Last Friday, the epic finale of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” finally made it official: Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson is the new “Captain America”. Unsurprisingly, the decision – and the series in general – drew a wave of criticism. While part of the uproar surrounding the show was clearly racist, many people took the opportunity to express their grievances, the media becoming “too awake.” This frustration is not unique to “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”; in recent years, an increasing number of people are uncomfortable with what they consider to be a unnecessary policy insertion in their entertainment and lament the death of escape cinema. This complaint, however, is incredibly strange. The point is, movies are always political if the public chooses to watch them with a political eye. Movies have always been firmly grounded in reality – the political message was just somewhat hidden in order to avoid alienating audiences, and people got complacent in playing the game and completely missed the point of these movies. The movies didn’t suddenly get more political, the writers just stopped hiding their themes behind smoke and mirrors in the hopes that they could reach out and even shake a few of their viewers to get them out of their way. a state of willful ignorance.
Those who claim that the films they watch are “apolitical”, “escaped” or “out of touch” simply don’t think critically about the media they consume. If anyone watched a movie with a political lens, they would be hard pressed to find many truly non-political movies. The trick is that the films’ political message was often disguised for an oblivious or unresponsive audience. For example, “Zootopia” made powerful arguments about racial stereotypes, policing, and the repercussions of fanatical government officials while remaining a fantasy film for children. This analysis is not a “hot catch” – it is literally the goal of the film. Yet when Police Officer Judy impulsively grabs a gun just because Nick is supposed to have violence in his biology, it hasn’t been tagged as a political scene. But when Sam is confronted with a cop in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”, it’s “too awake.” What could be the difference, other than the inability of viewers to understand the simple metaphor presented in “Zootopia?” The truth is, most people view movies as frivolous entertainment because they only interact with the media on the most superficial level possible. And honestly, there’s usually nothing wrong with that. There is absolutely no obligation to analyze each film with critical thinking. Thus, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” made it easier for the audience. They removed a lot of metaphors and made it easier to understand the story they were trying to tell.
Technically, the viewer can always choose to keep their head in the sand. If anyone cannot understand that “Avatar” is a sharp criticism of colonialism and capitalism, then there is no reason why he should take anything away from Sam Wilson telling world leaders to providing aid to the refugees in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” Everything that happened in the series is fiction. This is only political if the audience takes the fictional story and draws parallels with what is going on around them. And this is the personal decision of the viewer.
Since the new “Captain America” is black, just including people of color in the movies is not political. Why is the very existence of non-white people considered a “heavy” topic that takes away entertainment? “Captain America” is still a superhero franchise with witty jokes, silly jokes, and quick-paced fight scenes. Nothing has fundamentally changed. “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” is neither more nor less political than all other “Captain America” movies. People who have glossed over the clear message of the original trilogy have nothing to complain about this new phase. No one has said that audiences must have a certain sensation after watching anything, but viewers who watch a black man speak candidly and decide that this is all just a plot to move some sort of thing forward. agenda are ruining themselves. Rather than feeling inspired or moved, they turn a glorious moment into something it’s not.
People who want their entertainment to remain apolitical just have to keep letting the themes fly over their heads. Aside from the fact that it is a privilege to “take a break” from politics, fiction is “escape” as long as the viewer chooses not to relate the story to real life. Movies labeled “too awake” carry this label because the writers have chosen not to engage in complicated metaphors and dialogue that can be interpreted in many ways – they have chosen to make the themes obvious so that they can strike. some of the people who insisted on ignoring anything that was even slightly veiled.
Recently, it has become increasingly difficult for people to miss the parallels between the stories they consume and the world on their doorstep. In the past, these parallels were buried; now they are presented more openly. Of “Invasion of the Body Thieves” To “Hunger games” To “Transformers” political motives have been a staple in fiction for centuries. They are more and more difficult to ignore these days.
Movies * have always addressed the real world issues facing society, but it’s always up to the audience to make the connections. Just because “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” wrote it in bold doesn’t mean the message has always been there; some people just chose not to see it.
* The word film has been used many times in this article, but the audience should be fully aware that Sam Wilson did not, in fact, wave the shield on the big screen. All of this “awakening” has happened within the confines of Disney +. Disney took a leap of faith by handing Captain America’s mantle to a black man, but there’s still plenty of room for them to go back and grope the progress they’ve made so far.
Art by Angela Liang for the UC San Diego Guardian.