WHAT WAS I JUST SAYING?
Does anyone remember last week’s post? Anyone? No? For a refresher: Why is realistic synonymous with dark, gritty, and violent? Why is so much of our narrative going there right now? Ok. We are all caught up.
Now for today’s. Oh, it’s about the same thing. The same thing that permeates our culture on repeat. A bad record of narrative. Take a hero, make them dark. Take a hero, make them gritty. Take a hero, make them violent. Take a hero, make them evil. Please stop Dark Knighting everyone. Please stop turning everyone evil. Please. Stop.
If you can’t tell yet, this is about Captain America.
I’ll warn you now that this post is disjointed and rambling and perhaps a tiny bit emotional.
This afternoon I got a text from my sister: *whispers apprehensively* have you heard today’s marvel comics news…..?
Why yes, I had and I am tired. I am so tired. Everything about this reads so terribly. Captain America was initially created as a Blond, Blue-Eyed White Engineered Supersoldier™ to fight against the Nazi regime. Are we getting that? Are we understanding what we are doing by turning Captain into an agent of Hydra? Are we understanding what we are saying? Are we understanding the rippling damage of Nazi Captain America?
I am weary. So, so weary. Where are the people helping people?
As our conversation continued, a text asked: Why can’t we have good heroes?
Let’s talk about the cinematic universe for a moment. I’ve fought depression and anxiety for… looks at a clock, then a calendar, then my life as a general entity… forever. Most of my life has been gray. Emotions clouded. Emotions without color dulled by depression. But I remember actually tearing up at the first Captain America movie. I felt ridiculous. I don’t cry at movies. Except for The Lion King, which doesn’t count. You don’t have a soul if Mufasa’s death doesn’t affect you. That’s just a rule of media.
However, here I was staring at the screen in the theater trying not to cry because a kid from Brooklyn doesn’t like bullies no matter where they’re from. It was a glimmer of a hero who wasn’t covered in loathing sardonicism. A hero who wasn’t disillusioned with the world. A person who wanted to help people. When I watched Winter Soldier, the introduction of Falcon as a hero who helped veterans, a hero who acknowledged mental health in a mainstream comic book movie, added to the team. I didn’t cry that time. Instead, I cheered. People helping people. A whole movie full of them.
As our conversation turned to all caps my sister, who is also our familial Dungeon Master, chimed in with: WHAT DOES LAWFUL GOOD EVEN MEAN ANYMORE?
For a bit of background, she just threw our characters into a dungeon and handed us new character sheets. Our old characters were darker, grittier… I was playing a former assassin turned good. Actually now that I think about it, I was basically playing the creepy druidic, tiefling version of the Winter Soldier. Most of our final decision making was made by the half-drow rogue. Our last game deteriorated into a 30 minutes discussion of the morality of killing an goblin. Darker. Edgier. We fell dice first into the trap of dark, gritty narrative.
I’m now playing as a high elf bard who is the ridiculous child of Awful Fantasy and Guy In Your MFA. We have a trash talking barbarian from the bunny clan. We have Pun Isher, the pun slinging gnome. Each of them are lawful good. They are lawful good, but still have differing personalities and opinions. We can still create interesting stories even if we all are for all purposes “good.” We are playing as people helping people divorced from needing a dark past and a gritty future.
Finally, a text quipped: I don’t like bullies, that includes Marvel writers!
So much of our life is sculpted by media, by storytelling. We learn through narrative. We learn through history. We learn through the stories of others and our own. We need stories. Diverse stories. Stories that question the norm. Stories that show the good and the bad. Stories that find glimmers of hope for everyone.
We don’t need Nazi Captain America.