As much as I love the Avengers, I’ve never really been a Cap fan. He’s too much of a Boy Scout for me, he didn’t really have any powers, and he just had that damn shield. Throwing it never seemed that awesome to me. And he had wings on his head. Little bitty ones. It’s kinda tough to act like you’re all raw and you have little hummingbird wings on your head. I’m surprised no one ever brought it up.
Then I saw the movie. And what Captain America didn’t have in powers, Steve Rogers had in heart. He was a good guy who was willing to do what it took to make the right things happen. He lied to join the Army for the opportunity to die for his country, underwent a chemical transformation, fought the Nazis hand to hand, and got trapped in an iceberg trying to do the right thing. Problem is, he tried to do the right thing at the wrong time.
And time is, for Cap, his greatest villain.
Loki said it best when he called Captain America the “man out of time.” My man was frozen for 40 years in the comics, 70 years in the movies. He wakes up and the world he was fighting to save—and the morals he was trying to uphold—were gone. Think about this, think about those parents or grandparents who saw their entire adulthood defined by World War II and imagine if they weren’t around for what happened next. Steve Rogers, the kid from Brooklyn, gets frozen before WWII is over—he never gets to see the Nazis surrender, never sees the US drop the atomic bomb, never gets to come home to a hero’s parade. Never sees any James Bond movies so he has no idea of how awesome he could have been.
It doesn’t really matter who Captain America fights. In fact, the only villains I know that belong to him are as chronologically misplaced as he is: Baron Zemo, the Red Skull, the Winter Soldier. More often then not, Cap was fighting the very nation he swore to uphold. For a while he rejected being Captain America because he had a problem with what the United States did. Then, during Marvel’s Civil War series, he sided AGAINST the US government (and half the Avengers, including Tony Stark) in having superhumans register themselves and that stance culminated in his assassination. In the movie, he’s distrustful of SHIELD even though he’s the one meta-human that actually works for them.
Captain America is the right man in the wrong time. I don’t know what that says about him or us. Is his ignorance bliss? Is he better off for having missed what we’ve become? Did we stray too far away from what we should be? Is he the ultimate American, a physical embodiment of our nation’s values and purpose? Even with the wings? We’re having a love affair with Tony Stark right now, with his shiny new armor and witty disdain for structures and teams and monogamy. Tony Stark is us now. Steve Rogers is who we were supposed to be. And if that’s who we’re supposed to be, if he’s what it means to be an American, who’s really out of time?
OK, that’s too deep for me. We’re going to lighten it up with my favorite animated bird, Daffy Duck!