In the last few weeks, I binge-watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and watched the first two seasons (s3 is set to air in the fall). While I am absolutely in love with this show, there are some elements to it which I have found are problematic. Here's an overall analysis of the show.
AoS has two main, reoccurring, Asian American, female characters; we see both of their pasts/stories explored in detail. First, we have Agent Skye, better known as Agent Daisy Johnson (played by Chloe Bennet). Daisy is a brilliant hacker, a wiz around tech, really. She is recruited to join a S.H.I.E.L.D. team led by Phil Coulson. Daisy is intelligent, sarcastic, and curious. She joins S.H.I.E.L.D. not due to a love interest, but to find out more about her past, herself, and her family. We see Daisy's boundaries tested throughout seasons one and two; we see her tied between her love for her family and her loyalty to her team. Always ready to be at Daisy's side is Agent Melinda May, sometimes called "The Calvary", better known as just "May". May's past is explored primarily in season two. At the start of the show, we see May act distanced, dedicated to finishing the job only; her only connection beyond work being the occasional one night stand with another agent. As we see May's past in greater detail, we begin to realize why she has distanced herself, and we see her grow closer to her S.H.I.E.L.D. team; eventually considering them almost as family. These characters are allowed to be human beings, no stereotypes placed on them, or "jokes" about race made towards them.
Jemma Simmons, or "Doctor" Jemma Simmons (she had two PhDs by age 17), or Agent Jemma Simmons, or Simmons, or Fitzsimmons; whatever you choose to call her, she is a biochemist and an adventurer. I've talked about her in a previous blog post, but basically, she's phenomenal. Simmons joined S.H.I.E.L.D. to explore her love for her field while also exploring the world. She's passionate about science, about working with her team, and has a great friendship with Daisy. While we still have yet to see her past explored in detail, we do know that she's highly intelligent, very strong, and dedicated to biochem.
The one thing I am concerned about, is the whole Hydra (Neo-Nazi organization) situation. I did, and still do, have an issue with Hydra and the graphic images involved with the showing of organization. Inhumans, who are special individuals with powers, are a targeted minority in the show. These people formed their own small societies to live in, seeking safety from the threat of intolerance and dangerous curiosity. Hydra, the Neo-Nazi organization, is shown conducting brutal human experimentation on the Inhumans. There is a parallel here which concerns me; Jews, Roma, disabled persons, gay/lesbian individuals, and others were the targeted minorities during the Holocaust, some of whom often formed small societies/communities. These groups of people were victims of human experimentation by the Nazis. The Hydra plot in AoS bothers me for this reason.
Another concern I have is (Ex-agent) Grant Ward. Grant Ward joins Coulson's S.H.I.E.L.D. team, the other members of the team grow close to him, as close as family. They laugh with him, talk to him, play games with him, form very intimate relationships with him; they rely on him, trust him. It turns out Ward is a Hydra ally working undercover at S.H.I.E.L.D.; he has emotionally manipulated the entire S.H.I.E.L.D. team. He even throws Jemma and Fitz out of an aircraft into the ocean. Not only that, but he is the instigator of two abusive relationships; in which he abuses, manipulates, and hurts two women, eventually killing one. When one of the women learns that he has manipulated her, she sobs in a bathroom, whispering "no" under her breath over and over again. Though through all of this, at times, Ward is still painted as the victim or sympathetic character, the storyline showing justification of his killing and manipulation of the team by explaining that he came from an abusive and violent family:
Skye: "Oh! Garrett, is the reason why you're a cold-blooded killer"
Ward: "I don't blame him, for the choices I've made"
Skye: "Right, I seem to remember you blaming your brother...or was it your parents? Man! I can't keep up
Ward: "My family tore me down, Garrett built me back up"
(Season 2, episode 3- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smPvZlwWkSg )
Ward later tries to get one of the woman he manipulated to feel bad for him, even guilty, by stating that he attempted suicide; describing in detail how he attempted. He then tries to earn her trust again by stating that he will never lie to her again. This painting of the abuser as the victim or sympathetic character is incredibly problematic, and basically dismisses/justifies abuse and murder.
Something I admire about AoS is the further development of Phil Coulson's character. He's pretty one-dimensional in the Marvel movies, but in this show, we are allowed to glimpse so many different sides of him. We see him helpless, in pain and scared. We see him as a leader, loyal to his team through almost everything. We also are allowed to view the friendship which forms between Coulson and Skye/Daisy Johnson. We even see further into the past, looking at his long-standing friendship with May and his working history with her.
And lastly, we come to Fitz. Fitz is an adorable science professional who works alongside Jemma Simmons. The two are so close that the team begins to refer to them as "Fitzsimmons". Eventually we see a more romantic aspect of their relationship develop, but their history goes all the way back to their teenage years; they joined S.H.I.E.L.D. together. Fitz is shown as one of the most emotionally and physically affected persons of Ward's abuse. As you may recall, he threw Simmons and Fitz out of an aircraft high in the sky into the bottom of the ocean, causing brain damage in Fitz, leaving him feeling helpless and unneeded; affecting his ability to perform routine tasks and impairing his basic motor function.
I love, love, love, love, love Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but like most shows, it does have it's more problematic features. If you've seen it and have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment!