Archer: Espionage Adult Animation At Its Finest

SEPT / OCT 2016: BY SCARLETT GRANT

archer

Have you ever wondered what James Bond would be like in real life? Meet Sterling Archer.

He is arrogant and sexist, an alcoholic and a womanizer. At the same time, he’s also considered the world’s most dangerous secret agent. However, the only reason why he works as a spy is because it enables him to a luxury life of fast cars, spy gadgets, world travel and sex. As you have probably guessed, he is also the protagonist of the adult animated comedy, Archer (2010 – Present).

Archer is a homage to spies, espionage, and the Cold War and in general. The creator, Adam Reed noted that the show “cherry-picked the best and easiest from several decades”. However, much of the show is influenced by the stylistic elements of the 1960s. Multiple characters have hairstyles in beehives and the animation style is reminiscent of the famous Pop Artist, Roy Lichtenstein. Even, Chad Hurd, the lead character for the show remarked that “the end result looks like a 1960′s comic book come to life.”

This may sound appealing, even though the main character has quite possibly the worst personality on TV. But, while you may think Archer has a terrible personality, just wait until you meet his mother. Malory Archer is the head of the spy organization, International Secret Intelligence Service or ISIS (the name was dropped in 2014 due to the rise of the terrorist organization with the same name). This is also the same organization that Archer works for, making Malory his boss as well. Their relationship can be summarized by imagining if M was also the parent of James Bond.

Like her son, Malory is also an alcoholic. She constantly belittles her employees and uses their skills within ISIS for her own personal advantage. Plus, due to her own career as a spy within Archer’s childhood she was largely absent. Instead, Malory preferred to use a succession of boarding schools or the long-suffering butler, Woodhouse, to raise her son. At the few times she was present during Archer’s formative years, it was usually to administer “negative reinforcement” against the young Archer. Her relationship with her son is twisted and often inappropriate.

Then there’s Cheryl, the secretary at ISIS. She is ditzy, mentally unstable, and has unusual bedroom tastes. In fact, the entire office at ISIS is filled with bizarre people. Pam, the HR Director, was raised on a dairy farm and paid her way through University by competing in bare-knuckle boxing. Cyril is an able accountant, but has a traumatic love life; Dr. Kreiger, mad scientist extraordinaire and head of the research department; and Ray, another agent who is the closest person to a “straight man” in the series (somewhat ironic considering he is an openly gay character).

Last but not least is Lana, the only female spy at ISIS and in a constant war of love-hate with Archer. This comes from a relationship she ended with Archer six months prior to the beginning of the series due to his constant cheating and psychological issues stemming from his mother’s parenting techniques. An incredibly skilled agent, Lana is constantly dissatisfied with the fact she is regarded as the number two agent, due to the nepotism of Archer and Malory. Despite being depicted as a tall and beautiful woman, multiple characters have mocked Lana for having large and strong hands, much to her chagrin.

A large amount of the humor comes from the biting criticisms and conversations these characters have with one another. Definitely not a show to “tune out” while watching, otherwise you will miss much of the brilliant scathing wit. But the true humor comes from the sheer amount of anachronisms within the Archer universe. Smartphones exist at the same time as the KGB, and Fidel Castro is mentioned as the current President of Cuba. Woodhouse the Butler has stated he fought in WWI and Malory began her spy career during WWII, which if the series is sent in our current time, makes them pretty much ancient. The reliance on the verbal rather than visual comedy (don’t worry there is plenty of that too), makes this a delight for the ears. Although the voice acting of H. Jon Benjamin helps too.

Adult animation has an incredibly thin line, many shows have come and gone trying to imitate shows such The Simpsons or South Park in a bid for either desperation or just plain laziness. Archer is however, not desperate nor lazy. It is sadly, criminally underrated, with it only being able to view on either FX or Netflix. So, if you enjoy cutting comments, anachronistic humor and jokes on the line between tasteless and offensive, Archer is the show for you.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Scarlett Grant will graduate university this year. She is half scared and excited to be entering “the real world.” She is an amateur history buff, and interested in music, film and writing.

4 thoughts on “Archer: Espionage Adult Animation At Its Finest

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  1. So, I guess you could say it’s sort of like a parody? Because it takes different elements from the traditional spy genre and exaggerates them for the sake of humor?

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