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[personal profile] haeceity
I know I’m hardly the first to say any of this and I’m probably not the most original but the CA:CW marketing has consistently brought these thoughts back to me so here goes:

I think the biggest mistake in the MCU to date is the inclusion of Hydra in modern day era plots. It works fine as a backstory for Steve because Steve is a WWII era hero. I know they’re deeply enmeshed in most comic book plots but there are a lot of things from the comics that aren’t going to make it into the cinematic version. (Still holding out for Rumiko.)

Steve as a WWII hero, interacting with modern heroes has an interesting dynamic to it. WWII isn’t as clean as most people are used to thinking of it as. Disrupting those expectations, watching Steve adapt, which things Steve succeeds or fails at, seeing the difference between how we approach war today versus WWII… these are ideas I want to watch play out.

Bringing Nazis into things takes away from that. Instead of the story being about how these heroes work together despite/because of disparate strengths, training, and viewpoints it becomes about how they’re failing to finish off Nazis. Putting Hydra inside SHIELD exacerbates this problem. Now, Clint, Natasha, and Steve have spent years working for and with Nazis. The Avengers Initiative was put together by Nazis. Literally no other form of shadow government plot would have this problem.

I’ve seen the argument made that Fury is the one who put together the team and he isn’t a Nazi but this argument is wrong. Hydra has so infiltrated SHIELD that the plot of TWS is that Fury is intermittently carrying out a Nazi agenda. His superiors are infiltrated. The ranks of people whose analyses he would need to rely on to determine the team’s roster have been infiltrated. Nazis have their fingers in everything SHIELD has done for decades. This is a world-breaker.

It’s also an easy way out on both a Watsonian and Doylist level. Whose fault is it that X happened? Nazis.How did this plot get started? Nazis. Who thought this was a good idea? Nazis.

Which would be okay if the writers then followed up on what aspects of these characters made them think the Nazi plot was a good idea or what they were doing to root out Nazi influence. But that requires some understanding of why Nazis are bad. It isn’t because they call themselves Nazis. It isn’t just because of their disregard for human life. It’s their belief that they deserve the right to control the world and exterminate the people they think don’t deserve to live. Even if an operative wasn’t a member of HYDRA, that doesn’t eliminate the possibility that when it’s sold to them as American supremacy, they jumped on it. Regardless of whether or not they were actual facts Nazis, each SHIELD member needs to be vetted for fitness for duty in the face of having spent years hearing Nazi sentiments all around them and being rewarded for acting on them.

Everyone has unconscious biases. Everyone has opinions that seem completely reasonable until they’re said out loud at the wrong moment. Having those negative and unrealistic biases reinforced means they get reflected in a number of ways, most of which are difficult to predict. What is easy to predict though is that constantly being fed the idea that a Nazi agenda is worth following would mean that the people involved are used to devaluing the lives of those outside the organization. As this is an American organization, it’s easy to foresee a number of circumstances where non-American lives aren’t given weight as real people by operatives who think they’re giving those lives as much consideration as they’re due.

Which is where things get tricky in dealing with Captain America operating outside the United States. To people who don’t follow him around personally witnessing his arc in TWS, how can they know with any certainty why Steve turned against SHIELD? How can people in other countries be sure that it wasn’t a personal issue with Nazis, rather than him standing up to the Nazi agenda wherever it’s found? It’s not a minor distinction.

We, the audience, see Steve struggle but government officials across the world know only a few things for sure:

Steve fought against Nazis in WWII. Most things surrounding that have faded into legend and propaganda.
Steve disappeared mysteriously. Given the stuff we see with the Tesseract, the US government probably wasn’t too forthcoming on details about the op he was on.
Steve reappeared several decades later looking no older. Details on how and why would likely also be sketchy on this as well.
Steve almost immediately went to work for a US organization heavily infiltrated by Nazis.
Two years, guys. Two years of service with and for Nazis.
Steve and a former KGB operative blow the conspiracy open. Or do they? How do people know this isn’t a power play within Hydra?

If I were a foreign government official looking at these data points, “Steve is a good guy who fights Nazis wherever he finds them,” isn’t really the conclusion I’d be jumping to. Especially, if the US government never sends him to trial.

We don’t send people to trial because they’ve done something wrong. Trials are for determining whether or not someone is legally culpable for crimes. If Steve never goes to trial, it’s never determined to what level he is responsible for the work he did for Nazis or even to what level he was carrying out a Nazi agenda. The US government putting its hands over its ears and refusing to know how much Captain America has been used for Nazi ends isn’t a good thing. It certainly wouldn’t play well with foreign governments. By not sending him to trial, it looks like Steve is getting a free pass.

Then you add in the way that General Ross reacted to Bruce in Harlem. You add in the way that the Senate tried to appropriate the Iron Man designs from Tony. This Nazi organization is the one that picked up the bits of Chitauri tech after the Invasion of New York. It begs the question of what else the American government thinks it can hide by avoiding the legal proceedings necessary to determine how culpable the parties are who cooperated unknowingly with Hydra. This is not a whoopsy. The American government needs to prove to the world and its own people that we weren’t being hypocritical when we said “I was just following orders” isn’t an excuse.

The next step in all of this needs to be the Avengers on trial, SHIELD agents of every level on trial, people in positions of power who cooperated or were sponsored by Hydra members. It’s not a metaphorical witch hunt if there is solid proof that there are actual witches who have committed war crimes. SHIELD needs to be dismantled because it isn’t just its officers that are suspect, its POV and SOP are suspect too.

Watching Ross and Steve never need to defend their actions just draws more attention to the fact that MCU is mired in a struggle with an old foe that has no equivalent in our current wars. Tony Stark’s and Scott Lang’s villains are Adventures in Bad Tech Application. Thor’s and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s are Adventures with Aliens. Steve’s villains are a regression. Everyone else’s villains have roots in fear of outsiders, the war on terror, proliferation of dangerous tech, arguments about government regulation of bleeding edge industries, how we handled/are handling our relations with the Middle East. I’m not saying these movies handle these themes in perfect ways or even necessarily in ways that are good but they’re relevant. Nazis are relevant in the swing of politics and the way we need to be aware of the views of the people who act on our behalf. Instead we’re getting Nazis popping up as the real evil behind our country’s choices. That’s a cop out.

If it were about the insidious nature of nationalism, then the movies would then focus on how even our best and brightest can fall prey to it. Instead, it feels like the franchise holds back from taking that step, from holding Steve responsible for working for Nazis. Does he even feel guilty? Does he wonder if that one mission was actually for Hydra’s goals? Does he never consider what part of his choices led to this outcome?

If I weren’t American, those are questions I’d want answered before he tried to enter my country. As an American, I think the audience is being cheated when the story stops short of these questions.

Sure Steve didn’t know he was working for Nazis. But why didn’t he know? Why is his ignorance excusable? Why is his ignorance considered an adequate defense? What does it say about his ability to judge people that it took him two years to recognize a Nazi agenda?

Contrast this with Tony knowing immediately that anyone trying to corner him into providing Iron Man specs was hinky. Pentagon politics aren’t my specialty but even I know enough about how their budget is handled to know there is no way the US military wants to make a bunch of Iron Man armor. Without the Hydra reveal, that’s a man on a power trip. With the Hydra reveal, Tony is the only one shown telling Hydra no outright.

Which brings me to my next point. Bringing in Hydra on this level means they have to be the team’s villain. And that… does not work well. They’re the least relevant set of villains, the least capable of being redeemed, and the most nonsensical. Think of all the times the answer is “Nazis did it” and think of what that plot would have been like if the moral of the story weren’t “Nazis are bad.”

The Maximoff twins’ origin story. Project Insight. Bucky’s brainwashing. Tesseract weapons. Bombing New York. Howard and Maria Stark’s assassination.

Which of these things wouldn’t be improved by removing Nazis from the picture? If they are trying to make the story about responsibility versus guilt, acceptable risk versus atrocity, then the story needs to address the negative aspects of the actions the main characters take freely. Pulling in Nazis just confuses the issue because it keeps the story from reaching all the way to what the Avengers are actually doing wrong. The plot keeps getting dragged back to the things they do under duress despite the fact that they have picked some really epically shitty things on their own.

Tony chose to go hunt down the people who illegally bought his weapons. There should be some sort of repercussions for the people he killed without a trial. Steve spent two years carrying out Hydra ops. Natasha and Clint did more than that. Thor tried to commit genocide. More than once. Bruce should be in front of an ethics board for illegally testing science on himself. But somehow the focus seems to keep shifting to the things they were coerced into doing. That’s cheap. Having Hydra be ultimately responsible for the decisions the narrative treats as their worst, is cheap.

And really, when someone finds out they’ve been working for Nazis for two years and they exhibit no self-doubt, I question their morality. If the story never addresses that, it’s not as good as it could be. Nazis are a distraction from what the plot should be:

How do these people come together to find solutions for conflicts that are metaphors for things we currently face as a people?

People are free to disagree with me but frankly, compared to that question Nazis are not only dead boring, using them is an insult to the people who died at their hands and the people who would die if a similar group came into this kind of power.

Date: 2016-07-11 03:42 pm (UTC)
meridian_rose: pen on letter background  with text  saying 'writer' (writer)
From: [personal profile] meridian_rose
I'll just pick up on "to be the Avengers on trial,"
I understand other cultures may vary but in the UK and the USA I think a trial does suggest guilt. For someone to be arrested and put on trial says that the prosecution believes the person is guilty *and* that the judge and/or jury can be persuaded by the evidence that they are guilty. There may be "innocence until proven guilty" but generally I think it's perceived that someone truly innocent would never get to a courtroom. The rest is just legal wrangling and the skill of your lawyer, the impartiality of the judge, and the wealth you command are as important, if not more so, than the truth - which is a cynical view but fact and fiction conspire to paint exactly this picture of the USA and UK justice system.
To investigate is one thing, but putting every single person ever involved in SHIELD on trial would be a witch-hunt, suggests guilt by association - some SHIELD agents were Hydra so you probably were too and even if you never knew you're still dirty in some respect.

Anyway I'm not sure if I'm going to bother with S4 of Agents of SHIELD but S3 spent far too long explaining the extraterrestrial origins of Hydra, with the whole organisation being set up to try and retrieve the original metahuman from its offworld prison. So now Hydra operatives are really all about the alien entity who will rule them. Or something. I was losing interest.

Date: 2016-07-12 02:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vorquellyn.livejournal.com
Not being from the UK I'm not totally sure but I know that barristers and solicitors aren't interchangeable and that you have an adversarial criminal system? Our civil law system is adversarial but our criminal system is inquisitorial.

The biggest question about our criminal trials is "does the judge think this is a waste of time?" If there's very little evidence, it gets throw out. If the judge sees the charges as unfair, it gets thrown out. And all of that is affected by racism, sexism, etc. A prosecutor's job is to present the best possible case that the accused is guilty based on what the criminal investigation turned up. They can refuse to prosecute if they think they're going to lose but we do have a cultural awareness that that's about the prosecutor's track record, not the innocence or guilt of the accused. Our criminal investigations aren't really set up to definitively find someone guilty, that's for a jury to decide or for the accused to make a deal with the prosecution.

To never put them on trial would be to say that it's unnecessary to determine their guilt. That's one of the reasons why you'll see so much contention in cases about whether a cop who shoots a citizen gets indicted. Indicting someone is an investment of resources in finding out what happened, not a definitive statement of guilt. To never indict or send anyone to trial out of an organization that appears to have thousands of employees, is a staggering silence. That not one of them wants to go to trial to clear their names is really fucking weird. Not even a Hydra agent who genuinely thinks he should be found innocent? So weird.

I'm not sure what witch hunt means to you. I've only seen it used to refer to trials that become about the ego of the accuser and run counter to the available evidence. There's evidence that Hydra is active and violent and malign and it was all over the Potomac. There would be too many trials and hearings for it to be covered by one prosecutor or judge. The Avengers would easily overshadow any judges or prosecutors.

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