Over at Grantland.com they are very excited about the new show, Agent Carter, about a woman in 1946 who is a secret agent for the US govt. What makes the show so great, they explain, is how human she is. She has to wash the dishes and everything.
In the climax of the first episode, she brings her own brand of justice to a fat white male who touches a waitress inappropriately. She puts a fork to his body, and threatens to kill him with it unless he first tips the waitress handsomely and then leaves, never to return.
The context of the show clearly intends for us to applaud Agent Carter for her derring-do.
Let’s imagine a show about a Klansman. He sees a fat black male who touches a white waitress inappropriately. The Klansman puts a fork to his body, and threatens to kill him with it unless he first tips the waitress handsomely and then leaves, never to return.
Devil’s Advocate: But Dave, that is an outrage. The Klansman should have been tasered and tossed in jail for threatening murder. Not only that, how dare he deny anyone entry to a public place of business, especially with threats of violence? What right has he to cause financial loss to the owner of the diner? And if he thinks he is helping the waitress, he has another think coming. The owner of the diner will ask around about why his oldest customer now eats next door. When he learns it’s because of the waitress’s friend, he will fire the waitress.
Not only that, such a show places violence on a pedestal. It makes the Klansman seem like a hero for using violence. It gives the viewers, some of whom are small children, the idea that threats of murder are the best way to deal with difficult problems. It encourages them to act like Klansmen, to trample all over other people’s lives and incomes to resolve a problem that clearly has a better solution. It dehumanizes fat black men.
SD: And when Agent Carter does all that?
DA: Then it’s OK.