Oh, the Persistence of Early Sexual Imagery: The Power of Charlie’s Angels

When the schlocky ‘70s action series Charlie’s Angels debuted in 1976, I was a tender and impressionable boy of five.  I responded immediately to the show’s good-gals-always-win plots, whereby the three foxy angels (magnificently played originally by Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, and Kate Jackson, though Diane Ladd would replace Fawcett by season two), tackled crime with the force of specially trained super-agents and the style and panache of the most refined debutantes.  These hard-working ladies of law and order did triple duty: protecting Southern Californians from the dregs of society, providing incredible eye candy, and breaking down conventional gender stereotypes for one of the first times in television history.  Young as I was I had no conscious awareness of any larger societal theme, but as it turns out, those darned Angels have persevered in me while other wonder women have come and gone.  

During the show’s five year run, my interest grew larger and larger.  I was intrigued by the mysterious “Charlie,” the never-seen but richly-voiced proprietor of the Charles Townsend Agency, for whom the angels went to work after growing frustrated by their drab police desk jobs.  There was also Bosley, the angels’ liaison to Charlie, who didn’t often get into the thick of the action, but was always available to have a good chuckle after another plot was busted by the buxom threesome.  But mostly I was fascinated with those angels…how they managed to keep such perfect hair regardless of the situation, how they were able to perform incredible martial arts moves in high heels, and the way their derrieres looked in their tight-around-the-butt but flared at the ankle synthetic slacks. Continue reading