Marvel. Perhaps one of the biggest leaders in the pop culture industry. You can be a die hard fan, a sometimes fan, or even a bandwagon fan, but there is no denying that the iconic mogul of comic books and movies has resonated within our souls throughout the years.
I’ve been a Marvel fangirl for many years. I follow their industry news just like any other fan would, so when I heard that their popular TV series, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was ending on the seventh season, my heart was conflicted. Sure, most people will say that seven seasons on television is a long time, but with S.H.I.E.L.D., there can be decades of stories told through television, movies, and comic books. The TV show had some rocky episodes here and there, but Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will always stand for one thing: defending those who can not defend themselves.
S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for The Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. In brief, S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded as a secret government agency to counter global and national terrorism. The agency of top secret operatives’ main villain was HYDRA, who in itself, is a rather complex and convoluted organization. Founded in the 1950’s, this fictional yet realistic organization has lead fans through tumultuous journeys fighting enemies, confronting comrades, and making really tough life decisions. Even if you’ve never picked up a comic book about S.H.I.E.L.D., you would know them through other Marvel movies (insert – Captain America and Avengers).
Since this is the final season of the quintessential superhero show, let’s talk about why this final season is so important to humanity. While the organization itself is fictional, the story of S.H.I.E.L.D. is very real to all of us. In Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, the showrunners do not shy away from controversial topics and the interpersonal relationships between all the characters reflects the real life people in our world. These characters, or agents, face some type of adversity and prejudice both as real people on the show, and as secret government agents.
With the wake of the deaths of many people in the black community due to police brutality, season seven of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., takes us back through time to when injustice and racial prejudice were prominent. Season seven’s tagline “To Save the Future They Must Change the Past” sounds like something we all wish we could do. Specifically, in episode 3, “Aliens Commies from the Future!” shows us that back in the 1950’s, race, gender, and social equality meant absolutely nothing in America unless you were white, male, and important.
In the scene when Gerald Sharpe enters a typical 1950’s Diner, we see Agents Coulson and Daisy sitting at a nearby table waiting for the Department of Defense employee to make his appearance. At first glance throughout the restaurant, everything seems normal. But then Coulson points out the segregated bathrooms clearly marked as “Whites Only” and “Blacks Only.” As Coulson clearly states, “we are at the golden age of invention” meaning that humankind is starting to progress into a more forward-thinking future. But Daisy points out the bathrooms and we are reminded again that, “we still have a ways to go.” Let’s jump ahead to later scenes with DoD Sharpe.
In the scene when Sharpe is being interrogated by Agents Mack and Yo-Yo, the government employee clearly feels slighted at being interviewed by a man of color whom he so blatantly calls “boy” and Yo-Yo as “mamasita.” His smirk remarks and degrading commentary puts Agent Mack immediately on the defense but Yo-Yo pulls him back. This is the first inclination that the audience receives of an already intolerant society where America judiciously think that they are the “leaders of the free world.” Hmm…
So let’s jump to the scene where Agents May and Yo-Yo are dressed as pilots to infiltrate Area 51 and Yo-Yo remarks why no one questions two women as pilots are walking through the top secret building. Agent May (who is a tough as nails Asian warrior agent) replies that in the 1940’s and 50’s, women pilots out-flew men as target-toting pilots. It’s safe to assume women pilots were merely revered as pinup dolls, made to look pretty to attract the enemies of the United States. Sexist? Yes, as so Agent May and Yo-Yo scoffs.
If you take a deeper dive into Episode 3, “Alien Commies from the Future,” the title alone gives away the subliminal meaning behind it. Aliens? Are they referring to aliens from outer space or aliens from another country that is not America? And Commies? Well, we know what communism all meant to the US back then. But the xenophobic trend in the middle decades proves to us that society indeed has not moved much away from race and gender discrimination. We saw Agent May almost taking out Sharpe when he called her an “Oriental” during interrogation back on their spaceship. And as I point out, Gerald Sharpe is the epitome of a systemic racial and sexist dictator where he believes that if you’re not white and male, then you are not worthy of his attention. And does he play that role well!
We know that Season 7 was filmed months ago before the pandemic and the police brutalities brought to surface. But the one thing that Marvel as a company does well, is to highlight the various personalities and abilities of people around the world. I met several Marvel artists and writers and most of them are indeed of various races and abilities and while they were their own entity long ago, I have no doubt that as a newly acquired presence in the world of all Disney, Marvel is still given free reign to write their stories that matches the uber quality of diversity, inclusion, and powerful mutants who just want to belong in society.
Though season seven is the final season of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I urge you to start watching it now and pick up the previous seasons. This final season travels backwards through time and we can bet that Marvel will not hold back on the topics we are still facing today.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can be found on ABC and Disney+ as well as other streaming channels. It airs on Wednesday 10/9 Central.
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