Sunday, May 08, 2016

Superheroes and the fight for competing visions of society

This is a repost from Great Britain's SOCIALIST WORKER:

Superheroes and the fight for competing visions of society

by Simon Guy

Captain America
Captain America: Saviour of and rebel against the system

Captain America: Civil War is a superhero love-in. In a fight involving Spiderman, the line “everyone’s got a gimmick” sums up the chaos of the heroes battling it out for attention.
Marvel’s latest instalment is fantastic visually, very entertaining and comes with mega production values.

It echoes the US invasions of whichever country it wants.

Violence causing violence and the consuming nature of revenge are the film’s dominating themes.

But while criticisms of the political system are raised, they remain unresolved.

The main division is over whether the United Nations (UN) can have oversight over the Avengers.

This superhero team has stepped in repeatedly outside of the official channels to save the day from an otherwise unstoppable threat.

Iron Man is willing to submit to this oversight. This is strange considering his hostile dealings with a US Senate committee. But he is confronted by the grief which the Avengers’ actions have caused.


Yet Captain America refuses, arguing that the Avengers can only trust themselves to set their agenda.
This is used as a justification for the antagonism between Iron Man and the Cap. But this antagonism is based on personal reasons, rather than the political issues the film raises.

Captain America’s stand could be construed as him putting himself above democracy.

Yet this is in a cinematic universe where high level officials and powerful people have shown themselves to be corrupt.

But this is not a theme which comes through in the film.

The US secretary of state is shady but never becomes a true villain. Martin Freeman is convincing as a UN bureaucrat who is seemingly just going by the book but is irrelevant to the story.

At one point some of the characters question whether they should even be fighting each other. And the film retains the series’ ability to take the piss out of itself.

You can’t help thinking this is a plot made to keep the franchise going.

Each main character has a story about their “origins”. And they come together in the Avengers films and are thrust into common struggle against a formidable enemy.

In each film they have to overcome real tensions in order to find the unity necessary to win.

Each enemy finds ways to deepen divisions.


In that sense Civil War is the culmination of these films, but the new opponent they face is fairly unknown.

This character is not really developed much. In amongst the chaos his motivations are secondary, except for being a product of the carnage left in the wake of the Avengers’ “kicking ass”.

This makes you think about “collateral damage” left by military interventions in the real world.
In one sense, Captain America could encourage some to think there are and will always be those who are more terrifying than we can imagine.

So we better build the baddest super soldiers to stop them.

In another sense, he is someone struggling to hold together his team of militants. And this is all against the backdrop of a political system which is manipulated by agendas of the powerful.

He represents the salvation of the system, but also the struggle against it.

Captain America—Civil War. Directed by Joe Russo and Anthony Russo. Out now

the socialist worker