May. 26th, 2016

haeceity: (Blank)
I’ve thought about several ways to write this out but seeing the news of Hydra!Cap solidified what I want to say. This isn’t about the comic book line, this is about MCU and how Hydra!Cap is a logical continuation of the things about MCU that infuriate me.

I’m white and American. In America there is no way I don’t qualify as white. I practically glow in the dark. To the best of my knowledge, I have no relatives who are Jewish or Wandering People and I will leave discussion of aspects relevant to that side of things to the people who understand it from the inside. Nazis would kill me for other reasons instead. I’m not straight. I’m not neurotypical. I have enough Slavic heritage to be uncertain how much of an issue it would be.

What it feels like is that the MCU doesn’t respect or acknowledge that the Nazis aren’t some Platonic Ideal of villainy. They’re real and they want to hurt and kill people like me, people like my friends, strangers I pass on the street, my Kindergarten teacher. I wasn’t expecting much better from TFA. It’s a WWII movie, so of course Steve is being sent against Nazis. I was disappointed but unsurprised that they gave so little attention to why Nazis are awful and used it as a shortcut instead. Sadly, this is just situation normal.

TWS is different. There are a lot of things I like about it but it’s use of Nazis is worse and more insidious. Not only is it cheap to chalk every misstep of our government up to secret Nazis when real, actual fascists are making gains in elections all over America and Europe, but it buys into Nazi propaganda.

Popular culture conceptualizes Nazis as this ultra-efficient force. A kind of “they may be awful but they have their upsides.” The truth is that they were horribly inefficient. Sure, they had geniuses running their rocket programs and their medical research gave us the start on modern computing systems (because the people in charge of Nazi medical experiments were making efforts to be as devoid of empathy and compassion for the suffering they caused as humanly possible). However,, the Nazis threw money at all sorts of programs. It wasn’t about the success of the program, it was about the interest of the people on top. Similarly, the people on top spent enough time and resources vying for favor to diminish one another’s ability to actually accomplish shit. Even if they could have somehow fought the Allies to a standstill, they couldn’t have won. Sooner or later they would run out of people to kill in order to take their stuff to pay for the myriad of pet projects they wasted time and money on.

The Nazis were always going to fail.

Portraying them as a threat that can wait to spring from the shadows misses the core of what makes them terrible. It’s erasing part of their evil and glorifying them with skills they didn’t have. It’s giving them a power they shouldn’t have either in our world or in the narratives we tell about them. It makes them seem cool and powerful instead of brutal and shortsighted.

And it ignores the real problem: fascists don’t skulk in the shadows, they try to push their agenda openly. They commit hate crimes openly. They make only token efforts to hide because they feel justified, they feel they’re in the right. They’re proud of what they are.

Now, I can see the potential value in a storyline where Steve is introduced with the simplistic, “I hate bullies,” and gradually learns the more subtle flavors of oppression, showing that even Captain America can have lapses in judgment of who to trust and what makes someone a “good man.” But that isn’t what TWS did. That would require follow through which the MCU doesn’t seem interested in doing.

And that’s not because it would be a weak story. It would be fascinating. Imagine showing every Avenger struggling with the question of “should I have seen this coming?” as they’re put on trial for cooperating with Hydra and investigated for Nazi ties. Imagine a movie explicitly picking apart exactly how Hydra achieved and maintained power. Imagine showing those people Steve inspired into helping him against Project Insight as they face the fact that they may have stood up but they were complicit. Show us the way hiring was warped to seed the ranks with people who were Nazis, Nazi sympathizers, and people corrupt enough to look the other way. Show us the psychological evaluations that determined who would resist and who could be brought in and who was there to lend them legitimacy. For things in TWS to have gone the way they did, SHIELD is a festering pit of corruption that needs to be indicted from top to bottom. Everyone needs to go to trial to determine how deeply the rot goes. For me, this is the bare minimum of what’s needed if the villains must be Nazis. It is infuriatingly dishonest to try to skip out on it.

I walked out of TWS with that mix of wanting to love the movie but feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. I wanted to root for the everyday people standing up to the Nazis in their midst but I couldn’t forget that they had been helping Nazis. I wanted to see the ending as Natasha overcoming her past but all I kept hearing was a Russian thumbing her nose at the idea of holding people accountable for cooperating with Nazis. And that’s why this comic book move doesn’t surprise me. If they have no interest in follow through, just the moment of horror, then the only way to escalate from “Cap unknowingly worked for Hydra” is to remove the ”un.” It’s a logical progression and it’s sickening. And to top it off, it’s really shitty writing.

Drama isn’t in the moment, the climax of the story. Drama is in the fallout. Drama is in the buildup. Without the melodies and movements to support that high note, the note itself is meaningless, just a noise. “Dun dun DUN Hydra is among us!” means nothing if it isn’t used to further the story on both the metaplot level and the characters’ personal arcs. It’s reducing the lives of all the people the Nazis killed to nothing. It’s reducing the fact that they would try to kill people like me to disaster porn.

It makes it clear that the people who would be the casualties of the actions used to justify the behavior of SHIELD’s “good” operatives mean only that. We’re an excuse for Steve, Clint, and Natasha to avoid consequences for their action and inaction. We’re worth more than that but Marvel has made it clear what it thinks our place is.

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