Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, better known as C2E2, was back this year at Chicago’s McCormick Place from April 24-26. The annual convention was dedicated to all aspects of popular entertainment with a particular focus on comics, movies, and television. C2E2, founded in 2010, may be one of the nation’s younger conventions, but you wouldn’t know it by the convention’s impressive lineup of panels and special guests this year.

Among the many wonderfully engaging and entertaining panels this year was C2E2’s Kick-Ass Women of S.H.I.E.L.D panel featuring AGENT CARTER’s Hayley Atwell and MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D’s Ming-Na Wen. Both women were invited to discuss the challenges and rewards that come with being two of the most kick-ass female heroes in a universe dominated by men.

The tone of the entire Q&A panel was upbeat and lively with a procession of questions from fans of both the television shows along with fans of Atwell and Wen. Many of the questions asked reflected current concerns about sexism in the industry and minority and people of color (POC) representation in the media, especially in Marvel’s wildly successful television and film properties.

Atwell and Wen both expressed how fortunate they felt to be part of the Marvel Universe which they felt was doing a particularly good job of representing a wide and diverse array of characters, including women and POC (such as Netflix’s upcoming JESSICA JONES and LUKE CAGE series). Wen credits Peggy Carter, the founder of S.H.E.I.L.D, for the reason why the organization is particularly diverse, placing emphasis on an agent’s skill and abilities rather than their gender.

WANT: Click here to revisit Agent Carter’s comic book and cinematic history!

They were also keen to stress, however, that female representation goes beyond simply including women in media; it also means representing a realistic spectrum of women. After all, women are people, too, and embody the same multitude of personalities and motivations as afforded to any man.

In discussing their real life experiences with sexism in the industry, Wen admitted that she believed that sexism “is sort of a forever problem,” but asserted that the industry “has made great strides” and that she is thankful that she “gets to work in a place that offers so many strong female role models.”

Atwell also expressed similar sentiments, adding that “sexism is more subtle now […] we have to seek it out and expose it for what it is.”

When asked what it meant to them to play a “strong heroine” by one fan, Atwell said she aspired to be like her character: “Peggy is someone I aspire to be like […] she doesn’t deny her femininity but doesn’t completely depend on it.” Atwell described Peggy as a “take no shit” kind of woman, while Wen preferred to describe Agent Melinda May as “vulnerable” because “all people are vulnerable” and that “her vulnerability is her strength.” Wen also wanted to show people that there “isn’t anything wrong with being feminine” and that feminine women should be able to see themselves as equal to men.

CLICK: Check out ComicVerse’s recap of MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2!

AGENT CARTER has attracted significant positive media attention for its treatment of female friendship. Critics and fans alike have praised the friendship between Peggy and Angie, noting their mutual support and respect for each other. Atwell too voiced her support for the friendship, saying she found it refreshing to have two females on television “who are not competing with each other, who are not talking about guys all the time” and who “love each other and respect each other.” On Peggy’s friendship with Angie, Atwell said, “I hope she finally feels safe enough to confide in someone. I think that’s what she’s been missing in season 1.”

One of the more enlightening and shocking moment of the panel came when Wen recalled a time she confronted the directors of a terribly written script in which “all the girls just take their clothes off, go to the shower and get killed […] make out in the car and get killed…”:

“After speaking with these gentlemen about it and realizing that they had very little respect for women even way back then […] I called my agent and said ‘no, I’m not interested […] no nude scenes and your script sucks.’” Wen then recounted how the directors, in response, asked her how she thought she was “going to make it without doing any nude scenes?” Wen then concedes that actors will “always have to take a role every now and then to pay the bills, that’s a given…” but advises them to “try to at least walk away feeling good about your job.”

Aside from tackling sexism, Wen also discussed disabled representation and ageism in the industry. On the absence of disabled heroes in the Marvel cinematic movie universe, Wen voiced her belief that most of the heroes in the Marvel Universe have disabilities in one way or another “in the sense that they feel like they don’t fit in” and referenced MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.’s recent Inhuman storyline. “It’s about people with extraordinary powers who are ostracized or feared or misunderstood. Those are all handicaps and disabilities as well […] it’s our way of saying no matter what your handicap or disability [is], everyone should have a chance to shine or contribute to society… that’s the underlining human story,” said Wen.

Wen also hopes to fight ageism in film and television, commenting that as an older actress in the industry, she wants to show that it’s not how old you are, but rather that it’s about taking care of yourself and being confident. When asked about reprising her role as Mulan in Disney’s rumored live action remake, Wen said she had no plans to reprise the role “unless this Mulan is later in her years…” but hoped that the actress would at least be Asian.

Besides discussing sexism, minority representation, and ageism, Atwell and Wen also revealed which scenes resonated the most with them while shooting.

Want more convention coverage? Click here to check out ComicsVerse’s exclusive interviews with writers and artists!

Atwell describes the scene during which Jarvis gives Peggy a vial of blood and she takes it onto the bridge to say her goodbyes to Steve Rogers “so she can move on with her life even though [Steve Rogers] will always be a special part of [Peggy’s] life…” For this scene, along with other scenes of Peggy coping with the loss of Steve Rogers, Atwell drew heavily on her grandmother’s “elegance and dignity” during times of trial.

Wen chose a recent scene she filmed about May’s backstory that explained why she is called the Calvary, but she also expressed fondness for any scene with Coulson, played by Clark Gregg, that explored how May and Coulson bonded and how that friendship changed May.

The panel concluded with a question asking both actresses what advice they would give to younger female fans. Atwell said, “I think Peggy says it at the end [when] she says ‘I know my value’…I think sometimes we forget [and] listen to people telling us we aren’t worth it… cultivating that self-respect and self-worth is so important in becoming the person we are meant to be.” This powerful message of self-validation was echoed by Wen who hoped to remind girls, including her 14-year-old daughter, to love themselves and to be proud of who they are.

Watch AGENT CARTER and MARVEL’S AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC and stay tuned for more C2E2 news, interviews, and panel recaps!

Show ComicsVerse some Love! Leave a Reply!