The Avengers is one of the strangest and best books on popular culture to come out in the last several years. Ostensibly a study of the sexy-hip British television series that gave us the mod fashions and whimsical self-parody of super spies Emma Peel and John Steed, this book is all it claims to be and much more. While fans of the series will find everything their hearts could desire, what is really presented is an in-depth introduction to the ideas and theories of pop and postmodernism. Using the show as a testing ground for the concepts of contemporary academic criticism, Toby Miller has produced a book that is eminently readable, rigorously researched, and eye-openingly informative. Providing a history of popular culture in explications of the development of "fans," the meaning of postmodernism, the point of pop, and the truth of genre, Miller's book is also endlessly fun, never turning into the dull exercise in manipulating jargon that so much theorizing devolves into. In fact, the intellectual aspect is so well camouflaged that one could easily mistake The Avengers for pure entertainment.
Toby Miller is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at New York University.