Thursday, July 22, 2010

Captain America No More

I've certainly been away from blogging for several months, but one story has so thoroughly baffled me that I feel compelled to discuss it, particularly in light of all of the changes that have occurred in the United States over the past few years. And that is this one:
The Director of the upcoming Captain America film has decided their Captain America will not be a "flag waver."

Let's demonstrate how infuriatingly stupid that statement is with an image:

Not a Flag Waver

Here is a character whose name is Captain America, whose uniform and shield are essentially American flags, and who started his career by punching out Adolph Hitler and other Nazis. Please explain to me how it is possible for this character NOT to be a flag waver. Every time he moves his shield around, he will be waving the flag.

Now, a number of superheroes back in the day were walking talking American propaganda machines. Superman used to stand for "Truth, Justice, and the American Way" after all. (Yes, yes I know he's a DC hero and the Cap is Marvel, you comic book enthusiasts out there.) Many of them ended up punching out Nazis themselves.

But, unlike them, Captain America's job was specifically to fight Nazis, to run around as the walking, talking emblem of American values and American might. Otherwise they would have called him something like "Captain Allies" or "Captain Freedom." Of course, over the years Captain America has evolved beyond a living breathing American slogan, but his core character believing in America and American values stayed mostly the same.

This isn't just stupid because of the obvious disconnect between trying to make a guy whose costume IS the flag into a non-flag waver, it is also stupid because over the past few years it has become a trend throughout the United States, particularly in media. And this is due to a couple of factors really.

One has to do with how Hollywood approaches making movies nowadays. It is no longer about an art form and telling an interesting story. It is now much more about an accountant sitting with a statistician attempting to determine which combination of standard elements put together in a given genre will generate the maximum amount of revenue. Since the worldwide market has become a huge source of profit for movies, the accountant and the statistician are quick to remove elements that they feel will possibly hamper that goal. That means they really don't want to potentially alienate citizens of other countries who could be offended at the notion of America being exceptional.

While that is a sad thing and the Lego-block assembly of movies today has certainly destroyed the quality of American cinema, the other reason is harder to correct and substantially more insidious. The other reason is that people in this country have got it into their heads that we must learn to fit in with the rest of the world, that we cannot be exceptional or unique or "better" than other places for the very act of doing so requires us to push them down. That idea is one small step for the mind, and one giant leap towards self-destruction.

You see, when we talk about "America", we're not talking about the chunk of land between Canada and Mexico. We're not talking about the White House or the Capitol Building. We're not talking about the President or the Congress. We're not talking about Wall Street or Main Street. We're not talking about the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.

No, what we're talking an idea: that every man, every human being, every sentient life form, has the capacity to make him or herself...better. That he or she can be stronger, faster, wiser, richer, happier - no matter his or her starting point. That it is our right, our duty as sentient beings to seek out that betterment, and through that betterment others in turn will be raised up, that our children shall climb higher by standing upon our shoulders.

No matter if you were black or white, man or woman, gay or straight, educated or layman, rich or poor, you could be better than you started. And that is an idea that so rarely and so briefly appears in human history that it is a wonder we have survived 200 years with it.

Captain America himself is the very embodiment of this idea. He was a scrawny, insignificant geek who became a superhero. He took the risk of taking the Super Soldier serum in the hopes that he could become a better man, more capable of defeating evil, and he became a superhero to whom millions of people both fictional and real looked to for inspiration in their own personal quests to better themselves.

So long as that is the case, Captain America will always be a "flag waver."