There was once a time, a very long time ago, when I considered Peggy Carter to be my second least favorite of the Marvel Cinematic Universe heroines. It wasn't that I hated her or anything; not at all. I just felt that she didn't get much time to shine in Captain America: The First Avenger versus Black Widow in any movie, Pepper Potts in any Iron Man movie, or Jane Foster in any Thor movie. Several MCU films and a TV series later, I realize I just didn't properly appreciate the role that Peggy played in Captain America — and that's the central theme behind her struggle in Agent Carter. Peggy is a phenomenal agent, soldier, worker, and person, who is underappreciated because she is a woman in a time when women were home makers and Very Good Girls and little else. And that is exactly why Agent Carter should be the one show you watch in 2016: Peggy's struggle might be happening because she is a woman, but it's a universal struggle that anyone can relate to.
Think about the last time that you felt unappreciated. Perhaps you cleaned the entire house for once and your roommate or significant other came home and not only didn't notice, but just messed it right back up again. Maybe you pulled an all-nighter to get a project done for work, and your co-worker took all the credit for your ideas or, worse, your final project went completely unrecognized. Or maybe you worked for several hours on a piece of art that you shared online, and no one gave it anywhere near as much of a glance as another piece of art that took you five minutes max. No matter who you are, what gender you are, or where you're from, we all know what it's like to feel like we're not appreciated for all the hard work that we do. To want recognition. To want respect. Welcome to Agent Carter's world.
Peggy Carter is 10 times the hero that any superpowered member of the Avengers is, because she does everything that they do without any superpowers. Anything in her immediate area becomes a weapon, and she can take on a mission that requires three to five agents with ease. This is a woman who escaped from a building that was exploding by jumping on top of a speeding car and hanging on for dear life. This is a woman who stood in front of a car that was racing toward her, her pistol aiming true, and did not move until tackled out of the way by Captain America. This is a woman who, were Captain America still around to give orders, would have been the person he told everyone to "do as Peggy says" about. This is the person who national hero Captain America considered as his personal inspiration to the point that, even 90 years later and questioning everything that he fought for, Steve remained an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the sheer fact that Peggy helped to found it.
But even thought Peggy Carter was introduced and defined by her relationship to Captain America, she is so much more than that, and her role in the MCU has grown so far beyond that, that it's laughable to point to him as your reason to watch her in action. Peggy's popularity in the MCU is such a point that she went from being a footnote in Captain America's history in the comic books to having more cameo appearances in Marvel movies than almost any other character, and landing her own television series that will be airing its second season in 2016. She is relatable in a way that very few Marvel heroines are. None of us are as badass as Natasha Romanoff, nor have we dealt with the kind of emotional and psychological horrors that Black Widow has. None of us are anywhere near as capable as Pepper Potts is, nor are we running a multibillion dollar company. None of us are as intelligent as Jane Foster is, nor are we the leading scientific researchers in our field.
But all of us have been stuck in a job that we hate, or a job that we love but in a position that we hate, or a job that we love in which we're not getting the recognition or respect that we feel we deserve. All of us have been desperate to prove ourselves. All of us have gone from being in a place where we reached our potential, where we'd found our niche and where everyone knew us and what we could do, to being in a place where no one knew us or what we could do or, worse, just plain didn't care. Whether you're a member of the work force or just switching schools, all of us have dealt with what Peggy is dealing with on Agent Carter. All of us might not be dealing with these things just because we're women, but her journey is universal and will tug at your heartstrings — especially when you see that Peggy is every bit as talented as her co-workers, if not more. The fact that she never stops fighting for that recognition, the fact that she knows her value, is an inspiration that will push us to fight for respect in our own lives.
Let Peggy Carter be your role model in 2016. Let her show you that if you work hard enough, fight long enough, and speak up for yourself enough, then you can make people give you the respect you deserve. Let her show you that it doesn't matter if you're a woman or a person of color, that it doesn't matter if all of society has their cards stacked against you, that you can overcome and you can win in the end, no matter what it takes. Let her show you that a can-do attitude will take you far in life, and that, while there will always be people who take your credit or refuse to acknowledge you just because of who you are, there will also be friends who support you, people whose minds you can change, and opportunities that you can take advantage of to advance yourself.
Let Peggy Carter show you how to be a real hero in 2016, just like she showed the world in 2015. For her, it's just another day at the office.