Captain America didn’t “share 40’s values” – a reductive label assumes that everyone alive in 1940 was either a racial bigot, a misogynist, a homophobe, and an unthinking militarist, and handily ignores the people of color, women, gays, and left-wing activists who were hard at work to change American society for the better – he exemplified from the beginning the ideal that America could be. Thus Steve Rogers led the Invaders (a multispecies and multinational Allied superhero force) into Europe to fight fascism, he fought with Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos, a racially integrated fighting force from the beginning, and fought with the French Resistance rather than snidely repeating anachronistic cheese-eating surrender monkey jokes.
Thus when Captain America is unfrozen in the 1960s, he’s not freaked out by the changes in racial progress – instead, he forms an instant partnership with one of the first black superheroes, the Falcon, who movie audiences just met for the first time, and the two of them go toe to toe against an insane imposter Captain America who’s obsessed about communists under the bed. The analogy cannot be more pointed: the real Captain America stands for racial equality and civil liberties, the Captain America who believes that the government needs to “smash” reds by any means necessary is a fraud. In the 1980s, Steve Rogers runs into a childhood friend, Arnold Roth, who happens to be gay – and Steve Rogers defends his friend from bigoted violence, because Steve Rogers is a good man.
It’s the 4th of July, Independence Day for the United States, so this seemed like a good thing to repost. If Captain America is an embodiment of what it means to be American, then he’s a progressive, altruistic person, and that’s what the US is at its best.
The same is true for Superman. If Cap is the city boy experience, Superman is the immigrant story, raised in the rural parts of the country who came to the Big City not to dismiss it as “un-American” or anything like that, but to use his powers to help others.The two most American characters aren’t militant, jingoistic xenophobes who follow some Randian idea that might makes right and there’s some “true” kind of American. They’re about helping others and fighting corruption. Altruism.
So, happy 4th of July! Here’s to freedom, justice, equality, community, and altruism. And down with hate, xenophobia, greed, and the anti-intellectual idea of “‘murika.”