Saturday, April 28, 2018

Quick S.H.I.E.L.D Chat

SPOILERS up to April 27, 2018 episode of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Just wait until I get to all my many, many thoughts about DC's Legends of Tomorrow!)

I was reading a review of last night's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and they said this about Daisy: "It’s funny to watch the series try to push the idea she’s ready to lead, while simultaneously playing out a narrative which undercuts that notion at every turn. Everyone wants to stop the destruction of the planet, but they’re working almost at cross-purposes in their efforts to do what they think is best in pursuit of that goal."

First thought was: I don't know that it's "the series" pushing this idea. And the second sentence made me think, gee, that sounds pretty much like real life, right? Which gave me some ideas about the first sentence, and this whole storyline.

Daisy was put in the charge of the team when Coulson was unable to, and there is evidence that she CAN be a good leader, but also that she may not be ready, today, to BE a good leader. She doesn't have the wealth of experience to handle all the aspects, especially in getting her team to buy in to her leadership. Important characters, like May, have questioned putting her in charge. But ready or not, someone has to be the leader, and this reflects real-life problems.

Coulson rose in the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. at a time when it was a stable, well-funded organization with clear leadership and career trajectories. He could spend plenty of time as a quippy underling, learning the ropes, being mentored by Nick Fury, gaining experience and maturity along the way. That's the traditional path of leadership. But that environment doesn't exist anymore. He doesn't have an equivalent person, who spent that time and that path preparing to eventually step into the leadership role. The most experienced agents -- May and Mack -- pretty explicitly don't want the job. They're valuable agents, and both are capable of leading missions or being in temporary command. Eventually, though, the sustainability of the agency (or any project, workplace, or organization) will require a more permanent leader.

With the information that Coulson is dying, the problem of future leadership is suddenly a pressing one. The reality is, Coulson could have died (for real) at any time in the past 5 seasons. What will hold the team together then? Who will step up, and how prepared will they be? Because of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s unique knowledge and resources for dealing with threats to the world, the fate of humanity, in this case, may depend on these choices. (Which, metaphorically, reflects the fact that the fate of humanity does rest in the choices we all make, and the future we create in the present, albeit in a more dramatic symbolic way). Many groups, like this one, have been held together by personal loyalty, and the skills of the current leader; Coulson, in this case. If there hasn't been time, or the will, to properly nurture new leadership, then the entire enterprise is extremely vulnerable to collapse. So while Daisy may have been thrown in before she's ready, someone has to do it, and they're going to have to learn fast.

This is our current situation. Traditional paths and structures have eroded, or been demolished. The jobs still need doing, and organizations are often held together by individual force of will. But that isn't a sustainable model. The old world is gone, and new people have to step up before a new one is built. Coulson had a whole career to prepare him for his vitally important job, but Daisy will never have that luxury, and neither will anyone else of her generation. She, or someone possibly less experiences, will have to learn to do the same job, but in the midst of chaos, without the support system Coulson had when he was learning how to be a leader.

Side note: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has definitely been reflecting current political realities in the past few seasons, so let's look at that sentence again: "Everyone wants to stop the destruction of the planet, but they’re working almost at cross-purposes in their efforts to do what they think is best in pursuit of that goal." Isn't that what we see on the news? Even from those who recognize that we need to stop the destructive trends? Here's hoping that the team will find the way to work together and save the world, just to give us some hope for the future!

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