If you haven’t watched it in a while (or ever) Marvel’s Agents of Shield has become a running commentary on the Trump administration, complete with references to Fox News and the progressive meme “she persisted.”
My dad was briefly a comic dealer in the 70s and would give me extra copies of Silver Surfer to sell for spending money. I had friends that were DC devotees but for me, it was all about Marvel. So having Marvel gradually take over Hollywood over the past 17 years (since X-Men) and, more recently, expand onto television has been pretty great for me. Even when the movies have been disappointing (I’m looking at you Fantastic Four), I’m still pretty pleased they are being made.
Maybe that explains why I stick with things Marvel is doing beyond the point where I probably should have given up. One of those things is Marvel’s Agents of Shield. This season of the show started off with episodes reintroducing Ghost Rider (he’s not Nicolas Cage on TV). Ghost Rider bowed out at the midseason break and instead the show became focused on a kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style plot in which members of the team were being replaced by lifelike androids. More recently, the story took another turn into a Matrix-esque plot in which all of the characters are locked in a simulation of reality called the Framework.
The framework is a dystopian version of reality where the main characters in the show have become agents of Hydra. In this world, Hydra was never destroyed and is pretty much running everything. They monitor people with drones. They rewrite history books. They drag dissidents out of classrooms and re-educate them. They hunt down inhumans. And they spew propaganda from a friendly news network.
If you’re guessing that the show has constantly drawn parallels between this Hydra dystopia and Trump’s election you would be right. In one recent episode, one of the male characters, who is now leading Hydra and sporting what Samantha Bee would call “Nazi hair,” beats up a female character and comments off-handedly that he warned her to tell the truth but “nevertheless, she persisted.”
In the most recent episode, the Shield agents, who are all slowly coming to their senses about who they really are, take over Hydra’s favorite news network and broadcast a pirate video. As you can see below, this is agent Phil Coulson (actor Clark Gregg) talking about “alternative facts” and inviting people to join the resistance. “I’m choosing to stand up, to become a part of something bigger,” he says. All that’s missing is a pussy hat.
Honestly, having progressive politics mixed with entertainment is nothing new. If you’re a conservative you come to expect it and, for the most part, it’s easy to ignore or simply turn off. The problem with Agents of Shield is that the more it tries to draw parallels between a dystopian world and the real one, the more absurd it seems. An evil organization started by Nazis has not taken over the country. Children are not being put in re-education camps. There is not a government news network controlling what people think. And contrary to what the show suggests, being part of the resistance is not life-threatening. In fact, it’s quite popular and probably very good for your career if you’re working in Hollywood.
According to this site, Agents of Shield will probably survive for one more season, or possibly a split season with the new Inhumans show. Here’s hoping the writers get over the 2016 election by then.