[Caution: Definitely contains LOTS of spoilers. Read anyway!]
Around two years ago, my friends and I were discussing about the possibility of an Avengers movie. I told them that it won’t happen without first introducing Captain America. However, the challenge is how to make him relevant to our contemporary generation, and to all races.
I mean, he is Captain America. How more culturally narrow can you get?
Until I saw the movie trailer.
What I love about this movie (and what makes his character different than most) is that unlike other superheroes who found the right attitude after getting their powers, Captain America was specifically chosen to receive the super soldier serum because he had the right attitude.
Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) was portrayed as an ordinary kid. A skinny, talentless boy with only his ideals and determination keeping him on his feet. He was a loser in many ways: he failed the army recruitment interviews several times, he doesn’t know how to behave around girls, and not even the smartest person around Brooklyn.
But something about him caught the interest of Dr. Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci).
Using his influence, Dr. Erskine got Steve enlisted. Well, the flimsy boy was an eyesore especially to Colonel Chester Philips (Tommy Lee Jones) who was overseeing their training.
In a particular segment of the movie, the colonel and the doctor had a conversation about the candidates for the super soldier program. Agreeing on the point that bravery is the most important characteristic of the perfect soldier, the colonel lobbed a grenade towards the platoon. As everyone scrambled for safety, only Steve rushed and covered the grenade with his own body.
Of course, the grenade was a fake.
In their man-to-man conversation prior to the procedure, Dr. Erskine’s somber words reverberated in my heart:
”Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing: that you will stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier, but a good man.”
In several decades of superheroism both in comics and movies, this statement breaks through the norm and challenges me to ask myself, “What does it really mean to be a hero?”
In our society, heroism has become too idealistic yet too shallow. An idealism that makes us dreamy of extraordinary feats, yet too shallow that we brand every good deed as heroism – from picking up street litter to saving kittens.
What does it really take to be a hero?
In the end, it’s never about the deeds, or why we did it. Heroism is about what makes us keep doing it, believing it, and fighting for it.
What is it that makes you a hero?