Captain American and Black Panther

Captain America: Civil War

Marvel-Civil-WarAll three of us blog writers went to go see the third Captain America movie together, and I have thoughts. Actually, I had thoughts (concerns) before we even went. I didn’t follow the Civil War event in the comic books, but I knew the basic gist is that there is a growing political movement for putting superheroes under some kind of government control, and the Avengers become split between Iron Man supporting that movement, and Captain America against it.

I think it is a nice touch to make the most outwardly patriotic character still have concerns about political overreach, but I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around how Tony Stark, who wasn’t even willing to register his mechanical suit with the government in the first Iron Man movie, would take a pro-registration stance. In fact, I’d always thought Tony Stark sort of represented the classic Republican stance of financial independence, corporate freedom, and small government. It made me wonder if this movie would actually be a bit of a commentary on how the Republican Party itself has shifted in ideology.

And, then I saw the movie, and I’m even more confused. I wish I could have taken notes in the theater because I vehemently disagreed with basically everything that any of the characters said, and now I can’t actually remember any of the arguments. However, when trying to write this up, I tracked down some of the transcribed argument, and reading it didn’t make any more sense. It felt a little like when I was reading Atlas Shrugged, and the supposed ‘liberal’ characters made bizarre straw men arguments that I’d never heard an actual liberal make.

After much discussion with Rebecca, I think I have a basic grasp on the two sides, boiled way down and largely guesstimated from some very overwrought dialogue (clearly, this includes spoilers, but only for the most stupid and boring parts of the movie):

Tony Stark: “There’s no decision-making process here. We need to be put in check! And whatever form that takes, I’m game. If we can’t accept limitations, we’re boundary-less, we’re no better than the bad guys.” (When we make decisions, people are dying, so someone qualified needs to make those decisions. We can’t make the decisions unilaterally just on our own whims. Rebecca made a very good point that Tony seems to be having almost a mental breakdown at this point, and looking to unload his own guilt over Ultron.)

Steve Rogers: “If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.” (Anyone can make a mistake, and that doesn’t mean that you should stop making decisions entirely and turn over all decision-making over to someone else. Steve Rogers has military experience that spans 70 years, and what hasn’t changed is probably even more telling than what has.)

I mean, they start out with valid points (both boundaries and personal choice are good things!), but then immediately carry them to absurd lengths. Tony thinks their need for checks is so great that it doesn’t matter what form those checks take? Steve thinks that he shouldn’t rely on anyone but himself ever? So, in this movie, this argument comes down to whether the Avengers should sign an accord that puts them under the care of the UN.

Putting aside that fact that I don’t think anyone has ever believed that the UN is the best institution for making quick decisions in times of emergency, the thing that drove me completely bonkers is that we already have laws for this! No one is legally allowed to wander into other countries without having travel visas and going through customs, at the very least. You certainly aren’t allowed to bring weapons into other countries without explicit permission. So, you don’t need accords to keep the Avengers out of Nigeria, you just need to actually enforce the international laws that are already in place.

I did overall really enjoy the movie – it is a lot of fun, with some good jokes and flashy fight scenes. I’m just afraid that I might be getting too old for superhero movies. The whole premise of this movie is based on prepubescent logic that doesn’t allow for any nuance or compromise, and I getting less and less able to just go with it.

The Black Panther
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

blackpantherMoving on from movie ranting, I managed to get my hands on one of the coveted new issues of the Black Panther comic book, written by Ta-Nehisi Coates! It sold out before issues even got to stores, and the reprint batch promptly sold out, too. So, I was waiting to hear about a third print run, when Rebecca visited a comic store in which some idiot had returned his copy.

After reading it, I realized that I had unrealistic expectations that prevent me from fully reviewing. I have never read a Black Panther comic before; there is fifty years of history with the character, and I don’t know any of it. Coates does, though, and he is not writing a reboot. He’s clearly doing some really interesting things with the character and the world, but I just didn’t know enough about either to fully understand what was going on.

Issue 1 starts with the Wakanda people in an uprising against their ruling family (Black Panther and his mother) due to recent hardships that the country has undergone. These recent hardships are a long string of events that are alluded to very briefly here, and I assume are years of backstory. Additionally, there is a mysterious figure orchestrating the uprising that I couldn’t tell whether long-time readers would recognize or is a new addition.

The comic is clearly starting to discuss some really interesting things, like how do you continue to rule a people that are divided among themselves? How do you repair a country either after a modern-era civil war or on the brink of one, or both? How do you rule at all without oppression of one kind or another? I’m interested to see where this goes, but I’m also already floundering in some of the complexities, and I just don’t know whether they will get explained over time or whether I am expected to already know them.

—Anna

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