So, @eveningspirit mentioned me in this post about Grant Ward and redemption, and even though I tried really hard, I couldn’t not write a long thing.
The argument in the original post is based on the author feeling like Ward is a brother who has done something terrible. That is, the author of the post knows that the brother did something wrong and needs to be punished and make amends, but is also wanting more than anything for the brother to be forgiven. For the author, the desire for Ward’s redemption isn’t something that would necessarily translate into the real world (the author would not ask real life people to be around someone who hurt them), but:
What makes it different, is that this is a tv show and I am a viewer. I will not go to Skye or to Coulson, and I will not tell them “hey, he had bad childhood and Garrett brainwashed him, you owe him forgiveness.” […] Him re-joining the team may only happen one way – when they learn about his past and THEY CHOOSE to forgive him, to give him another chance. I want that. But from behind my tv screen I will neither force, nor convince them to do that. And, if it eventually was THEIR CHOICE, would it really be so bad if they did this, if they accept him back?
The short answer is yes. It’s the returning Ward to the team that is a problem here. Say the whole team has a collective moment of, “Oh, you poor baby, of course you were going to try to kill me!” How do you get from there to getting Ward back on the plane? To May trusting him to have her back in a fight? To FitzSimmons trusting him to not expel them from the plane? To Skye being willing to sleep down the hall from him? This has been covered already in a post by temenus, and golden-femme brought it up, too, so I’ll leave it there, but the basic fact is that in order to make it believable that everyone would trust Ward again, you’d have to re-characterize them, and kind of as idiots.
And if you have to turn characters into idiots, if you can’t actually work out a scenario where it makes sense that May would ever ever ever agree to fight next to Ward, then that’s a problem. That’s what I mean when I talk about the reduction of other characters to props/objects while giving lots of care to an analysis of Ward. A cursory idea that ‘hey, forgiveness would make them feel warm and happy,’ is not actually considering them as developed characters, it’s rationalizing/justifying your own preexisting desire. People forgive other people when they can and/or want to, and it comes out of character and experience and values.
And while our protagonists value second chances, you’ll note that Akela Amador’s second chance is in prison, and she had literally no choice in her actions — Coulson didn’t forgive her and then bunk her next to Skye. And this team hates fascism and Nazism and murder…none of which Ward has actually renounced. (Why does it feel like no one cares about that part?)
And while we’re at it, two other notes about desired Ward redemption arcs: 1) Faith Lehane wasn’t on Buffy at all for three years while she was redemption-ed. Ward has been prominently plugged as a season 2 cast member, so that’s definitely not what they’re going to do. 2) Hopes for Grant Ward to have his own thing where he goes and works independently? That was a show called Angel. And if AoS is going to spawn that kind of arc, it will be Mike fucking Peterson, aka the victim of Centipede/Garrett/Ward who feels the need for internal redemption and has 100% thoroughly renounced all bad guys and every bad thing he was literally forced to do. (And, hey, J. August Richards was one of the best parts of Angel anyways, so why not give him his own show with a similar premise?)
Sorry. That was a detour. The point is that forgiveness comes out of an analysis of the characters doing the forgiving, and it involves not erasing the trauma they suffered. It comes out of thinking about them as fully developed human beings, which is something I don’t see Wardstans do a lot. And, for the record, not thinking about fictional characters as human beings is only a problem when you are thinking about Ward as a full human being, and even bringing him into your family. (It’s the question of which characters you think of as real people, and which you dismiss as ‘only television.’ It’s the fact that so many people seem comfortable with having the white dude be the one real person, and are fine with ignoring the humanity of others, especially women and people of color. That kind of attitude doesn’t happen in a vacuum.)
So, on the note of wiping away the trauma of the characters, can we talk about Skye for a minute? Because Ward terrorized the fuck out of Skye in episodes 19 and 20. Seeing the author of that post say, in a reblog, that,
“at the same time he was conning her — she was conning him”
“she was in control all the time”
is mind-boggling for me. (When a victim of abuse calls the police for help and tries to do it such that his or her abuser won’t find out and perhaps get violent… is that *conning*? Is ‘trying not to die’ a kind of control?) And the idea that it’s not even really kidnapping, or is at least really “multi-faceted” in its definition? I’m speechless. Even if we ignore the icky pre-reveal kissing (which was played as way too aggressive and manipulative and happening even though Skye was hesitant about it), she had just found one of his murder victims. The idea that you do anything willingly when the possibility exists of being murdered like that murder victim you just found… I can’t even respond to that. (Although it sounds remarkably like Fox News hosts and defense attorneys who want to argue that the absence of a ‘no’ somehow equals consent, and then call any situation that doesn’t involve violence “grey rape.” One of the key mechanisms supporting rape culture is the pervasive narrative of a “perfect victim” and the dismissal of the claims of those who don’t fit into that perfect narrative. Skye’s narrative isn’t that of the helpless/perfect victim…but that doesn’t make her not a victim. She was kidnapped, the threat was portrayed as aggressively sexual, and later Ward threatened to take what he wanted from her. That’s the damn text, and it makes Ward out to be the would-be rapist.) Chloe played the fuck out of that scene after she found Koenig, too, so I don’t understand people seeing it as anything other than feeling forced to do something so she didn’t get murdered. She was terrified, but found a way to work the situation so that Nazis wouldn’t win. Because (Skye value alert) SKYE HATES NAZIS. AND FASCISM. SHE HATES THOSE THINGS SO MUCH. Skye would rather die that let Nazis win.
I’m also immensely bothered by the idea that:
“If you are a fan of Skye or Fitz, or any of the other characters that were wronged by Ward, it’s completely understandable that you hate him.”
Does everyone have to like the victims of a crime in order to feel sympathy? In order to believe in justice for the victim as the most important thing? And I also don’t like thinking about people who, when their family members or loved ones do something wrong, are not able to feel primary sympathy for the victims, especially when the family member or brother or whoever has not given even the smallest indication that he/she is sorry, or wants forgiveness. I mean, at least wait for your brother to say he feels regret before you go around talking about his redemption, else you look like you just don’t give a fuck about anyone else.
I’m never going to come to any rational agreement with someone who loves Ward above all, but I’m also never going to come to agreement with someone who draws a line between fiction and reality such that fictional representations of misogyny and racism don’t really matter. Because that’s a pretty fundamental disagreement – do representations of racism and misogyny matter? I vote yes. Does it matter when people say things that are racist or sexist, even if they’re about tv shows? I vote yes. In case it’s unclear somehow, I’m not concerned that Wardstans are going to manipulate AoS in order to force characters to do things, as the author seems to think. The problem here is the ideas about the (non)humanity of victims being spewed into the universe. The real universe. This universe. It’s the language being used. It’s the fact that Wardstans seem to be constantly circulating and rehearsing a bunch of victim-blaming rape apologist crap, while claiming that it’s stupid to be offended by it because it’s about a tv show. Yeah, I don’t like the fact that it’s about my show that I love, but I even more don’t like the fact that there are people saying these things about anything ever.
Which is also where the whole,
“What is not understandable or acceptable, is insulting Ward fans”
comes in. Because my problem isn’t that some fictional characters might be sad (although, yeah, that does bother me because I’m too invested in Skye and all of the people that aren’t Ward). My real real problem is that people are saying things that are offensive. Real world offensive. Real world language that forgives rape and forgives murder and forgives racism and perpetuates a culture in which the murder of people of certain races and certain genders is viewed as less terrible than the locking up of a white dude. Holy hell. That’s troubling. That’s icky. And it matters. It does. The way we think about media, the messages that we get from media, matter. Representation matters. So adding something like ‘I would never say it to a real person, but I just want to spread this hateful language and these hateful ideas into the world about fictional characters’ doesn’t really make what you said less misogynistic or less victim-blaming or less reflexively bound up in a culture that’s already sucky about those things.
If you don’t want anti Ward people to “insult” you, then perhaps before you say anything about Ward, stop and ask yourself whether you’re using a defense that sounds exactly like the defense used in Steubenville. (She didn’t actually say no! Absence of ‘no’ is consent! There was no violence! It’s a difficult issue!) And then don’t say those things. Ever. It doesn’t matter that you’re saying them about a fictional character, it’s still horrible.
Christ on a cracker.
Hey beautiful friends, just a quick request as the news gets bleaker: please tag. There are a lot of people who come on tumblr for a safe space or to reduce anxiety and depression, as well as people who just can’t look at post after post about upsetting things, and those people can only curate their dash to make it safe if they can rely on people tagging correctly. Tagging helps make this a safe community.
Relatedly: please let me know if you want me to tag for something. My ask box is always open. I want this blog to be a safe space and for everyone to have agency in how they experience this corner of the internet. <3
Take care of yourselves, lovelies.
Special skills: extensive Harry Potter knowledge, can watch an entire TV show in a week, knows words to every Disney song, can form abnormally strong attachments to fictional characters, Microsoft Word