[SPOILERS for those not caught up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. ahead.]
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s latest offering - 'All The Madame's Men' - saw the show taking a stance on the current state of U.S. politics with a speech that blurred the lines between fiction and real life. The final arc of the show's fourth season has seen the S.H.I.E.L.D. team trapped inside The Framework, a digital alternative reality where the evil organization HYDRA rule with an iron fist, and the protagonists have allied themselves with a resistance group in order to return home.
The arc has been inherently political thanks to its strong dystopian themes. HYDRA have been seen to carry out aggressive stop and search tactics on citizens, arrest people for crimes against the state and have also lied to the public about certain key events. The group has placed a ban on technology such as smartphones and tablets and use drones to keep the population under constant surveillance. The parallels between this interpretation of HYDRA and dictatorship regimes throughout history is clear and should probably come as no surprise, given the fictional organization's links to the Nazi party as seen in Captain America: The First Avenger.
The show's latest episode, however, incorporated a political message of a far more contemporary nature. In an attempt to reveal HYDRA's true nature to the citizens of The Framework, Phil Coulson took to television and delivered the following speech:
"HYDRA doesn't think we're smart enough to know when we're being fed alternative facts to keep us afraid, to keep them in power. Remember, there are more of us than there are of them and now that we know the truth, we have a choice to make. We all have the opportunity to be Patriots. Will you take a stand? Are you going to hold them accountable?"
The monologue's reference to "alternative facts" is a clear reference to the Donald Trump administration. The infamous phrase was originally used by Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway to describe allegedly inflated attendance figures for Trump's inauguration and is now widely seen as political jargon for lying. By using this phrase, episode writers James C. Oliver & Sharla Oliver are clearly signposting that the words are not only directed at HYDRA but have real-life connotations.
Credit must be given to both Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and ABC for allowing the episode to make a political stance in this way as networks are often keen for such shows to remain relatively impartial in terms of politics. Arguably, some of the greatest stories ever told have drawn parallels between fiction and current, real-world events - and by making the Trump/HYDRA connection, A.O.S. grounds its Framework arc in genuine modern issues that effect its audience's lives.
With that said, there is perhaps an argument to be made that superhero television series and movies should completely avoid making such overt political messages. After all, many fans watch shows such as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. to escape from the stresses and troubles of every day life and relax with exciting action and a thrilling story. By making a genuine political statement such as this, some may say the show is overstepping its remit.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. continues with 'Farewell, Cruel World!' May 2nd on ABC.
Source: Marvel TV/ABC