On Alias

You've Come a Long Way Baby

A Forty-Year Leap for the Spygirl from the Swingin’ Sixties to the Naughty Oughties

By Susan M. Garrett

They were more than flash and dazzle, those slinky sixties spygirls who could deliver karate kicks in go-go boots without turning a hair or breaking a heel. Women like Emma Peel (The Avengers), Agent 99 (Get Smart) and–yes, heaven help us–even April Dancer (The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.) could be counted upon to offer their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor and their non-waterproof mascara to protect the forces of freedom, goodness and niceness from evil, power-mad individuals and organizations. They’re Sydney Bristow’s predecessors on the small screen–independent and self-reliant, with a sense of duty toward justice and honor.

So what happened? How could the virtual descendent of those sexy female superspies from the nuclear age and nuclear families, as gifted, intelligent and resourceful as her forebears, find herself in a world where she is everything to everyone and yet lost, searching for a personal identity?

Let’s face it: the Cold War was a hot place for spygirls. It was Us against Them–depending on which side of the Iron Curtain your safe house was located–and there was no real question as to who was wearing the white hats. Whether fighting mad geniuses, KAOS, THRUSH or the KGB, a spygirl could usually unmask the bad guys (hint . . . they had accents) just before the last act faded to commercial. There was no question that a spygirl could trust her boss, or her partner or her family–if she had any–because a sixties spygirl wasn’t about trust.

A sixties spygirl was about empowerment.

By the mid-sixties,  …

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