Fan-Rants- Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Subversive Power of a Good Narative

Dear Internet,

Sorry I haven’t written in a while, but so much has happened in the last three months. Ellen and I have fulfilled our mutual destiny by moving in together. Yes, that’s right; these two single soul-sisters are finally makin’ it happen. I’d say that our roommate dynamic is one part Golden Girls, one part Playing House (Ellen’s beagle Steve operates as a sort of Baby Charlotte to our Emma and Maggie).

Ours is a quiet existence, which is just fine with us, as it affords us plenty of time to pursue our passions: painting, dance, basket weaving, and making “ah-OO-gah” noises at cute boys through open car windows…

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Scratch that: we watch a lot of TV. Tonight’s media menu was The Music Man, followed by a YouTube palette cleanser, rounded off with a fresh episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you, like so much of the world, have written S.H.I.E.L.D. off as another one of ABC’s lost causes, you’re assumption is as understandable as it is premature.  S.H.I.E.L.D. has had it’s ups and downs over the last 4 seasons (I’m looking at you, season 2). But nothing makes for fine TV escapism quite like a world in turmoil. Our evermore chaotic 24 hour news cycle is the perfect fodder for some scintillating social commentary, if only a member of our media-elite should take enough time from mustache twirling and fake news-ing to look for it (these are the jokes, folks). Enter  Agents shield-season-4-jemma-fights-lmdsof S.H.I.E.L.D. If you haven’t kept up, let me bring you up to speed.

Through a escalating and, frankly, very complicated series of events, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team
have found themselves trapped in a parallel “framework” reality where the government and media are controlled by Hydra. Some- Daisy, Gemma, and Coulson- remember the world as it was, while others- Fitz, Mac, May- have bought into the lie.
Fitz, in particular, has made a temperamental 180 as the new de facto leader of Hydra. Gone is the sweet Fitz of yester-season. In the framework he murders and manipulates anyone who opposes him as he works to bring an as yet unspecified Hydra agenda to fruition.

IAIN DE CAESTECKERThis season, in addition to being beautifully written, has been less than subtle in it’s criticism of our recent, ahem, regime change. References to “alternative facts” and a seamless work-in of the line “nevertheless, she persisted” abound.  This week’s episode featured a scene where one especially sleazy character offers to take another female character “furniture shopping, anywhere she wants”. For anyone not picking up on the reference,  I offer you this proud moment in American history.

Some might be tempted to say that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been heavy handed, that they are pushing an unapologetically progressive agenda. To which I say, maybe.

Or it’s just a story about a group of people trapped in a reality they don’t understand. Where ideologies that were once collectively deemed hateful and unsupportable have gained a foothold. Where good people are changed beyond recognition by conditions out of their control.  And, like any good example of the superhero formula, it shows that while some people might succumb to their circumstances, other will rise above them and work to make the world a better place.

Oh, and then we went to Chick-fil-a for dinner. Have you tried the spicy chicken sandwich? It’s like buddah.

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Whitney Weldon

Fangirl Poetry: An Ode to Agent Carter

Some TV Execs are pleased with themselves, over at ABC

“Women have never had it so good!” they’ll say in synchrony

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They’ll say, We gave them a show,

with a Lady Hero,

But cancelled ’cause ratings were low

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They’ll go on, We gave it a shot,

But the ratings were not

Worth it’s prize prime-time spot

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They’ll go,  We don’t need someone like Peg on TV

A dynamite gal, an upper-case “She”

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A character with brains, and brawn, heart

A woman who isn’t afraid to be smart

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There are plenty of others, to whom girls can look up

Like those ladies on YouTube who barf in a cup

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So we’ll let the ax fall, and give Carter the boot,

The fans, how they’ll wail, though their point will be moot

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But we on the ground know the truth, ever tragic:

With Peggy gone, TV lost something magic

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Whitney Weldon

 

Fangirl Talk: Why Every Guy Should Watch Agent Carter

 

It’s a truth rarely acknowledged that if you’re a lady in any industry, even when you win, sometimes you just can’t win. And for all it’s glamour, show biz is no different. (Don’t believe me? Then tell me, Where’s Rey?)

And while there does seem to be a general upswing for the portrayal of women in pop culture, “better” should never be mistaken for “good”. I can count on one hand the number of well-rounded, realistic, inspiring females in film or TV that aren’t also overly 1363991751468,0sexualized and whose character arc doesn’t ultimately lead her on a quest for romantic fulfillment. Calling a woman in TV “complicated” is shorthand for saying that she has a dark past. Calling her “strong” is another way of saying she’s emotionally unavailable. These have become the hallmarks of an empowered and sexy woman on TV.

When viewed as a whole, the representation of ladies in TV can seem pretty bleak. Luckily, there are some shows that are getting it so right,  it’s hard not to feel optimistic. Enter ABC’s Agent Carter.

If you aren’t watching the second season premiere of this Marvel spin-off tonight, you’re either not aware of just how good it is, or (frankly) a dude. Or possibly, you’ve been scared off by accusations of skewed gender politics (side note: it’s a show about a working woman in the 40’s. The fact that she’s surrounded by white men is just an accurate reflection of the time). Peggy Carter  (Hayley Atwell) is exactly the kind of hero prime time needs.  She’s carving her own path in a male dominated industry.

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And she’s doing it better than most of the males dominating that industry.

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She’s got an infallible sense of self…

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And self worth.

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Her hotness…

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Is the least interesting thing about her.

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The real tragedy of Peggy Carter’s situation is that her struggles with being looked over, objectified, underestimated, and undervalued aren’t specific to the 1940’s. Perhaps the reason this show has resonated with audiences and critics is because, almost 100 years after the ratification of the 19th amendment, it’s still easy for women to feel like an accessory. So if you’re still not watching this show, you might want to rethink your stance on Agent Carter. Watch it because it’s well-written. Watch it because it’s good TV. Watch it because it explores the conflict between perceived weakness  and inner strength. Or maybe watch it because Peggy Carter has a wicked right hook.

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You’ve been warned.

Whitney Weldon

Fan Rants: Why You Should Be Watching Agent Carter

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with one of my Fellow Fems about female under representation in pop culture (like many a pretentious, twenty-something, bra-burner before us). She made the inevitable leap to how unfair it was the Marvel’s Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) doesn’t have her own stand alone movie. My initial response was, ‘right on, sister’. Then I asked if she’d been watching ABC/Marvel’s new series Agent Carter. She answered that, no, she wasn’t. Come again?…

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It’s probably the worst kept secret in network TV history that Agent Carter is serving as a dry run for strong female leads in the MCU. If smart, empowered, beautiful, charasmatic Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) can’t draw crowds with a limited run TV show, why should Marvel shell out millions upon millions to make a female driven superhero movie? And let’s not kid agent-carter-pilot-hayley-atwell_article_story_largeourselves, Carter is enjoying pretty abysmal ratings, despite the fact that, in my opinion, it’s a good show. It’s got a great lead in Atwell, James D’Arcy as bulter Edwin Jarvis makes for an awesome Girl Friday, and frankly, it’s been much fresher and more entertaining than Agents of Shield ever was in it’s first season. So why in the Susan-B-Anthony can’t this show seem to thrive?

I keep coming back to one thing. Because really, there is only one reason I can think of why audiences would be more receptive to a Black Widow stand alone than a Peggy Carter one. Black Widow is defined by her sexuality. I mean, yeah, she can quip with the best, and kick all the necessary ass, but she’s also severely underwritten and hyper-sexualized.  If Peggy Carter ran around in a black cat-suit, would that make her more marketable? I’m actually scared of the answer. la_ca_0325_captain_america

I guess what I’m getting at is, let’s not perpetuate the idea that Marvel’s fan base won’t support strong, independent, female leads with more to offer than their butt-kicking capacity and deft application of feminine whiles. Let’s promote female characters with emotional depth and intelligence and appeal that isn’t directly related to how good they look in skin-tight stealth suits. Watch Agent Carter, Tuesday’s at 9 on ABC, and you’ll see what I mean.

Whitney

How Does ABC’s Selfie Suck? Let Me Count The Ways

I have one hard and fast rule about Fall TV season: no matter how much you may hate a pilot, it is VITAL that you make it to at least episode two. Because usually, the things we hate about pilots get ironed out during the first season. That is what first seasons are for. If the premise is good and the writing is solid, there is always room for hope. But some shows are so fundamentally flawed, so irreparably stupid that a second look only serves to draw out the inevitable and necessary cancellation. Selfie falls, face first, into this category just like Ellen said it would. Let’s break it down.

abc-selfie-eliza1) Eliza Dooley (Karen Gillan) might be the Worst, and not in a good way. I know that as one of Doctor Who‘s resident red heads, Amy Pond was kind of a polarizing character. And it is totally possible that I am projecting my dislike of The Girl Who Waited onto Eliza, a character with many of the same flaws that kept me from registering with the Amy Pond fan club (selfishness, over-confidence, tends to take others for granted). At least Amy was an interesting character; the most interesting thing about Eliza is her ability to fill two airplane yarf-bags. Which, when you think about it, really set the tone for the rest of the show.

2) Your main character should be redeemable, not reprehensible. By the end of the pilot, we should have had a reason to root for Eliza, and I don’t feel that we ever got it. Most of the attempts to add depth to her character were pretty weak (you mean, she was able to stash her distaste for the office hipster girls long enough to let them clean her apartment, loan her nice dresses, do her hair and make-up free of charge, and generally extend her an undeserved hand of friendship? What personal growth). If you are going to write horrible characters to populate your show, a la It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, at least make sure their horribleness is offset by their hilarity. Which brings me to…

3) Traditionally, TV comedies should be, you know, funny. If nothing else, Pilots should be clever enough to give audiences the idea that, even if the rest of the show isn’t prefect yet, the experience won’t be a total loss. Selfie did not make me laugh once, and I laugh at everything. Seriously. Everything.

4) Being unpopular in high school does not a tragic backstory make. Selfie isn’t the first show to try and make not being selfies-main-character-is-eliza-dooley-dooley-grew-up-being-most-butt-in-high-school-butt-as-in-ugly-so-she-modeled-herself-after-the-most-popular-girl-in-her-school-and-grew-up-to-be-beautiful-but-vapidthe most popular person in high school a credible excuse for sucking in the present, and it won’t be the last. TV comedies can still be fun and lighthearted even if they delve deeper than an unpleasant school dance experience. But Selfie is just as shallow as it’s main character, which is why I’ll be taking my business elsewhere. Better luck next year, ABC!

Whitney

Fangirly Crush of the Week: Adam Pally!

adampallyJack and Rose. Romeo and Juliet. Joey and Pacey. Whitney and Adam Pally. These are just some of history’s most endearing and tragic love stories, where couples are torn asunder by war, icebergs, teen drama, and insufficient ratings. I guess now that Happy Endings has been unceremoniously axed by ABC, we’ll never know if Max, Pally’s character on the show, and I could have made it work. Sure, he was gay and gynophobic and kind of a burnout and not super hygienic (and did I mention he was gay?) but I like to think those trivialities wouldn’t have stood in our way.

Well Max, this is good bye for now. I’ll treasure our moments together, and raise a glass of Sweet n’ Creamy in your honor.

Whitney

TV Obituaries: RIP Better Off Ted

Better-off-Ted-better-off-ted-10352512-2000-1331You know what I hate? I mean, other than perfume commercials, mashed potatoes, or sentences that end in a preposition? I hate watching a young show get cut down in it’s prime. Three years after its cancellation, I’m still reeling from the loss of ABC’s Better Off Ted. Speaking as someone who strongly feels that the world can never have enough zany workplace comedies, the show was the bright spot of my week during its brief two season run.

On paper, the premise of this show seems pretty ho-hum. Ted Crisp (Jay Harrington) manages a research and development team for a massive corporation. Bored yet? Then perhaps I should mention that Ted’s boss, the stoic and well-coiffed Veronica, is played by the one and only Portia de Rossi, with all the stellar comedic timing and deadpanned delivery we’ve come to love. Oh, are you back on board? Awesome. Let’s proceed.

Of course, you can’t have a great workplace comedy without some great writing attached. I can’t tell you how many funny one-liners I’ve pilfered from this show. Oh no… there’s no stopping it… I feel a cluster-quote coming…!

There was the time Ted and his love interest/employee Linda invented the game of throwing stale bagels into an air vent:

Ted: What are you afraid of? If you throw a game, it’s gonna keep you out of the time-wasters hall of fame?
Linda: No. My position there is secure from getting my art history degree.

Or the time Ted inadvertently forced Ryan the security guard to quit his job:

Linda: So did you hear the latest office gossip? Ryan the security guard quit his job because you’re a giant douche-mobile. That’s right, you’re a douche on wheels. Or perhaps a decorative sculpture hanging above a baby douche’s crib. The gossip didn’t specify.

And how could we forget Veronica, the company mouth-piece:
Veronica: If you want to get the company off this, you have to show them that this new pace will cost them money. Because the company loves its money. If they could, they’d go to strip clubs and throw naked women at money.

Like the Temptations, I ain’t too proud to bed. Please, please, please, watch this show. You can find both seasons now on Netflix streaming!
-Whitney