during an accident in a lab. The substance, Zero Matter, disfigures her in the most artful fashion, and imbues her with the terrific power to, uh. . .absorb more Zero Matter, and talk about how powerful it makes her? I mean, she does also have the ability to absorb actual matter from time to time, which leads her to kill a number of people who betray her as well as a bunch of rats that did nothing other than be be rodents, which was kind of sad.

But, despite all Whitney’s blathering, it seems that the main benefit of absorbing Zero Matter is that it gives her the capacity to absorb more Zero Matter; apart from that, it’s no more impressive than if she were harming people with more run-of-the-mill weapons. If anything, it’s less threatening, because the Zero Matter occasionally does not do what Whitney expected. Which is frustrating for her, but doesn’t have any kind of impact on the story because Zero Matter is a brand-new substance in the world and not well-understood by anyone, character or writer, is seems; without any definition, there’s nothing surprising about what Zero Matter does, since we have no expectation that it will do anything other than what is convenient for the story. Can Whitney absorb people’s matter from many feet away? Sure, but not when Peggy and Jarvis are escaping from her.

Poorly as Whitney compares to the season 1 threat in theory, it becomes even more starkly contrasted when Dottie Underwood herself actually arrives for a few episodes to show Whitney how it’s done. Whitney supposedly gets the upper hand in the scene they share, but Dottie later remains undaunted in her strange, non-romantic flirtation with Peggy, and Dottie is the one who escapes by the end of the episode. But, while the visit from Dottie makes Whitney a little less impressive, what it really throws into relief is how much this show would benefit if Peggy were working with a few of these strong, capable women, instead of against them.

There are two women on Peggy’s side, although they are unfortunately tangential to the action. Rose, an agent at the SSR who poses as a secretary in the headquarter’s false front, is called into service when the SSR is infiltrated and there isn’t anyone else they can trust. Rose is as capable as Peggy, albeit more comic-relief; it’s unfortunate she’s only recruited for the mission as a last resort. The other is Ana Jarvis, the inconsistently accented wife of Mr. Jarvis, who seems to serve no other function but to be fully supportive of her husband’s platonic relationship with Peggy, and then get shot, and then continue to be supportive. Ana appears to have an interesting back story, with her shifting accents and ready consumption of wine, so it’s a shame she isn’t given more to do.

The sororal relationships might suffer but the show does focus on the romantic ones, and here Whitney Frost does have the more compelling plot. Whitney gets involved with Ken Marino (played by character actor Ken Marino) after killing her husband, which, to be fair, was mostly in self-defense; repulsed by Whitney’s artful disfigurement and her Zero Matter absorption skills, her husband enlists the shadowy cabal behind his run for government to stop her. They neither succeed nor survive, freeing Whitney to turn to Ken Marino, an old boyfriend who never stopped loving her. So much so that he encourages her to flaunt her artful disfigurement – to that point, hidden neatly behind a well-placed lock of hair – to let the world see who she really is. It’s an unexpectedly touching seen, particularly given the ridiculouslness of the set-up, which is a credit to the actors. Wynn Everett as Whitney is remarkably vulnerable at this support, and her gratitude at finally being accepted for who she is is both heart-warming and heart -breaking. Ken Marino, as Ken Marino, plays his devotion to Whitney straight; there are no jokes in his feelings. For that brief moment, we in the audience genuinely hope those two will make it.

They don’t, though, because they’re villains. But still, even the failure of their romance  is more involving than Peggy’s who, sadly, is reduced to a rather conventional love triangle. It seems that, if Peggy is getting along with all her male coworkers, the only possible story is for her to have to choose between two potential romantic partners. Which, as much as I enjoy when the people inside the television succumb to their feelings to finally Do Kissing, due to the completely unnecessary dragging out of this plot it makes Peggy’s happy ending for the season that she finally picked a man. And, I mean, it was a good kiss: I was almost afraid for the fellow’s face, having to hold up under the onslaught of her feelings. But Peggy also completed her mission; she literally saved the world, along with a team of people who recognized her leadership and would follow her anywhere; it doesn’t seem like two grown-ups kissing should be equally momentous.

Even though Whitney Frost was captured and Peggy got her man, season 2 still ended on a cliff hanger. Due to poor ratings and a change in leadership over at ABC, prospects for season 3 don’t look great. Which is unfortunate; although this season was uneven at best, Marvel’s Agent Carter is a fun program with a game and capable cast, and, as the first season demonstrated, does know how to tell a good story. If there is a third season – and I hope there is one – I hope they can course-correct. I like Peggy Carter, and I’d like to see more of what she’s capable of.

One of the most interesting things about being an adult is discovering that the passage of time is neither linear nor entirely consistent. Which, of additional interest, is something that first becomes apparent when you realize that becoming an adult is a process that seems to happen entirely retrospect, as you look back on previous versions of yourself and realize that, like the belief that not wearing a watch is indicative of your refusal to live life by the rules of others rather than of you’re being an asshole who’s always late, they’re just adolescent phases everyone goes through to one extent or another, and only through identifying the end of one of these stages can you pinpoint a moment where you began to mature. And though many of these moments are deeply personal there are still more that are universal in nature and, some of these – like all good things – are related to clothes.

One major shift toward adulthood is understanding that, instead of weird, Mister Rogers was really on to something with the whole changing-his-sweater-and-shoes thing when he got home. Who you are outside the house is, often and especially as you grow, someone you have to be rather than entirely who you are. But at home? Put on your cozy sweater and your comfy slippers and chill. Or put on your best heels and fanciest pearls and vacuum. It’s all you, baby; it’s your castle, regardless of gender, and that means that you, as an adult, get to set the dress code.

As freeing as this understanding is – that, despite meeting the demands of the world you do still get to be yourself – one can not learn this perhap final, lesson of Mister Roger’s before one makes what I think is probably the biggest leaps of maturation a person can: realizing that underwear and socks are the greatest gifts a person can receive.

As a child, of course, any sort of clothing, wrapped in suspiciously thin boxes whose weightlessness betrays their contents before even an unnecessary and dispiritingly silent shake, is the worst present possible. Clothing wasn’t on anyone’s wish list, it can’t be played with, and no matter what alterations may have been made to differentiate this years style from lasts, a brand-new coat will always and only ever be a coat; it’s never going to be the iCoat 5.

Beyond that, however, is the plain and simple fact that clothing for a child is not a gift. Not from a parent, anyway; on the contrary, one of a parent’ s main responsibilities is to provide clothing for their child. If a family is financially equipped to give non clothing-based gifts, then clothes will be given to a child at several points during the year; coats, sweaters, underpants, whatever doesn’t fit from last year will have to be replaced. Getting clothes for a birthday or Channukah or whatever gentile holiday a family happens to celebrate , then, is not so much a gift as it is getting something you would have gotten anyway in lieu of a gift. While they may not be able to elaborate the reasons why, a child who opens a pretty wrapped box only to discover a pair of pants within instinctively feels an unsettling sense of having been ripped off.

Though clothing in general is not welcome, there is still a hierarchy of unwelcomeness in the different types of clothes that can be received: of the things you don’t want, underwear and socks are the things you don’t want most of all. Over-wear and wear-wear items can at least be seen by friends; there exists a possibility that they may be admired, yet, even if they are not, their very visibility gives the child an opportunity to express to a sympathetic audience what a terrible gift it was (i.e. “Look at this stupid coat I got for Tu B’Shevat”.)  The privacy of underwear, however – especially for girls, who spend a large part of their early years learning that the primary reasons they shouldn’t pull their skirts up above their head while they twirl around is that it leaves their underwear uncovered – denies children this outlet. Unseen, friends can’t bring it up, and as underwear is not something that gets discussed on a day-to-day basis (possible exception: underoos and how they are awesome), a child has no option but to suffer their underwear “gift” in silence.

What motivates a parent to think that clothing, especially underwear, is a good gift for their children is unknown; perhaps it’s backlash against the allowance mafia that forces them to pay their kid to do things – make their bed, clear the table- that the kid ought do anyway; maybe they’ve completely forgotten their own childhood and thus the disappointment they felt when, underneath that pretty bow, all they found was tube socks; possibly, it’s that the condition of being a parent has them so addled and overwhelmed that they can no longer remember who loves being gifted with underwear (adults) and who does not (everyone else).

What makes underwear so great a gift for an adult is precisely the same thing that makes it so terrible for a child : that it is a necessity. Unlike a child, however, who doesn’t have to spend his unearned allowance on necessities, an adult understands that underwear is unbelievably expensive. And unlike a child’s underwear, which comes packaged with several other pairs and is then appropriately priced per package, grown-up underpants are priced per pair. So that 45 dollars (if you clicked the above link above) is for a single pair of plain white cotton underpants, and that’s not even the highest end of the spectrum; longtime readers might recall the story of a furious argument had by my mother and sister caused by a pair of $80 underpants; as I never saw the garment of contention, I can’t say what exactly accounted for their very high cost, but I assume they were sentient, willing to clean your bathroom for you, and made mostly of gold.

Even at the lower end of the spectrum, underpants can still represent a sizable investment, one that has to be made again and again. Underwear is infinite for children because they will most likely outgrow it in the normal course of a year; subject to only a short year’s worth of washings, it is nearly as sturdy at the end of that time as was on Christmas day. An adult, however, discovers the sad reality that, like themselves, underwear is mortal and its lifespan is tragically short; even the most expensive and well-cared for underwear will suffer from snapping elastic and seams giving way some day. And on that day, you too will have the child’s sensation of being ripped off as, instead of buying something you really want, like a  watch or the band Hanson’s new beer (and seriously – if you somehow read about MMMhop IPA and didn’t immediately think of me and how I’d be drinking it, you and I need to sit down and have a serious discussion about priorities), you will have to spend your hard-earned money on underwear.

As though the indignity of having to take from your own paycheck for underwear weren’t enough, there is the further sad realization that buying underwear is not fun no matter how old you are. [The exception, of course, is special occasion underwear, which is tremendous fun to buy; however, another sign-post of becoming an adult is recognizing that not every day is a special occasion, underwearily speaking.] In fact, it’s even less fun when you have to go out and buy it yourself. It’s possible that gentlemen’s undergarments do not undergo the same sort of overhaul in style with the same frequency as a lady’s, but speaking as a lady, it is practically impossible to find the same pair of underwear from one year to the next. Either the style is discontinued entirely, or it’s altered enough that it no longer works for you, or it’s for some reason sold only online whereas previously you could just walk down to the store to buy it, so not only are they taking more of your money as you now have to pay for shipping in addition to the high cost of the underwear itself, they’re now also stealing your exercise. The happiness felt when a proper pair is finally found is fleeting at best, since you know, there in the back of your mind, that not just this pair of underwear but the entire phylum of style and fit it represents is critically endangered and even though its habitat is expanding every day, there is a good chance it will have vanished entirely the next time you go in search of it.

Getting underwear as a gift frees you from all of it – the expense, the hassle, the contemplation of your own mortality, the tears. It allows more of your money to be spent on things you truly want : trips to Sweden,  fancy kitchen gadgetry, gifts for your friends, tiny kittens and toys for them; and other things you really, really need to spend money on : rent, the phone bill, food, tiny kittens and toys for them.

Now is the time of year when people’s thoughts turn naturally to what sort of gifts would be most appreciated by the people in their lives. If you’re a parent, one who’s thinking underwear might be a good gift for your children, I urge you to remember : it’s only a good gift if they would otherwise have to buy it themselves. And if you – parent or otherwise – are thinking of buying a gift for me this holiday season, the boring item that I don’t want to have to buy for myself is sturdy clothes hangers; I took care of underwear on my birthday.


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