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Spoiler Alert:  If you are an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. fan and did not see last night’s episode, don’t read this.  

Though I’m admittedly not a big prime time tv watcher, I decided to join my kids in some evening fare that they were excited about.  One in particular, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  We are lovers of the superhero movies, and The Avengers was a favorite with us.  We were all sad to see Coulson killed off, yet, hey. Looky here!  They brought him back to prime time!  My middle school daughter just loves the guy.

As I was relaxing with the kids, I couldn’t believe my ears when the show name dropped Manning, Snowden, and Aaron Schwartz.  HUH?  

If you don’t know any thing about the show, well, to remain as brief as possible, they are an elite team of government agents who’s home is a huge aircraft that always seems to be airborn, except when they need to touch down to fight the bad guys or protect the innocent.  They’ve invited a young, brilliant hacker to join their force, much to the dismay of a couple of the agents who’s intuition happens to be right.  She’s secretly working for a hacktivist group called Rising Tide, who’s “manifesto” sounds somewhat familiar.  One of her colleagues happened to hack into the S.H.I.E.L.D. data base and released information, which led to the kidnapping of a guy who had a mysterious ability to create a ball of fire in his hand.  Instead of managing to protect him, Skye (hacker chick) led them straight to him, of course after a proverbial roll in the hay.

As the plane raced to save the day, both hackers were being held in some kind of a holding room, both cuffed and full of guilt, Hacker guy and Skye had it out.  A few catchphrases caught my ear.

“So I guess due process isn’t really S.H.I.E.L.D. protocol” Hacker Guy says to Skye.  “They don’t have time for it” was her response, as the plane was headed as fast as possible to save the guy who’s life was in danger due to the leak of information that Hacker Guy was responsible for releasing.  As he throws in a few more “manifesto” tidbits “These people are denying our basic rights,” Hacker Guy states, as Skye defends S.H.I.E.L.D.’s position.  “They’re trying to save someone’s life,” Skye retaliates.  “That’s what they always say to justify invading privacy, Skye.”  

And then the kicker:  “Manning, Snowden, Aaron Schwartz.  These are modern day revolutionaries.”

The agents are listening in, and show their distaste for him immediately.  “The guy’s hiding behind platitudes.  He’s dirty, I can feel it.”  

The team rushes to save the poor guy who’s been kidnapped by the bad people who want to use his powers for evil, and it’s all because this “dirty” Hacker Guy wanted to spill the secrets.  In the end, we discover he’s compromised the whole Rising Tide ideology:  He sold secret information for $1 million dollars.  

The messaging is all too obvious to those who pay attention.

“Dirty” Hacker Guy, who’s “manifesto” is about freedom of information, who calls attention to the secrets that governments keep from citizens, who’s heroes are REAL LIFE whistleblowers, sold secret information for a hefty sum, put an innocent man’s life in jeopardy, and gave the bad guys more power to do their evil work.  When he calls out the lack of due process, he is met with the defense of “They’re trying to save someone’s life!” as the justifiable retaliation.  

There you have it, friends.  That’s how opinions are swayed.  Create an “entertainment” moment, put in real life issues, and shape the imaginary drama to defend the status quo.  

It’s actually more common than you think.  If you understand how the entertainment industry promotes the militarization of our society, then you understand what I’m talking about.  A few movies to ponder:  Zero Dark Thirty, Seal Team 6, Battleship, Black Hawk Down are just a small handful.  The military is more than happy to offer it’s equipment to all pro military movies.  Those that question military standing in movies such as The Thin Red Line, The Hurt Locker, and even Forrest Gump don’t pass the test, and thus, must resort to CGI or make expensive purchases elsewhere.  

It is unfortunate that Hollywood is becoming less about the expression of art, and more of a money making machine built on the next big blockbuster that’s guaranteed to give a big return for the investor’s big dollars.  We are missing out on the potential of great art to move our spirits and inspire us, and instead are fed an endless feast of guns, violence, explosions, and mediocrity.  I am a lover of great movies, and even good movies.  I am hopeful that the movie going audiences across the country help support the more independent movies being made, so that we can see more of them.

So, will I continue to watch Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Sure, for now.  I hope they might offer a balanced opinion of the one they gave audiences last night.  I’m sure that’s probably a lost cause, but hey, it’s just entertainment, right?  

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Comment Preferences

  •  I think that this "idea" placement is right (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    alongside an increased amount of "product" placement, which is becoming pervasive.

    "Southern nights have you ever felt a southern night?" Allen Toussaint ~~Remember the Gulf of Mexico~~

    by rubyr on Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 10:19:37 AM PDT

  •  it's a tight rope to climb onto (0+ / 0-)

    on one hand praising hacker culture, while on the other stating that there are consequences to your actions.

    black hat vs white hat.

    If your daughter likes Coulson, then she might like The New Adventures of Old Christine. Well depending on her age that is.

    This Coulson is a Life Model Decoy. He isn't the same person and the TV show just isn't that good. I was hoping for a better show.

    -You want to change the system, run for office.

    by Deep Texan on Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 10:42:10 AM PDT

  •  On the other end of the entertainment divide (0+ / 0-)

    you have attorneys on The Good Wife dramatizing the Kafkaesque absurdities of US Patriot Act-inspired law and the irrational rabid secrecy over the smallest detail by the federal government.

    Already this season we learn that the communications in the offices of Lockhart & Gardner as well as those of the Florricks are being monitored by the NSA so we anticipate they're going to tackle that out-of-control monster sometime this season. Especially considering that Zach's former girlfriend Neesa's Muslim parents are known to have donated to a Hamas related charity.

  •  Joss Wheedon is a co-writer (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    'Nuff said...

    (and just in case that isn't enough: it means that within the superhero guff is an intelligent nugget with serious things to say)


    'The behavior of any bureaucratic organisation can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.' Robert Conquest

    by Airmid on Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 10:53:44 AM PDT

    •  I think what happened to the hacker dude (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DarkestHour, trumpeter

      was more in service of the story than a grand theme we should read anything into.

      Skye's buddy sold out for cash. That's his lack of character, not any general lack of character... remember, Skye herself is a hacker. She's allied with Shield because their mission to help superheroes turned out to be more altruistic than she thought it was, not because she "sides with the man."

      Rick Perry - the greatest scientist since Galileo!

      by Bobs Telecaster on Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 11:03:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  S.H.I.E.L.D. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DarkestHour, trumpeter, chimene

    In the Marvel universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. is usually a force for good, but it's clear that a lot of characters are uncomfortable with their level of power, and at times, it's clearly abused.  The most obvious example is the Civil War story arc in which S.H.I.E.L.D. was on the side of those who wanted all superhumans registered like mutants were (which was a civil rights problem with them to begin with.)  Ultimately, a great battle among heroes ensued, pitting pro-registration forces led by Iron Man against anti-registration forces led by Captain America.  It was ugly, and it clearly set back the forces for good.

    The point is that if the show is true to the comics, you won't see S.H.I.E.L.D. as a monolithic agency of goodness and the American way.  It will be an organization that generally tries to solve real problems but has zealots in its ranks that overstep their bounds and trod upon civil rights.  Given the setup with The Rising Tide, that seems like an obvious future turn of events for the show.

  •  My take (0+ / 0-)

    Is that Idealism can be twisted and bought if one is not careful. Idealism and Ideology are not distinct creatures.

     See Tea Party (Hacker Guy) vs. Occupy Wall Street (Skye)

       The Producer Joss W. has a proven track record of weaving antithesis (Yin/Yang) with his work (see Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Doll House, etc...)

      His work is always character driven. There's not much difference between Anti-Hero's and Hero's.


  •  Thing to bear in mind... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DarkestHour, trumpeter

    In the real world, what SHIELD does would be atrocious and unconscionable.

    But SHIELD isn't in the real world. They're in a world where aliens and superscience and people who have the potential to be weapons of mass destruction are facts of life, where an injection can give you superpowers and the risk of literally blowing up and taking down the building you are in if you get mad, where secretive international conspiracies are trying to create an army of superhuman soldiers, where men can build absurdly advanced technology in a cave with a box of scraps, and where an alien invasion force aided by an alien godlike entity was barely beaten back thanks to an another alien with godlike powers, two ridiculously competent super-spies/assassins, a supersoldier frozen for over half a century, a billionaire genius playboy philanthropist with issues, and an enormous green rage monster.

    The rules that apply to our world can't all apply to this fictional one.

    In the real world, constantly monitoring someone is creepy. In the fictional one, constantly monitoring someone who has the potential, when upset, to level a city is entirely rational and justifiable.  In the real world, leaking secret information probably won't do lasting harm. In the fictional world of the Marvel universe, doing that could literally end the world if the wrong secret is revealed.

  •  You also have to remember (0+ / 0-)

    that the focus of the show is on the agents, and that this is their perspective.  If handled properly (something Joss is good at), it could bring some depth to things later.  Good/Bad is actually grey, and that have the opportunity to show that, but until they show how polarized the SHIELD agents are at the beginning, change will be hard to show.

    Or at least i hope so.

    This kind of thing has been done before in popular media.  In the Babylon 5 episode where Sheridan is captured and tortured by the repressive world government, videos are released of various 'subversives' who have given testimony, or refused to do so.  names like Mostel, Trumbo and Miller.

    I am not religious, and did NOT say I enjoyed sects.

    by trumpeter on Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 02:32:38 PM PDT

  •  The Money Making Issue (0+ / 0-)
    It is unfortunate that Hollywood is becoming less about the expression of art, and more of a money making machine built on the next big blockbuster that’s guaranteed to give a big return for the investor’s big dollars.  
    Becoming less? Film-and-television has always been a business first and an art form way down the list.  TV especially is less about expression and far more about selling beer, cars and hygiene products.  Eyeballs set ad rates.  The fact that there are smartly written and intelligently crafted shows that approach a level of art is damn near miraculous.  And this show is better than many. It lives in a comic book world where big government agencies are inherently pretty fascistic "for our own good".

    I'd rather watch this than any of the reality fake-competition shows.

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