Tyler Huckabee makes his debut on Bright Wall/Dark Room with an excellent column about the Captain America movies, and how the Star-Spangled Avenger speaks to our current (and complicated) ideas of patriotism.
It’s hard not to admire a person of such rock solid determination, with steely principles that stand fast against the tides of time. The trouble is, there’s nothing admirable about unchanging principles if the principles weren’t all that good to begin with. That’s the risk of conviction. Maybe it’s why so few people have it. It’s only human to hedge your bets, and make sure there’s always a way to back out of the things you say you believe. Very few important beliefs are convenient, and government leaders are not ones to run their decisions by your own personal moral code. If you have a conviction, you will at some point be forced to determine just how much it means to you. You will be forced to either stand your ground and tell the whole world to move, or just admit that it never meant all that much to you anyway.
But these movies have helped me understand what patriotism needs in order to be something pure. It doesn’t mean loving your country. It means taking ownership of it, holding it to the highest possible standard and refusing to settle or to compromise. It means taking honest measure of the distance between the Dream and the reality, and dedicating yourself to closing the gap, no matter how “unpatriotic” this dedication may look.
I was never much of a fan of Captain America. Even when I was a kid, he always seemed cheesy and on-the-nose. But the Marvel movies have caused me to reassess the character. While the current MCU may have kicked off with Tony Stark and Iron Man, Cap — as portrayed, with heart and nobility, by Chris Evans — is the MCU’s heart and soul, not to mention its conscience.
Also, Huckabee’s column is a good reminder that while superhero movies may be the epitome of big budget Hollywood entertainment, they can still wrestle with important topics and explore deeper themes amidst all of the CGI spectacle.