Saturday, October 11, 2008

Do We Need a Captain America?

I'm a little worried about the message that Hollywood is trying to send us these days. While I accept the war dramas, political documentaries, and action-packed conspiracy thrillers, I cringe at the thought of politically-driven superhero franchises.

It's understood that every superhero story is an allegory for some aspect of the human existence and not just stories about sixth senses and special gifts. Spiderman is actually a coming-of-age epic, X-Men is based on the ripe prejudices of our present, and even Batman focuses on the duality of human nature--the constant fight between good and evil within oneself. But lately superheroes haven't been fighting 8-armed scientists or magnetized super villains. No, their focus is on armies of robots (Transformers), Middle Eastern tyrants (Iron Man), and now war (Captain America)--the most patriotic superhero ever created, even baring the red, white, and blue.

Captain America originated during the Great Depression, raised in a poor family. He tried to enroll in the army after learning of the horrors the Nazis inflicted on the Jews. But he was a very sick kid, so they rejected him. A General witnesses him begging to join and decides to offer him the opportunity to partake in a special government experiment known as Operation: Rebirth. He was injected with the “Super-Soldier Serum and bombarded by vita-rays.” After extensive combat training, he was given an indestructible shield, christened Captain America, and sent out on his first assignment.

But has our world grown so bleak as to require such a mascot of unity, courage, and defense? Perhaps...perhaps in a time where the most profitable hero to date is one of the darkest (Batman) and the subsequent superhero films mirror his tortured visage (Hancock, Watchmen), we are in need of a proverbial mascot--cheerful, optimistic, and absolute in his beliefs. The question, however, remains as to whether we want him.

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