In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

Captain America: Civil Right

captain-america-civil-right.jpg

United we stand. Divided we fall. (Edited: Zap2It)

The politics of fictional worlds can be enlightening as a discussion of real politics, since similar principles are applied. Culture offers a reflection for our fears and worries.

Over at Salon and Heat St, a battle raged about the political identity and understanding of the character of Steve Rogers, Captain America. In the film Captain America: Civil War, a proposed international agreement called the Sokovia Accords seeks to bring the Avengers, and all other enhanced individuals, under the control of a United Nations panel.
Burdened by guilt from collateral casualties when he was “kicking ass”, Tony Stark (Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr) wants to sign the agreement. Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans) refuses to do so.

(Video: FabianPohl Trailers)

Amanda Marcotte at Salon writes [1]:

The demands being made by various governments and the United Nations in “Civil War” are more than reasonable. They want the Avengers to stop being a privately run paramilitary organisation that answers to no one. They want them to sign a treaty agreeing to transparency and some government oversight. This is common sense and what we would expect the standard liberal position to be in a world where superheroes exist.

Ms Marcotte persists:

Instead, we have this distracting plot where Steve suddenly turns from a level-headed liberal to a Ayn Randian libertarian douchebag who throws tantrums because he has to do grown-up stuff like share power instead of make unilateral decisions for other people. It was a betrayal of the character and made the movie less fun than it should have been.

Over at Heat St, William Hicks cools down [2]:

Yes, we do get a bad-ass libertarian Cap, who makes him own judgments and fights for his own sense of justice. He tells the UN pansies to eat it and prevents his friend from being executed without trial by extra-judicial government agents.

Captain America is an American and reflects the values of individualism not liberal collectivism. Basically all superheroes have hints of libertarianism in so far as vigilantism is diametrically opposed to government oversight.

“Whatever form that takes, I’m game.”

You’re both wrong. Captain America remains a true liberal throughout his three starring films, but the events of each film turn him from a willing propagandist to an insurgent renegade. It is the world that changes around Captain America: the man stuck in time.

In the conversation about the Accords between the film’s characters, Stark and Vision refer to ‘oversight’ (as does Ms Marcotte). Indeed, Tony states [3]:

We need to be put in check. Whatever form that takes, I’m game. If we can’t accept limitations: we’re bounder-less, we’re no better than the bad guys.

It is the act of signing the agreement itself – and not necessarily its precise content – that alleviates Tony Stark’s concerns about collateral casualties.

The Sokovia Accords themselves do not offer only oversight, and is not Captain America’s argument against signing them: it is about control. Little is known about the full document, but it makes clear that the UN Panel would be dictating the Avenger’s deployments [4]:

In accordance with the document at hand, I hereby certify that the below mentioned participants, peoples and individuals, shall no longer operate freely or unregulated, but instead operate under the rules, ordinances and governances of the aforementioned United Nations Panel, acting only when and if the Panel deems it appropriate and/or necessary.

captain-america-civil-right-sokovia-accords.jpg

“Victory at the expense of the innocent is no victory at all.” (Source: Marvel Movies Wiki)

Rogers offers these questions about choice, after Stark talks of decommissioning his weaponry:

Tony. You chose to do that. If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this Panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere where we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect but the safest hands are still our own.

Tony Stark’s response to these questions is not to answer them, but to claim that this is the middle way, the “split” difference:

If we don’t do this now, it’s gonna be done to us later. That’s the fact. That won’t be pretty.

“There would have to be safeguards”

Moreover, Captain America neither defiantly rejects all oversight nor throws a tantrum, accepting he might sign the agreement later in the film:

I’m not saying it’s impossible. But there would have to be safeguards.

This line of conversation is curtailed once Tony lets slip that Wanda Maximoff (played by Elizabeth Olsen) is currently being confined.

This form of “protection” enrages Rogers. Imprisonment becomes the reality for Maximoff, along with three other heroes, later in the film. That was the consequence for the enhanced individuals who did not sign the Accord, who could reasonably argue they were acting in self-defence.

captain-america-civil-right-Scarlet-Witch.jpg

“You’re saying they’ll come for me?” (Source: Empire)

The heroes were being held in an underwater prison, seemingly without the right to an attorney, and in absence of a trial [5]. The Raft prison appears specifically built to deal with containing superheroes, meaning the US government – since the facility is being run by the US Secretary of State – constructed a prison for the identifiable purpose of violating the rights of US citizens.

In their pursuit of ‘oversight’ of extraordinary individuals, the ordinary rights to due process fell away. At the end of the film, Captain America has to break his allies out of the Raft.

More than oversight

Rather than merely and meekly offering ‘oversight’ of superheroes, the proposed Sokovia Accords controls enhanced persons and arrest them without due process. These Accords should be a massive source of concern – rather than agreed in the sophistry of “common sense” – for the United States and other liberal democracies.

In fight against Nazism in The First Avenger, Captain America was the willing propagandist, fighting against the prominent evil in the world. In The Winter Soldier, that evil had grown inside the very government agency Steve Rogers worked with. In Civil War, international agreements threatened to – under the guise of oversight and accountability – conscript superheroes.

(Video: Firas Ismail)

Captain America was the First Avenger because he chose to fight for freedom and justice, not because he was made to. There may be some oversight that Steve Rogers would accept – but that is not what the Sokovia Accords offered.

References

[1] Marcotte, A., 2016. Captain America’s a douchey libertarian now: Why did Marvel have to ruin Steve Rogers? Salon. Available from: http://www.salon.com/2016/05/06/captain_americas_a_douchey_libertarian_now_why_did_marvel_have_to_ruin_steve_rogers/ [Accessed: 13th May 2016]

[2] Hicks, W., 2016. Captain America is Straight and Libertarian – Deal with It. Heat St. Available from: https://heatst.com/culture-wars/captain-america-is-straight-and-libertarian-deal-with-it/ [Accessed: 13th May 2016]

[3] IMDB, 2016. Captain America: Civil War (2016) Quotes. Available from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3498820/quotes [Accessed: 13th May 2016]

[4] Eisenbeg, E., 2016. Captain America: Civil War – What You Need To Know About The Sokovia Accords. Cinema Blend. Available from: http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Captain-America-Civil-War-What-You-Need-Know-About-Sokovia-Accords-97767.html [Accessed: 13th May 2016]

[5] Gilliland, J., 2016. Why the Sokovia Accords are Unconstitutional. The Legal Geeks. Available from: http://thelegalgeeks.com/2016/05/10/why-the-sokovia-accords-are-unconstitutional/ [Accessed: 13th May 2016]

Advertisements

Information

This entry was posted on May 15, 2016 by in American Politics and tagged .
%d bloggers like this: