Factory workers, including (top row, in front of the Jackson Pollocks) Paul Morrissey, Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga, and (middle row), Danny Williams, Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison and John Cale, December 1965. Photograph: Nat Finkelstein
I grew up on the lower east side. My father sold fruit. My mother sewed shirt-waists for a factory. Let me tell you, you don’t get to climb the American ladder without picking up some bad habits on the way. There’s a ceiling for certain types of people, based on how much money your parents have, your social class, your religion, your sex.
This scene in Agent Carter took my fairly placid interest in MCU Howard Stark and it was like pouring petrol on a flame. I don’t know if it was intentional, but we have just been given practically canonical Jewish Howard Stark. I’ve been doing some reading up on the history of the Jewish population of New York, and I’m pretty much sure these choices were deliberate.
First off, the lower east side - this was a hugely popular migrant area. In the early 1900s, it was predominantly Irish Catholics, but with the influx of Jewish people from Eastern Europe, fleeing the pogroms and persecution, by the time Howard was a kid, it would have been a predominantly Jewish area, with a Jewish population of up to 400,000 people. It was also one of the most densely inhabited parts of the city, with families crammed in tight into tenement blocks.
Then we have the jobs his parents have - because of restrictions placed on Jewish people, whether by their own religion or by anti-semitic rules of society, the majority of Jewish people were limited to working in trade, ie. selling produce. His mother “sewed shirtwaists”. Basically, this means she was working in the New York version of a sweat shop, infamously filled with migrants, to mass produce clothes. There was a tragic fire in a shirt-waist factory in NYC in the early 1900s, where dozens of women were killed because they had no way out. The majority of the women were Jewish. Of course, any ethnicity and/or class of people could work, but given their location and the jobs they have, it seems pretty clean-cut.
And then he says “the American Ladder”. These three little words distance him from his identity as a card-carrying white American. He’s talking about what he’s had to do to climb ‘their’ ladder. Not 'our’ ladder. This confirms that not only is he of migrant descent (see his place of residence), but is of an ethnicity not entirely welcomed in the country and that he may only be a first- or second- generation migrant.
I find this especially interesting given some of the comments in earlier episodes. He called Peggy and Jarvis “my two favourite foreigners”, which is intriguing given that he’s now pretty much raised a flag saying “I am not entirely as American as people think”.
And he saved Anna. So he’d known Jarvis? So they always got along. Yes. And? It’s one man. Howard knows lots of people. What possible reason could Howard Stark have for saving a Jewish woman and the man who tried to save her? It’s not just because he knew Jarvis. Oh no. Yes, that helped. Yes, he liked Jarvis. But Howard grew up surrounded by Eastern European Jewish families. He knew how bad it could get for them, and I would almost bet money on him knowing first-hand as well. And this man he knew risked his life to save a Jewish woman. That’s why Howard stepped in.
Now, I hear comments that the name Stark isn’t Jewish. I beg to differ, my friends! There are still Jewish Starks in New York to this day. And even if Stark didn’t originally start out as a Jewish name, unfortunately for a lot of Jewish families, it was easier to assimilate into the culture by hiding their Jewish origins, and the easiest way to do this was by changing their names. Often, it was done by changing it to something that sounded similar or something that sounded especially not-Jewish. And given that Stark is a German name that means Strong, hmm, I wonder why that might have been picked.
And as a gracenote, the final bit of Howard’s speech, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he talks first about money, religion, and social class. He came from the dumping ground for migrants. He lived where they were pretty much forced, by poverty and the need for cheap accommodation.
In summary: He was not from a wealthy family. He was not from a socially-accepted religion. He was not from a good social class. And every one of those things, he learned to hide, and he did it by lying. “The only way to break through that ceiling is to lie. So that’s my natural instinct: to lie”.
He hid behind his acquired name. He hid behind his hand-built reputation. He hid behind the wealth he garnered. He made himself the embodiment of the American dream, and given that everyone idolises him, they clearly don’t know where he came from, and he makes damn sure they don’t find out, because he doesn’t want to slip back down the American ladder.
series of things that happened while i was in nyc
•i saw amélie, people sung hamilton at the stagedoor and i was very upset, so was pippa
•i went to the stagedoor for deh, only michael came out and i saw corey cott across the street and ran to get a selfie with him
•i saw a bronx tale and bawled my eyes out, i met ariana who is super cute, and bobby whom i had a major jumble of words and accidentally said the show needed to be better. it doesn’t. it’s already perfection.
•i made friends with the security guard at bronx tale who has bomb eyebrows and a hilarious sense of humor
•went past the theatre where CATCF is and found a giant red button that is so anti-climatic
•i got to see glenn close perform in sunset blvd. it was amazing.
• i sobbed on the way home because i never wanted to leave
I didn’t see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but Kristy took me backstage anyway, and I love her so much she’s such a sweet person and I still think it’s crazy how I’ve been a fan of hers for 12 years and in the last two years she’s taken me backstage at her shows twice and gotten to know me a bit. Love her.