Agents of Shield, the Whedon-crew TV series spun out of the Marvel superhero film universe has been picked up for series. Lots of people are very excited! I’m quite excited too actually. But take a look at this:
SKYE: This late-20s woman sounds like a dream: fun, smart, caring and confident – with an ability to get the upper hand by using her wit and charm.
AGENT GRANT WARD: Quite the physical specimen and “cool under fire,” he sometimes botches interpersonal relations. He’s a quiet one with a bit of a temper, but he’s the kind of guy that grows on you.
AGENT ALTHEA RICE: Also known as “The Calvary,” this hard-core soldier has crazy skills when it comes to weapons and being a pilot. But her experiences have left her very quiet and a little damaged.
AGENT LEO FITZ and AGENT JEMMA SIMMONS: These two came through training together and still choose to spend most of their time in each other’s company. Their sibling-like relationship is reinforced by their shared nerd tendencies – she deals with biology and chemistry, he’s a whiz at the technical side of weaponry.
About three weeks later, Ming-Na Wen was cast as Agent Melinda May:
Soulful and slightly damaged by her combat experiences, Melinda is an ace pilot, a weapons expert and a soldier who can – and has – gone beyond the call of duty… In the original casting call, Agent May was listed as Agent Althea Rice, aka The Calvary.
Then the announcement of the series pickup, as reproduced at Bleeding Cool included character descriptions:
Coulson’s team consists of Agent Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), highly trained in combat and espionage, Agent Melinda May (Ming-Na Wen) expert pilot and martial artist, Agent Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker); brilliant engineer and Agent Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge) genius bio-chemist. Joining them on their journey into mystery is new recruit and computer hacker Skye (Chloe Bennet).
So Althea Rice, a weapons expert and pilot, morphed into Melinda May, martial artist and pilot, somewhere around the time an Asian actress was cast in the part. Is this another instance of that All Asians Are Martial Artists trope? (No other characters appear to have changed names or basic descriptions.)
No point jumping to conclusions – this might be a PR flack writing a press release and making assumptions, for a start. But it’s a curious change nonetheless. File it away for now.
(Big nod to Mike Foster and Steve Hickey, who spotted the Asian martial artist trope in the announcement and talked about it, sparking my interest.)