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Captain America: Not A Flag Waver?!

The movie version of Captain America will dress like the flag but won’t be waving it.

LAT:

The director of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” the 2011 summer blockbuster that will coincide with the character’s 70th anniversary, says the screen version of the hero will be true to his roots — up to a certain point.
“We’re sort of putting a slightly different spin on Steve Rogers,” said Joe Johnston, whose past directing credits include “Jurassic Park III” and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” He’s a guy that wants to serve his country, but he’s not a flag-waver. We’re reinterpreting, sort of, what the comic book version of Steve Rogers was.”

[…]

Does that make him an odd fit to play the earnest and somewhat square superhero with the Betsy Ross fashion sensibility? Johnston answered that in his film — which is set in World War II — the character will fight the enemies of America but he won’t be a stiff, slogan-spouting guy.

“He wants to serve his country, but he’s not this sort of jingoistic American flag-waver,” Johnston said. “He’s just a good person. We make a point of that in the script: Don’t change who you are once you go from Steve Rogers to this super-soldier; you have to stay who you are inside, that’s really what’s important more than your strength and everything. It’ll be interesting and fun to put a different spin on the character and one that the fans are really going to appreciate.”

I’ve got no problem with rebooting decades-old comic book characters and tweaking their origins to fit modern sensibilities.  After all, Marvel and DC have done this multiple times with their flagship characters.

But here’s the thing:  They’re still setting Cap’s origins in WWII and having him as an American super-soldier fighting the Nazis (including, one presumes, the Red Skull).  It would be incomprehensible for that character to be other than a flag-waving patriot, as that was simply the norm.

If Johnson were re-imagining the character with an origin in 2010, on the other hand, the change would be perfectly natural.   American soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example, very much think they’re the good guys.  But cynicism and ambiguity about the mission are part and parcel of their culture.

But a WWII Cap?  It doesn’t make sense.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. James H says:

    Hmm… I’m disappointed they’re setting it in World War II. The best Captain America stories, I think, juxtapose Cap’s quaint (for today) patriotism with modern cynicism, illustrating the virtues and flaws of both.

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  2. PD Shaw says:

    Hollywood blockbusters need to target an international marketplace to ensure a return. U.S. patriotism doesn’t sell in Dubai. This is as much the triumph of capitalism over ideas.

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  3. Herb says:

    I’ll wait to see the movie before passing judgment on Captain America’s level of patriotism and whether it was era-appropriate. If he’s into fighting Nazis and doesn’t give a crap about lapel pins….well, that would be appropriate.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    Herb: Yeah, that’s always the problem with these reviews. If he’s simply not spouting patriotic slogans, I’d agree. If he’s going around questioning our mission and whatnot, it’s another thing.

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  5. I like it all around. I’m thrilled it’s in WWII and thrilled he’s “not a flag waver.” I’ll be there!

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  6. PD Shaw says:

    I’d be open-minded, but in the upcoming Thor movie, the Norse god Heimdall, known as “the White god,” is being played by an African-American. I’m not a stickler for racial authenticity, particularly in fantasy movies, but it really comes across as directors and writers being too embarrassed of the material.

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  7. wr says:

    I don’t mind if the movie’s in WW2. I just hope it’s not in 3-D.

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  8. PD Shaw says:

    wr, prepared to be disappointed . . .

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  9. PD Shaw says:

    . . . prepare .. .

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  10. […] which the story takes place. If this is to be a World War II story going back to his origins, then James Joyner has a good point: I’ve got no problem with rebooting decades-old comic book characters and […]

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  11. Tlaloc says:

    Even during WW2 there was plenty of american actions worth questioning. While the preponderance of atrocities were on the side of the Axis the allies weren’t pure. Obviously Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki are the most egregious examples.

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  12. Trumwill says:

    Hollywood blockbusters need to target an international marketplace to ensure a return. U.S. patriotism doesn’t sell in Dubai.

    If it weren’t about a hero called Captain America, I would agree. But if I go to a movie about Captain Canuck or Captain Britain, I pretty much lose the right to be turned off by the American flag.

    Herb: Yeah, that’s always the problem with these reviews. If he’s simply not spouting patriotic slogans, I’d agree. If he’s going around questioning our mission and whatnot, it’s another thing.

    I would be pretty amazed if they did that. In fact, I think that one of the saving graces of putting the film in WW2 is that it won’t be that. If it were about current operations, it would be. That’s what the CA comic has become.

    While the preponderance of atrocities were on the side of the Axis the allies weren’t pure.

    A Captain America movie is a poor forum to make this argument.

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  13. Bryan says:

    Hollywood is the epitome of out of touch and ivory tower. It’s that simple. Hollywood would probably be happiest making movies about millions of Americans dying in a horrible fashion while rending their own clothes over their collective guilt.

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  14. Rich says:

    @Tlaloc- your statements are so out of place it’s scary. For someone to not see the differences in the holocaust vs the atomic bombings is simple incredible. Dresden is a whole other story, in the end comparing these to the holocaust shows your lack of understanding.

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  15. floyd says:

    There is a movement afoot to label all patriotism and nationalism as jingoism.
    We are the world now… don’t forget! …. A nation without citizens or borders.
    Until I see the movie, I can’t judge whether this character change is the result of cowardice or propagandizing.
    I will see it, but I’m prepared to be disappointed.

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  16. Herb says:

    “If he’s going around questioning our mission and whatnot, it’s another thing.”

    Agreed, but I’d bet the hundred million plus budget and a prime spot in the summer release schedule that we won’t have to worry about that. We’ll just have to worry about whether it’s one of the good comic adaptations…or one of the bad ones.

    “Hollywood is the epitome of out of touch and ivory tower.”

    I’ll give you ivory tower? But out of touch? Interesting thing to say about a culturally relevant industry that takes in billions a dollars a year by appealing to people’s tastes.

    “movies about millions of Americans dying in a horrible fashion”

    Yeah, you’re right. Hollywood loves making disaster movies.

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  17. Michael Reynolds says:

    Bryan:

    Hollywood is the epitome of out of touch and ivory tower.

    Right. Which is why Hollywood has to send hired thugs around to force people into movie theaters. Because they’re so incredibly ivory tower and out-of-touch.

    I’d be willing to bet that the total number of American citizens who give a rat’s ass about, say, Sarah Palin, is less than the total number of American citizens who have learned to speak Navi.

    Or to put it another way: Glen Beck in one room, George Clooney in another. Release 100 average Americans. Ten minutes later, 98 of them are in Clooney’s room.

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  18. Adam says:

    Just to let you know, Captain America has always been like that. Cap is a true American wherein justice and freedom have always mattered more than politics and knee-jerk patriotism. That’s sort of the point. If you want a symbol of vapid and imperialistic war mongering, go see a movie about Uncle Sam.

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  19. Nathan says:

    Adam just summed up everything that needs to be said, and in a way that Joe Johnson should have said it.

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  20. AngryinWash says:

    This is ridiculous – y make movie about guy named capt america and not make it american? girls on russia tv have must be reading OTB too haha http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zvp3KBI-_k

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  21. Juneau: says:

    I’d be willing to bet that the total number of American citizens who give a rat’s ass about, say, Sarah Palin, is less than the total number of American citizens who have learned to speak Navi.

    Roll music by The Doors , “This is the end. My only friend, the end…” Refresh your memory about the words to this song, they’ll come in handy on November 3 as you reflect on what went wrong…

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  22. […] Captain America: Not A Flag Waver?! (outsidethebeltway.com) Filed under Business, culture, thinking about politics ← The Manx Missile made it 5 Stage wins and Alberto won the Yellow! […]

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  23. […] James Joyner: If Johnson were re-imagining the character with an origin in 2010, on the other hand, the change would be perfectly natural.   American soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, for example, very much think they’re the good guys.  But cynicism and ambiguity about the mission are part and parcel of their culture. […]

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