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September 08 2012

Can Joss Whedon (et al) make a TV show about establishment good guys? Spinoff Online wonders how the forthcoming S.H.I.E.L.D. series will square with Whedon's past television penchant for questioning authority.

(Not to reduce the actual showrunners to "et al", but the article is about Joss' history regarding "The Man", so I stuck with the article's angle.)
Someone in the comments of that article mentioned Mockingbird and if that's not in Joss' wheelhouse I don't know what is.
Can Joss Whedon (et al) make a TV show about establishment good guys?

Yes. Because he's a good writer. There I've solved the problem (and by only using three sentences).
Interesting article that raises some good points. Yeah, Joss is not a fan of traditional authority types. Maybe he'll find a way in to S.H.I.E.L.D. which allows him to kinda do the empowered little guy against the system thing while also portraying a sympathetic if flawed big and powerful organisation. Maybe get some newly recruited agents with their own agendas and own special gifts (making them highly valuable) who don't really trust the people they are working for. S.H.I.E.L.D. can have its 'good' and 'bad' factions fighting for the soul of the organisation with our 'little guys' caught in the middle while still trying to do the right thing by the world and by themselves. Whatever, it'll be cool to see what Joss does end up doing with it.
Id like to see him try what its like being the people in charge and not trying to screw everyone else over.

Kind of "The West Wing" with superpowers, then?

[ edited by mr_waterproof on 2012-09-08 20:33 ]
I am imagining something like Angel's season 5, where there are good guys caught up in a larger bureaucratic organization which is NOT all good. Huge organizations always feel justified in their actions, but there are always self serving groups seeking control and manipulation. Actually I'm guessing it will be a lot like Dollhouse without the sex. Just my personal opinion of course.
He could always do what he did in the movie and create a higher authority than S.H.I.E.L.D. that would be questioned and defied, so I don't see him having a problem with this in the show.
S.H.I.E.L.D. wasn't exactly unambiguously good in the movie, either. While clearly on the "saving Earth" side of the equation, the organization has people in command that occupy many different places on spectrums like blind rule-following/rebelliousness and hawkishness/dove-ishness. Even the power structure reflects some of that; for a military organization, their individual agents seem to have a LOT of autonomy. And most of all, S.H.I.E.L.D. insists upon secrecy. Covertness is built in to the very fabric, which means when things go wrong it leads to an all new level of bad.

There is PLENTY there for even the staunchest anti-authoritarian to work with (not saying Joss is necessarily that person, but still true if so).

Basically, yes, S.H.I.E.L.D. saves the world. But does it save the world right?
I think there's a longer-term plan for SHIELD in the Marvel-verse, anyway, so I think if they are an untrustworthy organisation (which, they really kinda are, since Avengers concludes an awful lot of beats saying they are untrustworthy), it'll be hard to say until we see more. I understand the authors points though - I just think it'll be a few good eggs against the grain.
Whedon spoke a lot about presenting the many sides of the 'Dollhouse' argument in his commentary for 'Man on the Street' and I can see him going along the same route for Shield where no one is in the clear.

Just look at The Avengers, pretty much the entire group is against what Nick Fury is attempting to do with the Tesseract. But then Fury is dead against the shadowy figures who are willing to lose New York in order to destroy the Alien threat. On top of that you have the Maria Hill deleted opening where she expresses her disapproval of Fury's approach.

None of these are the 'bad guys' per say but they all disagree. I can see the TV show going in a similar direction where there's huge conflict regarding Shield's approach and what it should or should not be doing. But with a different group of characters and in a lot more detail.
@Simon - I'm sure there is no doubt that he could create something that had a benign authority at the centre of the story, but the question is whether he would want to do that. The article seems to worry that his natural tendency of having those in power be ultimately evil, despite good intentions (real or fake,) and to have the underdog fight back against this might win out.

Personally, I don't see why that should be a worry. Obviously, I hope it is not just a regurgitation of what we have seen a few times before from Joss, but it is one reoccurring them that I can definitely get behind. It also seems a little strange to hope that he would go down the route presented by the article, when he has already set the plot up to go in the other direction in the film.
Joss established in Avengers that there's a group that Fury answers to that he doesn't agree with (to the point of shooting down a plane to countermand them). Right there you've got your "good guys" and "bad guys" for the S.H.I.E.L.D. series. A group of plucky underdogs trying to do good things while beholden to people with a much greyer plan. Embers' comment above compares it to Angel season 5, and that's the first thing I thought of when this was announced as well.
I just assumed that it will be something like "Alphas," where you've got a group that sometimes is at counter-purposes with each other and their immediate supervisor, who in turn is in conflict with *his* supervisors (to the point of them tossing him in a mental institution at the end of S1/start of S2). There is nothing, canonically or logically, forcing a benign hierarchy with S.H.I.E.L.D.
Is anyone familiar with Joss's body of work and The Avengers seriously hoping for a S.H.I.E.L.D. show in which S.H.I.E.L.D. are unequivocally good guys? The Avengers makes it clear that while S.H.I.E.L.D's goals may be 'good' their methods are not awesome.

This is precisely why such a show has the potential to be great television -- there is a wealth of gray areas of morality it can explore.
Got to echo those who question whether the author of the article has any familiarity with S.H.I.E.L.D. These are manipulative, bad, exploitative guys, even at the best of times. And in the hands of others - I think of Mark Millar's reimagining of S.H.I.E.L.D., which I suspect will be somewhat similar to Whedon's - S.H.I.E.L.D. is completely amoral. Within the Marvel universe S.H.I.E.L.D. often engages in less than admirable activity. They try to be on the side of the angels as they imagine it, but they do so by engaging in less than admirable activities.

Think the Civil War event. The whole idea was that all super powered individuals would be required to register with the government, confessing their secret identities. They would then be required to work under the direction of S.H.I.E.L.D. for the good of the government. They would also be required to go after superheroes who refused to cooperate with the superhero registration act. In no way is S.H.I.E.L.D. presented in that series as the good guys. In fact, even though Captain America gives up on his fight against the act (because of the injuries to innocents that resulted from his resisters to Iron Man's enforcers), Iron Man, Reed Richards, and S.H.I.E.L.D. are clearly depicted as being in the wrong and abusing their power.

I mentioned this in another thread, but I've been on a Marvel binge lately, both rereading all my Marvel books (I refuse to buy individual issues of Marvel because they insist on running arcs through multiple issues - so I just wait for the book where they will bring issues from 3 or 4 or even 5 or 6 titles together) and buying several new ones. The one thing I've noticed is that S.H.I.E.L.D. pops up in nearly all of them. S.H.I.E.L.D. is sort of the hub of the entire Marvel Universe. They interface with the Avengers and the Defenders and the X-Men and the Fantastic Four and with many individual figures. They are essentially everywhere. And what is more, they have a connection to every Marvel Superhero simply because if a hero brings a villain to justice, they get incarcerated at the Triskelion, which is S.H.I.E.L.D.'s headquarters. The Triskelion is sort of the official offices for the Avengers, for instance (though they reside at the Avengers' Mansion), but also the equivalent of of Arkham Asylum. Or to put it another way, it is both the Watchtower and Arkham Asylum combined.

But all the stories I imagine emanating from a S.H.I.E.L.D. series, I do not imagine a story of a moral higher authority. And certainly the scenes in the Avengers film were hinting at a more nefarious side to things.

Think about the TV series ALIAS (not to be confused with the outstanding Marvel Max comic book series by Brian Michael Bendis about ex-superhero/detective Jessica Jones - though that series illustrates my point about S.H.I.E.L.D. being everywhere - Jessica's ex-boyfriend is Clay Quatermain, who many think might end up one of the lead characters in a S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, while she was offered a job at S.H.I.E.L.D. as liaison between it and the Avengers, and S.H.I.E.L.D. pops up at several other points in the four books comprising the series). Sydney Bristow's CIA is hardly a force for good and she finds it frequently undermined for evil purposes. Same will hold true in Joss's show about S.H.I.E.L.D. They will not be wearing white hats.

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