Uncle Woofie fights the menacing concept of male privilege—with a little help from Captain America.
Marvel Comics fans eagerly anticipate each movie release about our favorite characters, but there is fear stalking that anticipation. This fear we Marvel fans have comes from scripting and directorial choices made for no other reason than the urge screenwriters and directors have in putting “their” stamp on the character and story when they know full well that’s not what the fans plunk down cold hard cash to see.
All is not lost. The flip-side of that fear can also lead to genuine delight when directors and writers take the source material and highlight worthwhile things that were always there, but nobody gave serious thought to exploring or enhancing. It is the core reason I was so happy about the ‘Cap’ movie. Really happy. Joe Johnston, as the director, and the screenwriters he worked with, along with the cast, turned in a movie that accomplished that elusive goal.
Steve Rogers as we first see him in this movie is the perfect example of why having male privilege rammed down our collective male throats is so despicable. All it takes for the concept of male privilege to burst like a fragile soap-bubble is to pay attention to what sickly, emaciated Steve Rogers’ life was like when we first encounter him in this movie; since men that are like Steve Rogers exist everywhere. Men bully him because they can. Women see a physically undesirable example of a potential husband, boy friend, or even casual date. On a double-date to a futuristic World’s Fair-style exhibition with an enlisted friend, Roger’s girl essentially abandons him. See any male privilege evident there?
Even Peter Parker has a better track record than sickly Steve Rogers at this point. After all, girls will at least talk to Parker, occasionally.
Enter Dr. Erskine, the scientist that invents the Super-Soldier process. The good Doctor has no doubt his experiment will work, so for him, that’s old business. His chief concern now is finding a good man to responsibly wield what his Super-Soldier process has to offer. Dr. Erskine meets Rogers at the exhibition recruitment station. Dr. Erskine asks Rogers why he’s so keen on enlisting to fight the Nazis; his answer is, “I don’t like bullies.” Dr. Erskine has found his good man. All poor Steve Rogers knows at the moment is he’s finally, somehow, managed to get accepted into the Army. He gets his chance to contribute, which he wanted for so long.
Dr. E then gets the scrawny young man into the program, up against other men in the test platoon that Dr. Erskine himself describes as “bullies”. Steve Rogers barely perseveres during advanced basic training, but distinguishes himself nonetheless while still a 4-F reject in soldier’s fatigues. The gorgeous, intimidating Peggy Carter, also with Erskine’s project, accompanies Rogers as they ride to the clandestine lab where the experiment is to happen. She has a look of sad incredulity as Rogers describes Brooklyn by using all the locations he’d been beaten up as “landmarks” in his personal map of his own neighborhood.
Male privilege … yeah … right.
Erskine is killed, the Super-Serum lost. All the American government can find for this perfect super-soldier to do after that is to act as the propaganda creation “Captain America,” touting a War Bond drive, punching out a fake Hitler over, and over, and over again in front of a chorus line of dancing girls at every stop. Even more humiliation is heaped on him when he’s forced to perform in front of battle-hardened soldiers when the tour heads overseas to England. He understandably gets laughed and booed off stage.
I could have accepted the idea that Cap seized the opportunity that Peggy Carter offers him to rescue (against orders of course) Allied soldiers imprisoned by the Red Skull’s HYDRA minions, because by beating the shit out of an enemy that truly deserved it, he wouldn’t explode after all he’s endured by now. Immediately following that successful adventure, Cap keeps an enhanced battle worthy version (courtesy of Tony Stark’s daddy, Howard; a neat touch by the way) of the rather ridiculous bond drive costume as well as his iconic, round shield. This is one of the earliest examples of the concept of “In your FACE, assholes”; a lesser known facet of the “American Way” that Clark Kent just doesn’t talk about.
Well, except for Batman maybe, he’s never in a good mood.
Seriously, the good men that the pre-“Cap” Steve Rogers character represents exist; and they can be good men regardless of the size of the mortal shell they live in. The struggles they endure finding a place for themselves in the world, make the claim of male privilege so stupidly weak and intellectually counterfeit that it’s rendered inert and useless. Add to that the rapidly dissolving middle class, and what you can easily be left with is very little privilege for any of us, regardless of gender. Privilege, earned or otherwise, has taken flight to the upper registers of the wealthy, also known as One Percent Land. All of that is in the future, as far as the time-line of this movie is concerned; except for Cap, ironically. He will awaken from his Arctic Circle Rip Van Winkle womb seventy-odd years into the future, to a present-day world filled with an entire social stratum of economic before versions of Steve Rogers.
They were once known as middle-class working men and women.
So, by the end of the movie, good men triumph, but not without supreme sacrifice; a good woman grieves for a good man lost to her, not knowing he’s still alive, dormant under an ice shelf … the Red Skull, HYDRA, and male privilege gets its ass kicked. It was a busy day.
Not to mention we now know the fictionally possible, utterly cool, secret origin of the Frisbee. The Frisbee is something else with far more usefulness than the concept of male privilege.
—Photo Guto Xavier/Flickr