Feminist Icons of Archer

When I first watched Archer, I thought ‘Great, another show about a gruff, suave white guy saving the day, and he’s a hilarious ironic sexist to boot. Y’know, that ironic sexism that’s basically just regular sexism with a hipster beard and a skill for making vegan quiche’. And Archer himself is all those things. But the show isn’t. The show’s far smarter than that, and has one of the best female supporting casts on TV. Obviously it has its problematic elements (what comedy show doesn’t?) but overall, there’s a lot to love. So, in ascending order, my top 5 Ladies of Archer!

5. Krieger’s Holographic Bride

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The Bride reminding Krieger he will never live up to Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Krieger’s Bride is technically an exercise in objectification. She doesn’t have a name, wears an insanely skimpy wedding dress and exists purely for Krieger’s sexual gratification. And yet… the Bride doesn’t give him an easy ride. She frequently admonishes him, argues with him and gives him the cold shoulder. She makes no secret of his lack of sexual prowess. She’s intended to be a subservient sex doll and yet she refuses to fit into that role. And it seems kinda like she’s based on Rei Toei, which gives her infinite coolness points straight off the bat.

4. Cheryl/Carol Tunt

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Cheryl/Carol during her “Martian Queen” Fantasy.

Cheryl is another character that has a few issues, but in many ways is a rockin’ lady. Cheryl starts out as a fickle stalker who flippantly changes her name to one Archer can remember, but is later revealed as a deranged millionaire who aspires to becoming a beloved country singer. The big issue in Cheryl’s storyline is when Barry uses her penchant for choke-sex against her by trying to kill her during sex and no-one really has anything to say about that. That whole scene left me saying… “Um, can we talk about the fact that Barry tried to strangle Cheryl to the point of death?!” It’s a shame that was handled the way it was. I don’t expect Archer to deal with the ‘big issues’, but at least someone bringing up what a maniac Barry was would have been nice. Later in the same episode Archer is genuinely affected by being indirectly responsible for a man’s death, so it’s not as if the series doesn’t follow through on the serious aftermath of significant events, it’s just Cheryl’s situation wasn’t deemed particularly significant. However, that aside (and I can completely understand if that’s too big a ‘that’ for some people) the way Cheryl is portrayed is pretty awesome. She’s a wealthy heiress, but she likes going in to work just so she can mess with everyone. She has a wild imagination and for the most part, the rest of the team indulges it. She loves sex and doesn’t care who knows it, and none of the other characters have a problem with her rampant promiscuity and multiple perversions. (Well, some of the perversions gross them out, but they don’t judge her especially.) She’s kind of like a female Quagmire, and it’s unusual and refreshing to see a woman playing that sort of role.

3. Lana Kane

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Yep, that pretty much covers it.

Lana is the Bayonetta of Archer. Is she the distillation of every young hetero-boy’s wet dream, or just a sassy lady unafraid of strutting her stuff in her underwear? Probably a bit of both. But Lana’s also a working mother and the work she does is being the top field agent of an international spy agency. That’s pretty damn cool. Lana’s also very human; wracked with guilt at running around with a gun while pregnant and undergoing bouts of self-loathing for her on-going fascination with Archer. Lana frequently ending up in her underwear could quite easily turn her into an object, but it’s kinda hard to objectify someone when they look you squarely in the eye and tell you to “Jump up your own ass and die.”

2. Pam Poovey

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She may be down, but you can’t ever count Pam out.

Pam is my favourite. If this was a list of who I loved the most in Archer, Pam would top it with ease. In fact, the only reason she misses out on the top spot is because of being reduced to a boob joke in much of Archer: Vice. (Although this was at least addressed by several of the characters as something they felt uncomfortable or guilty about.) The conversations between Pam and Archer about their friendship in this series also go some way towards undoing the damage of Pam’s cocaine rack. She’s an HR manager who takes her job very seriously yet she’s also a bare-knuckle fighting champion. When she’s kidnapped, she makes her kidnappers regret it. She’s a skilled drift racer and has taken on the Yakuza and won, is the only member of the team capable of drinking Archer under the table and has a Byron poem tattooed on her back. So, how could anyone beat this woman?!

1. Malory Archer

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The patented Malory scowl.

Well, by running her own international spy agency, I guess. Archer has lots of ties with Arrested Development (Cheryl/Carol is strikingly similar to Kitty, played by Judy Greer in both series and Jeffrey Tambor also pops up several times, as does David Cross). Malory is perhaps the most significant link between the two programmes. Played by Jessica Walter, she’s a wealthy, privileged bitch with an unhealthy relationship with her son and a willingness to blackmail and manipulate to get what she wants. Sound familiar? But like Lana, it’s the glimmers of Malory’s humanity that make her great. Her shameless flirtation combined with her crippling fear that she’s no longer desirable. Her unconditional love for her son combined with her shame and fury that he’s such a willfully moronic idiot. Her admiration for Lana combined with her unwillingness to ever let a subordinate know their worth. As TV matriarchs go, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one than Malory Archer.

If you like badass women, you may also like my game, Female Crime World. (Shameless plug)

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