On ABC’S Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, there is no shortage of empowering, three dimensional women – from super powered individuals like Elena Rodriguez and Daisy Johnson, to highly trained super spies like Melinda May and Bobbi Morse, there’s a lady for everyone to sympathize with.
As the show’s sixth season approaches, I wanted to take a look at one particular female character on the show’s roster – Jemma Simmons, who is neither a highly trained super spy or a super powered individual (officially, she’s not even cleared for combat) but instead a child prodigy with two PhDs, armed mainly with her intellect and compassion.
Out of all the characters on the show, the most inspiring is Jemma Simmons to me and my friends. Since – in my opinion – she rarely gets the spotlight she deserves in fandom, I wanted to celebrate this amazing character, brought to life by Elizabeth Hentridge’s flawless portrayal.
As soon as the idea came to my, I rounded up my friends and asked why Jemma Simmons inspired them, and the thoughtful responses blew me away. Here’s why we think Jemma Anne Simmons is one of the most inspirational women on TV right now:
She’s unapologetic & ambitious
Though Jemma was timid and cheerful in the first season, there was always an undercurrent of righteousness and ruthless that became all the more apparent over the years.
Between protesting Coulson’s orders in 1×15, to kissing Fitz for a second time in 3×08 – Jemma is unafraid to take the steps necessary for whatever she’s set her mind to, and is absolutely unapologetic in her beliefs – especially in science and morality.
Outside of her relationships, Jemma was also ambitious (and intelligent) enough to hold two PhDs in biology and chemistry by the age of seventeen, and was one of the youngest graduates at S.H.I.E.L.D’s Sci-Ops branch. As my friend (who is going into biochem as well) points out, there’s little doubt of how much adversity Jemma must’ve faced entering STEM as a woman – especially at such a young age, once again proving how badass she is.
And when you combine those two traits, you get an infinitely more ruthless Jemma, like in Season 4 when she clawed her way up through the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. after it was seized by the government, in order to have the power necessary to protect her team – and later going the extra mile by blackmailing then director Jeffrey Mace to avoid a polygraph test that would’ve outed her boyfriend’s non-approved side project with Holden Radcliffe, and the location of wanted vigilante “Quake” aka Daisy Johnson.
She makes the impossible possible
Although every character on Agents has had insurmountable odds and responsibilities placed on their shoulders, throughout the years, Jemma has been burdened with more than any one human could possibly handle.
Despite the overwhelming odds always stacked against them, Jemma finds a way to make the impossible happen – like saving Daisy’s life from the brink of death, or reviving Coulson, to fighting and killing an alien sea serpent for dinner on another planet.
Jemma almost always manages to beat the odds, and complete whatever challenge has been hurled her way with as much grace and wisdom as we’ve come to expect from her over the years.
It’s more common nowadays to find people mocking female characters who show an iota of femininity, and if you look at some females characters that are lauded as “strong,” they’re usually masculine-coded characters that show little vulnerability and often use brawn over brain. And that’s okay, too, because they are women like that. Except over the years, it’s been used as a weapon against “soft” female characters.
In a world where these traits are mocked, where women should stand alone and never fall in love otherwise they’re perceived as “weak,” Jemma is a damn breath of fresh air. Though her character is never defined by gender roles (especially with her relationship with Fitz, as he’s more vulnerable romantically, doing big gestures, and even walking down the aisle to Jemma), there’s no mistaking Jemma’s femininity.
From wearing pretty floral jumpers, to wearing cute hairstyles, to caring for her teammates, making Fitz his favorite sandwiches, to caring for Inhuman children and inspiring them to unlock their powers, Jemma is one of the most maternal characters on the show.
And aside from Elena (who is another badass inspirational character), Jemma’s the only one who has explicitly shown interest in settling down somewhere and having a family – in fact, in an aborted timeline, she and Fitz raise a daughter, who later gives birth to Deke Shaw, who eventually travels back in time and helps his grandparents save the world. Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey.
This side of Jemma, and that desire to have a family, is never depicted as a weakness (because it isn’t), and is has us rooting for Jemma to eventually get her cottage in Perthshire.
On a show as dark and angsty as Agents, it’s easy to forget hope exists even as an audience member. Yet, somehow, despite living in such a gruelling and daunting universe full of death and world-threatening villains, Jemma rarely loses her optimism.
One might even say Jemma’s fueled by hope, and uses that fuel to do whatever it takes to help others, or breathe hope into her fellow teammates. This trait of Jemma’s in most prominent in season five, when despite having been shown that they lose, that the Earth is destroyed, and that they’ve tried a hundred times over to stop it, Jemma never loses faith that they can cancel the apocalypse.
(Although, that faith did lead her into doing questionable things like playing Russian roulette with a cup of acid, but you know. That’s how it is on S.H.I.E.L.D.)
But even Jemma Simmons can lose hope, and that’s okay, too.
Throughout the seasons, Jemma has had to deal with her fair share of traumatic experiences – from being dropped into the bottom of the ocean, teleported to an alien world for six months, tortured, watch her boyfriend be completely “rewritten” into a nightmarish version of himself who hated her, to fighting for a better future for her unborn child, and losing her husband in the process – and for the most part, Jemma rarely comments on it, which might be frustrating for fans, but understandable for a fast-paced show like Agents.
But for a character who for the most part shoves her feelings aside (unless it’s guilt, because Jemma Simmons runs on guilt almost as much as she does hope), we have been gifted with a few scenes of Jemma completely breaking down, or losing hope entirely.
Which is beautiful. It’s a tender, vulnerable thing, breaking down. And it’s perhaps the most raw a person can be around anyone else, because you’re essentially handing someone a “here’s me at my most broken” card and having faith they’ll pick you up. The fact that Jemma is allowed scenes where she can break down into the arms of Fitz or Daisy, speaks volumes of her strength.
And as inspiring as that is, what happens after is more so: Jemma Simmons always stands back up. You can knock her down, take away everything she loves, torture her – hell, even kill her (nice try with the Framework, Aida) – and Jemma finds the strength and resolve to move forward, to get out of bed every morning with a smile on her face, and enough compassion to save the world. She finds the courage to carve out happiness for herself, even during the darkest of nights.
It’s a quality that makes her who she is, that makes her such a formidable ally to S.H.I.E.L.D, and a hero in her own right. It’s also the quality that inspires me to stand back up when need be.
Because if Jemma Simmons can do it, so can we.