February 24th is the season finale for “Agent Carter”. So far, the show revolving around Marvel’s Peggy Carter working for the SSR has been almost perfection in how to create and maintain a serialized drama. Carter is a strong character who bows down to no man and simply wants her accomplishments acknowledged as she tries to make the world a better place. Despite the comic book world, Peggy faces a very real reality for so many women in 1946 that were respected for their abilities for World War II. Then, the male soldiers came home needing jobs and the women were told to go back to the kitchen. Again and again, the series hammers home how difficult life could be for women.
With such importance placed on the role of women and their often mistreatment, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to have the Red Room bought into the series. Russia’s secret weapon was to teach girls how to use those lowered expectations and sexual attraction as a weapon against everyone standing against them. In the best use of Disney synergy since I’ve Got No Strings in the “Avengers: Age of Ultron” trailer, the perfect American example for the girls to emulate was none other than Snow White. Should females fighting females over something other than men also be included in the Bechdel Test?
The series also has Enver Gjokaj as Daniel Sousa; a veteran left disabled by the war. While Peggy has decided not succumb to society standards for her gender, Sousa has resigned himself to second-class status due to his disability. It’s a welcome sight to see this on television especially on one of the original networks.
Completing the main cast is James D’Arcy as Edwin Jarvis. While quite different from his comic book counterpart, this Jarvis is perfectly suited to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and even bears a resemblance to Paul Bettany. In fact, since viewers were familiar with Tony Stark first, Jarvis comes off as a gender-swapped Pepper. He attends to Howard Stark’s every need from laundry to travel plans to making sure the latest female conquest has been escorted from the premises or “taking out the trash” as Pepper called it. This was touched on a little in the first “Iron Man” but “Iron Man 3” tried to make Tony’s previous exploits more about using people equally. Agent Carter spent a whole episode on how cruel womanizing can be for the female partners.
Does it sound like there’s a ‘but’ coming? Because there’s definitely a ‘but’ coming…
“Agent Carter” is one of the best new series this year but Peggy Carter lives in New York and is able to spend most of her life only coming into contact with Caucasians. It’s New York in 1946, not a Klan rally. In the one appearance of the Howling Commandos this season, at least two of the small squad were people of color which makes them more diverse than a city of 7 million. The usual argument is that hands are tied by the historical facts, but this is New York and there are two other factors that make that reasoning just asinine.
Plenty of contemporary productions also suffer from a lack of casting other races and ethnicities. “Juno”‘s cast was almost entirely Caucasian except for three actors. Try to name someone not Caucasian that’s appeared on “Supernatural” and aside from one cast member, “The Big Bang Theory” is also a sea of white people.
While it’s important to keep historical fact for films and television purporting to be truthful, should we really hold those same ideals for historical fiction that contains fantasy and/or science fiction? Does it really hurt the suspension of disbelief to add some minorities? Would a person of darker skin take your enjoyment away from dragons mowing people down in “Game of Thrones”? Marvel ignored over a thousand years of myths to cast Idris Elba as Heimdall but now people find it odd when confronted with the traditional version. Peter Jackson cast people of all races for villagers in “The Hobbit” trilogy which was an improvement over the first trilogy. In a situation where anything is possible, those rules should be extended to the race and colors making up the cast of the story.
Next Tuesday is also the final chapter of “Parks and Recreation” after seven seasons. Not only is seven seasons quite an accomplishment for a sitcom in this post-Youtube world but it was also a shining example of progress. It revolves around a smart, professional woman who’s allowed to be intelligent, strong and happy. She’s also surrounded by all genders and races. Of the cast, four are women and four actors are of color.
Disney’s newest release is “McFarland, USA”. As usual, a bunch of minorities with severe economic disadvantages need to have a Caucasian male come save them. This particular instance was based on a real story, but what about all those real stories that are ignored because it revolves around a woman or a Hispanic male or an African-American male?
Aren’t Shella Condino, Nathan Hare, Charlotte Forten Grimke and countless others also worthy of a film? Or does a film also have to include sports to get a national release? Would “Stand and Deliver” even be made today?
However, with a little effort, there are other stories out there. In 2004, a small robotics team consisting of four undocumented students with a robot made from mostly car parts competed against the best in the country, including MIT, and surpassed them. This feat was immortalized in both the documentary, “Underwater Dreams”, and the feature film, “Spare Parts”, starring George Lopez, Jamie Lee Curtis and Marisa Tomei. Neither film received a wide release but both are now available to buy or rent.
“McFarland, USA” does receive some brownie points for being directed by Niki Caro. Audiences should be familiar with her previous work, “North Country” and “Whale Rider”.
Did anyone pick up the new release, The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore and Andie Tong? This 463 page tome is about a Chinese-American teenager who develops tiger powers and joins others from all over the world with equally extraordinary abilities.
Next week will be about “The Kingsman: Secret Service” and more.