So let’s talk about Captain America: Civil War.
Good, we can proceed.
Captain America: Civil War, or “How Liberal Commentators Have Utterly Failed To Understand The Character Of Captain America For The Umpteenth Time”.
Honestly, I think it’s all tied up in the name: He’s Captain Freakin’ America. Everyone wants Cap to be on their side, be pulling for their ideology, be the guy in their corner because moreso than any other comic book superhero, Cap is… the good guy.
You can make the argument for Superman (Truth, Justice, And The American Way), but it doesn’t hold up. Superman is basically a god, and while Cap might be superhuman, he’s little more than a guy in a blue suit with an indestructible frisbee in the grand scheme of things. Cap’s choices, as such, are vastly more difficult than Superman’s since the consequences of those choices are real, and he can’t just fly off to the moon to sulk or turn back time to reverse the flow of events.
So what does Captain America stand for, really?
It shifts a bit through each different writer, of course, the fundamental flaw in the comic book narrative, the twisting turns of a constantly mutating continuity brought about through that sort of creative collaboration. But at the core of it, it hasn’t ever really changed that much.
Cap believes in doing the right thing. He also believes that “the right thing” is subject, to at least some extent, to the perspective of the person taking the action in the first place.
So when liberal commentators flipped out at the idea of Captain America turning on the national and international governments of the world, claiming he was acting out some libertarian power fantasy and damnit my Captain America wouldn’t act this way, they betray both their own biases and especially their failure to understand the character.
Captain America isn’t loyal to the government, he’s loyal to the idea of America itself. Freedom. Freedom of conscience, of speech, of religion; freedom from government interference and tyranny, from unnecessary rules and regulations; freedom to choose what path in the pursuit of happiness best suits you, not someone else.
Anyone who thought Captain America would sign on to be part of a UN-mandated superhuman hit squad was delusional. And yet I’ve read at least a few “thinkpieces” over the last week that have been shocked and dismayed that Marvel would choose to “twist” their hero in such a fashion. Which is ironic, since what they seem to think he should have done (surrender his autonomy, freedom of choice, and quite possibly literal personal freedom to a faceless government entity composed of fallible, politically motivated human beings) is pretty much the exact opposite of what you’d expect from Captain America, at least if you have even the slightest understanding of the character.
Then again, Cap has taken a variety of positions over the years, both in the long and tortuous history of the comics, and even the relatively short and simple continuity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And those positions don’t always fit neatly into the notion of “liberal vs conservative”, or even statist vs libertarian. Cap makes the choices he thinks are the right ones at that moment, and sticks with them until he decides otherwise. Sometimes those positions align with the political ideologies commonly held by pundits and other people pushing those ideologies, and when that happens there always seems to be this rush to declare that “THIS! This is what Captain America really stands for!”.
But Captain America doesn’t stand for them. Or even you. And he certainly doesn’t stand for your favorite ideology.
Captain America stands for himself. Because that’s what he’s supposed to do. Not bow slavishly to whatever the majority thinks is the right thing to do, but to make that choice for himself.
Or, as Cap (and Sharon Carter in Civil War) put it: