A lot of popular fictional stories have, as their primary premise, their protagonists traveling from one world (typically our world) into another, far different, world. Whether this is something like The Forbidden Kingdom (a movie about a white savior transported to ancient China which I nevertheless loved as a child) or the much better Spirited Away (a movie about a young girl who falls into the spirit world and grows up along the way), traveling to new and fantastical worlds is such a part of our fictional tradition that it’s seen dozens of times in new stories every year. But very few of these stories really explore the emotional cost of traveling to these new worlds. That’s where today’s fic comes in. Through the use of an unusually real medium, This American Life, today’s story This American Life episode 141: A Whole New World. (Transcript) discusses the pros and cons of traveling to new worlds.
There’s been a lot of good writing, here and elsewhere, about why it’s so upsetting for Marvel to reboot Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, as a crypto-Nazi HYDRA agent. But oh, is it worse than that. I want to offer this: Rogers, in both the comics and the movies, has always been a fascist. It’s just that he’s previously been on our side.
To be fair, he’s not usually a racist, white supremacist, or otherwise an evildoer; that’s a new aspect of the HYDRA-Steve persona. But behind the red, white, and blue shield and optimistic, inclusive rhetoric, there is a man who believes, ultimately, that only he can truly separate right from wrong and stand between good and evil. The simple fact that he’s been written so that the reader/viewer will agree with his conclusions is a mere distraction from his antipathy for democratic values and individual rights.
Here he is at his most idealistic, righteous, and pure. And yet, he’s 100% wrong: he goes after the press, the politicians, and the “mob”, dismissing the public, their representatives, and their voices with a simple assertion of his own moral views. The United States was not founded on a principle of individual defiance of the general will: rather, we were founded as a nation of laws, not men, of separated powers, of due process, and of representative government. Such scorn for media, politicians, and the electorate is more commonly reserved for repressive regimes.
If anything, the traditional version of Steve Rogers provides a more apt and chilling warning about the risk of an authoritarian America than any weak-sauce HYDRA parody of the man.
I’ve been a Marvel fan over DC since I started reading comics—the first single issues I ever bought were the starts of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel run and Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye. Marvel continues to put out some amazing, progressive, and inclusive stories from its B-list characters, but at the same time it’s also putting out some of the most tone-deaf unpleasantness I’ve ever seen from a major media company in its flagship titles. What’s most frustrating in this whole complex fiasco is that, in making these terrible writing choices, Marvel is not just being problematic and offensive, but is actually dramatically undermining the entire history of the characters they’re messing with.
Representation is weird, readers. Since some people that enjoy a level of privilege also contend with marginalization, it’s difficult to say where we need to get better in our media. Despite men enjoying incredible amounts of privilege, we still have the task of dismantling toxic masculinity. While we are slowly but surely destroying the “no homo, bro” narrative of friendship, I would like to see more well formed male friendships in media that actually explore friendship and aren’t just used as passive plot traits.
So, I have to tell you how happy I am to be able to keep this series going by jumping from Ned and Catelyn to Iron Man himself, Tony Stark. That happy little coincidence would justify this post on its own, but worry not friends, I have actual points as well!
We’ve covered Captain America: Civil War a bit so far, but we’ve been light on the endorsements. And I certainly can’t speak for the entire LGG group here, but while I admit that there is no way I could ever say no to Steve Rogers if he asked for my help, when you give me a moment or two to think it through, I’m with Tony.
Captain America: Civil War is the 13th movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has also tacked on an additional nine seasons of television, between four series, with more on the way. If nothing else, it’s an incredible feat to keep producing quality stories, and Civil War may even top everything that came before it.
The movie has considerable moral and philosophical heft, which it accomplishes by asking difficult questions about right and wrong. What makes it unique, especially in the current media landscape, is that it achieves this without turning its protagonists into antiheroes. We’re not asked to accept a series of atrocities in service of the greater good, or weigh the need to tamp down our emotional attachments to do what needs to be done. Simultaneously, we’re not asked to see goodness as simple and self-evident.
Instead, we get a smart, nuanced contest of ideas between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, with a conclusion that’s ultimately ambiguous. Despite the high stakes and increasing violence between their factions, the audience is never asked to see either superhero as corrupt or shortsighted or evil. Neither is brainwashed or deceived or misunderstood. The audience sees both as they see themselves, and as they see each other: as good men who have reached incompatible conclusions about how to do the right thing, who are heartbroken by their conflict.
Spoilers for Captain America: Civil War after the jump!
I feel like I’ve been waiting for Captain America: Civil War to come out for most of my adult life, even though it’s only been two years since Winter Soldier. Needless to say, it barely felt real going into the theater on Thursday night. I had no idea what to expect, no idea how high I should allow my hopes for the writing to be, and no idea whether I’d leave the movie emotionally devastated. (Okay, that’s a lie—I knew it was a question of how emotionally devastated I’d be, not whether it would happen at all.) And with the bad taste of Age of Ultron still in my mouth, I was generally worried for the state of the franchise.
I am happy to report that Captain America: Civil War was almost exactly the big-screen, action/adventure, Stucky-focused hurt/comfort fic I was desperately hoping to see. Spoilers after the jump!