Captain America: A Mirror Of The American Identity
The True American
July 4th, the date that represents freedom in America. Being born on the same day, it is only right for Captain America to fight for American freedom. Commonly known as Steve Rogers, he was constantly picked on by his childhood peers for being scrawny for his age. That did not stop him from wanting to fight in World War II. Being too small and sickly, Steve Rogers was chosen for the Super Soldier Serum, which inevitably created the Captain America the public knows of today. From that day on, Captain America has pledged to fight for freedom as a “good” superhero. The depiction of what it means to be a “good” superhero, specifically in the film Captain America: Civil War, reflects modern values of America and what America considers good compared to evil.
Throughout the changing times of American culture, Captain America has consistently symbolized America and the values of our nation. Captain America was originally created solely for the reason to tap into the patriotic consciousness of the American soldiers about to enter World War II. An obvious observation is the red, white, and blue star-spangled uniform that clearly identifies Cap as a territorial symbol of America. The creators of Captain America had his symbolism in mind as “Stan Lee, comic book icon and former writer for Captain America, argues that “Captain America represents the best aspects of America: courage and honesty…A product of his times, however, Captain America’s image and origin mirror the American identity/dream of 1941”(Peitz 5). As most superheroes are characterized by their strength, or ability to fly, Captain American is characterized as a superhero by his athleticism and leadership skills. In addition, Captain America is given a shield instead of a sword or a hammer. This represents that his shield symbolizes America as a nation of defense and security rather than being on the offensive. In this nature, “he embodies defense rather than offense, which is important to the narrative of America”(Peitz 21). Heroes have embodied the values of their culture ever since the Anglo-Saxons. An example of this is Beowulf, who embodies the brotherhood between the warriors and the loyalty each warrior had to their king.
In addition to being a symbol of America, Steve Rogers dedicates his whole life to the triumph of good over evil. A triumph of good over evil means that he is dedicated to putting a stop to those that put the people of America in harm’s way. Those known as evil to Captain America “inevitably use violent means to force their message”(DuBose 14). Although, Captain America’s enemies are not always what the public considers evil. In the film, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America battles his fellow avenger, Iron Man, because of what they each believe to be good. Iron Man is determined to let the government know the identities of all the superheroes, and control when they can use their powers. Captain America disagrees because he believes giving their identities to the government will put those he knows in danger. In the film, Captain America tries to explain to his fellow Avengers that they will “surrender their right to choose.” He wants to use his abilities as a superhero to protect those he knows when he feels necessary.
Captain America follows the concepts of utilitarianism and consequentialism to determine what is considered to be “good” as a superhero. Utilitarians maintain that the morally best choice is one that promotes the greatest happiness for the greatest amount of people. To be precise, utilitarianism is a specific type of consequentialism. In the context of Captain America, “Consequentialism refers to any system of ethics that judges the moral worth of actions based upon their outcomes or results”(White 3). Specifically in the film, Captain America believes that there will only be negative consequences if he releases his identity. Captain America wants to hold onto his super powers to provide the greatest happiness to the most amount of people. That is the basis of what it means to be a “good” superhero, but it varies between each superhero based upon their opinions.
With or without his superhuman abilities, Captain America was ready to jump at any opportunity to put the country before himself. He constantly uses his judgement to determine what will help the people of America the most. Without Captain America, the people of America would be missing their true identity.
- Captain America: Civil War. Directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo, performances by Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr., Marvel Studios, 2016.
- DuBose, M. S. (2007), Holding Out for a Hero: Reaganism, Comic Book Vigilantes, and Captain America. The Journal of Popular Culture, 40: 915-935.
- Peitz, William, ‘Captain America: The Epitome of American Values and Identity’ (2013). Senior Capstone Theses. Paper 6.
- Raffel, Burton. Beowulf. New American Library, 1963.
- White, Mark. The Virtues of Captain America. John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2014.