Starring as Agent 99 in the American television series Get Smart, she was less a clear femmedominant than a transitional character, and one in which television — with its broader, and largely under-18, audience — if anything played catchup with the cinema.
A helpful facilitator, and then some, to Max Smart’s bunglingly successful Agent 86, Feldon’s 99 was more or less equiposed between a classic girl Friday, the helpful second fiddle femunderling secretary with just a little something extra, and a femme-ruler more capable than her nominal “boss,” a role Anne Hathaway enjoyed in the 21st Century movie version.
(Considering the TV show took place in the 1960s, we may, of course, fully credit Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the series creators, with developing 99 as far as they did… foreshadowing Hathaway’s futher extension of this femmetasm in the theatres. And, indeed, nearly everything achieved by Mary Tyler Moore did in an even more popular show in the 1970s, Feldon did almost a decade earlier in Get Smart.)
In the series, Feldon was usually cheeky, but almost never dominant, or even commanding. She most often used her omnicompetent abilities, and her feminine charms, to save Max after or before the fact, from the results of whatever his latest bungle was.
In “Washington 4, Indians 3,” she arrives in a black leather cowboy outfit to rescue 86 from an arranged marriage to the chief’s daughter. In “Now you see him, Now you don’t,” she suggests Max use a fireplace super-vacuum to immobilize a KAOS malefactor.
In other episodes, Feldon can be seen saving Max by pushing him out of the way of a sniper’s bullet and an assassin’s knife; preventing him from drinking poison; pulling hm out of quicksand; un-freezing both Max and the Chief from a Medusa-filia state of petrification; and carrying out other femme-fili-acts of salvation for Max and othe other males.
She achieves no kills that we can find (if you know of any, please pop editrix an email), and, indeed, given the nature of television comdey at the time, there were few deaths of any kind on the series, femme-fatale-induced or otherwise.
Even these tongue-in-cheek woman-saves-man happenings, of course, were qualified by the fact that 99 was always presented as a somewhat jealous femme, out to guard “her man” out of a desire to serve him, more than use him.
On the other hand, even this matriarchal-sisterly strain of femmetasm involved a subtle role reversal, and one audiences found sexy (especially males.) In classic patriarchal society, man protects woman. Here, the woman, 99, having aroused the enemy, the audience, and Max and the other Control Agents, has to protect the men.
“He,” in his state of hypno-worship, just isn’t capable of “performing.”
Futhermore, as the series developed, 99′s character become more and more saucy, and even more essential to Max and even the Chief. She frequently played the kind of role Batgirl did in the more camp Batman TV series and the Alicia Silverstone movie role.
Feldon never developed an evil alterego along the lines created for femme-fatale-wannabes in I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched. But her main character developed into a sine que non to Control’s save-the-world missions.
At least once or twice an episode, 99 looks at the camera, usually after having saved Max. She and the audience both share a moment of mutual awareness that it’s the woman who has made the world safe for a future femocracy run by Emma Peel, Barbara Gordon, or the Girl from Uncle.
Indeed, in series promotion, as opposed to the series itself, Feldon stepped out a little father into her role as “the capable one” in the 86-99 pair, as the TV Guide covers nearby suggest. Brooks knew perfectly well the power of the femme fatale, especially the good girl with more than a hint of femdom, a femmetasm he invoked well in such movies as Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and High Anxiety.
All of which gives Feldon a deserving place in the pages of WomWam. For more images, videos, and discussion and updates, make sure to join the WOmWAm group, here. All you need to do is click, Max.
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