The Mirror Room
Convergences: Emma Peel Diana Rigg
Domestic Life: Both Diana and Emma show several similarities in their raising, at least in terms of harmony. Although when she was only 7, Diana was sent back to England along with her brother to live with her grandparents, she always remembers that stage of her life with great emotion. Not only for all the things her grandfather taught her during those 3 years, but basically for a discovery which would change her character forever - independence.
Whenever her packed agenda allowed it, Diana took advantage of the chance to enjoy an outdoor life at her parents' house in Yorkshire. Her family has always been essential to her personal life and career as well, to the point of turning down important offers only to stay close to her dearest. As for Emma, we don't have exhaustive details on her domestic life, though we do know, thanks to the episode The House that Jack Built, that Emma has always remained so very close to her parents and has contributed to the success of Knight Industries, the family business she would take over once her father passed away.
Sense of Humor: Although many people think of her as one of the greatest exponents of the English tragedy, Diana confesses she never took herself seriously, which perhaps has prevented her from giving much more important performances than those she has so far. She describes herself as a person with an irreverent spirit. And if we take the trouble to check the reviews Diana got about several of her most acclaimed roles, we'll find that a number of them agree in her outstanding ability to transform an absurd or tragic line into a humorous and tongue-in-cheek one. The Steed-Peel association is regarded as one of wittiest ever seen on television, and obviously, the formula for this success lies in the shared sense of humor that always existed, and still does, between Patrick and Diana. Both Steed and Emma succeed to make us break into a giggle with situations as simple as Emma trying to put a peanut in Steed's mouth or playing the tuba at Steed's apartment. Not to mention those times at which both tried to have a serious talk, as inevitably they finished with a certain remark that suggested something more than a mere working relationship was going on...
Liking for champagne: It's in this point, perhaps, at which Diana and Emma agree more than in any other. Diana never denied her fondness for a certain bubbling drink, which incidentally was also Emma Peel's delight (although they actually sipped carbonated lemonade in the set, any imaginative viewer might decide that in fact, Emma and Steed drank champagne). However, a rule was followed every time Diana and Patrick shared a bottle of champagne: it could be taken only after the work was finished, never during rehearsals or filming. The same went for Emma Peel, who only clinked her glass with Steed's once the current assignment came to an end successfully.
Kinkiness: Diana always acknowledged proudly her lack of affection for brassieres, perhaps for finding them uncomfortable or perhaps for her eternal interest in generating controversy. This attitude encouraged Laurence Olivier to affectionately dub her "Tits" during her stay at the Sir Laurence Olivier National Theatre Company. In 1973, during a photo session to promote the series Diana, the first thing a photographer of Los Angeles magazine asked her was how would she feel showing her nipples, since NBC (the network airing the series) disliked the exhibition of nipples, navels, or another manifestation of the human body.
However Diana and Emma's kinkiness got merged together once, and this was shown to the audience through the Avengers episode A Touch of Brimstone, a highly controversial one, mostly due to its impressive scenes in which Emma was attacked with a whip, no less. Aside from these scenes, though, this episode will always be remembered for the extremely erotic garments Mrs. Peel wore in the presence of an open-mouthed audience (Steed being among them) when she was introduced as the Queen of Sin. Such costumes were designed by Diana Rigg herself, and consisted of a tight-on Edwardian-style black corset, high heeled leather boots, and 3-inch long spike collar. After this episode further evidence appeared around the fact that Emma Peel wasn't a disconsolate widow at all, but rather a bachelor excited by both erotic and dangerous things.
The Way She Dressed (Fifth Season): From the first episode of the fifth season, one can appreciate how Diana Rigg has developed the classy, true style in her character, especially through her clothes. The famed miniskirts, as well as suits and dresses in smooth colors came out. Leather suits were put aside, since in Diana's own words, "it [leather gear] wasn't me, it belonged to Cathy Gale" (The Complete Avengers, Dave Rogers). Alun Hughes, designer of Emma's new wardrobe, had been suggested by Diana herself. ABC's directives to Hughes suggested that he made her look feminine, elegant and dangerous, all rolled into one. Her active participation in her costume design, reflected how Diana felt much more comfortable with her character, to the point of wishing to dress her the way she usually did in her private life.
Her Determination: In describing the character of Emma Peel, the main attributes usually arise are: feline beauty, talent, conviction, and both physical and intellectual strength in times of crisis. Perhaps these characteristics are best reflected on Murdersville, where Emma hadn't even time to mourn the death of her childhood friend, since she had to keep herself calm and clear-headed so as to try to escape from that ghastly town. In the end, she succeeded with Steed's help, but prior to this, she did her utmost to escape on her own, because, as she said, "nothing is impossible". Other episodes in which her determination is also evident are The House that Jack Built and The Joker, both favorites among Emma fans. Many people, including myself, have come to admire Emma Peel due in no small part to these episodes, Emma proves that not all women lose their decision making and reasoning ability every time they have their backs to the wall.
Diana has showed these same features throughout her life: from the time she made her first steps at RSC, she always did all her best in order to play her roles as perfectly as possible. She even borrowed a bit of the stage scenery if necessary, or tried to get the most important female leads in theatrical history. This was always done with the strong determination to leave her mark in all the various entertainment media (cinema, theater, television and radio). Her natural disposition to acknowledge her mistakes, to learn from them and move on, married with a firm conviction have lead her to become one of the best actresses of her generation.
Her Independence: Emma Peel's independence and self-assurance is no doubt due in the main to Diana Rigg, no matter how many strokes the scriptwriters made over this character in order to make the viewer to understand. From the first episode, she enjoyed complete freedom. Emma's basic traits indicative of her total independence are: her expertise in kung-fu and tai-chi, which allowed her to deal with her opponent without having to ask for helpespecially from a man; her insistence on living alone with both social and sexual autonomy once she was widowed; the possession of a sport car (a Lotus Elan S2); her ability to deal with a tense situation all on her own, and to make decisions whenever she and Steed decided to split up during an assignment, in search of separate clues. Once again this is an art-imitating-life case. Diana found the independence she yearned for so much during her childhood, once her family sent her and her brother back to England for further education, and consequently she had to leave her parents, home, and all those who she knew and loved. She suddenly found herself amidst strangers in an unknown building, under high standards of discipline, yet rather opposite to the life of an ordinary child. That independence she would lead her to develop, through most of her life, quite negative opinions regarding marriage and the control a man could exert on her persona. In a way, these experiences left a bad taste in her mouth, to such an extent, that now in her 60s, after two failures, she refuses to talk about marrying again, just for fear of losing her beloved independence.
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