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What is the appeal of Captain America?

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08 Apr 2021 22:58 #321826 by Ancient_of_MuMu
I was just discussing Captain America with my daughter, and we were both saying that we just don't understand the appeal. He has no interesting powers, his personality is bland, and his only novelty seems to be patriotism, and that is problematic in itself. I do wonder if it is because I am on the other side of the world and don't live in America, and there is something special about having a hero that represents your country.

But I know he is loved, particularly by some people on this site, so I am really intrigued and really hope someone here can explain why they like him. I am not here to argue because I am genuinely intrigued as to what the appeal is.

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08 Apr 2021 23:06 #321828 by Gary Sax
When he is in a more interesting incarnation, I think Captain America reflects the fact that Americans have a very complicated relationship with patriotism.

But I tend to agree.

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09 Apr 2021 08:48 #321840 by dysjunct
I think his appeal comes down to three things:

1. There’s something cool about a non-powered dude who, like Batman, can go toe-to-toe with supers.

2. The best stories lean pretty hard into the conflict between his idealism and the realities of realpolitik.

3. Nostalgia. He’s been around a long time and there’s tradition. I don’t think he’d be created today.

I always liked Captain Britain better, personally.

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09 Apr 2021 08:56 #321842 by hotseatgames
I'm pretty indifferent to him, myself. I like it when he punches Nazis. His shield is cool, and unless I am mistaken... he does have "powers". Isn't he some sort of super soldier, bio-enhanced or something?

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09 Apr 2021 09:53 #321845 by Shellhead
In a setting with godlike heroes and villains, Captain America is the plucky underdog who will never surrender. He is the epitome of the ideals that America struggles to live up to, and a veteran of a great war fought against an obvious evil. He is the hero that all the heroes and even some of the villains admire. He even took three villains and made them into an Avengers team that stayed together long after he moved on to other challenges. He spontaneously delivers great speeches and privately wrestles with doubt, constantly challenging himself to do the right thing.

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09 Apr 2021 09:58 #321846 by Shellhead

hotseatgames wrote: I'm pretty indifferent to him, myself. I like it when he punches Nazis. His shield is cool, and unless I am mistaken... he does have "powers". Isn't he some sort of super soldier, bio-enhanced or something?


In the comics, the super-soldier serum transforms him from a short, skinny guy into a tall, muscular guy with a degree of superhuman endurance, but otherwise no real powers. Most of what he brings to a fight is superior skill, tactical genius, extensive combat experience, and an indestructible shield made of an alloy of adamantium and vibranium. In the movies, Captain America does have low-end superhuman strength.

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09 Apr 2021 10:03 #321847 by Michael Barnes
Cap’s appeal, oddly. Is much like that of Star Trek. Like classic Trek, Cap represents an unvarnished, optimistic and idealistic approach to heroism. He represents good people doing the right thing while manuvering complicated or complex political, moral, and ethical situations. He also cold cocks Nazis.

But for me it has nothing to do with patriotism. Before I really understood the character at a deeper level, I thought he was lame at best, naionalistic at worst. But the best Cap stories have explored unexpected nuances. There was a moment in one of the better stories where he’s just come out of the ice and he realizes that he’s lost everything. But he sees a flag and understands that it’s the only constant in his interrupted life. It was unexpectedly powerful and moving...yet it didn’t feel patriotic at all. It felt a lot more complicated. Cap has also always -questioned- America more than celebrated it.

There’s some interesting Cap stuff going on in Falcon and the Winter Solider right now with a new VERY American in a bad way guy wielding the shield after Falcon abdicates it.
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09 Apr 2021 10:04 #321848 by fightcitymayor

Ancient_of_MuMu wrote: I was just discussing Captain America with my daughter, and we were both saying that we just don't understand the appeal.

Don't overthink it, Cap was just a wartime comic hero who punched Nazis back when Americans (and the Allies) were militarily punching Nazis. The 20th century was a high-water mark for simple-minded easy American patriotism, so he stuck around.
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09 Apr 2021 10:27 #321850 by Shellhead
In 1974, the Watergate investigation dominated the national news. Meanwhile in comics, Captain America, the Falcon, and some of the X-Men were battling a covert organization that was kidnapping mutants and running a publicity campaign against Cap. They also framed Cap for murder. At the conclusion of that storyline, Cap discovered that the leader of this Secret Empire was a high-ranking member of the Nixon administration, though the comic did not name him. That man committed suicide right in front of Cap. The following issue, Cap decided that he could no longer represent America, and retired. He soon returned as the crimefighter known as Nomad, a man without a country. Others tried to become the new Captain America and failed. Then the Red Skull killed a Cap wannabe, and that brought a reluctant Cap back to the costume and shield.

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09 Apr 2021 12:45 - 09 Apr 2021 12:48 #321857 by jpat
It's pretty hard to discuss Cap's contemporary appeal without thinking about Chris Evans's appeal in the MCU and also the fact that the Winter Soldier movie was probably transformative in that regard. First Avenger is pretty much a standard origin story, but Winter Soldier showed that Cap could have depth and nuance. (I know WS was a well-regarded comic run, too, so I'm not discounting its effect on comics, but I don't really know about that.) Evans also just looks good in the suit--unlike, IMO, the guy who's wearing the uniform in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where the helmet/skullcap makes him look like a anthropomorphic Bullet Bill.
Last edit: 09 Apr 2021 12:48 by jpat.
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09 Apr 2021 13:06 #321859 by mads b.
I have never read and Cap comics before seeing the movies, but I like him a lot in the MCU because he is so obviously a good guy and has been even before he became a super. It also helps that he shows depth and complexity in the later movies, and I think the questioning of authority/government in Civil War adds interesting aspects to him even if he never fundamentally changes. (That part works much better in the comics with the US governmant than in the movies where the UN is supposed to control the supers, btw.)

But he also works because he gets to be a somewhat funny fish out of water in Winter Soldier onward, and because he has a tragic backstory that sort of offsets the plucky heroism.
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09 Apr 2021 13:25 #321860 by jason10mm
Captain America can embody the strong moral center and adherence to high ideals that Superman does but has a more manageable power set so that he doesn't have to be responsible for every problem he CHOOSES not to address ("silence is violence" etc) like Supes can be accused of.

Plus he is a more balanced superhero since he is as much training/skill as powers and I don't recall the Steve Rogers "secret identity" being terribly relevant like some others which so often leads to silly drama. It also helps that his primary 'power' is a SHIELD (i.e. defensive in nature) that while he can employ in a offensive way is objectively a protective device.

Of course when viewed through a modern cynical lens he is especially problematic, particularly when the writer isn't up to snuff. He doesn't work well as a foil to push current propaganda.

I think producers will be trying to capture the Evans/Cap lightning in a bottle for generations to come, never was a casting so appropriate IMHO. I can only wait with barely suppressed glee for the "old man cap" movie in 10-15 years assuming Evans stays reasonably healthy and finds himself in need of a truckload of money down the line.
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09 Apr 2021 13:56 #321862 by the_jake_1973
I liked Cap in the super soldier fighting Nazis escapades growing up looking at old comics. I bought some here and there, but never have been a huge comic reader. the Cap of the MCU was my first in depth exposure to Cap and he quickly became a favorite. As a soldier myself, there is a bit of romanticized kinship that is felt. I do think some of the greatest appeal, and I'll be echoing Barnes somewhat, is that he is what I want the American ideal to be. Fighting against shit that is wrong, questioning and challenging the powers that be, and acting in the interest of the greater good.

For me, that is the embodiment of patriotism. I will argue that patriotism is not a bad thing, but it is too readily corrupted into nationalism.
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10 Apr 2021 06:16 #321882 by Erik Twice
My girlfriend calls Captain America "Capitán Santurrón" which could be translated as "Captain Goody-two-shoes".

One could say a lot about the whole American nationalist angle but I haven't found it too bothersome in the MCU, which is my only contact with Marvel. It's a small drop in the pond compared to inherent problems to the genre. The whole superpowered vigilante stuff was already dumb before nationalism got into it IMHO

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12 Apr 2021 10:18 #321927 by Sagrilarus

jpat wrote: It's pretty hard to discuss Cap's contemporary appeal without thinking about Chris Evans's appeal in the MCU and also the fact that the Winter Soldier movie was probably transformative in that regard. First Avenger is pretty much a standard origin story, but Winter Soldier showed that Cap could have depth and nuance. (I know WS was a well-regarded comic run, too, so I'm not discounting its effect on comics, but I don't really know about that.) Evans also just looks good in the suit--unlike, IMO, the guy who's wearing the uniform in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where the helmet/skullcap makes him look like a anthropomorphic Bullet Bill.


So, your answer to the original question -- what is the appeal of Captain America, is "his ass". Is that a fair summary? I think there's a few people that would agree with you.

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