How a Cinematic Captain America is Interpreted through a Post-9/11 Lens
by Michael Maurer
Comic book characters are currently at their most popular in pop culture since their creation in the 1930’s and 40’s. These characters are mostly superheroes, and their moral decisions set a standard for acceptable vigilantism and prosocial causes. While these characters saw their birth in the comic book medium, it is safe to say that a majority of the American population (and possibly the world) have only experienced them through blockbuster films and that is why in this study we will look at where Captain America’s values are founded in his box-office appearances, most notably the films Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. These films are one of many iterations of the hero, but as of 2015, this interpretation of the character is the most relevant. It will also reflect how a character created in a time of world war and moral clarity is now interpreted for modern audiences in a post 9/11 world where high levels of distrust for American government exist and America’s enemies are much more difficult to identify.
Captain America through name and action is a character directly attributed to being a representation of his nation the United States and the values of its population and government in ideal circumstances. He was created in 1941 by Marvel writer Joe Simon and artist Jack Kirby. In the cover of his very first issue he is seen delivering a right hook to Adolf Hitler, which expresses that character’s original intent as a propagandist war superhero meant to encourage American involvement in World War 2. Since then, Captain America has evolved to one of the most respected superheroes in the Marvel pantheon. Steve Rogers (Captain America’s alter-ego) is consistently treated with the utmost respect by other Marvel characters. This is due to his history as a war veteran as well as his never faltering ethical code. But was exactly does Captain America Represent? How does he do it? And how does he reflect modern American culture in his new cinematic format?