Good movies often reflect the attitudes of the times in which they were created. However, great movies that withstand the obscurity of history reflect the emergence of some sort of counterculture. Captain America: Civil War is most definitely the latter. In a world where political correctness, state worship, war cheerleading, and socialist propaganda have infected the very nurseries of American culture (namely higher education and Hollywood), Civil War shines as a beacon of pride that will have libertarians in the audience smiling brightly. Besides, any movie that can send Salon.com into a tantrum has to be good, right?
Amanda Marcotte’s laughable attempt to complain about how Marvel ruined the character and to smear Cap as a “douchey libertarian” and “Ayn Rand acolyte” rests on an assumption of some perceived inconsistency of previously established “liberal” values. (I, for one, am shocked to see someone use that “d” word to belittle someone else. The writer must be a sexist). To Ms. Marcotte, and many on the left, Steve Rogers was always a good ole rule following American patriot who stood up for Democracy and its values around the world. Supposedly, this was established early on in Cap’s first movie (when he enlisted in WWII to fight the Nazi’s parallel, Hydra). Similarly, in Captain America: Civil... Best Price: $8.62 Buy New $19.98 (as of 08:50 EST - Details) Winter Soldier, it is perceived that Rogers does the right thing by putting a stop to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secret spying and drone assault program that was never OK’d by the voting public. Then, she reasons, that somehow Marvel went and broke the reddest hearts of leftist comic book movie enthusiasts in Civil War by Cap suddenly breaking from his defense of Democracy by refusing to be conscripted into the United Nation’s Avengers Oversight Program (In the movie, the Sokovia Accords).
I’d like to point out, however, that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America has never simply been the “fighting face of democracy.” Also, it should come as no surprise to the viewer that Cap would refuse to sign onto the Sokovia Accords. In each prior movie, he has broken the law and taken actions against the wishes of the federal government. In the first movie, he illegally enlists and forges his forms, and later defies orders to enter into enemy territory single-handedly to retrieve hostages that others had written off as dead. In Winter Soldier, Captain America becomes an enemy of the state which had been co-opted by Hydra Operatives in secret. Why is it surprising, then, that Cap would take a position in opposition to the United States government, or worse for leftists, the Holy United Nations (which I would also like to point out consists of non-elected bureaucrats; so much for “democracy”). In every prior installment, Steve Rogers has defied the government. In two out of three movies, he has actively fought against it.
The bottom line here is that Captain America, in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, has never been the poster boy of American Democracy. He has, however, been consistently the representative of individual liberty. When asked in the first movie if he “wants to kill Nazi’s,” he responds that he doesn’t wish to kill anyone, but that bullies need to be stood up to. Note that Rogers here is abiding by the non-aggression principle- initiation of violence is wrong, but self-defense is justifiable. In the second movie, he doesn’t fight against the Hydra-SHIELD-state spying/drone machine because the program wasn’t voted on by the populace, but because the data collection and green-light to kill anyone on a moment’s notice is a blatant violation of individual rights. In this instance, it is the domestic state who is the bully who needs standing up to. In Civil War, Rogers stands up for his own individual right to self-determine what he does with his own body, remarking “The safest hands are still our own…” and “Politicians have agendas. What if they send us somewhere we don’t want to go, or if they won’t let us fight someone we feel we have to?” Captain America has a deep mistrust of politicians in general, unlike Ms. Marcotte, who only has a deep mistrust of politicians on the wrong side of the aisle. There was even a passing blow to the patron saint of modern liberalism. When Tony Stark (Iron Man) presents Rogers with a peace offering of the pens that FDR used to sign legislation that would allow the country to help arm the allies, Rogers rebukes the gift, noting correctly that “some would say that action brought us closer to war.”
When it comes to the movie in general, much can be said about Captain America’s budding libertarianism. However, it becomes more obvious if we contrast him with Robert Downey Jr.’s role as the consummate state apologist. Whereas Captain America exhibits more of his principled, liberty-loving side, Iron Man goes in the opposite direction. Since the Sokovia Accords, the political legislation the movie centers around were a reaction to the devastation caused by the events of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony begins to feel guilty. He says that “they need to be put in check,” and agreeing that their superhuman abilities seem to attract powerful enemies. Increasingly epic movies needing increasingly epic foes aside, the correlation of supervillains to superheroes doesn’t appear to be caused by the superheroes themselves- except Iron Man. Ultron, the antagonist of the previous Avengers film, was created by Tony Stark as a means to protect the earth. Unfortunately, the mad robot spiraled out of control, recruiting Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver to his side. The two twins were radicalized by none other than Tony Stark’s former weapons, which were used to bomb their town when they were children. The damage that was caused in Sokovia in Age of Ultron (the place in which the Accords in Civil War were named) was entirely the fault of Tony Stark. It was Captain America and the other Avengers who were relegated to picking up the pieces. What we have when Stark notes that “we” need to be put in check is the same rhetorical collectivism that statists use as an excuse to have society at large solve all their own problems. Tony Stark caused the whole ruckus in the first place, but it’s the rest of the Avengers who are suddenly at fault for it, and would have all their bodies conscripted by a supranational political bureaucracy.
Some, like Salon’s authors, would think it silly and paranoid for Cap to mistrust such an organization with noble intent like the United Nations. If dozens of countries agree that a mission must be carried out, what’s so wrong with that? Well, we have only to look at the movie and the Marvel comics for the next great conflict of interest here to surface.
One of Cap’s concerns is that the Avengers might be sent to a place that they don’t want to go, or feel they shouldn’t. One of those places could be Wakanda, a fictional, super-advanced, and hermit African nation ruled over by King T’challa (Black Panther). Wakanda is rich in the fictional metal vibranium, which is the rare and near-indestructible substance that Cap’s shield is made out of. Since we know that Black Panther is getting his own movie soon, would it be far-fetched for the plot to center around an organized coup to rid King T’challa of his seat, so that the new ruler of Wakanda is more willing to freely give away the vibranium, not through trade to foreign markets and businesses, but to militaries like the United States, or UN member countries (who, quite possibly, are still infiltrated with Hydra operatives)? [SPOILER ALERT] At the end of Civil War, Captain America leaves Bucky, the Winter Soldier, in the protection of T’challa and the Wakandans, so there could be multiple motivations for an invasion of Wakanda- either through outright war or covert means.
The pattern here is all too familiar. While some movie-goers might object that Wakanda was present to the signing of the Sokovia Accords, that would make no difference as to if they could be a possible victim of the Accords. We’ve seen in Iraq, Libya, and Iran to an effect that even countries that initially play nice can see the barrel of the United States military at a moment’s notice when the mood suits the politicians in charge. Is it outlandish to suggest that if Steve Rogers had just gone along with the Accords, that he and the Avengers would eventually have been sent into Wakanda in an effort to overthrow the Wakandan king?
In any case, the co-opting of the politicians in power of Tony Stark represents national takeover of certain industries that normally would be subject to lawsuit due to property violation, and giving them a slap on the wrist before turning them loose to do the same thing, except under the magic banner of blamelessness known as government. We can also see the parallels to the police state, of deciding someone needs to be punished before justice is done or deciding guilt before a warrant is issued. As movie watchers will know, Bucky was framed and was too far away in actuality to bomb the building that housed the UN ambassadors to sign the Accords. It’s also no coincidence that all the news outlets were good dogs, repeating the same tale that it was the Winter Soldier who had done it almost immediately after the bombing had taken place. The new Crony Avengers were promptly sent on their way to bring in the Winter Soldier, regardless of whether or not he had actually performed the attack while Cap knew of his former friend’s innocence and fought for what he knew was right.
In one of the scenes climactic fights, Cap’s Libertarian Vigilantes face off against the Crony Avengers in all their glory. One of Iron Man’s powerhouse teammates, Vision, notes that they have to stop Captain America’s quest to stop a complex terror plot involving new secret Winter Soldier Operatives “for the good of the collective.” Whereas bleating sheep and progressive column writers would point out that Vision is an android who possesses some sort of higher intelligence, and therefore, we must yield decision-making authority to him like they would have us yield to their own crop of infallible (and well-paid) experts, scientists, and technocrats in government, a brilliant nugget of information is sprinkled in on this character in particular. Vision gets distracted by Scarlet Witch (they have a thing in the comics), leading to his subduing by Cap’s team. Tony Stark is appalled, telling Vision that “I thought you didn’t get distracted,” and Vision remarks that he didn’t think he did either. We can see here that even the shining higher powers that be are not perfect in their judgment. Vision is trying to represent the collective, and justifying their actions as righteous on those grounds while the viewers know that Cap is in the right and that only they can stop the new batch of Winter Soldiers that could be released upon the world. Since Vision is subject to human faults, why not human prejudices and superstitions like collectivism and Statism?
After this fight, it is most of Cap’s freedom fighters that are apprehended and placed at a black site, which is where I would argue Tony Stark needs to be in the deepest cell of. Thankfully, it’s implied that Steve breaks them out on his own later. When Captain America fights Iron Man, and beats him, at the end of the film, Stark remarks that Cap’s vibranium shield isn’t even his, that it’s the property of the United States Government. Rogers simply discards the shield and walks off; symbolically casting off the shackles of Statism, collectivism, and government loyalty, in order to follow his own individual path.
Two of the most defining moments in the film were monologs by Steve Rogers (writing a letter to Tony at the end), and the funeral of Peggy Carter (which was spoken by Cap in the comics). The latter runs as follows: “Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say… When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree next to the river of truth, and tell the whole world, ‘No, YOU move.’” Such a statement runs completely antithetical to the prevailing Divine Right of Democracy. In the letter monolog at the end of the film, it says that Cap places his faith in individuals. This sort of language seems extremely out of place in today’s Hollywood, and it is. Hollywood has become all about the good of the collective, and of government cheerleading. In a country where Seth MacFarlane would present a socialist society as Star Trek, and tell libertarians to move to a Mad Max society (despite the fact that the most socialist societies seem to approach Mad Max like conditions. Google: Venezuela), what makes Civil War so great is the fact that it stands up to the wave of collectivist propaganda and boldly proclaims, no you move. Captain America is being hailed by many as the greatest Marvel movie in history. I would agree. To go along with the epic fight scenes, the movie has a theme of individualism and freedom that has the potential to awaken a new wave of liberty-lovers. For younger libertarians, Steve Rogers is the new John Galt. Who was that other guy, anyway?