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20 July 2015 @ 12:46 am
bait shop pistols and ammo, too, nothin' but books about world war two  
I only recently (the other day) watched Captain America: The First Avenger. You get a really distorted view of the Marvel movies if you just absorb them by Tumblr osmosis, looking at gifsets and reading meta. Even fic leaves out a lot of stuff. I had this same feeling when I first watched Winter Soldier -- why was no one geeking out over how amazing Nick Fury was in that movie? I know people were mesmerised by the Steve/Bucky relationship, and so was I, but it was actually...a pretty small element of the whole thing?

With First Avenger, what shocked me was -- okay somehow I didn't know that Tommy Lee Jones was in it. And that he's hilarious and wonderful. I was baffled that Dr. Abraham Erskine didn't get more fan love, since it was a charming performance and especially since I know a good number of Jewish Marvel fans.

(Well, and why did they back away from defining Erskine as Jewish, when he is in the comics? Stanley Tucci was playing it up a lot in the rhythms of his line readings, but the movie didn't want to say so...why? German Jewish refugee scientists were kind of a thing in WWII! Captain America was created by Jewish Americans! C'mon.)

Other random thoughts about this movie: Bucky gets "killed off" too quickly and it wrecks the tension a bit. The whole third act is draggy even though it's full of action. Hugo Weaving sure was doing his best but the Red Skull is just not a great villain. Peggy Carter surprised me by not actually being that great a character, and I'm glad that fan love gave her the time/writing/money/energy to become a great character in her own right. But all that just isn't there yet in CA:TFA.

My favourite thing was the gentle satire of USO shows and propaganda -- I knew that was in the movie but oh my god an entire song and dance routine? Amazing.

What I like best about Captain America is that...well, he is American. You can't really transplant that idea to other countries, because other countries would not react that way to a national hero. A "Captain Canada" really would be exactly like Jim Hudson in Alpha Flight: full of self-doubt, nervous about his career and his retirement fund, not really wanting to be there at all, always having to correct people about his name. That is disappointing (because we all grew up on American heroes) but it feels about right. Steve Rogers has doubts too, but there's a certain structure of ideals there: he believes there are shoes to fill. He has a raison d'etre, which is a perfectly American one: he doesn't like bullies, and he believes on a basic level that aggression to stop bullies (as he defines them) is justified. He's used for advertisement, he notably defies military orders (and is forgiven for it, because he succeeds), and he's the product of a certain zest and optimism that just is American.

I watch these movies and I wonder what a national hero of ours would look like in WWII, and the answer depresses me. The only thing it would be good for is satire. I do love my country, but we're at our worst when we try to be America. If we'd had a national superhero in 1939, swathed in the Red Ensign and hawking war bonds in music halls, it would be a sad, sad joke. But the heroes we really did have, like Billy Bishop, actually were kinda Marvel-like. Kate Beaton's history comics unearth a lot of this spirit, and I always feel like we're standing right on top of it but we don't know how to look. We've forgotten how to look at ourselves because we're too busy trying to be someone else.

The satire in CA:TFA comes from a stronger place -- they can show Cap on stage punching out an actor dressed as Hitler and it's funny, but it's not bringing the whole idea of America into question. It's less destructive, and I wish we could learn that. I think the only time we succeeded at this kind of thing was with Due South. I'd happily put Benton Fraser in the same fic as Steve Rogers.


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