Light spoilers for Charlie's Angels ahead.The smart, sexy ladies known as Charlie's Angels have been around since the '70s, with new generations taking up the title and continuing to fight crime and protect the innocent. The 2019 version of the film, which continues where 2003's Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle left off, features Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska as the titular trio. And this time around, the person who plays Charlie in the new Charlie's Angels fits the franchise's move toward attempts at modern empowerment.
The original show has been rebooted and rebranded several times since its '70s origins as what NBC executive Paul Klein scorned as "jiggle TV," which entertained audiences with scantily clad women. It's not that the Angels have become less sexy or alluring since the original trio of Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett, and Kate Jackson, but the 2000 and 2003 films bolstered the silliness of the TV show's convenient post-plot explanations while emphasizing the Angels' detective competence and fighting skills.
Charlie was originally a cipher, a voice (originally John Forsythe) coming through a speaker filling the Angels in on the latest mission details. While the voice and mystery remained through the previous reboots, the latest Charlie's Angels reveals a very familiar face behind the disembodied voice: original Angel Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith), who is now head of the Charles Townsend Detective Agency. Not only has she taken over as the new Charlie, she's also updated the Angels to a global network of Angels, each reporting to their own local Charlie and back up the chain of command.
Jaclyn Smith had already popped back into the fray as Kelly Garrett in 2003's Full Throttle, appearing as an angelic vision/possible hallucination to doubting angel Dylan (Drew Barrymore, also executive producer of the previous and latest Angels film incarnations) at a bar, reassuring her that every Angel was unique and she must have something worthwhile Charlie saw in her to let her join the team.
It's a pleasingly full-circle choice that one of the original Angels, who came up during a time when women still had to justify their place in the workforce, managed to create a new role for herself as CEO of the entire organization. While that unfortunately echoes the description of '70s women in the workplace given by Workforce, ("For a woman to succeed, there must be a man in her life who believed it’s the right thing to do,") if you believe in representation as aspiration, this is at least a baby step forward.
It's worth noting that iterations of Charlie's Angels might fit the description of what comic artist Kate Beaton and her cohorts mocked with their Strong Female Characters comics, in which a veneer of toughness surrounded by very little clothing can often mask leaning in to female stereotypes. The main difference is that Charlie's Angels in all its iterations — however viewers felt about the stories' ludicrousness — did actually give its Angels enough character that Kelly Garrett can come back and have resonance with audiences who first saw her fighting crime on the small screen.