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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Shielding you from POC

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. : ABC
I am the self-acknowledged comic groupie of our blog. I will admit it. I will be, if not at the midnight premiere of a comic/graphic novel movie, I hit opening weekend. I am in awe of the whole Marvel universe movie-wise right now, because of the huge amount of planning they are putting into everything. I call Loki my imaginary boyfriend. So I was really, really excited for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to premiere because I was really pissed about Agent Coulson’s death in The Avengers. The fact that Whedon brought him back made up for it a bit. Yet, as the series goes on, I’m finding myself questioning more and more about whether I want to continue on with the series.
The pilot was everything fans could dream of- action, snappy dialogue, intrigue, hidden bad guys, unknown superheroes, and Coulson coming back to life. There’s the Rising Tide, new characters that we don’t know, and a peak into S.H.I.E.L.D. that we got glimpses of during The Avengers. It’s no wonder that it blew ratings out of the water, with live viewers and taped.

Yet as the weeks continue, ratings are declining. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been picked up for the season, and we know that producers Joss Whedon and others have said that there will be tie-ins with the Marvel movies (already from the pilot we have a tie-in with extremis from Iron Man 3 and references to the invasion in New York from The Avengers, so it’s only logical that in November and April we’ll have tie-ins from Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier), but there’s things that are missing.

Everyone has their own points- there’s not enough action, there’s not the snappy dialogue, there’s not enough love interest. And when are we going to find out what actually happened to Agent Coulson? And I get that- everyone has their own expectations when it comes to things. However, I have a huge issue with S.H.I.E.L.D., and it is none of those.

Where are the people of color? Yes, there’s Maggie May (played wonderfully by Ming-Na Wen), but there couldn’t have been anyone else on the “bus” in a color other than white? Agent Coulson is obviously locked in, but there’s no reason that Skye, Agent Ward, Fitz or Simmons could not have been cast as a person of color. Having strong POC as scientists or field agents or hackers would be wonderful for our youth, and add a diversity to a universe that so far is almost completely whitewashed (save for Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who can do no wrong- even in xXx: State of the Union).

Actually, if you want to take it further, like a lot of television shows, S.H.I.E.L.D. seems to be marginalizing POC when it should be placing them in prominent spots. I could care less about Skye’s whining and obvious attraction with Agent Ward (there seems to be NO chemistry between the two), but what happened with Mike Peterson, the superhero from the pilot who was exposed to extremis? Yes, he was taken off it and “cured”, but we never see him again; I was hoping HE would join the team somehow.  Compelling actor of color, and used once and then gone. 

Episode two: “0-8-4”, we get Camilla, a former flame of Agent Coulson, who turns out to be a bad guy. Takes over the bus, and yes, gets everyone to act like a team, but she’s the bad guy, and gone again.

Episode three: In “The Asset” not even the bad guys were people of color. There’s no reason that Dr. Hall, Fitz/Simmons’ mentor couldn’t have been some awesome professor that wasn’t bloody ENGLISH. 

Episode four: “Eye Spy” has another POC as the titular “bad person”, this time with actress Pascale Armand playing a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and former protege of Agent Coulson having been turned by a nameless organization against her will. Coulson and the others save her in the end, but she faces trial for what she did while under the direction of her captors, so it’s doubtful at best if we see her again. 

There is no reason why there can’t be more people of color “on the bus” in Agent Coulson’s terms. It’s a complete casting call, and a wasted opportunity. This could be pushing the boundaries of what is on television, and again we’re given the safe options. 

I’m tired of safe. I don’t need to be shielded. Give me diversity that reflects real life.

Take 5: 5 TV Shows Teens are Talking About

Ah, September. Time for school, turning leaves, football, sweaters….

and new television episodes!!!  If your teens are anything like mine, they are almost as excited for some of the new things on TV as they are for Catching Fire and Thor: The Dark World to be released. Yet I know your schedule is as packed as mine, so I am here to share what my teens are talking about to keep you in the loop! READY?!??!!

The CW is to my teens what Fox is to “new adults” – edgy, on trend programming that captures the imagination. The teens I work with caught the last bit of Smallville, and are addicted to Arrowthe updated tale of the DC hero the Green Arrow starring Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen. The second season will premier on October 9, 2013.
It used to be just me who was geeking over Doctor Who I saw the series when I was younger, and when I caught the reboot with the 9th Doctor I got hooked. Slowly, though, my teens caught up (probably because PBS started airing it- my teens don’t have the upgraded cable to get BBC America) and now they are full-on hooked. It also doesn’t hurt that stores like Hot Topic and Barnes and Noble are selling Doctor Who swag. The 50th anniversary special of Doctor Who airs November 23, 2013.  Check out our Doctor Who Central for read-alikes, programming ideas and more.

Sleepy Hollow premiered Monday, September 16, and my teens were blowing up my DM on Twitter and Facebook asking me if I had seen it- asking me questions about the storylines and actors since I know the original story. A ‘modern-day retelling’ of the Ichabod Crane story, I will have to catch it online or on-demand because I work nights. Ichabod comes back from being buried since 1781, and comes back to life in Sleepy Hollow 2013. So does the Headless Horseman.

My teens never really got into Once Upon a Time (and to be honest, neither did I), possibly because it skewed a bit older- it never really held their interest. However, my teen girls are extremely hyped about Once Upon a Time in Wonderland- in Victorian London, Alice is locked away in an insane asylum for talking about hooka loving caterpillars, talking playing cards, and disappearing cats. Yet the Knave of Hearts and the White Rabbit save her- or do they? Once Upon a Time in Wonderland premiers on October 10, 2013 on ABC.

And if there was any doubt, my teens are clamoring for taking over our game room and big screen TV on the rec side of the building on Tuesday nights and having group viewings of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Held in the Marvel Universe of of The Avengers, this series headed by Agent Coulson (back from the dead, BTW) tells stories about the agents on the ground: “Not all heroes are super”. With Joss Wheadon as executive producer, a lot of eyes are on this series. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiers on September 24, 2013.

What are you excited for? What are your teens talking about? Share in the comments!

Behind the Scenes of Reality TV

Take a moment and sit in front of your TV and flip channels.  Notice a pattern?  The channels are full of shows called “Reality TV”.  Dance Moms, which makes my skin crawl and I can’t figure out why children’s services isn’t involved.  Supernanny.  Wife Swap (seriously, who would do that?).  Honey Boo Boo.

If this is a slice of reality, I think we should be afraid.  Be very afraid.  Of course, most of us have figured out that it is NOT in fact reality.  These shows are edited, sometimes partially scripted, and manipulated in ways to meet standard formulas.  There must be drama.  And tears, tears are good (apparently).

I recently had a conversation with a dance instructor at a Dallas dance studio who gave me some inside scoop on Dance Moms.  The studio she works at was the first dance studio scouted to be on the Dance Moms program.  The owner met with the teachers and producers and discussed what kinds of roles they wanted to fill.  In the end, this particular dance studio chose not to be involved because they didn’t want their friends and neighbors seeing them act like that on TV, even though they knew it would be fake.  Their reputations were more important to them then the money, fame and face time on TV.

Many of our kids, however, don’t know how fake so called reality TV is.  But guess what, there is a book for that.  More than one, actually.

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Chomp is a middle grade fiction title about Wahoo (named after the wrestler, not the fish) who lives in Florida with his father, who is an animal wrangler.  There are monkeys, snakes, and a large alligator (oh my!) named Alice.  They are in serious financial trouble when they are offered the job that might save them: providing animals for the “reality” show Expedition Survival.  It stars Derek Badger (not his real name) who is forced to find ways to survive in a variety of perilous adventures (that are not at all actually perilous).  Along the way they meet Tuna, a young girl with a black eye from her father.  She joins them on the shoot in the Everglades.  Soon her father shows up with a gun and everyone is now trying to survive – for real.

I just finished listening to this on audio and it is one of my favorite audios to date.  I was surprised to find that it was narrated by Mr Dawson himself, James Van Der Beek, and he did a pretty good job.  It helps that he had excellent material to work with; Chomp is funny, heartwarming, adventurous, and teeming with great, rich characters.  I loved how clearly it showed the contrast between who Derek Badger was onscreen and what a spoiled, worthless tool he was behind the scenes.  I also loved how clearly it demonstrated how the screen product was manipulated, from showing the scripts to discussing how scenes actually occurred and how they could edit them to make it appear that something completely different had happened.

I think this is a must read for all Tweens so that they can better understand how entertainment is manipulated, and it helps that it is a brilliantly fun read.

Reality Boy by A. S. King

The reality boy in Reality Boy by A. S. King is one Gerald Faust, a very angry young man.  The anger started when his family began to appear on a television show that is basically a version of Supernanny.  Twelve years later he can’t escape the perception people have of him, or his nickname “The Crapper”.  That’s right folks, he would crap on things as an expression of his anger.  People are still judging him and teasing him for something he did when he was 5 years old.

Reality Boy is a brilliant and moving look at one young man’s anger that simmers just below the surface and his attempts to control it.  If you didn’t know Gerald it would be easy to hate him; distant, angry, withdrawn.  But we do get to know Gerald, what goes on inside his head and the behind the scenes things that led to his barely controlled rage, and you love him.  He is a broken young man, and the realization of why exactly that is makes for a profound and moving read.  What goes on in this young man’s house when the cameras aren’t rolling and how it is all manipulated for TV will blow your mind, break your heart, and then make you swear off reality TV for eternity (which you should probably do any way.)

Reality Boy doesn’t come out until October, but YOU MUST READ IT. Why?

1) Because it is A. S. King book and she is brilliant. She does not pay me to say that.  In fact, I am probably on her personal watch list somewhere for my stalkerish ways.

2) Because we all know a lot of angry young men, and she gives them voice and soft edges underneath and it is important that we remember that something happened in their lives to make them that way.  Their something is probably not being screwed on a reality TV show, but they have their own something.

3) Because it gives keen insight into the behind the scenes of TV production and it is so important that our teens understand what is happening, how the scenes – and the audience – are being manipulated.  There is a great ethical discussion to be had about what we put on TV, how we put it out there, and how we respond to it – especially if it involves children.  Children can’t really consent to what is happening, they don’t have the legal rights, they don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand the short and long term ramifications.  I basically already did, but after reading this book I refuse to ever watch a so-called reality show that involves children (though I don’t reality watch much reality TV to begin with, I’m more of a Buffy/Firefly/Doctor Who kind of girl).

Tweens and teens of any age can read Chomp, it is safe and delightful while being eye-opening.  King writes for an older audience and her main character is an angry teen boy, so there is language.  Though very different in approach and tone, they are both 5 star books that need to be read.  Reality Boy is powerful, thought provoking, and compelling.  Chomp is fun, but the second act does have a little meat to it as it discusses how Tuna lives in an abusive home and her daddy chases them around the Everglades with a gun.

Go further: As a hands on activity, I think you could use your smart phone or tablet to have tweens and teens shoot some of the classroom discussion on these titles, then use editing software to show how they can be edited to make it look like something completely different happened.  They would get a real life look at the behind the scenes process and learn some tech skills in the process.