Captain America is really good. I enjoyed it, but I wonder, what happened to this America of the 40s that spawned the first avenger?
In the movie, it seems like a great place for everyone. A woman leads men in combat and even takes part in some of the fighting. Later, when Captain America puts together his own little group of commandos, the crew includes an African American and a Japanese American. Yet, nothing is made of the unusual racial and gender make up of the team in the movie. No one even seems to notice. Some lip service is given briefly to the fact that one of the superior officers is a woman, but after she punches a recruit in the nose everyone realizes she deserves to be there and the sexist remarks end.
Watching this movie, there appears to be no irony in America joining the war for the freedom of Europe, fighting the racist and fascist policies of Nazi Germany. From this film, you would never predict that in the future our own country will have to apologize for rounding up its Japanese citizens and imprisoning them during that war — much like the Nazis rounded up groups it hated or found suspicious. There is no indication that in the future America will hold protest marches and sit ins for equal rights for minorities and women.
In the past 70 or so years, the character Captain America hasn’t changed much; he was a propaganda tool in the 40s and continues to be one today. Can’t we cope with our history? Isn’t it a good thing that we have been working hard to eradicate the wrongs we see in our society? Why is it that we insist on sweeping our shortcomings as a nation under the rug?
We clearly have trouble confronting our own past, but we have no problem talking about other people’s problems. Boy, did we get on those South Africans for apartheid! But here at home supposedly enlightened people suddenly sound like English isn’t their first language while trying to figure out how to attack the President without bringing up his race.
Americans always were and continue to be a race conscious people. No matter how I talk — or the President for that matter — when people want to mimic me, they give me a “black dialect”. But pointing out my race is a shorthand way to describe me that doesn’t take into account my individuality — from my dietary choices to my politics. That is the definition of racism.
The fact that Captain America skips over all the problems of American discrimination says to me that racism and sexism are still such problems in this country that we’ve decided it’s better not bring them up at all. We seem to think that admitting to our true past will only lead to some uncomfortable discussions, so let’s just not get into it at all.
Okay, then let’s all pretend the 40s were great. Must have been later when race and gender started becoming problems in America.