Daydreaming About Agent Carter’s Ana Jarvis
Guys, I'm having feels about one of Agent Carter's new characters.
Agent Carter comes back on the 19th, and the thing I am most excited to see is Ana Jarvis. In this promo, you can briefly see Ana, played by Lotte Verbeek, who I loved as Gellis Duncan on Outlander, but to explain why I am so excited to see Ana, I have to quote a certain movie adage: This time, it’s personal.
But first, I have to rewind to season one. I was watching the show because I love Peggy and wanted to support MCU women characters, but I was not expecting to hear that there was potentially a Hungarian-American woman on the show. I was surprised by how visceral my reaction was when Jarvis explained that he met Ana while in Hungary during World War II. At first, I figured it was just because my Grandmother was Hungarian. She became a displaced person during World War II, but after the war, she immigrated to America.
Yet the more I continued to think about it, the more I began to daydream about what Ana was like, what her backstory was, and inevitably, I began to weave details from my Grandma’s story into Ana’s.
Ana, I imagined, like my Grandma, was transported to Germany during the war. As the war ended and Germany fell apart, she tried to walk her way back to Hungary. She sewed her one piece of jewelry, a gold chain, into her dress and put the rest of her possessions in a red radio flyer wagon, and then she and her radio flyer walked down road after road. I imagined how brave and possibly ill-advised that was, walking through a warzone without protection.
I imagined that Ana, like my Grandma, stopped at a nunnery to rest one night and was told by one of the nuns that there was another Hungarian woman in the garden. I imagined Ana walking into the garden and seeing a woman sitting against a thick tree but not being able to make out a face. I imagined Ana slowly walking around the tree and being stunned speechless when she discovered that other Hungarian woman was her childhood friend, Ellie.
My Grandma never walked all the way back to Hungary (it would be decades before she returned), but I imagined Ana making it.
Like my Grandma, I imagined Ana as an unrelenting animal lover. Jarvis would buy her a canary for Christmas, but because Ana would tear the house apart to find her Christmas presents, Jarvis would hang the canary cage in the laundry shoot so she wouldn’t find it. Ana would have a goldfish named Fritzy that would live to an astonishing fifteen years, thanks to Ana’s skills at reviving him every time he floated to the top of his bowl. But Ana’s favorite animal in the whole world would be her dog, Duchess.
My Grandma loved her dog so much that when she immigrated to America, her dog had to come, too. She couldn’t afford two plane tickets, so she took a boat. Her dog, of course, got the plane ticket.
I imagined that Ana would not be a gigantic fan of Howard Stark. When Jarvis and Ana were on the tarmac, leaving for America, Stark would not have any dog coming with them.
“Listen, Toots-” Stark would say.
“Who do you think you are, calling me ‘Toots?’”
“-Either you come or the dog comes, but not both.”
So, of course, the dog would go, and when Ana finally made it to Stark’s Greater New York mansion, her dog would run into her arms like she had not seen Ana in years instead of two weeks.
I imagined all the littler details about Ana that came from my Grandma. Ana would prefer Hungarian cabbage to its American cousin. She would love sauerkraut (despite being a German dish), Steak Budapest, and veal paprikash. When she ate, she would use her knife to pile her food onto her fork. She would collect Hummel figures. She would love American junk food. She would have a gigantic cookie jar, filled with all the treats that Hungary still does not have. She would shower only in the evenings. Jarvis would have to enlist Peggy for help with hiding all of Ana’s presents, not just that canary, and even Peggy’s master spy skills would be put to the test by Ana’s tenacity. Hungarian does not have “he” and “she,” so Ana would struggle with using the correct gender pronouns, often mis-gendering someone, though more often than not, everyone (and every pet) would be a “he.”
Then, when I thought my daydreaming had run out, sometimes I drew upon my own feeling for Ana. For both Ana and me, the most musical phrase in Hungarian is “Köszönöm szépen” (kos-say-NEM say-PEN), which means thank you very much.
As Agent Carter announced that Ana would indeed be a part of the show and revealed details about her, my daydreams about Ana changed. Once they divulged that Ana had been working in a hotel tailor shop during the war, I found myself putting in other details that come from my Grandma’s stories. On their first date, Ana took Jarvis to Budapest’s Castle District, where my Grandma went for all her romantic rendezvous.
This has been a curious experience for me. Is this what it feels like to be a man? To feel a strong connection to characters because they represent a part of your family, and therefore, part of yourself? In the last few years there has been a push for better representation for women, and I know I am not alone in delighting in the results, even though there is still more work to be done. After often feeling like women’s stories do not matter, I’m starting to feel like I matter because another woman’s story matters.
That said, I think Ana is a little more complicated for me, because she hits close to an identity I rarely discuss outside of my family. There are heaps and heaps of World War II movies, but they often focus on soldiers, men, on Western European nationalities, or only on white people. All these years of voracious pop culture consumption, and never have I stumbled upon a Hungarian or Hungarian-American character. Before this, it had never occurred to me to go looking. It seemed silly to even bother. I think all of these thoughts, about women and representation, about the lack of Hungarian-American characters in American pop culture, about my own family’s history, were what made me have that visceral reaction during season one and then fed all of my subsequent daydreams.
There have been many critiques of Agent Carter’s lack of women of color representation, and it’s because the show is depicting someone so specific to my own identity that I very much agree with these critiques. I’m glad to see that, in the above promo, you can see that there is an African American gentleman that Peggy gets tangled up with, even though I also believe very strongly that one person of color is not enough, especially considering season two is set in Los Angeles. I like feeling attached to Ana, this character that I have not even managed to see yet, and because I like this feeling so much. I find myself even more determined to support diverse women characters, not just ones that fit some part of me. I want every woman to have a whole pantheon of women characters that explicitly represents them. Considering how many movies, tv shows, books, video games, comics, and other media there is out there, this is not the unreasonable expectation that some people argue it is. My Grandma died about a year and a half ago, but I know if she were here and could see Ana, she would agree.
(via ABC, image via ABC)
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