I’m finally starting to grasp the idea that the writers and showrunners on Agent Carter view intersectional feminism as a great myth. I’m also clear on the fact that fandom feels the same way.
Last year, when Agent Carter came out in January, it was heralded as this fantastic show for women, womenhood, and feminism.
Except it’s not.
It can’t be.
Not when it lacks:
- Women of color
- Queer women
- Disabled women
- Trans women
- Fat women
All women are not all represented in Agent Carter so why should all women support it? How are we supposed to respond to it as women who are diverse and who are not represented?
When women of color spoke up about the unbearable, nigh unbroken whiteness of the casting and how the New York in the show was unrealistically undiverse, they received incredible amounts of rudeness.
Historical accuracy, which should not come into play in a television series that hinges on science fiction and superheroes being real, only comes into play when we need to be put in our place. (For more of my thoughts on why I basically think historical accuracy should only ever be a thing in documentaries, see this post on Crimson Peak.)
Fandom and the media’s response tends to be:
“There can’t be people of color/queer people in positions of power in this show because it was the forties.”
But there are superheroes.
The response to the comments about how Agent Carter as a very homogenous show with a very white cast were horrifying.
We were told to be patient, to lift the show up because it was such a great feminist show that couldn’t possibly be cancelled. Mind you, this is all while women of color were receiving harsh comments on their blogs and being subject to racism in fandom for calling out whitewashing in history.
Our collective childhoods were their shattered by Tamora Pierce wading in to inform us all that it would be unrealistic for people of color to show up in a show like Agent Carter because we’d probably be shown as servants or maids or whatever. To her, the only options for people of color would be to show up as the help.
Which is more offensive to you: black help and blacks in service, or no blacks? I would like to see more POC, yes, but that was the time, and I’m not sure I’d like to see more POC if they’re always going to be in service.
Think about that.
There are superheroes.
And asking for people of color in positions of relative power in a work of historical fiction would be unrealistic because we would have been and been shown as the help. That’s what Tamora Pierce showed that she thought of the history of people of color in the forties and the desire for people in the 21st century to be represented. (And yes she apologized eventually, but geez. The initial awfulness of it all hasn’t gone away.)
Doesn’t that just sting?
Seriously, these creators aren’t creating for old people who grew up in the 40s and 50s. They’re creating for us. For now. And they almost got it. Almost.
But then they didn’t.
Only one character of color has more than one line in the season two premiere of Agent Carter. One. Wilkes. And trust me, despite the fact that he was in the trailers and framed as Peggy’s new love interest —
Beyond a kiss they share in the second episode, it’s unlikely to develop into anything more than that for multiple levels.
The main reason for that is that he’s fridged for Peggy’s pain at the end of the episode. Sure, maybe he’ll come back but he’s still been fridged. His death (and possible rebirth) will 100% have come to make Peggy Feel Feelings, rather than to give him any character growth.
And I don’t like that our first Black man with some serious dialogue gets killed off like that. It’s messed up. There are also issues with how racism is used to punctuate stuff in the second episode, like these shows are literally only historically accurate when it comes to depicting racism.
Seriously! The second episode has Wilkes and Peggy in a club/bar populated by Black people and aside from the bartender and Wilkes, no Black people speak. The only way we come close to a WOC having meaningful representation in the first two episodes of the season is where a Black woman is singing in the club.
And putting us as entertainment in the background isn’t proper representation. Not when it’s one of the few ways that we show up in “historically accurate” fiction.
We can’t show up as doctors, scientists, or superheroes or lawyers without either winding up as the bad guy in the end or having to have a “Very Special Moment” where the white lead finds out that racism is a thing.
There are still no WOC positively depicted on this show — or many of the other female-centered superhero shows. Right now, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the only superhero show that has more than one female character of color and even that’s not super diverse considering how there are only two of them.
This lack of diversity is a big deal because it’s a “feminist” superhero show that’s supposed to be great for all women.
Like with Jessica Jones, women of color play super specific roles that are also intensely narrow. This is California and yet there are no Chinese and Japanese characters or Mexican characters even in crowd scenes? When Agent Carter was set in New York, we rarely saw characters of color and the one woman of color I remember with dialogue was set up as one of Howard Stark’s jilted lovers.
Diverse women of all kinds should have been present from the start because it’s not a science fiction show, not a documentary (and even then…). Diversity needs to be immediate, not gradual.
Back when all of the crap with fandom went down, critical fans of Marvel and Agent Carter (many of whom were women of color) were told to be hold on and keep watching because season two would be better.
We were told to stop complaining because the showrunners were doing what they could.
So why is the main cast of Agent Carter season two composed almost exclusively of white men?
Why is it that the show really doesn’t set up more than one positive female friendship for Peggy at a time?
Why is it that when the trailers for the rest of the season played at the end of episode two, there are no people of color?
Fandom silenced women of color en masse for daring to ask why they were being told to identify with a show that refused to provide them representation. We were told to be patient. You know, the way we are every time that we want fandom and media to do better and actually make an effort when it comes to diversity.
I actually got this spiel yesterday from an acquaintance who (somehow) doesn’t see that The 100 isn’t exactly the best show out there in part because of how it treats Black characters. On top of being absolutely dismissive about what I was saying, she also said that we shouldn’t judge the show on its first season, the same way that Tamora Pierce and other members of fandom talked about Agent Carter.
Again, we’re told to be patient.
But you know what?
I’m done being patient.
Call me when that show gets a grasp of intersectional feminism both in front of and behind the camera and there are more than a handful of truly token women of color on the show.