Diversity Aboveground- Why Marvel NEEDS Peggy Carter and Miles Morales
Almost since its premiere, “Agent Carter” has been the subject of speculation, pleas and emotional blackmail over whether there would be future seasons.
On one hand, it seems like a logical conclusion. “Agent Carter” perfectly filled the gap between “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”‘s winter and spring premieres eliminating the complaints about too many reruns in a season. AC averaged half as many viewers as AOS but a lot of people did wait to binge-watch AOS in its entirety last summer and it could be the same scenario here.
Last year, ABC waited until early May to announce the second season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” This year, that would just happen to coincide with the opening of Avengers: Age of Ultron. Why reveal their decision now when the next two months can be filled with more free publicity as fans beg, bargain, bully and create fanworks to get other fans to watch?
On the other hand, “Agent Carter” isn’t being shown in Britain. Channel 4, who’s in the midst of airing season two of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, “has no plans” to have it despite the majority of the cast being English. The fans with the greatest distrust also know that Marvel, especially Marvel Studios, doesn’t have the best track record with minorities.
Agent Carter started as fan grumblings. Almost as soon as Captain America: The First Avenger was released, people demanded more with Hayley Atwell’s character. Even Joss Whedon wrote a “beautiful” scene with her and Steve for The Avengers that was never filmed. Seemingly to appease the fans, Marvel made her the subject of a Marvel Short and made it part of the Iron Man 3 BluRay. Kevin Feige, Marvel president, equated her with Phil Coulson as a fan favorite which most took to mean that they needed to prove their love for Agent Carter the same way that they created “Coulson Lives”. Still, it took ten months after those remarks for Marvel to finally admit an “Agent Carter” television series.
The other character that fans wanted most to star in her own film was the Black Widow.
In 2010, Feige said of a Black Widow film, “We’ve already started discussions with Scarlett about the idea, but The Avengers comes first.” There was even a treatment done by Nicole Perlman, who wrote the original script for Guardians of the Galaxy.
In 2011, Scarlett Johansson said that it was up to the fans. “I think that Marvel has a very personal relationship with their fans, and I think if the fans want it, and the audience wants it, nothing’s impossible.”
in 2012, she continued, “I hope that the fans’ voice is loud enough and they want to see a Widow origin story, I know Marvel would be happy to entertain that. We’ve spoken a lot about it.”
in 2013, Feige stated, “There’s no definitive plans, but we have started talking and talking with Scarlett about what a Widow movie could be.”
In February 2014, Feige still appeared keen on the idea and mentioned of Avengers: Age of Ultron, “We learn more about her past and learn more about where she came from and how she became in that film. The notion of exploring that even further in her own film would be great, and we have some development work with that.”
In July 2014, everything changed. Johansson released Lucy where she was the title character who quipped, kicked ass and saved the day. It was everything a Black Widow fan could ask for except with more science, more philosophy and an ending that ruled out any possibility of sequels. Even more important, it made a lot of money, proving that not only was Johansson bankable without her male counterparts but a female lead didn’t need to be Angelina Jolie or based off a young adult novel series to be successful. Marvel had to give Black Widow her own film now, right?
In October 2014, Marvel Studios released their film schedule for the following five years with no mention of Black Widow. Instead, the films were projected to continue revolving around male caucasians until November 2017 when Black Panther would open. Six months later, Captain Marvel would get her own film, a full ten years after Marvel Studios released their first film.
Feige stopped giving any sort of hope as to a Black Widow film happening. “It’s about bringing new characters to the screen…Black Widow couldn’t be more important than as an Avenger herself and, like Hulk, The Avengers films will be the films where they play a primary role.”
That’s right, the Black Widow is nothing more than a glorified sidekick. Feige also mentioned how it was very difficult to rework film development schedules around one character like that.
Perhaps part of the problem is that the overwhelming majority of the creative team at Marvel are male Caucasians. Nicole Perlman is one of the few exceptions in the films. For two months, Thor: The Dark World was directed by Patty Jenkins before she exited during preproduction. The television series are much better.Melissa Rosenberg is developing “A.K.A. Jessica Jones” for Netflix. Maurissa Tancharoen is an executive producer and show-runner for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” as well as being an Asian-American. Aside from the customary Marvel appointments like Joe Quesada and Stan Lee, all of “Agent Carter”‘s creative team are female.
Of course, “experimenting” with television is far cheaper than a feature film. It must be how they can get away with having a cast that’s half-minorities like “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” or the future Netflix series with Luke Cage, several years before Black Panther has his own film. Plus, Sif has had more screen-time and character development in two television episodes than two feature films.
Otherwise, Marvel plays it safe by reducing women and those of other races into sidekicks in the films. Feige admitted as such even though he tried to make it seem like a good thing. Black Widow was introduced in Iron Man 2 since Iron Man remains their most popular cinematic superhero. Yes, there is also War Machine/Iron Patriot, Falcon, RESCUE and others but it’s not their name in the title. Even the latest Avengers: Age of Ultron commercial confirms who is and isn’t an Avenger. Despite the appearance of War Machine, Falcon, Heimdall and others, it appears that the Avengers roster is Caucasian only, all others need not apply. Luckily for Black Widow, she does count there.
The original comics are improving but still problematic. Remember when Marvel came up with the new female Thor and wanted everyone to praise them for it? Because it’s not as though a woman forced to take a man’s name in order to wield his weapon is sexist or anything…
Well, despite Marvel insisting it wasn’t a gimmick or stunt, that it was permanent…the new series ends in May. Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, Elektra, Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man and Storm are also among the casualties. It’s unclear in what form they may show up again.
With that brief overview of Marvel’s problems, it’s even more important that they keep a show with a female creative team about the first female S.H.I.E.L.D. director, Peggy Carter. “Agent Carter” not only has a smart, kick-ass lead but it does address the hardships of being taken seriously in a male environment in a funny and enjoyable way.
As mentioned before, “Agent Carter” is a beautiful bridge between the winter and spring premieres of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” If it’s allowed to go on long enough, it’ll be quite interesting to compare Coulson’s building of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. with how Carter and Howard Stark built the original version. The very last scene also started establish how HYDRA was able to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. so easily. “Agent Carter” allows more exploration of Carter, the Howling Commandos and the elder Stark without dragging down a contemporary film with flashbacks.
However, Peggy Carter is also scheduled to be in Avengers: Age of Ultron and possibly Ant-Man. With the Avengers sequel expected to be the biggest hit of the year, why not capitalize on that with more than just an appearance or two on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” ?
The other important part of “Agent Carter” is that it has a Black Widow by the name of “Dottie Underwood”. While we’ve only seen snippets of Natasha Romanov’s past and are promised to learn more in Avengers: Age of Ultron, “Agent Carter” has already had the Red Room and all that entails. One of the worst things about Romanov is that they neutered her character from the comics. She’s supposed to have a similar serum to Steve Rogers in her blood that decelerates her aging, gives her excellent healing powers and incredible strength. Then, Captain America: Winter Soldier comes along and says that she has a scar from almost dying from a bullet. While it’s important to show how everyone can be super in their own way, Romanov is not supposed to be just as powerless as Clint Barton or Maria Hill. Underwood almost makes it all better. She’s allowed to be how Black Widow should be with a command of many languages in different accents, able to seduce just about anyone, use any weapon she can get her hands on and be able to get up and walk away with a massive head wound from a height that would kill most Disney villains. If we can only have an ensemble film every 1-3 years with Romanov, at least let us have Underwood on a regular basis in “Agent Carter”.
Films aren’t like comics. Unless it’s a comedy, they don’t like to focus on what happens after marriage and children. In the comics, Peter Parker and Mary Jane have been married on and off for nearly thirty years with two children. In the films, they regressed back to before Peter and MJ even met. Civil War would never have been so powerful if Peter was still a teenager. The Marvel Cinematic Universe Civil War will be very different but could still involve Spider-Man and all his friends due to a deal with Sony. However, the teenage fans of Sam Raimi’s trilogy are now way past college and starting families of their own. The fans of the first Andrew Garfield film are three years older as well. Will they still keep settling for the same stories on-screen about a teenage Peter Parker and his problems in high school? Will they be satisfied in knowing they will never get to see Parker become one of the more mature members of the Avengers and mentor the younger ones?
There is a solution to Marvel and Sony’s obsession with keeping Spider-Man young and unattached. Marvel already has a Spider-Man with no main significant other and a personal history so obscure that the majority of movie-goers couldn’t complain that they knew what was coming or he’s not supposed to be with that person.
Miles Morales is also Spider-Man but he remains a teenager in the comics. He’s new so there isn’t a lot of backstory to go through or decades of personal attachment to certain storylines. He’s also biracial with a Hispanic mother and an African-American father. This could also be the answer to another problem.
Remember how Feige said he couldn’t just move around all the development schedules for one film? Well, he can for Spider-Man! Now, Black Panther isn’t until summer 2018 and Captain Marvel got pushed back to winter 2018. If Miles was involved in their Spider-Man usage, then that would at least take away some of the sting from bumping their only minority leads for yet another male Caucasian film.
As in the comics, Parker could be a mentor to Morales and help him learn his powers or they could be closer in age which has also been explored.
Who’s your favorite minority superhero?
I hope one day to watch Kate Bishop on the big screen.
Next week will be Kiki’s Delivery Service, Unfinished Business, Luthien and more…