I feel a little asinine making a statement as broad and obvious as this, but the War changed the US and American culture substantially. Like, the US in 1939 was a very different place from the US in 1946. There was a shift in cultural values and political doctrine after WWII spurred on by the Cold War, justified by the oodles of money the country made off of weapons production and bolstered by the emerging popularity of television, which was used quite effectively as a tool of propaganda. I mean, a belief in American Imperialism had always been around in the US - as had theocratic Puritanical social mores - but their prominence in the late 40’s through to the early 60’s was not a progression of pre-War culture, but a reaction to America’s sudden position as THE Global Military and Economic Superpower.
The problem Avengers movie fandom seems to run into is that they place the cultural experience of Steve Rogers on the wrong side of the war. I’m guessing this is because people are generally more familiar with the atmosphere of post-War/50’s America due to a number of factors, from something as simple as the continued cultural relevance of 50’s pop media to the fact that the common historical narrative of the 20th century tends to place the 1960’s as the “radical turning point” in American culture, which often manages to undermine the radical movements of the five decades preceding it.
Long story short: I have found that Avengers fandom tends to portray Captain America’s “culture shock” in really weird ways, with him acting more like a sheltered kid from our modern conception of the 1950’s rather than someone who lived through the Great Depression, the New Deal, the rise of fascism in Europe, the various civil protest movements revolving around just about everything in American culture, the vicious public backlash against President Hoover… I mean, additionally there is the possibility that movie!Steve shares his 616 counterpart’s backstory as an art student, or at the very least was interested in art professionally (which the Cap movie did sort of cutely underline) and I just… cannot buy that an orphaned fine arts student living in New York of all places in the late 30’s/early 40’s would be at all ~shocked and appalled~ by the vast majority of modern social mores and allowances?? Like “oh no people have sex all the time in 2012??” “wow it’s so strange that people just get angry at the president all the time??” Those things were not uncommon in the 1940s.
Which covers “socially and politically”. As for technologically… well, yeah, things HAVE changed a lot, but that rapid change began during the time period he lived in. I mean, computers are crazy sure, but it’s kind of silly to think that 2012’s technology would be completely brain breaking to someone from the recent past. A significant period of adjustment might be required, but he’d probably catch on to things like Microwaves and word processing programs p. quickly. Especially since we aren’t even talking about the real past, here. We are talking about COMIC BOOK HISTORY in which Captain America fought Nazis who had CRAZY ALIEN TECHNOLOGY that surpasses shit we have today.
There are a lot of interesting and creative ways to portray Steve as a “man out of time”. I actually think the “I got that reference” quip in the movie was a perfect example of this?
Like, by all means have him be surprised about where how society has gone. I just want peopled to…. do….. actual research on what the situation in the US actually was in the time he’s from….
I’ve already reblogged this this because I think it sums up perfectly the history issues surrounding Steve…
I just wanted to add a link to PBS’s American Experience: The 1930s Collection. Unfortunately you have to be in the US to watch these films, but if you can watch them I highly recommend it. They cover a lot of different subjects from popular culture to economics and in particular I think Riding the Rails would be the most interesting to watch since it’s about teenagers right at the same time Steve would have been a young teen.
These documentaries might be useful in understanding the differences between someone who was a teenager during the Great Depression and the post-War era.
Okay so I really happen to love meta like this because I think that Captain America — when written well — is a fascinating commentary on American culture. For a character that’s held up on face value to be this All-American, Square-Jawed, White Christian Crusader of All Things Good, he doesn’t do a very good job of it. He has a liberal arts background, he’s been radically anti-government for many periods over the years, he’s been shown to be supportive and sensitive to gay rights, some of his strongest friendships have been with women and PoC, people refer to him as “the mother” of the Avengers, he’s dealt with body image and self-esteem issues, and by far his longest and most valued relationship has been with another man. A man, by the way, that when born in an alternate reality as a woman, Captain America married. So take that as you will.
To the casual reader/viewer, Captain America looks like a cardboard cut-out conservative symbol for Good Old-Fashioned White American Justice. In reality, one could argue he struggles to represent (as hamfisted as the delivery may be, since comic book writers aren’t always the most culturally sensitive bunch) everything liberal American culture tries to incorporate in modern society. For a kid from Brooklyn from the 1930s, that’s quite a lot.