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Monday 21 April 2014

UnCracked Monday: The Problem With Captain America

For today, I present you an interesting article by a young writer, who makes a surprisingly principled (surprising because these days principles are rare in general) defense of Captain America being a "Good" guy, in response to arguments that it would be more "interesting" for him to be a troubled anti-hero (in the style of the version of his character from Ultimates).

She gets it right in all the generalities, and seems to figure out that there's something quite troubling to her about how many people cannot accept the idea of Captain America being "nice" and not "a jerk". The part she misses is the deeper social crisis it represents: the fact that we live in a world where, as she pointed out "goodness and morality are now (seen as signs of) perfection".  

The problem is its not just perfection. Having principles, having an ethical code, is in our relativist society immediately associated with trying to illegitimately usurp some kind of position of superiority.  In a society obsessed with "equality" (not just of opportunity or of fundamental nature, not a society that believes in the equality of giving everybody an equal chance, or raising everyone up to the same rights and duties, but an "equality of outcomes" that demands that no one can be allowed to do better than anyone else, no one can be allowed to learn more or outperform.. or even be more principled), to have a code and believe that something is right and wrong suggests that you are trying to somehow set yourself above others. So people who have bought into this dominant paradigm of our society refuse to accept that Captain America could be heroic and moral without also being either a prejudiced asshole (in spite of Cap always having been about believing in the fundamental worth and rights of every human being, it was, for example, the first mainstream comic in history to feature an openly gay character portrayed positively as one of Cap/Steve Roger's closest friends), or a fascist out to control/oppress others (even though individualism has always been a key component of Cap's morality), or some kind of disturbed individual.  Or they'll argue that he's "not realistic", even though Cap's unwavering morality has also always been presented as complex process for him that he struggles to apply and uphold in a world full of challenges to that moral code; Captain America would be the last person to call himself "perfect".

Sadly, the reason they find it so unrealistic, I suspect, is because for most of these critics its inconceivable to imagine people like this in real life. Standing that firmly for a code, for an idea, that you are willing to put down your life for it, is a concept that has driven our civilizational progress since at least the time of the Ancient Greeks, but has gone so out of fashion in Western Civilization that for many it may seem a myth.


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