Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Avengers: Patrick MacNee/John Steed in a Right Guard Advertisement which has caused me to reflect on how sexy old TV is

video
(Edit: this is my first experiment with the Blogger video player and I find it's not working for me so if you have trouble seeing the video I've also uploaded it here)
The fact that I am devoting a whole post to an advertisement does not mean that I have finally run out of TV to write about - it means that this advertisement has made me want to share some reflections here on the, well, sexiness and world of old TV.
'Sex began in 1963,' was how Larkin phrased the sexual revolution, and of course that was before the TV I write about here, or else more or less coincided with its start. Regular readers will know that I don't shy away from writing about the sexiness of the TV I watch. Yet on the whole it is a rather 'underground' sort of sexuality, which I suspect could be because of broadcasting standards at the time. And here's the thing - look up The Avengers on the internet, and I have to say that you will find some of the shows appearing on what I can only describe as fetish sites. The fight between Mrs Peel and the bare-chested man in You Have Just Been Murdered, for example. That's one which appears on sites for those who like That Sort of Thing. Mrs Peel's get-up for the benefit of the Hellfire Club is a rather obviously sexual image. But on the whole the sex in The Avengers is the incredibly-kinky-but-barely-visible-if-you-re-not-looking-for-it sort I wrote about in my post about Castle De'Ath. As  adults in 2017 I think we can be more frank about sex, but in sixties TV it is something that tends to be there but not commented on.
I think it is for this reason that I don't buy into the idea that Steed and Mrs Peel could ever get into a fling or a relationship. In line with the ethos of sex being there but not obvious, I think it only right that any sexual chemistry between Steed and Mrs Peel should remain just that. Nonetheless I see no reason not to comment on it when it is there, and obviously as is the case with my Castle De'Ath  post, the sexiness of the show dominates my post. I'm aware at this point that I am trying to say that we should make overt something which was intended to be almost subliminal.
Some of the shows I write about here are more overtly sexual. One of the things which prompted me to these reflections is that I have been listening to I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, with its strapline of 'full frontal radio,' which even as a child tickled me. While that also encapsulates the seen-but-not-seen aspects of early sixties nedia, I have a feeling that sexuality became more overt in broadcasting as the sixties went on, and I'm guessing culminated in the sex comedy films of the seventies. Of course I stand to be corrected on this. This greater sexualisation has presented me with some problems, actually. When I wrote a post about Monty Python, I didn't post the topless picture of the shop assistant in the 'Dull Life of a City Stockbroker' sketch, because I was unable to find out whether bare breasts would make Blogger insist on me having an adult content warning so posted it on my Flickr instead. The only breasts to appear on here so far have been these ones !
That said, the pictures on my flickr stream which get most hits are the one with some more overtly sexual element, even one entitled Mrs Peel wearing a catsuit! Obviously sex sells, as always, which brings me nicely to the subject of this post (you see there was a point to all this rigmarole about sex and The Avengers.
This advertisement dates from 1977, New Avengers era. There are two things which strike me about it. The first is that in my humble opinion this sequence of people having their clothes vanish and everyone know they're not wearing Right Guard, is incredibly sexy. While it is often talked about as the stuff of nightmares, the sequence of suddenly being naked in a public place is also one of those things which could very easily cross over into being a fantasy. This mixture of emotions is actually shown perfectly by the passengers on the underground, and there is a nice mixture of horror, embarrassment, and laughter at the clothes of some of the passengers vanishing. I find it interesting that the underwear is probably not the latest designs for the 1970s but is standard boring underwear, indicative of embarrassment and exposure. In the language of television I so often write about, which neatly chimes with the language of dreams here, this spells exposure of all sorts.
New Avengers era, remember. Which brings me nicely to my next point: in the middle of this underground carriage of people in their underwear is Steed. Of course it's Patrick Macnee, but to all intents and purposes it's Steed, since he is dressed as Steed, and of course sounds like Steed. Urbane and refined Steed. Who is completely unruffled by the vanishing clothes, and also doesn't seem out of place, but immediately knows what it means. This is the sexual undercurrent of The Avengers made obvious and also made the subject of the mystery.
Only in the seventies.
My source for the video was here, where I downloaded it, but I notice it is no longer up there, so I decided to upload it here myself.

2 comments:

Grant Goggans said...

Peter O'Toole ran into Macnee in an airport, and Macnee explained that he was flying to Toronto to make some New Avengers episodes. O'Toole replied "Patrick, you're ALWAYS making The Avengers!" I wonder whether this is what he had in mind.

John said...

Grant thank you so much - it is exactly what *I* mean!