“What made you so special?” The Red Skull, the villain of “Captain America: The First Avenger,” asked Captain America in his debut movie. It was a jibe as The Red Skull wanted the hero to defend himself, but Steve didn’t even try.
“Nothing” was Captain America’s simple response. “I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.” This response, this self-awareness, is what makes him so much of a hero. The answer is also a lie. He is so much more than nothing. He is a true hero, someone who was destined to do good in the world, even if he wasn’t chosen for the Super Soldier Serum.
I’ll be the first to admit that Captain America isn’t necessarily underestimated as he’s one of the most powerful heroes in the MCU (especially after “Endgame,” if you know what I mean), but there is so much more to him than what’s shown. In the movies, people like him because he’s hot and the leader of The Avengers. Some people don’t like him because of “Captain America: Civil War” as they blame him for driving apart The Avengers (which he didn’t do), but his motives and personality go so much deeper than most people realize.
Captain America is a symbol. He always has been, both in the comic universe and in the real world. He was created in the 1940s by Joe Simons and Jack Kirby to raise American patriotism during World War II. His debut comic depicted him punching Hitler in the face to show American people that they had a hero who could defeat the Nazis, so Americans had the confidence to do it in real life.
Through history, he always tried to do the right thing. His storylines often paralleled society. Besides the WWII reference, he also dealt with the Watergate Scandal and after 9/11, he revived his role to help with American patriotism and the wave of terror that spread over the country.
While he was a hero, both in the real world and in the fictional one, he didn’t start off like most people would assume. He was small and frequently ill, with plenty of limitations, including asthma, heart trouble and high blood pressure. He grew up poor and an orphan after his mother died when he was a teenager. Despite everything he went for, he stood up to bullies and was a hero without a costume. He often got beaten up for speaking up against people who thought the world revolved around them, but he never gave up and never stopped standing up for the little people.
One of the biggest parts of Captain America’s character is his personality. He is sometimes described as too much of a boy scout, or as one dimensional. As Iron Man put it in “The Avengers,” “Everything good about you came out of a bottle.” He couldn’t be more wrong. Like I said before, Steve Rogers was originally small and sickly. He wasn’t the prime candidate for the Super Soldier Serum physically wise, but that wasn’t why he was chosen. He was chosen for his personality. Dr. Erskine, the person who created the serum, stated when he chose Steve, “The serum amplifies everything that is inside. So, good becomes great. Bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen. Because a strong man, who has known power all his life, will lose respect for that power. But a weak man knows the value of strength and knows compassion. . . Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you must stay who you are. Not a perfect soldier but a good man.” That’s what makes Captain America special. He isn’t perfect, he never was, so he won’t take his powers for granted. He is a genuinely good hero, and that is what the world needs.
In “Captain America: Civil War,” Captain America and Iron Man fight over whether to sign the “Sokovia Accords,” which make the Avengers operate under the government. Half the Avengers, led by Iron Man, agree. Captain America, however, loudly opposes signing. People watching were against Cap for supposedly breaking up the Avengers, when he was actually doing the smart thing. For one thing, the Avengers were given three days to read and decide what to do with the Accords, so that they had more time. More than that, when Captain America had worked under the government, nothing good happened. Whether it was in “Captain America: The First Avenger,” when he was used to sell bonds rather than fight, or in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” when it turned out that SHIELD was compromised by HYDRA, he never had the best run in with the government. He was smart to not trust the Accords while Iron Man rushed into agreement, just to get some weight off his chest.
Captain America also doesn’t let past actions define people. Another reason the Avengers split up was because of Bucky Barnes. Bucky and Steve had been best friends since the 40s, when they were kids. While Steve was frozen for a few decades, Bucky was brainwashed by Hydra to become an assassin. Most of the Avengers were against him because he did kill a few people (Tony Stark’s parents included), but Steve stood by his friend because Bucky wasn’t in control of his actions. Steve didn’t stand by Bucky because of their previous friendship; it was because Steve didn’t let Bucky’s past actions, which Bucky didn’t have any control over, affect his view of Bucky.
More than just his personality, Captain America’s motivation makes him a much better hero than the rest of the heroes. The thing is, he has no motivation. When he was frozen, the world completely changed. He assumed Bucky died and the supposed love of his life, Peggy Carter, was married and almost dead. He doesn’t have any reason to be a hero in the present, but he still risks his life for the good of the people. He wants to live in a world where things are fair and equal for its citizens. He doesn’t have anyone to prove himself to or any motivation to fight for freedom, but he still does without hesitation.
Overall, Captain America stands for what America is supposed to encompass: equality, liberty and freedom. He is a good person with a good heart. He is definitively powerful, but people don’t think about his heart, personality and his motivation. He is the hero that we need because he doesn’t have any strings attached; he is just a well-meaning guy who wants to do right in the world. Before he was chosen to be a super soldier, he was asked if he wanted to kill Nazis. His response was perfect: “I don’t want to kill anyone. I don’t like bullies; I don’t care where they’re from.” He’s the perfect hero because he doesn’t want to be a hero. He just wants to do right in the world.