So, I saw Captain America: Winter Soldier last night with Calla. As some of you who have been reading for a while might know, Captain America is my favorite superhero, for a lot of reasons. I’ll be mentioning spoilers from the movie, so if you haven’t sen it, you’d best come back later until you have.
Captain America, when you get down to it, is a soldier. He was trained to fight in a war, albeit one that ended a long time ago. He was chosen for the super-soldier program – in the movie universe, anyway – because he didn’t want to let others make sacrifices for him, and because he had an unshakable moral center. He believed in right and wrong, and doing the right thing, regardless of the personal cost. And despite being a soldier, he isn’t fond of taking life. He does it, certainly, when he has to; it happens in both Captain America movies, as well as the Avengers movie. But there is a reason that his primary ‘weapon’ is a defensive item – a shield. He is a protector above all else; he didn’t want to go to war to punish other people, but the protect those he could. Because he knew what it was like to be the little guy, the weak guy, the one who was always picked on.
Yet, in The Winter Soldier, he is stuck in the modern world, where the only war is one fought largely by spies and covert forces. It’s a war he isn’t familiar with, because the fighters don’t usually wear uniforms, and they don’t just attack other soldiers – they target civilians. It’s a world where truth is a luxury, and lies are the rule. For a forthright kind of guy, who is used to being able to trust the people he fights alongside, this really bothers Captain America. The way he does things is, like him, generally pretty straightforward, and his nature engenders trust – the man who becomes Falcon defers to Cap almost by instinct, and near the end, when Cap gives a speech about how HYDRA has co-opted SHIELD, and asks for those who haven’t been turned to side with him, they do – even after he has been chased by their agents for days. His integrity and trustworthiness is such that people who haven’t even met him are willing to take his word over that of their superiors.
Captain America is basically a great, virtuous, trustworthy guy, who is willing to make sacrifices so that others won’t have to. The ends don’t justify the means for him; right is right, and wrong is wrong. He’s not an alien, and didn’t start out as a genius. He wasn’t born with special powers – just a strong moral compass. He was given improvements to his natural physical abilities, but only because of that very moral compass. There’s a reason why almost every iteration of the Avengers – movie or comic versions – either have Captain America as a leader or defer to him in the field, and it’s because he is just that good. They can trust that he won’t lead them astray. It’s why you have heroes like Hercules (in Captain America #444) saying “On Olympus, we measure Wisdom against Athena, Speed against Hermes, Power against Zeus. But we measure Courage … against Captain America.” And it’s why Captain America himself says things like “Captain America is not here to lead the country. I’m here to serve it. If I’m a captain, then I’m a soldier. Not of any military branch, but of the American people. Years ago, in simpler times, this suit and this shield were created as a symbol to help make America the land it’s supposed to be… to help it realize its destiny. Ricocheting from super-villain duel to super-villain duel doesn’t always serve that purpose. There’s a difference between fighting against evil and fighting for the common good. I’m not always able to choose my battles… but effective immediately, I’m going to make an effort to choose the battles that matter. Battles against injustice, against cynicism, against intolerance. I will still serve with the Avengers. I will continue to defend this nation from any and all threats it may face. But as of today, I am not a “super hero.” Now and forevermore, I am a man of the people. Together, you and I will identify and confront America’s problems. Together, we will figure out what we are and what we can be. Together, we will define the American Dream and make it an American reality.” (Captain America, Vol. 4, #7)
So is it any wonder that I like Captain America? He’s an impossibly high standard to shoot for, and I know that, even discounting the super-soldier program, there’s no way I’ll be that kind of person. But It’s still something to aim for. I know he’s not real, but he’s an idea, much like the American Dream he fights for. I want to be that honest, that trustworthy, that good of a person. And so Cap is my hero. It is immensely nerdy, but then, so am I.