Television

Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Dull platitudes about diversity from the Marvel Cinematic Universe

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There's an interesting question at the heart of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: What happens when Captain America dies—and the next in line for his shield is a black man?

Set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the aftermath of a comic book cataclysm that saw half of all life in the universe disappear then reappear and the original Captain America meet his end, the show wants to be a solemn look at American power and racial identity. But instead of insight, it offers little more than dull platitudes about diversity.

It's not that the material isn't ripe for political treatment. From his inception as a Nazi-punching avatar of American military might and moral clarity, Captain America has always been a political figure. Clad in a costume designed to look like the American flag, he has often served as an earnest symbol of the nation's values. He stood for what was right about America, whatever that was.

The passing of the shield, then, might have served as an opportunity to investigate just what those values are, and how they have changed over the decades. A new hero might represent those values in different ways—and might even interrogate the use of national power Cap has long represented.

Sadly, the show whiffs on this question. Instead of questioning government power, it simply shrugs and suggests that it's fine so long as it's wielded by a diverse group of people. Potentially interesting issues—how to manage the sudden reappearance of half the world's population, say—are raised and discarded.

In a cringe-inducing climactic speech, Falcon, as the new Cap, actually criticizes a lawmaker for noting that an issue is complex, then declares that his own critique is improved by the fact that he doesn't know the details of government policy. Captain America deserves better.

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  1. I think I will continue my unbroken record of never going to see a superhero movie at the movie theater. I just find the whole premise kind of silly. Nobody would be interested in seeing superheroes fight normal villains so they have to invent supervillains to fight the superheroes and what the hell is the difference between a hero fighting a villain and a superhero fighting a supervillain except the size of the explosions? And when the size of the explosions is the whole selling point of the movie, well, I think it’s just kind of silly and I don’t care. I would sooner watch James Bond throw a brick at a bad guy’s head than watch the Hulk throw a bus at a bad guy’s head (especially when I know the bad guy has some secret superhuman bus-dodging ability) because I know Bond has to have a plot and an interesting story to go with the action.

    1. Ooh edgy there dude, cool story bro.

      This wasn’t great but the insane streak of commercial and critical success of the first decade of the MCU is a landmark in the history of art and business that will be studied forever. Maybe tedious Woke platitudes (that are nonetheless presented fairly gutlessly because China don’t care ’bout that crap) will be their downfall, but betting against them at this point is kind of foolish.

      1. This is the point when you should be betting against them. Nobody has a constant streak of success forever. That Marvel bets on being bisexual, transgender, and woke means they are shitting all over their audience. It’s not a thing here in America, and definitely not a thing in China.

        1. The MCU is most definitely not betting “on being bisexual [or] transgender” — practically no characters in the films have been LGBTQ to date. (This, in fact, is a point of many shrieking denunciations by the usual suspects.) A canonically gay character will appear as part of an ensemble cast for The Eternals coming this fall, which will literally be the first LGBTQ superhero in the franchise after 25 feature films. I mean, I personally don’t care whether Marvel ever includes an LGBTQ superhero in its films or not, but you can’t claim they are “betting” on such characters in any meaningful way.

    2. I’ve always had little interest in fantasy mainly because authors change the rules on a whim to advance the plot. It’s one thing for Agatha Christie to show the gimmick in the last five pages; it’s quite another to pull out new gimmicks incompatible with the others on every page. Whether it’s dragons and wizards, or galactic aliens, or super duper heroes and villains, their plots leave me cold, and the two hours would be better condensed down to the 15 minutes of special effects only.

      1. There’s a lot of bad fantasy out there. But good fantasy has real stakes and consistent rules (at least as far as is relevant to resolve the major plot issues). I believe it’s fantasy novelist Sanderson who has said that a good magic system has defined rules which the reader is made aware of, so that any ‘tricks’ the author comes up with are already baked into the system and not produced, deus ex machina, to resolve a dilemma.

        (Really, there are two ways to do fantasy – magic or otherwise fantastical things being required to resolve the plot means you need well-defined rules that foreshadow how the plot will be resolved. But magic can also be used in the background for flavor, and not be relevant in resolving the plot.)

    3. Too bad you missed out on some great movies then (and a lot of mediocre ones). Top Hollywood talent has been going into superhero movies for the past 20 years or so.

    4. I bet you don’t even own a tv.

    5. Superheroes are no different than the myths and legends our ancestors would tell each other around a campfire.

  2. Potentially interesting issues—how to manage the sudden reappearance of half the world’s population, say—are raised and discarded.

    To be fair, that mess of a show was apparently rewritten due to COVID. Also, possibly the blip fallout couldn’t be heavily enough infused with race since it happened to everyone regardless of identity group.

    I suspect the writers were not much invested in Captain America or his legacy outside of the delivering on the current penchant for clumsy, race-centered storytelling. But, hey, without the super soldier serum enhancements maybe the writers are correct, the best you’ll get out of Cap is an unhelpful “do better” monologue.

  3. “In a cringe-inducing climactic speech, Falcon, as the new Cap, actually criticizes a lawmaker for noting that an issue is complex, then declares that his own critique is improved by the fact that he doesn’t know the details of government policy.”

    If that is not a perfect encapsulation of the kind of progressive ideologue applauded in the media, then nothing is.

    America deserves better.

    1. Ignorance is strength!

    2. The show still has to content with the double digit IQs of its target Marvel audience.

      1. The show still has to content with the double digit IQs of its target Marvel audience.

        Somehow, I suspect that Marvel’s ‘double digit IQ’ audience contends far better with good storytelling than single digit IQ ‘intellectuals’ who have to content themselves with standing around, smugly telling each other how smart they are.

  4. Moar comics for middle school readers.

  5. Umm, Captain America didn’t die. He was just old.

    1. It’s Hollywood. Hell, it’s Disney. If you’re over fifty you’re dead. America’s Ass got saggy and had to be put out to pasture. It’s worse for women. They literally killed off Black Widow. Then made a movie to emphasize that she had a younger sister.

      1. Have you seen the video with Deadpool and Korg (Ryan Reynolds and Taika Waititi, respectively) “reacting” to the trailer for “Free Guy”? I love how Deadpool explains “fridging” to Korg.

      2. Samuel Jackson is still playing Nick Fury.

  6. “Dull platitudes about diversity”

    That’s disappointing. The pro-diversity case can be made in fresh and exciting ways.

    For example, we Koch / Reason libertarians love diversity because importing Brown bodies (especially from Mexico) gives our benefactor Charles Koch access to cost-effective labor.

    #ImmigrationAboveAll

  7. I’m not watching any of this new MCU stuff simply because I’m burned out on it. They just keep pumping this stuff out faster and faster; inevitably more and more of it will be just junk.

    1. Loki was pretty good. A cliff hanger ending, but good. Think Rick and Morty go on an adventure with Doctor Who. I’m hoping for a spinoff with “Kermit” and Alligator.

      1. What is your opinion on whether the regular Loki flirting with the.female Loki is incest or masturbation?

      2. Loki was not good.

        1. They destroyed the character. The Loki from the movies is – wait for it – Sylvie. The male Loki is nothing like the one we knew from the movies. And no, watching 15 minutes of some alternate history isn’t going to change you.

        2. Its bad Doctor Who at its core. Its the Jodie Whitaker series.

        3. Loki, the titular character, is reduced to a mewling quim following his female self around while she and everyone else drives the plot forward.

        4. The whole concept of the TVA means that there is no free will in the Marvel universe because if you don’t do what you were scripted to do your whole timeline is destroyed. Gigacide.

  8. There was one great anti-anti-racism moment where some kid came up to him and said “wow…are you Black Falcon”? And he responded with “Falcon kid, just Falcon”.

    It was actually refreshing to see that some Hollywood writer somewhere still held on to old-school notions moving beyond race.

    Then, of course, the final rant referenced in the article undercut all of that.

    1. I wouldn’t have called that moment anti-anti-racism so much as anti-racism done right or maybe just race neutrality.

      The scene where his family was turned down for a loan on the fishing boat was ridiculous!

      Shouldn’t Sam have realized that with half of humanity gone during “The Blip,” that would mean half the staff of the Federal Reserve and U.S.Mint and half of the bank and half of the people paying their loans to the bank?

      And everyone brought back from “The Blip” is probably hiding under their desks in a fetal position wondering if it’ll happen again! Of course there’s not gonna be any money for your damn fishing boat and “race” has nothing to do with it!

      1. I would think banks would be very reluctant to loan money to anyone since another world-ending disaster could happen at any moment; they’d never get their return on investment.

        1. You’d think Tony Stark could just cut him a check. Even if he charged 3% interest he would get twice what he gets on 10 year Treasuries.

      2. Like a famous Avenger would have difficulty attracting an investor for a modest business venture like that.

  9. If your context for understanding philosophy and human relations combines comic super-heroes and racial equity, you might be a retard.

    1. If your context for understanding philosophy and human relations combines comic super-heroes and racial equity, you might be a retard.

      FTFY

  10. American Agent represented the US Government best. Arrogant, swaggering, acting before thinking, letting his rage get the better of him, and then hooking up with the obvious Hydra-replacing villain. Falcon represents the people, not the government.

    I expect an upcoming showdown between new Captain America and the American Agent, as two sides in a Kulturwar between gub’ment lovers and haters. Of course Hollywood will fuck it up, and give us a morality play about how all we need is the *right* leader.

    1. Which new Captain America – there are hundred of them now.

      Everyone gets a Captain America that ‘represents’ them.

      https://www.marvel.com/articles/comics/united-states-captain-america-character-reveal-joe-gomez

      Somewhere out there is a fat, blue-haired, multiple piercing sporting, land whale in tight leather wheezing her way down the street.

    2. It’s US Agent, not ‘American Agent.

  11. Instead of questioning government power, it simply shrugs and suggests that it’s fine so long as it’s wielded by a diverse group of people.

    If he wants to make major someday, he damn well better think that.

    1. If he wants to make it past Major. Major is where careers die.

  12. The most implausible part of the show was when banks wouldn’t give a loan to someone with a government job because he had blipped.

    And I think all the non super heroes are kinda lame. But an average joe captain America is the worst.

  13. I thought it was a pretty good effort by Disney. The main villain was weak, but was a somewhat well-meaning crusader whose tactics went too far (mostly peaceful terrorist activity). Sam sympathized with her goals but didn’t approve of how she did things, showing that allies can disagree without needing to be canceled. Past injustices to a former super soldier were handled well narratively, and contrasted with the modern day.

    Bucky was dull without Steve to bounce off of, but Zemo gave the show some style and John Walker (Capt. Fauxmerica) was great, even if his storyline was rushed (as usual).

    Captain America is once again a man out of time however, as a patriotic liberal who is proud of his country and willing to fight for it, even if it doesn’t always live up to its ideals. He’s a good model for the Hate America First crowd.

    1. but was a somewhat well-meaning crusader whose tactics went too far (mostly peaceful terrorist activity).

      The woman who set bombs to kill people, set people on fire, and murdered Cap’s sidekick?

      That ‘well meaning’ crusader – the one fighting for the right to keep all the shit of the people who blipped so they didn’t have to give it back?

      1. Hey, I don’t like her either. But the show had the Falcon trying to reason with her, and agreeing with some of her goals, but not her tactics. And implicitly at least, stating that the ends don’t justify the means, and “mostly peaceful protestors” can go too far and deserve condemnation.

  14. Dull platitudes about diversity from the Marvel Cinematic Universe

    Welcome to the entire mainstream culture.

    1. It’s not happening.
    2. Ok, it’s happening but it’s not as bad as you say.
    3. This is the way it is, it’s a good thing, get used to it, suck it up.

    What we need is a massive #4: This sucks, and we’re not going to accept it any more.

    1. 4. We’ve always been opposed to CRT. It’s the Republicans that pushed it.

  15. >>What happens when Captain America dies—and the next in line for his shield is a black man?

    dunno is the Marvel Universe full of racist shittheads who judge people based on skin color wtf?

    1. I’m waiting for the comic “White Hatin’ Coon” from Chasing Amy to become reality.

    2. That falcon bad.

  16. What happens when Captain America retires—and the next in line for his shield is another superhero that Cap’s been working with for years who is almost as beloved and respected as Cap himself?

    There. Now you can write an article without tired, trite racistal platitudes jammed in.

    1. Falcon is not a superhero, he’s just one of Stark Corporation’s diversity hires. Falcon has no superpowers and all his devices were invented by Tony Stark*. Without Stark, Falcon is just some random soldier – like War Machine. The only differences between him and John Walker are that he’s black, he was chosen by Stark and he’s not named after the scotch his parents were drinking on the night he was conceived.

      As for Falcon being “almost as beloved and respected as Cap himself”, that must be in some alternative universe where he’s not one of the lame Avengers.

      *Tony Stark’s superpower is that he’s a genius inventor.

      1. Uh, when was Sam Wilson ever “chosen” by Tony Stark to do anything? And perhaps it is reasonable to assume that Stark Industries produced the original Falcon wings, since he was responsible for a major portion of the U.S. arsenal in the MCU prior to Iron Man. And/or with Tony being responsible for the later upgrades. But it is never shown to be so in the movies that I recall. And the new gear came from Wakanda, despite the red, white, and blue.

        1. My recollection of the movies is that Tony Stark definitely “chose” Rhodey to be Iron Patriot/War Machine (in “Iron Man 2” IIRC). Then, Tony Stark “chose” to give Peter Parker not one but two new Spiderman suits in “Spiderman: Homecoming”, both loaded with the latest Stark tech. I thought it reasonable to assume that Tony Stark “chose” Sam Wilson to be the recipient of all the Stark tech needed for Wilson to become the Falcon, even if it was never seen in one of the movies.

          However, I seem to remember that when Wilson met Steve Rogers in “Winter Soldier” he wasn’t the Falcon. He later “acquired” the tech necessary to become the Falcon but, I can’t remember how he “acquired” it (and I can’t be bothered re-watching “Winter Soldier” just for that piece of info). But, given that Tony Stark tends to incorporate “return to owner” software into his tech, I thinks it’s safe to assume that he approves of Wilson using it. There may also be a throw-away line in the movie where Iron Man first meets the Falcon that Stark gives Wilson his seal of approval; in effect “choosing” him to be the Falcon.

          Ok, so maybe the two diversity hires aren’t completely random; Rhodey was Stark’s friend and Wilson was Rogers’s friend. My point is still valid: Falcon isn’t a superhero because, without tech invented and built by other people, he’s just a regular human. If he’s a superhero then, so is every other soldier (sailors and airmen included).

  17. You just getting around to watching the show now suderman?

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