There's an old, simple little adage that goes something like, "Everything is political," and it's true. The ability to avoid politics, or not have different parts of your identity politicized by society, is political, itself — it extends from the privileges conferred upon some, living under patriarchy and white supremacy.
That said, yes, everything is political, but some things are, like, super political, and one such topic is Captain America, as depicted by both Marvel Studios and the comic books. All of Marvel is political, often telling stories about power, resistance, government secrets, weapons development, identity, and more — not to mention having input and sign-off from the U.S. military for some movies.
But all of this is news on Tuesday to anchors and guests on an outraged Fox News segment, horrified by what they perceived as the sudden politicization of a superhero named *checks notes* Captain America. Fox News' outrage was prompted by Marvel Comics' new "United States of Captain America" miniseries, in which Steve Rogers will question the concept of the American Dream.
Steve's name was also trending over the holiday weekend – marking his shared birthday with the U.S. on July 4th – in addition to discourse on how Steve and the character of Captain America have always held up a mirror to American politics.
Michael Loftus, self-identified comedian and host of The Loftus Party, joined Fox News to bemoan how Captain America has become "Captain Woke."
"It's so sad when Captain America is like Captain Woke or Captain Propaganda . . . I'm done with Captain America. He's dead!" Loftus said. "Did I miss an issue where he was kidnapped by liberal arts professors and was forced to move to Portland?"
Loftus continued, "It's just more proof the left is going to come after everything that real Americans hold near and dear — they tried to cancel baseball, apple pie, and now Captain America!
"Maybe they'll change his outfit! Maybe now instead of a shield he'll be armed with a laptop and will have exciting adventures where he sits in coffee shops and tweets mean things and he's an active fact-checker on Facebook!"
It's hard to even know where to start with these lines, which admittedly come from a comedian, who seems to feel like he's speaking truth to power; his podcast supposedly "crushes the news into bite sized bits of comedic common sense."
Certainly, identifying leftist Twitter users as bullies when our very own former Republican president was notorious for his daily tweet storms blasting the appearances of any woman who critiqued him, is so absurd as to be comical. But Loftus eventually continues his screed by whining about how "gone are the days of the lone hero and self-reliance," proving he missed the whole point of the "Avengers" saga, which is quite literally about how no one superhero can save the world alone. Humans are communal, collaborative creatures by nature, and, sure, Iron Man is the one who snapped his fingers in "Endgame," but the Avengers wouldn't even have had the Infinity Stones or gauntlet, were it not for a whole lot of teamwork and sacrifice.
The Captain's political history . . . and future
Anthony Mackie in "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" (Marvel/Disney+)
Let us reiterate: Captain America has always been political. Steve Rogers has been punching Nazis since World War II, not to mention frequently distinguishing between patriotism and fanaticism in the comic books — a concept plenty of Fox commentators would do well to learn from. Even the present-day "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" is an exploration of the real-life horrors of the surveillance state and predictive policing technologies, which can show who is a "threat" before they've even graduated high school. The sequel, "Captain America: Civil War," is similarly rife with political commentary on reining in global superpowers, and whether global governing bodies and treaties can be trusted.
The enduring legacy of the politics of Captain America is further examined and deepened in Marvel Studios' recent limited series, "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," in which the mantle of Captain America is picked up by Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson, a Black man with mixed feelings about becoming a symbol of a country still steeped in white supremacy. The short series explores how the experiments that created super soldiers like Steve (played by Chris Evans onscreen), and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), were rooted in racism and nonconsensual human experimentation on Black men. The show is devastating but honest, even including a scene where Sam is racially profiled by police.
Before this most recent bubbling culture war over criticism of the American Dream in "United States of Captain America," the right was also in a tizzy over a "Captain America" comic book installment by Ta-Nehisi Coates, in which fascist supervillain Red Skull is notably based on far-right academic Jordan Peterson. "What the hell?" Peterson memorably tweeted in shocked response to the discovery.
From its comic books to its movies, Marvel's subject matter has always been political — the first Phase 1 MCU film, "Iron Man," is foremost a movie about weapons development and manufacturing, and Tony Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) change of heart on war profiteering. Marvel's movies have only become more political since, featuring more diverse casts of superheroes and more modern concepts. Marvel hasn't always stuck the landing, often portraying political radicals with reasonable demands and goals exclusively as mad serial killers, who somehow see the very people they want to help as collateral damage (think: Killmonger in "Black Panther" and Karli in "Falcon and the Winter Soldier"). But, all of this is to say, the notion that Marvel wading into politics with the latest Captain America comic is new is simply ridiculous, when Marvel stories have been critiquing and reflecting on power and oppression for decades.