Captain America, The World War II Ideal

On this Memorial Day reflecting back on the heroic men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, I recall a symbol in our popular culture who signifies how much we’ve lost. Back in January I published a 7000-word polemical analysis of the religious, philosophical, and esoteric themes in my favorite superhero film: 10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film.

In the article I make the case that the reason why these characters resonate with us at such a deep emotional level is because they reinvent mysterious themes and symbols buried within our culture that we don’t fully understand. Here’s what I had to say about the significance of Captain America and how we can apply his lessons to our own fight against today’s tyrants both big and small:   

5. Captain America Embodies the Disk, Steve Rogers Has Mastered the Physical World. As the Super Soldier He Stands Shield-in-Hand as an Inspiring Symbol Against Nazi Slavery.

Back to Stan Lee’s deposition on the origins of the Marvel universe’s pantheon of demi-gods:

Q. To your recollection, were there any characters that Kirby had created before he was working with you or anyone at Marvel that he brought to Marvel and then were then published by Marvel?

STAN LEE: No, I don’t believe so. I don’t recall any. Oh, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Captain America, for God’s sake. He and Joe Simon had created Captain America.

Q. Right.

STAN LEE: Now, by the time in the 60s, Jack came to work for us, we weren’t — there was no more Captain America. We weren’t publishing it because Martin Goodman thought it was just a World War II character and people wouldn’t be interested in it anymore.

I always loved the character, so I decided to bring it back. And I tried to write a story where he had been frozen in a glacier for years, and they found him and he came back to life, and so forth. And I tried to give him some personality where he always felt — he was an anachronism. He was living in our day, but yet he had the values of 20 or 30 years ago. And I tried to make him a little bit interesting.

Captain America reflects the ideal American soldier both in body and patriotic values — two realms not often understood as interrelated. He reveals that the real power lies in ideas. Captain America’s authority flows from his moral character — the pursuit of mastering one’s mind, emotions, and will generates the strength to control one’s own body and then the rest of the physical world. One must master his body in order to accurately project his will out from it.

We don’t often realize that the shield is not just a big hunk of metal one hides behind. Captain America reminds us of its devastating use as a weapon. With shield in hand one can deflect an opponent’s attacks back at him. Then, when the moment is right and they are most vulnerable, you fling your shield with precision like a discus. Just because the shield is smooth doesn’t mean the edges can’t cut deep.

Here’s a clip of Editor-At-Large Ben Shapiro providing an example of how to do this in real life:

And here’s what the edge of the shield feels like:

SHAPRIO: This is what I wanted to ask you, Piers, because I have seen you talk about assault weapons a lot, and I have seen Mark Kelly talk about assault weapons. The vast majority of murders in this country that are committed with guns are committed with handguns, they are not committed assault weapons. Are you willing to ban handguns in this country, across this country?

MORGAN: No, that’s not what I’m asking for.

SHAPIRO: Why not? Don’t you care about the kids who are being killed in Chicago as much as the kids in Sandy Hook?

MORGAN: Yes, I do.

SHAPIRO: Then why don’t you care about banning the handguns in Chicago? 


Click here to read all of 10 Secret Reasons Why The Avengers Is the Best Superhero Film. But really you should just bookmark that for another day. If you read one article today before starting up the barbecue make it Paula Bolyard’s moving reflection:

Out of Gratitude for the Blessings of Freedom —Remember

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