The First Avenger is a well-told tale, though a it feels a bit slow compared to other MCU films. In it, we see Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans as the perfect man. He is honorable, considerate, intelligent, physically fit, and irresistible to every American, young, old, female, and male.
When I first saw the movie in the theater, I was surprised to see Evans in the role. The reason is that he also played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four movies by Twentieth Century Fox. He played the Torch much as any actor has ever played a role. But as Captain America, Evans became the character, utterly erasing his portrayal of the Human Torch. In my mind, it wasn’t Evans in the Fantastic Four movie, but Captain America moonlighting as an actor.
I mention this because I am very disappointed in the political statements Evans has made after playing Captain America. Evans has made a second career out of criticizing President Trump on Twitter, and elsewhere. Here is an example:
This moron, puppet, coward sided with Putin over our own intelligence agencies! On a world stage!! BASED ON NOTHING MORE THAN PUTIN’S WORD! Why?? Can ANYONE answer that?? What the hell is happening. Politics aside, this is 100% un-American. Where are you @GOP????
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) July 16, 2018
Evans is so good in his role as Captain America that it is possible to forget about how obnoxious and disrespectful he is as Chris Evans, the actor. My impression is that he believes what he writes, which puts him in a better light than politicians on the left who know better. However, it doesn’t change the fact that his platform provides him considerable power to cause harm and he is using it in a way that seems designed to do just that. There are other MCU actors who are just as annoying outside their roles on screen, but they are less appealing on screen than Captain America, so it is easier to stay away from those movies. More on that later.
The casting and actor portrayals in this film emphasize a conservative worldview, regardless of the actor’s individual opinions on politics. Hayley Atwell as Army Special Agent Peggy Carter is the first MCU woman that is all-woman. That is, the first whose behavior contains no traces of feminism or its modern incarnation, feminist supremacy. She is a strong woman. Her role appears to have been written for the feminist purpose of showing that any woman can do the job of any man better. However, the way it is portrayed on screen, particularly by Atwell, she never loses her femininity.
This is different from Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster in Thor. In Thor, Foster appeared to be a liberal character as seen from a conservative perspective. In Captain America, Peggy Carter comes across as conservative, the first such female character in the MCU.
Tommy Lee Jones plays Steve Roger’s commanding officer, Colonel Phillips. Phillips is the funniest character in the movie. I loved every moment of screen time he had. Whenever he appeared, he had something funny to say, and always in the same grim monotone. In one scene, Captain America worries about a large group of missing soldiers, the 107th. “Are you planning a rescue mission?” Captain America asks. “Yeah, it’s called winning the war. They’re thirty miles behind enemy lines. We’d lose more men than we’d save, but you wouldn’t understand that because you’re a chorus girl,” Phillips responds.
The two primary villains, The Red Skull and engineer Emile Zola, played by Hugo Weaving and Toby Jones, respectively, did a fine job. The Red Skull was as menacing as Zola was cowardly. The Red Skull wanted power and Zola was content to be near power. The symbiotic relationship between these two was interesting to watch. In one scene, Red Skull wants production in his weapons plant increased by sixty percent. Zola timidly says, “I’m not sure our prisoners have the strength.” Red Skull responds, “Then use up what strength they have left.” Zola then goes off to carry out the order. From his point of view, he has fulfilled his moral obligation by informing Red Skull of the prisoner’s condition. After that, anything he does (he thinks) is the Red Skull’s responsibility.
The idea of transferred responsibility seen in the exchange between Red Skull and Zola reminds me of how individuals in mobs may not see themselves as culpable of any crimes committed by the mob. In modern America, they don’t even think of themselves as members of a “mob”. They call it a “protest” and have satisfied their moral obligation, or so they think.
The only character that could have been a concealed Easter egg for conservatives is Heinz Kruger/Gabriel Clemson, played by Richard Armitage. The reason is that he is a Hydra agent who works in the State Department, just as Communists of the era also infiltrated the State Department. He kills Dr. Erskine, the creator of Captain America’s super soldier serum, then escapes in a fairly good chase scene.
Did the screenwriter Stephen McFeeley place him in the State Department as a nod to known concerns about political reliability there? It is hard to say, because this film never comes across as overtly conservative. Most of the characters can be viewed as liberal or conservative because their focus on events in the story are enough to distract them from statements or actions that would reveal political affiliation. Of all the characters, the only one that I feel comfortable identifying as conservative is Peggy Carter.
Unlike later MCU films, and a few stray moments in earlier ones, I never felt drawn out of the film by discordant liberal ideology. As I watched, I tried to find something that could be described as conservative or liberal but found very little, outside of Peggy Carter’s non-feminist character, who was more appealing for this reason. To its credit, The First Avenger stays focused on its story, making it possible to enjoy for anyone, regardless of beliefs. That said, I want to make a comment that came to mind as I was preparing to write this. It involves a personal anecdote but it does tie back to Captain America.
Back in the 1980’s, I started practicing yoga postures, also known as “asanas”. I got pretty good at it. I could do a one-armed handstand with my legs in lotus position. To keep things interesting, I was always looking for new ways to challenge myself. On one occasion, I saw an ad, a bit like the old “hey, skinny!” ads on the backs of comic books, that promised to teach people how to levitate. As proof, there was a photo of a man sitting with his legs crossed in lotus, seemingly floating in mid-air. His facial expression was a bit strange, and his hair looked pretty excited, but apart from that, he did look like maybe he was levitating. He wasn’t. He was bouncing up and down on a mat, and the photo was taken at the maximum height of one of these jumps.
As I remember the ad, I had the impression that the yogi in the picture had wanted to learn how to levitate. He studied long and hard, expecting that one day he would float up into the air. It didn’t work. He then tried to achieve the effect physically and developed the bounce technique. From his point of view, this ersatz version of levitation was the real deal.
Captain America: The First Avenger reminds me of this because in it, Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, is everything liberals imagine themselves to be. And yet, they aren’t the weak but honorable skinny kid getting beaten up in an alley who grow up to punch Nazis. They are the bullies, and they are doing their best to beat up Captain America. The reason is that he represents everything they hate at the same time as he is everything they wish to be.