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The Avengers

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To NYU film professor Miller, The Avengers isn’t merely a witty espionage series from the ’60s. It’s also a manifestation of the era’s changing attitudes toward fashion, sexuality, camp, pop art, and bondage, with Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel its leather-clad proto-Xena and Patrick Macnee’s John Steed its symbol of stuffy, pre-Beatles England. Miller’s well-researched, well-considered book supports his arguments. Unfortunately, its term-paper prose rarely captures the show’s zippy flair, and noninitiates —like youngsters primed to see the forthcoming film version starring Uma Thurman and Ralph Fiennes — will be baffled by the book’s Avengers arcana. Too often, Miller writes like one of those stuffed shirts whom Emma would dispatch with a karate chop and a beautiful smirk. B-

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