Let’s take an example from the first Captain America film (well, not the first first, but the first of the recent spate of Marvel movies), Captain America: The First Avenger—a film that had a great first half and a terrible second half. In it, after Captain America rescues a bunch of Allied soldiers from a HYDRA base, he forms his multi-cultural Howling Commandos. The problem, of course, is that during World War II, the U.S. army was segregated. Even if Hydra held different units as prisoners on the base, the fact that the team he forms ignores U.S. military policy would have been glaring. Rather than take the 30 seconds it would have required to make Captain America into the progressive beacon of equality he is supposed to be by having the make-up of his team challenged and his insisting on having a racially mixed team, the film and thus the audience can conveniently ignore the racist context in which black soldiers were required to fight for the freedom of others (and I will leave aside the fact that that old platitude regarding the reason we fought the Nazis is dubious as well). It was really a missed opportunity to make this superhero resonate with what are ostensibly forward-looking American values. Instead, it is just another example of the appearance of equality being more valuable than its reality, which would require unflinching examination of the institutions that structure the hierarchies of our society. Captain America should have been a whole-hearted supporter of the Double-V campaign.
So that bring us to the main conflict in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It is the classic example of the movie that likes to pretend that we can challenge systems of power without addressing the underlying cause that perpetuates injustice, inequality and the ceding out rights to a corporatist oligarchy.”
Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Liberal Fantasy — A Review
The Howling Commandos example given here really has always given me a whiff of less-than-comforting historic revision. It’s important to have stories in which woman, non-white, and minor groups are Just Heroes And That’s The Way It Is, but a WWII-era movie focusing on the biggest blue-eyes blonde-haired guy in an American flag isn’t a place to just quietly pretend that society hasn’t overwritten and eroded stories of these people. Frankly, when you think on it, it reeks of a commonplace “LOOK at how WELCOMING and DIVERSE we are” attitude that I see a million times over in cape, and other genres.