Agent Carter Diversity Scorecard

Okay, the second season of Marvel’s Agent Carter is over and it’s time to tally up the score!

We’ll be using a tried and true scoring system I just made up and will be applying with liberal bias. Agent Carter will be assigned a grade based upon a 100 point grading scale in which we begin at 0 and add or subtract points as appropriate. This system is based mainly on Hogwarts’ house points system, because we are nerds, after all.

This is not the kind of diversity we’re talking about.

No appeals will be possible, although dissenting opinions may be logged in the comments section below. (Please note: any dissent posted on this site may be used against you in one of the show trials we PC police like to stage now and then).

To business:

From zero we leap immediately to 50 points because I just dig this show. I mean: its premise! How many shows take place in the late ’40s, after WWII? And how many shows at all star a female secret agent, much less period pieces? And how do we love Agent Carter the character? Let us not count the ways ‘cuz we’d be here ’til Sunday. Kickass female lead ftw!

I see a crack in our diversity facade!

We’ll add an additional 10 points (for a round 60) for a female villain, and an additional 5 (65!) for a lead female villain motivated entirely by her own lust for power — inspired by her experiences with sexism, natch, but out of her own free will; unlike poor little put-upon-and-ruled-by-evil-men Dottie from season one, who would have taken a points hit for this if we’d been doing this last year.

Add another 10 points (75!) for an additional three (3!) major female characters, one of whom is a) a woman of a certain age, b) a receptionist suddenly elevated to active agent, c) not traditionally attractive, and yet d) kickass. A second one, however, is the aforementioned Dottie, who has gained somewhat in agency, but spends pretty much all her time in captivity and even, at one point, requires rescue by our hero(es). Dottie’s a draw.

Why am I even here?

But the third one, Mrs. Jarvis, whose first name I’ve forgotten (bad sign), loses the show five points (down to 70) for being a big-eyed, adoring wifey who gets minorly fridged to give Jarvis’ character some complexity. In fact, she’s there at all to make the entirely helpmeet Jarvis (seen in the first season in an apron, cooking, as well as cleaning house) more “manly.” As charming as the actress is (and she is) we didn’t need to see Mrs. Jarvis at all — ever — if she wasn’t going to be her own brand of kickass.

And no, I don’t mean she has to fight and be active, but really. Jarvis does all the housework, so all the Mrs. is capable of doing is sewing and styling. She’s useless! And her major tragedy when she gets shot-not-killed? That she loses the ability to have children! ARGGHHHH! And then, and then Jarvis doesn’t tell her what happened to her own body and nobody points out how not okay that was and he never apologizes to her for taking it upon himself to make decisions about her body for her and she never says anything about it either… Okay, I have to stop talking about her before I get worked up and take off more points.

Where were we? Oh, right. 70 points.

So, 20 points for adding a major character of color, Dr. Jason Wilkes, a genius physicist and Peggy’s new love interest, for a nice, round 90!

Five points off immediately for this.

Ten points off, I’m afraid, because Wilkes is the only character of color in the second season.

We’re depicting diversity of competence.

Yes, there were a few shadowy black people in the background of one scene, but we’re only counting as “characters” speaking people who actually do stuff. By this criterion, there are actually four characters of color in season one, although none of them major, all of them men, and three of whom are killed off within an episode. So the diversity quantity actually decreased, although the quality increased.

And another 5 points down for the six (count ’em, 6!) other new major characters who are — yes — all white.

We are actually as white as a Tarantino movie!

Villain Whitney Frost, with some slight alterations to her circumstances, could have been a character of color. Her senator/industrialist husband, Chadwick, could have been a COC who was passing as white, and would have been a lot more interesting as such. The SSR’s scientist dude, Samberly, as well as the new receptionist-turned-agent Rose Roberts (who, yes, was in season one, but just barely, and didn’t have to be the one in her position) could both have been OC without any adjustments or sleight of hand. Only Vernon Masters (the evil power player) and Joseph Manfredi (the mafioso) were really locked into their ethnicities.

Ah, how sad! All of Jason Wilkes’ points got knocked off and we’re back to 70!

Guess who’s smarter. Just guess.

And we’re not done yet! I’m gonna have to take an additional 5 points away for the way they portrayed Wilkes. I mean, really. He and Peggy are into each other, but the first time his life is in danger, he threatens to shoot her in a convoluted plot to save his own life? What’s the point in having a character of color if you’re just going to have a white dude (Sousa) show him up? I mean really! White dude brave, black dude cowardly?

Yes, arguments can be made against this interpretation (Peggy makes some of them) and Wilkes is also a geeeeenius and does also help fix things at the end. But then, being a geeeenius ain’t what it used to be in a world with four — count ’em: FOUR! — certified geeeeeeniuses who are clearly ranked in order of intelligence: Whitney Frost > Howard Stark > Jason Wilkes > Samberly. Again, why have a man of color who is beaten out by both a white man and a white woman?

And can we just talk for a moment about how Peggy chooses the white dude over him? No? Okay. Moving on.

Also, from 65 I’m gonna have to take an additional 5 because no LGBTQIA characters are even hinted at. But then 5 will be added back in because a major character (Sousa) is disabled — although his disability is nearly entirely glossed over in season two, unlike season one where we could really see his limitations, while also seeing how kickass he was.

Where does that leave us? 65?

We had to add extra white people to balance all the brown/ish.

That seems low. Does that seem low? Well, if we compare this show to other superhero/comix shows, it doesn’t seem like such a low score. Arrow and Jessica Jones have lone POC characters isolated in a field of white, but all of those characters are brave and heroic and have agency and individual arcs. Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, and Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. have multiple major heroic and complex characters of color, each with their own arc. Daredevil and Supergirl each have two major characters of color, in varying states of independence and heroism. And I don’t watch Gotham, so you’re going to have to tell me in comments. I’m guessing that an ensemble show like that will show up better, tho’.

So yes, I think 65 points is more than fair. A solid D? And, in fact, I will add on 3 extra points for effort. Wilkes was evidence of effort, if not of mastery of… well… anything.

Which means our final score is 68, or a D+.

Agent Carter I still love you and will still watch season three if there is one. But you better step up your game because, in this day and age, you’re not keeping up.

16 thoughts on “Agent Carter Diversity Scorecard

  1. I don’t think that system works…ie all the white characters in the show are there to make a point on white privilege.

    1. Do say more, Swanpride … let me just hit “record” on this recording device which you should entirely ignore …

  2. I vigorously disagree with the points awarded. While imperfect, I applaud and appreciate “Agent Carter” the TV show’s attempt at diversity. I would not fail the show. Unlike The Walking Dead, Agent Carter the TV show may imperil Black men, but it does not kill them off in significant numbers. Hogwarts Point System is not germane to the MCU.
    I like the new NOC website format!

    1. A D+ is not a failing grade! Unless you’re in grad school! And last season three out of four POC in the show — two of them black men — were killed off within one episode! I’d call that killing black men off in significant numbers!

      1. I have a graduate degree and 68 is FAILURE. Even the nomenclature of “poor but passing” (D +) is unacceptable in my world. I disagree that Agent Carter scored below 70.

        As to Agent Carter casting Blacks, the only Black guy I even recall from season 1 was from the Howling Commandos and he didn’t have much of a speaking part. Same for the Asian guy. They were more like guest starring roles. And, that is why AC was roundly criticized for the lack of diversity. The only PoC you saw were strictly in the background.

        Agent Carter returned stronger in season 2, however, and I must give credit where credit is due with the addition to Dr. Wilkes. He was portrayed as a highly intelligent guy but not a total geek. He was good looking and although he went through trials and tribulations and became non-corporeal for a spell he regained his body and even made a play for Peggy. Although Peggy appears to be with Sousa, Wilkes is still in the game and got hired on with Stark, so my final grade for Agent Carter is 78.

        If AC gets a season 3, I’d like to see other PoC including Asians and Latinos, etc.

  3. While I do agree on some things, this takes place in 1947 while we’ve made many great strides in diversity. POC wouldn’t be in positions of prominence back then. We tend to judge the past with our modern views, back then racism and discrimination were unfortunately a way of life.

    1. I agree that racism prevailed in the era of Agent Carter, but sorry, Suarez, you know not what you speak of regarding PoCs in “positions of prominence,” because my paternal grandmother’s father and uncle were prominent attorneys in Detroit, MI way,way back in the 1920s. They were Black and fair-skinned but still Black and by the late 1940s they were at the height of their legal careers and running for judge. Some of their cases can still be seen on Lexis-Nexis (what a source of great pride!) My paternal great grandmother was also the first Black R,N. (This wing of the family was mixed with African, English/European and American Indian and were basically “Free People of Color” in the USA.)

      ****Back to AGENT CARTER, I was SHOCKED that the show gave Wilkes such a razzle dazzle role, given the whitewash treatment of the prior season, and it was great and did not require a suspension of disbelief. ****

      Yes, many Blacks and other PoCs were working as Pullmen porters and domestics, but there were also doctors, lawyers,m scientists and engineers and inventors, but obviously you are unaware because Blacks and Asians and other PoCs, just were not given their just due in U.S. history books because of bias and discrimination.

      WE DID EXIST and made great contributions to this county. This is not a statement based on looking through the prism of the present, but a statement of historical fact as is the following, which further supports the casting of Wilkes as a brilliant scientist circa 1947.

      African-American Firsts: Science and Medicine
      – First patent holder: Thomas L. Jennings, 1821, for a dry-cleaning process.
      -Sarah E. Goode, 1885, became the first African-American woman to receive a patent, for a bed that folded up into a cabinet.

      -M.D. degree: James McCune Smith, 1837, University of Glasgow; Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first black woman to receive an M.D. degree. She graduated from the New England Female Medical College in 1864.

      -Inventor of the blood bank: Dr. Charles Drew, 1940.
      Heart surgery pioneer: Daniel Hale Williams, 1893.

      African-American Firsts: Scholarship
      College graduate (B.A.): Alexander Lucius Twilight, 1823, Middlebury College; first black woman to receive a B.A. degree: Mary Jane Patterson, 1862, Oberlin College.
      Ph.D.: Edward A. Bouchet, 1876, received a Ph.D. from Yale University. In 1921, three individuals became the first U.S. black women to earn Ph.D.s: Georgiana Simpson, University of Chicago; Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander, University of Pennsylvania; and Eva Beatrice Dykes, Radcliffe College.
      Rhodes Scholar: Alain L. Locke, 1907.
      College president: Daniel A. Payne, 1856, Wilberforce University, Ohio.

      1. You put it better than I did, I know people of color were there but we didn’t get the credit we deserved as you elegantly stated. We were prominent just not as prominent because of discrimination and bias. Interracial marriages were illegal despite them happening for centuries. What I meant with viewing the past through our modern standards, back then white supremacy more specifically Anglo-Saxon supremacy was legal. Our views a century from now won’t be our views right now, we will think differently.

        Peggy Carter had the first interracial kiss of comic book history to my knowledge.

      2. Thank you, Martin Suarez and Hmm….interesting comment when you stated: “Our views a century from now won’t be our views right now, we will think differently.” If only we had a TARDIS!

        I honestly think the reason the ratings dropped on AC this season was due to Wilkes and the interracial love factor. We just can’t have it on in TV Land it seems, but maybe in Shondaland?

      3. If the ratings dropped due to the Wilkes/Carter affair, then it’s because it was so poorly written. Other interracial relationships on tv have been very popular, but they’ve also been well written. Having Wilkes act the coward doesn’t help anything, and makes their subsequent continued attraction really uncomfortable.

      4. Like who? Jessica Jones and Luke Cage? They basically had a one night stand and produced a child.

  4. Perhaps, I think last season the ratings were decent but not great. I know of several shows that were cancelled because of low ratings but were well received. I was thinking of the debated racebending in pop culture. I know Jason was a white guy in the comics but how far should it be taken? There are superheroes and characters whose ethnicity are a key factor in their story. I mean can you imagine an Asian guy playing Black Panther? If we were going with that I could imagine T’Chaka falling in love with a white woman or an Asian woman on his studies abroad make T-Challa biracial. For example I’m Hispanic, Irish and Spanish if Daredevil in the future is too reflect the diversity of the time I would make him half Irish and half Puerto Rican because of the demographic of New York City it has a sizable Puerto Rican population.

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