Further Thoughts on Agent Carter and Diversity

I got a comment on my post from Monday pushing back a little bit on my assessment that Agent Carter isn’t doing enough to give people of color a fair depiction (I believe I bandied about the fact that episodes 2 and 3 feature no characters of color, a point I can confirm, having now watched them).  It was a pretty good comment (thank you for commenting, person!  I like getting comments) and the writer even pointed out to me that from a strictly demographic perspective, New York City in 1946 was overwhelmingly white (Wikipedia confirms the 90% figure).

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I wanted to post a still from the show depicting some of the people of color that have appeared so far, but I felt like a picture of a corpse was a little morbid. (Image credit: Wikipedia)

This is a fair point, and for once, the historical record probably is accurate enough to explain why you don’t have a more contemporary representation of New York’s demographics.

But. (There’s always a but.)

I maintain that Agent Carter should be championing more roles for people of color in its stories.  Historic records have a tendency not to be so great when it comes to representing the achievements of marginalized groups, and falling back on the argument that “it’s not what the history books say” fails to look critically at those sources and consider what the people who got ignored were doing.  After all, saying that New York’s population was 90% white in the 1940s fails to account for that other 10%.  Given that this is a show set in a fantastic world with a focus on exceptionally fantastic people, there’s plenty of room to introduce characters of color who are exceptional for the setting.  This is not just an issue of historical accuracy (a squishy term if there ever was one), but an issue of contemporary representation.  You can’t just say, “well, it’s a period show set in a time and place where nine out of ten people were white, so we don’t need to worry about diversity in our cast,” because 2015 audiences care about diversity.

Besides that, there’s also the fact that Marvel’s Cinematic Universe has already diverted from our history with depictions of integrated military units during World War II in Captain America: The First Avenger.  The presence of people of color, particularly in highly skilled government work, already has precedence, so it’s honestly really surprising that Agent Carter doesn’t have a person of color working in the SSR office (it might be a kind of wry joke that you have the group of token agents, since we’ve established that Carter and Sousa, who is disabled due to a leg injury from the war, are sort of the outcasts of the office).  Essentially, worrying about “historical accuracy” in a fantasy world is bogus; I’d rather be watching a show that ignores the historical record in order to depict a world that I want to live in.

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