DC Trawler

Captain America: Sociopolitical Metaphor

Captain America (Credit: Screenshot/Youtube Marvel Entertainment)

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Was the guy who said “Let’s roll” responsible for 9/11? If not, then why is Captain America responsible for the actions of the bad guys he’s trying to stop?


I’ve been #TeamCap ever since I saw the first trailer for Captain America: Civil War, because I hold this truth to be self-evident: The guys who try to protect people are not responsible for the guys who try to hurt those people.

I’m not sure who came up with the following metaphor, but it’s perfect: You see somebody push an old lady in front of a bus. You jump in and push her out of the way. Now, you both pushed her. You both used physical force to exert your will. Does that make you both the same? If she’s injured or killed anyway, are you both equally culpable?

Is it your fault for trying to help?

That’s the question put to us by this movie, which uses the mayhem and destruction depicted in previous Marvel movies as a metaphor for the war on terror. Time and again, the Avengers leap into action and try to save as many people as they can. Inevitably, unavoidably, they can’t save everybody. But they put their lives on the line in the attempt. They do their best, because they couldn’t live with themselves if they didn’t try.

Tony Stark, wracked with guilt after inadvertently creating one such world-threatening menace, insists that the Avengers must be “put in check” by the United Nations. (Yeah. I know.) Steve Rogers, who has seen firsthand what can happen to the world when fascist maniacs are given free rein for too long, refuses to be shackled by politicians.

At first, they try to talk it out:

Liberty vs. authority. That’s what it boils down to. The movie makes it clear that Rogers and Stark both genuinely believe they’re right. They both have completely plausible motives for their actions. They’re men of honor who can see each other’s point of view but simply cannot agree.

Because it’s a superhero movie, this means they fight. A lot. A lot a lot. And it’s awesome, and it’s fun to watch, and holy crap, Ant-Man, man…. But more importantly, you care about it because both combatants have good reasons to do what they’re doing. (Take note, Zack Snyder.) There’s no real villain. Hell, even the ostensible “villain,” Helmut Zemo, is more pathetic than evil. They’re all believable human beings who have been thrust into an unbelievable situation. Plot follows character, not the other way around. (Are you listening, Mr. Snyder?)

Neither Stark nor Rogers is entirely wrong. But to my mind, Rogers is more right. Erring on the side of doing the right thing, for the right reasons, is better than submitting to an arbitrary authority any day.

But then, I still remember what it means to live in America. And that dude is my captain. #TeamCap #4Ever