01 August 2011

"Captain America": the anti-"Strangelove"

So it’s the early 1940s, and the United States is entering WWII to fight evil; and there’s this would-be heroic guy, but he happens to be physically weak.  So instead of being a hero on the frontlines, he keeps being refused entry into the army.  But then he gets super powers! And he’s called "Captain America"!

But what makes it really o.k. that he has superpowers—what makes it really o.k. that America is a superpower—is that unlike Evil Others, Captain America is good and caring and all that.  Oh, and the Evil Others (aka, the Bad Guys), they have been desperately plotting to obtain superpowers, while Captain America just did the right thing, even when he was weak, and he got his superpowers without asking.

It’s all there in this movie, called Captain America.

Which means we should ask, just what is this movie’s relation to, or stance on, the myth of America as the exceptional hero/nation that can safely possess the powers of the universe?  Does the movie advocate this myth, in the manner of earnest propaganda?  Nope.  Does it, instead, critique or ironize this myth?  Also, nope.  What it does do is something else again: it gives us this myth as buffo entertainment.  And it gives it to us as absolutely not anything we should ever think about seriously.

But of course, this myth is not something we should be entertained by; and it is, instead, something we should think about seriously.

Put simply, then, if Strangelove is biting political satire about the United States as a superpower, then Captain America is Strangelove’s antithesis.  

Indeed, one will recall that the plot of Strangelove is brought to an end by Major T.J. "King" Kong crashing to earth to insure that his weapon hits its intended Soviet target—whereas, by contrast, the plot of Captain America is brought to an end by our hero crashing to earth to insure that the Evil One's weapon is steered away from its intended American target.  It is almost too literally an inversion of Strangelove. 

And without question, being the antithesis of Strangelove is a terrible thing for a movie to be.

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