The Flaws of Heroes

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I’ve noticed in these few weeks after “Civil War” came out that there are people who have complained about the movie making Captain America do stupid, flawed things in his quest to protect Bucky. I’m not sure if these were legitimate complaints or trolling (though both seem likely). However, it got me thinking about how I’ve seen superheroes depicted in media (mainly movies) and how baffling this complaint is to me. Yes, Cap is a paragon of truth, justice and the American way, but have people forgotten a fundamental aspect of the character? Namely, that he’s a human being?

It’s not just Cap either. Superman has also gotten his fair share of criticism for either being too much of a Boy Scout or not enough of one. But why would you WANT superheroes to act like nothing but goody two-shoes? Characters who come off perfect are boring and borderline Mary Sue/Gary Stu-ish. Flaws are what keep a character interesting and relatable to the audience. To go back to Cap, I’ve seen people upset that he lied to Tony, even though he outright admits that it was his slightly messed up way of protecting Tony and he was wrong to do so. I realize comic book characters in particular have a lot of history behind them and people get attached to the image they portray. But I think people also forget that many of these heroes started out as average Joes and, unless they’ve had a complete personality overhaul, still are human despite having superpowers or high-tech gadgets.

It’s for this reason among many others that I love guys like Batman or, to continue with the “Civil War” theme, Tony Stark. In the movies especially, Tony is constantly going through the motions and has an array of awful things happen to him. Yet, despite being a genius playboy billionaire philanthropist, he comes off as relatable to me because he’s not perfect. He will never BE perfect. And the fact that the movies have made the effort to show that Cap isn’t flawless has made him grow on me as well. He comes off almost perfect, but there are just enough shades of self-doubt and, yes, the need to lie that makes him feel more three-dimensional. The whole point of “Civil War” is that neither side is 100% in the right. Both Cap and Tony have their reasons for taking their stances and make valid points, but they also are a bit in the wrong as well.

Characters, especially heroes, should make mistakes. Just because superheroes are a form of escapism doesn’t excuse them from good storytelling. If you want me to be invested in your character, I have to CARE about them first. For me, a lot of that comes from understanding both their strengths and weakness on an emotional level, not just a physical one. So, if you wanna complain about Cap’s actions, you’re free to do so. Just don’t expect me to understand why.

An Ode to “Agent Carter”

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It’s not often I regret not watching a show. Usually, I try a show and am either invested in it or not. With “Agent Carter,” I initially tried watching the first episode after it began airing, only to find I wasn’t in the mood for its admittedly slower pace and less superhero-y environment (compared to other Marvel works). But having now seen both seasons amongst its unfortunate cancellation, I can say for a fact that I regret not watching it sooner.

For those who also didn’t watch it initially or don’t follow the MCU, “Agent Carter” follows the post-“Captain America: The First Avenger” adventures of Peggy Carter, the comrade-in-arms and love interest of Steve Rogers aka Captain America. Alongside Edwin Jarvis, butler to the playboy genius Howard Stark, and her colleagues at the SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), Peggy is thrown into missions involving assassins, gangsters, and even at least one superpowered foe. There are little references sprinkled here and there towards the comics, and since the show is set between 1946 and 1947, it also sets the groundwork for some things touched upon and shown later in the films and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”

The first season, and my personal fave of the two, focuses mainly on Peggy being stationed at the SSR headquarters in New York City. Throughout the season, she befriends and often teams up with Jarvis (making for easily the best duo in the show), attracts the attention of her colleague Daniel Sousa, and contends with the pompous yet surprisingly loyal Agent Jack Thompson. She also learns over time to accept Steve’s apparent death and move on with her life. There are nice references to the Black Widow program as well as some groundwork laid for HYDRA’s rise in the future. Plus, getting to know Howard Stark a bit more after countless references to him in the Iron Man films and others was great. His interactions with Peggy and his playboy attitude that Tony would later adopt made him fun to watch, and he even gets a few dramatic moments before the season ends. Aside from one or two minor cliffhanger bits, the finale could have easily wrapped the show then and there (if it had been a one season wonder, that is).

The second season, however, is a bit more flawed. While I knew going in that a location change was made to cut costs, it took me a while to warm up to the quick transition of Peggy being in New York to suddenly spending a season in Los Angeles. However, I did like that they could pull out an old-timey version of Hollywood, making the locations more interesting to look at as a result. This season also brought in a love triangle between Peggy, Daniel and a scientist named Jason Wilkes. It’s not the worst attempt at romance Marvel’s produced, but I preferred the duo of Peggy and Daniel far more by the end. Jarvis also gets a more comedic role, which at times could be a bit TOO silly, but he still had plenty of dramatic moments to remind me of why his character is just so good. But my biggest gripe was the focus on a superpowered enemy. Yes, I know, Marvel is mainly known for those, but I found Season 1’s grounded reality far more interesting. Maybe I just wanted something more on the spy side and less supernatural, but regardless, it took some getting used to. There were definitely things about Season 2’s plot I enjoyed, but I ended up wishing that they’d used the time devoted to it to instead start building towards the creation of S.H.I.E.L.D. (though maybe that was the end game for the show). And, unfortunately, Season 2 ends on a cliffhanger that may never be resolved, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.

Ultimately, the biggest draw of the show for me besides its old-timey atmosphere was the characters. Even if the plot would falter once in a while, I enjoyed following Peggy and co. for their relationships with each other and strong personalities to boot. Peggy in particular should be considered a role model to anyone trying to capture what a female lead should be like. It just makes me sad that the show didn’t get the viewership it needed to stay on ABC. When I started watching, I found I was more invested in Peggy’s world than I was in Coulson’s during “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, and that surprised me because I LOVED Coulson’s character. But, much like with the Netflix shows, I feel part of my investment was thanks to Marvel keeping both seasons short and to the point. I’m still hopeful that the “Save Agent Carter” petition does bring Peggy and the gang over to Netflix one day. However, if this really is the last of her on-screen adventures, I’m happy to say that “Agent Carter” was a good little show in its own right.

The Ongoing Adventures of Captain America

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I saw “Captain America: Civil War” yesterday and originally planned to make this week’s blog a full review. But let’s be honest, whether you love or hate the Marvel films, you KNOW how well this movie’s doing and if you’ll watch it or not. Those who have been following the Marvel Cinematic Universe will enjoy it, those who are newcomers will be confused by some stuff, and those who want something closely based on the “Civil War” comics… Well, if you haven’t figured out by now that these movies are loose adaptations, then I can’t help you. For my part, I enjoyed “Civil War” for its great action scenes, dramatic and well-acted character moments, and the reveals of “new” superheroes (Spider-Man’s intro being my personal fave). If I had gripes, they’re minor things like one not-appearing-in-this-movie character getting brushed aside big time, and the other being large, reoccurring location text shoved on-screen.

But I’m not here to gush on and on about “Civil War.” Instead, I want to talk about Captain America and his movies in general. When I first started getting into the MCU and saw “Captain America”, I wasn’t overly interested in the film or Cap himself. Sure, Chris Evans did a good job with the role and continues to do so, but I never really found him interesting as a superhero (at least, not compared to tech genius Tony or demigod Thor). I feel like my opinion might be different if I rewatched it now, but one thing I can say for sure is that between “The Avengers” and “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”, his character grew on me significantly. Granted, I also enjoyed those films far more, but I came to appreciate his character. While I ended up not agreeing with his side 100% in “Civil War”, I’m still surprised every time with how much I love watching the guy. Even with all the various Avengers/heroes, “Civil War” is still very much a Captain America movie first.

Speaking semi-briefly of the Avengers, I feel like the more recent Cap and Avengers movies so far have gone hand in hand with each other (possibly more than the other films). It was through “Winter Soldier” that the status quo changed and that ends up being reflected in the subsequent movies leading up to and including “Age of Ultron.” Beyond that movie, the events across both the Cap and Avengers films come back in a big way in “Civil War.” It addresses an issue that hasn’t been focused on in the MCU so far: the consequences of heroism. Now, sure, part of the reason these films coincide with each other could be because Cap is the leader of the group, but it also makes both “series” the most interesting to me (although I still love the “Iron Man” films if only for Robert Downey Jr.).

It’s strange to think about how far Cap has come throughout all of these films. I remember even before “Captain America” came out, I wasn’t overly interested even though by that point, I wanted to try watching every Marvel movie just to see what they would build up to. I never read superhero comics as a kid, but my basic understanding of Cap was that he was like a less superpowered Superman. Basically, an all-around good guy who’s all about doling out justice and who is usually tough to take down. Yes, I realize both these characters are more nuanced than that, but he was never a hero that stood out much to me. While I still don’t know if I want to seek out any Cap comics, the MCU version of Cap has made me appreciate the character far more than I used to (or any of the other Avengers, for that matter). And if the quality of “Civil War” is anything to go by, I can only hope that the upcoming MCU movies continue to get better and better.

Opinions and Manners

Okay, despite my college background in studying journalism, I’ve made the point of avoiding talking about news on this blog. A big reason for that is that much of it can get very political, be it actual politics or controversial issues. Let’s face it, while I have opinions on most things like any other average person, I started this blog as a creative/fun outlet. It’s often my escape from the real world, whether I’m reviewing a piece of entertainment like a game or movie, or just venting my frustrations on a personal issue. But with that all said, sometimes I’m not opposed to tackling something that’s at least Internet newsworthy.

In this case, that would be this video that’s blown up on YouTube. In case you choose not to watch it, here’s the lowdown: A woman verbally accosts a man at Walmart (who is with his children, FYI) about the fact that he’s using food stamps. Despite his protests for her to leave him be, she continues this until they’re both arguing in front of his children, with the woman even going so far as to question his political beliefs in the process. Now, I realize food stamps are a touchy subject for some people, but I’m not writing this to delve into whether being on food stamps is good or bad. No, what really irks me about this story is how freaking RUDE this woman acted.

There’s a big difference between exercising your right to free speech and abusing it. If these two were at a debate about being for or against food stamps, these insults (while still rude) wouldn’t have seemed out of place. But to force your opinion on someone who is just going about their day, with their KIDS mind you, is ignorant and disrespectful. Regardless of the food stamp context, I’m completely on this guy’s side. You shouldn’t HAVE to put up with someone getting in your face when all you want to do is a simple task like buying groceries. My fiance even had a similar case of a douche-y run-in today at the grocery store, where a woman questioned him buying tons of food for himself, his mother and his grandmother (aka one household). She did so in such a tactless way that I can only imagine how I would’ve reacted if I’d been there with him or even in his shoes. I can tell you this much: I don’t get full-on angry often, but hearing his story made me feel like I definitely wouldn’t have come across to her as the generally polite Canadian I am (yep, still filling that stereotype and proud of it).

I just seriously can’t tolerate people who feel the need to make themselves heard without trying to take a tactful approach. It makes me wonder sometimes if even the idea of being mannerly is falling by the wayside. If anything, I have even more respect for people who make the conscious effort not to act the way this woman did, especially in public. I can only hope I don’t run into anyone like this myself some day.