Recently there was an incredible outpouring of concern over a plot twist in Captain America: Steve Rogers that saw the character revealed as a sleeper spy for Hydra all along. And the involvement Hydra, which has been used as a Nazi, Communist and ISIS analogy over the decades – though with stronger Nazi roots in the TV and movie – was seen as particularly insensitive. Captain America, Steve Rogers, was created by two Jewish creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and used as a direct counter against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis at a time when the USA as a whole was unwilling to enter World War II.
And for some, this meant the plot twist – even now revealed as the Red Skull's machinations with memory and reality via a cosmic cube, and little more than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had done with the character back in the sixties – was thoughtless, insulting and downright anti-Semitic.
But watching Captain America: Winter Soldier again the other night, I was struck by something. A number of people are revealed to be secret Hydra agents in that movie. Including, in this scene Agent Sitwell and Senator Stern, the latter played by the late comedian and of Jewish ethnicity Garry Shandling.
And there was the realisation that I recalled no complaint at the time. I've asked, I've searched, I can find just this mention somewhere down a Reddit thread.
There's plenty of fuss about Sitwell – a character appearing on Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD at the time as well (remember those halcyon days?) – and questions about how that would play out, but even then, no mention of Hydra's more prominent movie Nazi roots and Sitwell's own non-Aryan ethnicity, let alone the Senator.
Instead, this scene launched the Hail Hydra meme that went everywhere. It wasn't a font of outrage but of mockery.
— Jaime Liam Ocelot (@Jaime_Liam) April 7, 2014
— Denton Tyjuan Parris (@TF3100) April 6, 2014
— Laura Brady (she/her) 💗💜💙 (@lauraebrady) April 7, 2014
— Tommy (@notwedge) April 7, 2014
— Clark Gregg (@clarkgregg) April 6, 2014
— Jim (@keltar93) April 6, 2014
— Frankles 2 0 0 1 (@Frankles2001) April 7, 2014
— Carlos Reyes (@Creyes247) April 7, 2014
— Josh J Hell (@JoshJBell) April 7, 2014
— Jaymes 🏳️🌈 (@ultrabadass64) April 7, 2014
— Dan (@DanHero91) April 7, 2014
Now Captain America is seen as a Jewish analogue,created by Jewish creators, fighting against Nazis, and tied up in the nationality of the USA. And I understand why there would be such concern, so vocally expressed.
But why was so there little concern with an actual Jewish person back in 2014? Or a meme ascribing Nazi aspects to all manner of characters? Is this evidence of the increase confidence and capability of social media to address perceived injustices? Or is it just that Senator Stern was a dick while Captain America a living legend?
I asked people.
Mike Chary, son of noted Holocaust scholar Frederick Chary, has his theory as to a comparative lack of concern, which he shared. "Because people are not morons? The on the page Captain America says what the writers make him say. On the set, Garry Shandling can tell the director or the screenwriter to screw off."
"Because people are not morons? The on the page Captain America says what the writers make him say. On the set, Garry Shandling can tell the director or the screenwriter to screw off."
Which makes some sense – apart from the "people" bit. Have you seen the Tom Hiddleston Internet Boyfriend outrage right now?
Anyway, this is what happens when I don't get enough sleep and stay up watching movies instead.