I love the new trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but I get the distinct impression that it’s going to kick Agents of SHIELD in the balls. Without going into too much detail, AoS suffers from a bizarre problem of portraying SHIELD agents as “the good guys” while having them do objectively terrible stuff like wiretapping, kidnapping and shooting civilians, and dumping American prisoners overseas with no money or ID. In most episodes so far, the antagonists have seemed more sympathetic (from a real-world standpoint) than the ostensibly likeable heroes, which is actually more confusing than the way SHIELD was depicted in The Avengers: ie, as an ethically ambiguous government agency, run by a decidedly shady individual.
CA:TWS seems to be going the Avengers route with regards to SHIELD and Nick Fury, which is seriously going to screw with AoS’s weirdly happy-go-lucky attitude towards acting like assholes in the name of homeland security. — Some thoughts on the trailer for Captain America: Winter Soldier
But can we talk about how much sense this makes if Marvel is planning on doing a Civil War adaption? Which really, they should be.
They should be talking about shades of grey. They should be polarizing Cap and Iron Man and SHIELD and everyone.
We live in an age of the Patriot Act, internet transparency, NSA observation, and over sharing. How do people cope? What do we do? When is too much information a bad thing?
That’s exactly what I’m saying? I mean, not Civil War specifically, and realistically I don’t think that’s going to happen in the current movie canon storyline, but I totally agree that SHIELD should be portrayed as more morally ambiguous. Which in the films, it is. It’s the TV show Agents of SHIELD the problem. The main characters do massively unethical things and abuse their power in every single episode, but it’s never shown as a negative thing. It’s just the secret Men In Black government agency version of all the cop shows that blithely depict police brutality from the “good guys” in every second episode.
I would actually argue - and I’m absolutely positive you can think of a trillion counter-examples - that AoS isn’t portraying SHIELD in a good way at all. They’re doing grossly unethical things - and it’s having a directly negative impact on their lives and civilian lives. Hell - in “The Asset” they created Graviton who’s a pretty fantastic villain. They had to kill Scorch in the most recent episode which clearly upset Coulson who likes to think of himself in the sense of What Would Captain America Do? (Shoot Hitler? No - he’d punch him). I think AoS definitely portrays them as doing what they think needs to be done, so that they can justify their actions for themselves, but I would argue the show doesn’t hold back from giving the audience peeks at the long term effects of their moral gray-ness. The Rising Tide seems to exist as this shady organization rooted solely in SHIELD’s secrecy - the organization, because of its life in gradient, creates its own villains - on both sides of the fence, and I would argue the show points out the rather bad outcome of those actions.
To a certain extent, I agree. The things that SHIELD agents do in AoS are often “bad” and regularly have negative repercussions. That’s not what I’m complaining about. The problem I have with the show is that it’s not really highlighting this in an intelligent way. AoS is built to be a family entertainment show. Most episodes involve a whole host of pretty tired cliches, the characters are very simple, the stories are extremely easy to understand, and the moral/ethical problems with the things they do are rarely discussed onscreen. It’s possible that they’re trying to be subtle and have the audience work out for themselves that SHIELD is “bad”, but I really don’t think they’re succeeding in that aim as storytellers.
Every other aspect of the show sends the message that the writers think the audience need EVERYTHING spelled out for them in a very simple and childish way: character development, storyline details, everything. As Marvel fans with a tendency to overanalyse, we can notice and debate the ethical failings of SHIELD, but the show itself is barely acknowledging them, and when it does, those acknowledgements come from a villain or antagonist who is immediately discredited while the SHIELD team are portrayed as a fun, friendly group of good guys — even when they’re kidnapping civilians and putting bags over their heads. It’s the difference between a cheesy mainstream cop show where detectives regularly beat up ~suspects~ because they “have to”, and a show like SouthLAnd where issues like police brutality are illustrated in a thoughtful and nuanced way.
The closest the show ever gets to this is whenever Coulson is the moral centre of the team, objecting to shooting civilians, or expressing remorse when something goes wrong. But that’s generally shown as a Coulson characterisation detail rather than overall commentary on the morality of SHIELD itself.