First I know nothing about Marvel comics: all my context I got from the films Thor (delightful) and Avengers Assemble (remember very little except it had good jokes and the final action scene was too long), and reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.
I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night because of this which I saw a few people reblog:
(okay and also all the gifsets of Sebastian Stan crying. I WAS MIS-SOLD ON THIS FOR THE RECORD, THERE IS LITTLE TO NO CRYING AND ALSO HIS HAIR IS AWFUL.)
If Kavalier and Clay taught me anything it’s
threesomes are the best solutions to love trianglesJewish-American cartoonists in the 1930s and early ’40s were all over inventing subversively American heroes to fight Hitler, and I was very unsurprised when I got home and looked it up to learn that Captain America was created by two Jewish guys too. (I know this is really basic comics history stuff and I’m sure fifty people have written dissertations on “He’s A Mensch: The Jewish Identities of Captain America and Superman” or whatever.) What really slotted everything into place was realising that Captain America was created and entered on a cover punching Hitler in the face before America had entered the war.
Basically (right?) Captain America was created by two Jewish-Americans to shame the US into properly fighting Hitler.
Like, I am Captain America, the America you say you want to be, and I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is and actually do something about it. And yes he’s over-the-top and tacky but that’s where the challenge is, right? The chest-thumping American patriotism says “We are good and spread liberty! And also freedom!” and Captain America is like “great! I am that, and I have to point out you are not actually doing that”.
AND I think this is Jewishly on purpose, and here’s why:
Judaism has this important phrase/concept/slogan/life motto from the third-century-ish text Pirkei Avot, which goes: Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor (it’s not to you to complete the work of repairing the world) v’lo atah ben chorin l’hivatel mimena (but neither may you desist from it). You won’t be able to fix the world by yourself, or in your lifetime, but that doesn’t absolve you of responsibility to work towards it.
I feel like grimdark/anti-heroes are a response to the fact that the world is neither good nor moral, like “well if the world isn’t like that, I won’t be either”. But they’re also excuses for not working towards fixing the world: I won’t bother because it’s all fucked anyway. Lo alecha and Captain America say, yes, it is fucked, but you still have to work towards fixing it. And yes, it’s hard, that’s why it’s called work.
Which is why I think saying “Oh, if Captain America represents the US he should be a dick, because the US is a dick” or “Captain America is an imperialist symbol of US superiority and is therefore bad” are both off base and a dodge of having to do that hard work.
"If Cap = America then Cap = dick because America = dick" is basically just throwing hands up and going "right but guys have you noticed that actually America is imperialist and horrible? DO YOU SEE?!” and implying “so what can you do about that, right?”. Captain America says, “Try to make it better! is what you can do!”
And about saying he’s a symbol of US imperial superiority, I mean, he is a symbol of America but aimed as a criticism at real America. He’s the American ideal cranked up to five million - for the purpose of shaming America for not living up to what it says it wants to be. And he is aimed at Americans, so I can see a criticism for him being US-centric in that metanarrative sense, but he’s yelling at America to sort their shit out and I think him yelling at non-USAmericans to sort their shit out would be much worse? But I definitely don’t think Cap is supposed to be about how great America is, he’s about pointing out exactly in what ways and how much America is failing to be great. And then saying “but, that doesn’t mean you get out of trying harder!”
Also, how great is it that his ‘weapon’ is a shield.
so um that’s what I thought about when I saw The Winter Solder last night. that and biceps.
This is amazing on so many levels and also makes me want to have a special fandom-centric Shvi’i shel Pesach/seventh night of Passover virtual seder table on Tumblr to talk about the intersections of Judaism and popular culture with food and media crit and discussions of the diaspora. ALSO everyone should read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.
THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS
WHAT IF N AVENGERS 2 STEVE JUST PICKS UP MJOLNIR (MYUMYU) AND HANDS IT TO THOR LIKE "NBD HERE BRO." I NEED THIS TO HAPPEN.
oh. my. god. I NEED THIS SO MUCH.
so, avengers & co. are milling about post-skirmish, and everybody’s just gathering their shit together and regrouping
steve casually picks up mjolnir and helpfully hands it over to thor, and spends the next thirty minutes dealing with the complete emotional wreckage caused by this totally innocuous gesture
- thor & loki: freaking out quietly but powerfully, with the kind of wide-eyed disbelief and unnatural stillness that promises a lot of yelling & booming thunder & green-tinged lightning as soon as they recover their wits
- tony: prolonged hysterics over comms, just totally infuriated incomprehensible ranting. mjolnir has infuriated tony for ages - it’s a fucking fancy hunk of space rock, how does it fucking know who is worthy! how does it even determine what ‘worthiness’ constitutes! it’s an affront to science and dignity and american manhood, is what it is. and now steve rogers, who gets up tony’s nose more than anybody else he has ever met, just…picks up thor’s judgy magic god hammer like it’s nothing? tony is done. tony has no words. (that’s a lie: tony has ALL THE WORDS, and LOUDLY.)
- clint: cracking up in the background and egging on tony’s hysterics; this is the most fun he’s had all month
- lady sif: her disbelief unnerves steve even more than thor & loki; he’s come to expect a certain level of weirdness and emotional melodrama from those two, but not sif. steve likes sif. she’s a badass warrior goddess, she’s great in a fight and she’s very nice. one time they were training together and she even let him hold her glaive! they’re totally bros. warrior bros. but now she’s just staring and it’s freaking him out.
- natasha: suspected all along that steve could, but to have it confirmed…she quietly loses it, tucks herself in against steve’s side and giggles helplessly into his shoulder; she’s not surprised, it’s just…a small part of her is still waiting for steve to undercut her faith in him. but steve, annoying golden bastard that he is, keeps proving her right about him, and she doesn’t know what to do with that. (steve just looks down at her helplessly; he always likes hearing her laugh but this loss of composure unnerves him more than anything else.)
- sam & bruce: mystified. utterly mystified. hulk just blinks and sam dryly congratulates steve on his amazing hammer-lifting prowess.
- jane: rushes at steve, almost tripping over herself in her excitement and getting all up in steve’s personal space as she pokes mjolnir and pokes steve, who actually leans back in a futile effort to escape the torrent of incomprehensible science babble
- darcy: the only person in steve’s vicinity who (a) seems to understand the fuss and (b) doesn’t seem unduly put out by it. steve finds this tentatively reassuring right up until she grins widely, makes at least five filthy jokes about his inner purity, and asks for a fistbump.
sif is the first one to finally pull herself together and explain the whole ‘worthy of mjolnir’ thing; steve doesn’t even know where to look or what to do, he just goes bright red and stammers, while natasha giggles even harder and tony’s voice climbs up another octave
sam, perched on hulk’s shoulder and listening with increasing amusement, starts cracking up and actually tumbles right off while steve stares at him with betrayal writ large across his face, ET TU, SAM?, and sam is now laughing so hard he’s actually gasping for breath(bucky hears about it last, after the initial furor dies down, and he just grins at steve, bright and knowing and unsurprised. steve hasn’t seen that smile in years; the whole day’s embarrassment, including tony’s continued muttered ranting, is worth it for that alone)
(ok break my heart will you)
that’s another thing about Sam/Steve like they had Sam literally sitting by Steve’s bedside while he recovered and when he woke up the first person he sees is Sam and says with a little smile “on your left” which makes Sam give Steve the softest most loving smile in the whole damn movie while MARVIN FREAKING GAYE PLAYS IN THE BACKGROUND CAN YOU GET ANY MORE ROMANTIC
I kind of love the idea of Steve being bi. Like, when he was younger, he’d see a guy and think he was good looking, but he’d just stamp that down or chalk it up to being an artist and finding beauty in everything. Then he meets Peggy and he really likes her so he thinks of himself as “fixed”.
When he wakes up in our time he stumbles into learning about the different kinds of genders and sexual orientations and it just hits him like “Oh. I guess that explains it.” And after New York when things settle in to something like a routine and he actually has a chance to look around and Natasha starts on her mission to set him up, he starts to really accept and become okay with being attracted to men and women.
One day when they’re heading out on a mission, Natasha brings up another woman from SHIELD and Steve just goes “What about that guy who works in reception?” and he says it casually, but he’s really sort of nervous because she’s the first person he’s told. Natasha just pauses for a beat and looks at him before shaking her head “Kevin? No, he’s got a terrible hair cut. You can do better.” And after that she starts including guys in the people she suggests to him.
idk I just like that headcannon