seahorse

Dear Marvel, I kind of love you a lot right now

Yesterday, I saw the new Captain America.


Dear Marvel, I understand you're not perfect. I understand you don't always get everything right. I understand you're a comic book company that was born and bred in a sexist, nationalist, and even racist environment. But...

Marvel, I kind of love you a lot right now.

First, I am quite happy with the rewrite of Captain America. I know that in his original incarnation he was problematic at best, but in this film you've done an excellent job with a good guy knight/paladin-type character. I get that the concept is: Once upon a time Cap lived in a simplistic good vs. evil fictional world[1] and has been transitioning into a more morally ambiguous setting. (In reality, it's a transition of the story from a simplistic, even childish, old skool propaganda comic to a more adult intelligent, thoughtful version.) He's gained (or maybe the better way to express it is retained) his more human qualities. He's deeply loyal to his friends--even when they're in situations that change them utterly. I love that about him. He's generous and caring. He doesn't just stand up for "America, right or wrong!" He stands up for justice and real freedom--the genuinely messy kind--not the bullshit version the Republicans and Libertarians are selling these days. He doesn't stand for controlling-punishing authoritarianism because "Hey, it's too dangerous to have real freedom! People might make bad choices! We can't have that!" In short, Cap isn't a fascist even though it'd be super easy to write him that way. I like that. A lot. Plus, Nick Fury. OMG, Nick Fucking Fury. I love everything about Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury. Period. Seriously. He's a bad ass leader--not just a bad ass, and he doesn't suffer the fate of so many PoC comic book characters. Plus, now with Falcon being added to the line-up he isn't even the only PoC character.[2] All of this--the fact that at a certain point in the film we have an ensemble cast consisting of two black males, two females, and one white male... has that ever happened in a comics movie? And then there's Black Widow. OMG, Black Widow. Black Widow is (IMHO) everything Wonder Woman should be and never has been. Best of all? She has no romantic story. That's right. Exactly zero males are putting Black Widow in the romantic relationship box. Seriously. The only time she discusses relationships is when she's being a friend to Cap and pointing out how he has to move on with his life. I can't even begin to tell you how significant that is. She's competent. She's human. (She also is loyal to friends, even though her backstory would go against it.) She has a kind streak. She cares. She's independent. She has her own set of personal rules and lives by them. She isn't rescued any more than any male character would be. Her costumes are no tighter or more revealing than Cap's. She's an equal while retaining her femininity. That means the world to me. I can't wait to see that Black Widow movie. Can't. Wait. Go see this film. Give Marvel your money. It's well written and tight even though there's a lot going on. (Think 1970s spy story plus action film.) It would've been easy to let it unravel into a mess, but that didn't happen. It's a very good film--not just a great comic book movie. Hats off to you, Marvel. You win. DC? Eat shit.
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[1] That's bullshit, btw. I refuse to believe that those actually living through WWII experienced an easy 100% good vs 100% evil world, and that there were zero ethically complicated situations. In fact, I know better. We all do. Read anything having to do with how Japanese Americans and German Americans were treated during that time. My own family has stories. History gets edited. The morally complicated stuff gets erased. Whatever doesn't fit the established story gets hidden and fades away from memory.
[2] And I love Falcon too. Now, we need a few PoC females, a few LGBT characters and then we'll have a more representative fictional world and more importantly, a more interesting one.
I saw it yesterday too, and came out of it buzzing at how good it was. Give me my Black Widow and Falcon films now!

That bit with the diversity in that 5-person ensemble scene? I was thinking the exact same thing as you. Ditto with Black Widow not being pushed into being a romantic thing.
And I hope that the couple of dozen teenaged boys in the cinema took note even subconsciously of all of this.
Agree completely about the Cap movie. The story didn't sparkle for me, but it didn't need to because everything else was interesting and well-played. And I didn't really notice that most of the white dudes were bad guys, nor did I explicitly note all the other details about Black Widow, Fury and Falcon. What I did notice was just the fluffy cloud of Not the Same Old Lazy Garbage that Always Makes Me Wince: the baby talk, the fantasy romantic shorthand... to be honest, all the stuff you enumerated. The Winter Soldier storyline is going to come up against the problematic red-baiting of the original narrative, but they didn't go into that much in this movie.

Also, about [1], see ww2today, if you don't already follow it. They've been live-blogging the war for a few years now, and there's enough material for plenty of the ambiguity to shine through, though nothing is going to be able to turn around the basic narrative that Germany had to be stopped. I hope a similar thing will be done somewhere for ww1. If there's ambiguity to be mined, there's even more to bring to light from the earlier conflict.

I would have posted a link to ww2today, but the spamshield yoinked my comment.
Of course, WWII wasn't lacking in problematic ethics, but it is still the best example of a "necessary war". There is a reason why, when most other comics characters have their back stories float in time-- Tony Stark or Reed Richards & Ben Grimm, who originally were in Korea, and then Vietnam, and then First Gulf, and now Iraq/Afghanistan-- Cap is always tied to WWII, even though that means widening the gap that he was frozen through.
WWII is also older and more easily edited to fit the stark evil vs. good narrative than any other war in history.
Sorry your comment got yoinked. I didn't know about that site. thanks! looks interesting. Ultimately, Germany *did* have to be stopped. I'm not denying that. There are times when war is what has to happen. However, I personally believe that those instances are far more rare than we're led to believe. As for WWI, it's an unclear war comparatively speaking. So, yes, I do believe it will prove to be even messier upon close examination.
Germany's movement of racial "purity" was quite a bit more explicit in ww2, but it had deep roots in late 19th-C colonialism. If you have the stomach for it, Sven Lindqvist has an interesting book, '"Exterminate All the Brutes": One Man's Odyssey Into the Heart of Darkness and the Origins of European Genocide.' I suppose the main thing is that of all the ww1 combatants, France was the only country that wasn't fully invested in racist jingoism. The French just thought their culture and devotion to the republic would prove superior. The Dreyfuss affair and the long debate over do-we/don't-we-tolerate-the-Catholic-Church had sort of knocked the novelty out of anti-Semitism and explicit demonization of the "other" in France.

For all the continuing tendency toward pogroms and delusional faith in total warfare, the main combatants weren't dressing in black and putting skulls on their hats. Yet.
Cap, when written best, should be that complicated "strive to represent the best that America could be" rather than "America is the best". Writing him as a fascist is just wrong. (Not that it doesn't happen, case in point, Mark Millar's Ultimates.)
Exactly zero males are putting Black Widow in the romantic relationship box. Seriously.

She puts herself in a box. Did you notice her necklace?

I get the impression that is HER choice, and one can be Watsonian and say that the reason why she doesn't call Hawkeye is because she is not going to be running to her heartmate every time something happens. (Still think he should have showed, though)
I think I did, but it didn't strike any bells. That said, it still remains that her romantic status was not a plot point in the film at all. In how many zillions of films does that happen with men? With women? Zilch.
I so agree with you! I also enjoyed the "villain" in this story. And all the main characters were nicely complex and the acting was great (unlike in Iron Man 1 which I sat through the other night - ugh!).