Honoring the Heroine: Amanda King

“Scarecrow and Mrs. King” is another show from the 1980s which still holds up quite well today. I admit, the premise that a housewife somehow ends up in the world of secret agents is more than a little far fetched. But to the credit of the writers, they did try to make it somewhat believable by first giving Amanda King an office job and then making up seemingly non-dangerous missions and reasons why she of all people has to work with experienced Agent Lee Stetson.

Amanda-King-Banner

I think a lot of people latched on the potential love story. But I always enjoyed mostly the clash between the world of spies and Amanda’s down to earth thinking. I also loved how it constantly pointed out that being a housewife doesn’t make you stupid. Amanda was sometimes overly naïve, but she also displayed obscure but useful knowledge based on something she did with her children or in during housework.

The problem I have with the show is the character of Francine. For three seasons she was created to be Amanda’s antagonist (in the fourth she was more or less her replacement). Which, in it’s core, I didn’t mind, because I get her being peeved that Amanda was allowed to do what she had trained years for. But the show had some sort of on-going Francine bashing going on. Not only was she career oriented, she was also portrayed as, bitchy, swallow, a gold digger and unable to do anything household related right. When the male characters acted dismissive towards her, it was also framed in a way that the audience was invited to take a “serves her right” attitude. In short, the show constantly send a message that it is okay to be dismissive towards career woman and that being one makes you undesirable for a long term attachment. Though at least Francine was usually featured as competent in her job, as were all the other female agents which turned up in the show. In fact the super agent per-excellence was a Miss Marple like old woman.

On the upside, the show also send the message that marriage is not the only thing a woman should desire, especially during the first season. In this one Amanda is freshly divorced, and in a new relationship. Her mother constantly tells her that she should marry the perfect new man in her life for the sake of the children, because it would be easier than searching for a job and so on. But Amanda keeps putting the idea off (and by the second season her boyfriend is history), and opts for living her own life instead. The episodes which feature Amanda’s former husband are also fairly thoughtful, addressing the subject of marriage being a responsibility one shouldn’t take lightly, no matter how much one is in love with each other.

In the end, Amanda King is not necessarily a feminist character, but she is an enjoyable, layered one. She was the heart of the show and constantly proved that one shouldn’t dismiss the intelligence of a woman just because she decided to be a housewife.

Quote: “Oh my gosh!”

Best Episode: 1.10 The long Christmas Eve (I normally hate Christmas episode, but this one is suspenseful and thoughtful).

Best Scene: Amanda falling down with her shopping bags. It was always my favourite scene from the credits, but it was sadly also the only one not lifted from an episode.

To be honest, I don’t really recommend the show to new watchers. I like it, but I suspect that for the modern audience it might look a little bit too dated, and especially the episodes set in foreign countries look laughable cheap. There is a certain campiness to it which can be enjoyable, but is certainly not for everyone. But if you are a fan of Kate Jackson (or Bruce Boxleitner for that matter), you shouldn’t miss this out. The first season is the best because the interaction during it is still fresh, the last season is the worst, because Kate Jackson was ill and the role of Amanda was reduced to one a few appearances in every episode.

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