As I’ve said multiple times here on the Feminist Asian Dad blog, Marvel’s Cloak & Dagger is one of the best TV series I’ve seen in my entire 48-year life. It isn’t just a teen superhero show, but it’s true art of both exceptional quality and clear-eyed social commentary. Find me another show taking on race, gender, and class like it does, yet without getting preachy. There isn’t another, particularly one that teens and young adults can easily relate to!
Cloak & Dagger dives into so many issues we urgently must confront today in American society. It explores consent and sexual assault, domestic violence, sex trafficking, police bias and brutality against Black males, addiction and codependency, suicide, homelessness, environmental degradation, and corporate and political corruption. It’s the only show I’ve seen that even uses the word “privilege” in dialogue! Without seeming to force these issues upon the narrative, Cloak & Dagger weaves these themes brilliantly into a compelling, heartfelt story filled with diverse, multi-dimensional characters, thrilling action, and plot Twists with a capital T.
The show also sets the standard for using the local color and traditions of the city in which it is set. Most shows just have obligatory nods to place names and possibly the weather, as in the case of those set in the Pacific Northwest. But with its brilliant use of New Orleans’ more unique cultural and spiritual elements, the city itself becomes a character in Cloak & Dagger, with the series feeling much like a love letter to the Crescent City.
Few are the truly entertaining shows that do what the best art is supposed to do – foster empathy and provide an easy bridge to real-life conversations about societal challenges. Cloak & Dagger does this better than almost any other show I’ve seen – especially, again, with respect to shows that teens and young adults can identify with.
I have a recent example. I was invited to speak at last week’s annual Violence Prevention Conference at Cal State Fullerton. Specifically, I spoke on the highly challenging task of getting men involved in relationship and sexual violence prevention. I mentioned how it’s so difficult just to get men talking about gender-based violence, but that television and film can help to spark those conversations. Guess what show I spotlighted? Cloak & Dagger! It provides a lot of material illustrating both healthy consent and the lack of it, the frustrating experience most assault survivors have with the criminal justice system, intimate partner violence and its resulting trauma for both survivors and their children, modern sexual slavery, and the objectification of girls and women.
But how many of the socially aware young activists in my audience had heard of the series? Three out of 50. There’s a huge untapped audience out there for Cloak & Dagger among socially conscious young people in advertisers’ prized demographics, but more effective marketing is needed. Targeting teens and twentysomethings who lean liberal and progressive would be low-hanging fruit, and getting them to watch could be accomplished mostly through online and social media marketing without large expenditures of advertising dollars. All that really has to happen is getting young advocacy types talking about the show; they’re bound to love it, and I really don’t think I’m projecting my own bias onto them. In fact, season three’s long-anticipated romance between the lead characters, Olivia Holt’s Tandy and Aubrey Joseph’s Tyrone, is tailor-made for a big breakout in ratings, even among youth and young adult viewers in general!
So someone PLEASE pick the show up for a third season! (I’m looking at you, Disney+ and Hulu.) Deliver the episodes in binge-able style all at once, and it becomes even more of a buzzworthy event!
One female college student in my audience at Cal State Fullerton, hearing from me that Cloak & Dagger had just been canceled the day before, observed that the most culturally and socially important TV shows seem to also become the ones that meet a premature end. Disney+, Hulu, ANYONE, don’t let this be true! Please #SaveCloakAndDagger!
NOTE: I’ve previously written about Cloak & Dagger on this blog, both here and here. I’ve also written for TheMarySue.com about how romantic and sexual consent is portrayed in Marvel’s three TV series where teenagers are central characters (Cloak & Dagger, Runaways, and The Gifted).