Friday, February 27, 2015

A little about Agent Carter and Homeland

I have a bad cold, so if this post is stupider, or smarter, than usual, that may be why. It's like drunk blogging with chest-wracking coughs.

If you're afraid of spoilers, don't be. I'm not giving away any major plot points.

The only reason I'm writing about these two shows in one post is I've been watching them lately, though if I were being pretentious, I'd say they're both propaganda for neoliberalism, but only one does that well.

One episode of Agent Carter is pretty much what the show should've been all along: that's the Howling Commandos ep, which you can probably watch out of context. The rest of the first season suffers from these things:

1. They don't burn story. They had enough material for five or six episodes, not eight.

2. They try too hard to be relevant by making the show explicitly about 1940s sexism. They could've done a fine first episode in which some of the men underestimated Carter, but the showrunners forgot that this is not a story about a young woman who has yet to prove herself. Peggy Carter has serious credentials. Given her past in the first Captain America movie, the men might treat her as an exceptional woman, but they would never treat her as an incompetent one.

As for the show's ties to neoliberalism, well, I'm stretching here, but I wanted a show about tracking down the last members of Hydra. I didn't want a show with commie villains. I dislike Stalinism as much as anyone, but Nazism is a much better ideology for the sorts of villains I want from a 1940s SHIELD show. Nazism gives you unabashed racists and sexists, while Stalinism gives you a society that for all its flaws was seen as a better alternative to the US by hundreds of black Americans (see In Russia, early African American migrants found the good life) and where women served in the military as snipers and bomber pilots.

3. Though the showrunners decided to make the show about sexism, they ignored racism. They must've been intending to get to that--there's undoubtedly a reason the agency is all white in this season--but see Point #1. Without a character like Gabriel Jones, Agent Carter feels less racially enlightened than Marvel's original 1960s' SHIELD comic.

As for Homeland, I watched the first few episodes when it debuted and thought it was heavy-handed propaganda. But a friend whose taste I respect loves it, so we gave it another try, and found the show gets a lot twistier fast. They burn story gleefully, so I rarely knew what was going to happen next. Mind you, I do think it's propaganda--they acknowledge a lot of flaws in the US approach to the Middle East, but ultimately, the head terrorist of the first two seasons isn't much more complex than the Red Skull. But it's nuanced propaganda with a nice attention to character, especially with its leads, so I'll be starting in on the third season soon, I suspect.