Tuesday, December 03, 2013


Maria Hill: What does S.H.I.E.L.D. stand for, Agent Ward?
Grant Ward: Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.
Maria: And what does that mean to you?
Ward: It means someone really wanted our initials to spell out "shield."

OK Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D has been out for a while and I've had time to absorb enough episodes to get a feel for the program.  Its okay, its nothing wonderful and it avoids most of the Marvel Universe except in very tangential, referential ways.  Once in a while they mention a member of the Avengers, and one episode began supposedly with cleanup after Thor 2.  But for the most part its self contained.
The writing is pretty standard Joss Whedon, which means you can take any wisecrack or fun comment made and put it into the mouth of anyone in the show.  Any given wisecrack could have come from any of the characters, its difficult to even remember who said what at any time most of the time.  They're good lines, like the one at the top, but they are written without regard to characterization or personality.
And all the encounters so far are scientific in origin.  That is, they are either directly due to technology or they are due to a scientific experiment gone wrong.  There are no mutants.  There is no magic, all of what was referred to as magic in the past comics is now technological (for example Thor is now an alien with high tech, not a norse god with magical powers).  How Dr Strange fits into this universe is unclear.
And the entire universe is Iron Man-centric.  It all revolves around Iron Man, from the first episode's bad guy and plot device to the tech used.  Stark is referenced often.  Strangely enough in the Marvel comics, Iron Man is a 2nd or 3rd tier hero, a minor character who manages to hang on to his own comic.  Its like building Star Trek around Scotty.
Yet it still has its charm and its fun enough to watch that I can put up with nonsense like the old tired eternally decompressing jet (stopped by an inflatable life raft, no less).  Everyone on the team except "Cavalry" and Agent Coulson are children which is as I noted a while back at best implausible given their alleged skill level and experience.  Yet Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is enough fun I like to watch new episodes and am disappointed when they do a mid-season rerun.  I have no doubt it will get picked up and it should be good enough until Joss Whedon gets bored or runs out of ideas.
There's one particular issue I wanted to write about though, in the most recent episode I watched.  It involved a girl who they thought might be telekinetic (but was, as I guessed in the first few minutes, just haunted by a poltergeist, to oversimplify).
The girl is very religious, a strong Christian.  Her Christianity isn't very fleshed out, its mostly just a belief in an indistinct God without any reference to Jesus or the Bible.  And she's portrayed as essentially nice but dim and weak.  Unlike the usual girl shown on modern TV she's not the ultra-capable woman who knows kung fu and can wisecrack constantly while ignoring danger and looking fabulous the whole time.
But nobody on the SHIELD team is a Christian.  There are six members of the team and every single one is an atheist.  Skye, the pointless alleged hacker pretty face girl holds to a vague spirituality based on hippy commune ideas (God is love, so we love each other and God is everywhere and part of us all!  Cue the sitar, patchouli, and beads).
That's just implausible.  The large minority of humanity claims to be a Christian; about one in three people on earth do.  In the United States, where every member of SHIELD is from, kicks that up to around 70%.  So on a team like that, at least half the members ought to be at least nominally Christian.
And further, the writers are so unfamiliar with Christianity they can only write nebulous quasi-religious statements from Christians.  The woman thinks she's being punished by God because awful things keep happening to her.  OK that's not impossible, but her response is to hate herself and ask God to stop it, not to ask forgiveness and for deliverance.  She doesn't call to God for help, she calls to God to quit being mean to her.
This kind of ignorance about the world's biggest religion, a religion so fundamentally part of our culture still in America that it is presumed to be the nation's faith, a religion so much a part of America that more than two thirds of the people claim to be a part of it... that kind of ignorance is inconceivable.  
I get that people who work in arts and especially work in entertainment tend to be isolated from the bulk of the nation.  I get that a writer for a big time TV show is probably not hanging out with any Christians, that he's aware of.  But surely with so many around he could find one, yes?
This show almost certainly has a Marvel Comics adviser who helps the writing stay on track.  It almost certainly has at least one science adviser to help their quasi-scientific gobbledygook sound plausible and accurate.  They probably have a gay/transexual/transgender/hermaphrodite censor-commissar who makes sure their references are properly tolerant and supportive.  Is it so unreasonable that the show at least consult someone about Christianity before writing one?
I mean, its one thing to have a character who in passing mentions they're a Christian and wears a cross, it doesn't impact the story to do that (or at least it won't).  But to have a significant character be so overtly Christian and have it a major part of their life and the show's dialog and get it so wrong?
It would be like having a Chinese character then have them speaking Korean and making references to Kyoto.  What, they're all Asian right?  Close enough.
This happens far too often in modern entertainment, and I think Christians are partly to blame.  I'm sure CAIR (or WTF or whatever they're calling themselves these days) has a Muslim consultant around to make sure Muslims aren't portrayed in a way they don't like in television shows.  Christians have to do this as well.  Christians should offer their services, say "hey you don't want to offend your audience and you want your show to be accurate, I can help you do that whenever the topic comes up."
But these shows also should be doing due diligence to make sure their portrayal of the bulk of the nation is portrayed accurately as well.  They shouldn't have to be forced by special interested to do their job.  And a good writer will try to make sure they're properly and accurately representing whatever they write.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The plain and obvious ignorance about anything remotely Christian in most of today's television, is the primary reason why I for one have abandoned most network programming. I believe that I first noticed this when watching the medical drama 'St Elsewhere' as a much younger man. I couldn't miss the complete lack of hope by all of the characters on the show, something which seemed incredulous for a medical community. When I thought about it for a while I realized that somehow, amongst this large group represented on the show, there were absolutely NO Christians. When I realized that there were no characters in the show who I could identify with, I was left to just be sympathetic to the entire lot, all of which were portrayed as very intelligent, but thus very lost souls. Not my idea of entertainment by any stretch. Bottom line is this for me, if the networks have no interest in representing the reality of our culture and it's Christian component offering hope and enlightenment to all, why should I bother with what they are dishing out since most of it from a dramatic standpoint represents the saddest form of 'entertainment'. Thanks for your insight.
-Rick in Colorado