#DiversifyAgentCarter campaign challenges whitewashed history




I’m only about four episodes into the first season of Agent Carter, but something in episode two disturbed me. Agent Carter is in an interrogation room with some cops and they are roughing up a suspect, trying to beat some information out of him, they give some carrot and stick analogy, give the suspect a stick and say, “You’re going to want to bite down”. It would have been a great opportunity for her so say something like “You guys need to stop this, otherwise you’re no better than the people were trying to fight”. Instead, one of the guys says “Take off, you shouldn’t be seeing this”. She seems surprised that he asks her to leave and she says “You boys play nice.” The scene cuts from the suspect getting punched over and over to a view of NYC and a cute 50s song playing.

I think her role on the show is exactly what we need more of, a strong woman character who uses her strength and intelligence to solve problems, and who is equal to her male counterparts. The scene where she heads off the escaping suspect, the guy who winds up being tortured, comes to mind. But maybe, and this goes for many shows on TV, we could have less normalization of illegal police brutality.


At what point is it simply PC to insert modern demographics and sensibilities into a period piece? In the episode with a black police officer I was thinking about what a rarity he must have been in 1946, when under 1% of the force was black. The Army wasn’t racially integrated until several years after this period. It’s made perfectly clear what a rarity Agent Carter herself is. So you want to throw in a whole lot more?

Sometimes you’ve got to just sit back and not beat your breast that then is not now. Mad Men made waves with a realistic depiction of all the smoking and drinking, not to mention an episode where a child is casually slapped. But it was all as it was. Expecting soul searching about casual beating of a suspect for intel at a time when police casually beat anyone they wanted to as an informal deterrent is definitely unrealistic. At the time to be a NY cop you had to be big and imposing, there was a 6 foot height requirement. Perps were as likely to catch beating as get arrested, or both.


Sure. I don’t really give a crap that 1% of the police force was black back then any more than I give a crap that there wasn’t ACTUALLY a super-soldier running around in a brightly colored uniform, or for that matter, that there was a vice president mentioned and the US had no vice president in 1946 (because FDR died and Truman took his place and there was no replacement). It’s a fictional universe, they can choose to make differences. It’s also a show about exceptional people, so why not people who are exceptional because they were trailblazers? If they, or you, are going to hide behind “historical accuracy” as an excuse for a show not to be more diverse, then they should hold to that, do the research, and actually represent the past, not how they imagine it to be, and you should demand that level of accuracy from them in all areas. Otherwise, acknowledge that it’s a matter of choice and focus on how much accuracy and how much representation they offer people.

But okay, for the sake of argument, let’s say we leave out the black police officers, and army members in racially integrated units, in the interests of “accuracy.” That’s no excuse for shows not to be diverse in terms of characters, there are all sorts of people who could have roles in a story that aren’t centered on them being high-up in military/police services. White characters are not the only ones with interesting stories going on. And particularly in intelligence services, people who are in disadvantaged minorities, people who are typically servants that are barely worth noticing for the privileged class, they can be far more valuable assets than another white guy in a suit and tie. Hell, if that wasn’t a common practice, make a subplot of Agent Carter SETTING UP HER OWN NETWORK OF SUCH ASSETS for intelligence gathering, for just that reason.


This disturbed you because you don’t think Federal agents just after WWII would beat a subject? The show makes the point that the guy doing the beating is a violent thug at times. This gets brought up more than once in the season.


If they’re looking for a character from the comics, they could bring in Isaiah Bradley. The short version is that after losing Captain America the US tried to recreate him/the super soldier formula, and obviously they weren’t about to test on white people, so instead they recruited a bunch of African Americans to use as lab rats, all of whom died except Isaiah, who became (for a short period) the ‘Black Captain America’.
It could fit in quite nicely to Agent Carter I think, and give them a chance to poke at historical racism in the same way they poked at sexism during the first series.


They could also introduce Jimmy Woo, not only a canon asian Marvel FBI agent in the 50s (they might have to tweak or advance the timeline to work him into Agent Carter, but I’m cool with that), but also a lead character in a (very short-lived) series published in the 50s (at that time by Atlas comics, Marvel’s predecessor). (And heck, if they could bring in the other Agents of Atlas, that’d be pretty cool too, because any time you get a Gorilla Man on a TV show, it’s a win).


Historical dramas are rarely historical. Forrest Gump “happened” to be everywhere at every significant event in contemporary American history down to a bumper sticker. Liberties are taken for entertainment value all the fucking time. I just find it interesting what people consider a bridge too far. Even depictions of straight-up history are largely ahistorical. U-571 had Americans recover the naval Enigma machine (it was the Brits), The Imitation Game made an absolute hash of history, in an ironic effort to make things seem more “historical.” OMG, Braveheart. Find me historical dramas that take no liberties and I’ll show you the exceptions that prove the rule. Nevermind that we’re talking about something out of a fucking set of superhero comic books. This is myth, and it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that people want to see themselves in myth.


You do realize that this is a work of fiction, right?

It can be whatever we want it to be. Do you even understand what “PC” means, or are you just referring to something that offends your personal sensibilities?


PC is wanting the world to reflect your values in every minor detail. Wanting historical fiction (which this is more or less) to reflect your modern values is not rational. What makes any historical fiction work is only screwing with the setting as little as possible to insert your story line, a la Gump. Had the film Forrest Gump made President Kennedy a woman, because…why not, it would have destroyed the suspension of disbelief any film needs in one degree or another. All the examples of ActionAbe are of plot not the worldbuilding. Yes, Braveheart was almost an entirely made up story, but they didn’t give the Scots revolvers or have Wallace be Chinese. Or for that matter have Edward’s army made up of modern English racial demographics with lots of south asians and Jamaicans. Could be hysterical, maybe the sequel should be Harold and Kumar go to Culloden!


No. It is rational. It is not what you like. It’s okay to not like things, but don’t pretend fiction can only “work” your way.

That’s a bad example. It’s easy to point out how a story can be ruined by changing any given detail. It would have been absurd to tell the story of Forrest Gump. It would not be out of place, however, in a different story about alternate universes, for example.

Those were examples of how even purportedly factual dramas take liberties to advance entertainment value. And Braveheart totally shoed in an ethnic character out of place: The quirky Irishman. Hell, they had the Irish dramatically switch sides, which was a total fabrication. Of course, the Irish are white now, so it’s harder to notice these things.


Now I kind of want to see a Chinese William Wallace.



You remain perpetually offended that people look for different standards of entertainment than yourself.


As a time-traveller, your use of the word “perpetual” is rather offensive. How would you like it if I said the same thing about your coffee table, hrm?

I apologize to anybody who is hurt by use of the archaic term for an item of “furniture” - I do not personally endorse the use or enslavement of Cellulose Americans.

Did you ever want to play questions?

I wasn’t disturbed because I “don’t think Federal agents just after WWII would beat a subject”. I know for a fact that they did and worse, and they have continued right up until today with no break in the pattern of illegal abuse. Sorry, it wasn’t until I got the the bottom of my second paragraph that I tried to make my point about why it disturbed me.

I’ve seen this on many shows, especially like 24, where is it sometimes glorified. I don’t like to see it depicted as businesses as usual or as if it’s a perfectly legal to do. Why? Because it poisons our society. If the show makes a point that the guy doing the beating is a violent thug at times, guess what, everyone else in the room is complicit too because no one is trying to stop him, including Agent Carter. At least in Daredevil (Netflix version), when he goes over the line and tortures someone it has repercussions in his personal life, with someone close to him saying that it’s not ok, and he also struggles with it internally. I find that to be a much different message than what I saw depicted in Agent Carter. It is still not ok, but at least Daredevil knows it.


I sympathize with that viewpoint though I think Agent Carter didn’t glorify that violence in the way, for example, 24 did.

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