The latest Marvel movie instalment, Captain America: The Winter Soldier is typically smashing all box records.
Marvel comics are the most successful comics in both comic and movie form. This success must have something to do with the defining themes in Marvel. Marvel was born during WW11and its initial stable of superheros were Namor the Sub-mariner, the Human Torch and Captain America.
The Torch faded until he was recreated as part of the Fantastic Four. Namor and the Captain were outsiders, Namor particularly as a half-breed between humanity and the ocean race. Namor's foe was humanity which was invading the almost mystical natural paradise of his undersea home. As the second World war progressed Namor's enemy of humanity was focused to Nazism and Namor 's values and motivation became more democratic and patriotic. But he always remained an individual apart.
Captain America was the emblem of democracy from the beginning. But he too was an outsider. Before his transformation Steve Rodgers was a weakling and rejected outcast because of that weakness. But he was brave and loyal and given a second chance by the society which had rejected him.
The formula which made Rodgers a superhuman is a recurring device in Marvel. Many of Marvel's superheroes are formed by chance intervention of a serendipitous event which bestows their powers. These powers always come with a cost however. That cost is to make the superhero an outcast from society or at least a misfit. So Spiderman is perceived to be a villain, Daredevil is crippled, the X-Men are shunned, the Hulk has terrible manners and is feared, Thor is banished from Aasgaard, Iron Man has a hole in his heart and Wolverine is really anti-social.
To varying degrees each Marvel superhero stands apart from his society. But time and time again the superheroes save the society which they are apart from. It is a brilliant symbol. Each of the superheroes is an individual outcast who repeatedly saves society from a danger which opposes the values which the superhero personifies and protects in the society from which he is removed. It is a perfect literary representation of the dynamic between the individual who has qualities which make him at odds with society which needs those qualities to survive.
Captain America is the acme of this paradox. He is patriotic but not subservient; he protects democracy against the enemy of Nazism which suppresses individuality even though the Captain's individuality makes him a freak.
In his modern reincarnation the Captain is even more of an outcast because he is not only removed from his society by his powers as a symbol of his individuality but by time as well.
His enemy Hydra has also been reincarnated. During WW11 Hydra was led by the Red Skull who was an über Nazi distinguished from conventional Nazism by efficiency and ruthlessness. However the Skull also shows how super individuality can corrupt a society. Similarly afflicted to the Captain by a power enhancement the Skull shows how a perverted individual can make a non-democratic society even worse.
This theme of corruption is taken a step further in The Winter Soldier. Now Hydra does not stand apart from democracy but has infiltrated it. The villain is no longer a striking outcast like the Skull but an urbane insider played by Robert Redford. Redford has learnt by the Skull's mistake. He intends to create an outside threat so severe that people living in a democracy which has individual freedom will willingly give up that freedom for security and a non-democratic overlord.
This theme has a number of real world manifestations. The war on Terror which seeks to suppress individuality and democracy has produced responses in Western democracies which suppress and restrain individual freedoms.
Likewise the war on climate change by those who support AGW is also a mirror for the Captain's battle against Hydra. Of course the advocates of AGW do not hijack huge gunships and plan to use them on humanity. That would be silly. AGW instead has infiltrated our universities and science bodies, claims a consensus and sows fear and discord by predicting the end of the world unless the world accepts the leadership of AGW as personified by the UN and gives up democracy everywhere. That's not silly.
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