Captain America: The Winter Soldier Offers The Viewer A Crash Course In How Nazis Normalize Their Extremist Ideology
The phrase “life imitates art” is applicable to many movies, novels, and video games and is ever so pertinent in Marvel’s best and definitely most impressive film Captain America: The Winter Soldier in how the film predated and predicted the current shit show that is 2017 U.S. politics to an uncanny degree. Shit, CA:TWS was already relevant in 2014 by channeling America’s dissatisfaction to the invasion of Iraq started by the Bush Administration and to the Obama Administration’s overwhelmingly favorable use of drone warfare.
We see the anti-Bush angle coalesce in how characters within the Marvel Cinematic Universe solemnly regard the Loki-led Chitari attack on New York City (seen in The Avengers) as a world changing event akin to the September 11th terror attacks, and in response to this alien force with an armada of flying lizard monsters (because comics) that devastated New York, SHIELD (a powerful government organization specializing in superheroes and the supernatural) constructed helicarriers that would be able to analyze and neutralize threats before they happen.
So, basically drones.
Captain America (a.k.a. Steve Rogers: the World War 2 era super soldier who is learning how to navigate a new 21st century lifestyle after being thawed from ice) believes these next generation warplanes are problematic because they compromise the American and democratic values of freedom and due process of law.
Or as Rogers posits: “I thought the punishment came after the crime.”
Still, Cap adorns his newly upgraded red, white, and blue costume (with iconic vibranium shield to boot) and is deployed on missions at the behest of SHIELD, mostly so we can witness some exhilarating action sequences with practical effects and fight choreography, and god dammit, there is nothing wrong with that.
Yet, not all is as hunky dory with SHIELD as it seems: one of Cap’s most recent ops yielded some information that indicates that there is a mole inside SHIELD.
The most likely suspect is SHIELD director Nick Fury, but Captain America is having absolutely NONE of that bullshit, especially after returning home to his apartment only to witness Nick Fury, who was seriously injured from a failed assassination attempt and bleeding out on Cap’s furniture (that insensitive bastard), be shot by a sniper.
The whole bloody situation reeks of a cover-up, and Cap begins to suspect that Alexander Pierce (essentially the CEO of SHIELD and the only person to outrank Fury) is the man who set Fury up on a date with an untraceable bullet.
During his investigation, Cap makes a startling discovery that Hydra (a rogue Nazi organization that even fucking Hitler thought was too extreme) is not only alive and thriving in a post-World War 2 America but has covertly infiltrated SHIELD at the behest of Pierce and has positioned themselves in places of power within the organization.
In essence, S.H.I.E.L.D. is now run by Nazis.
This is where today’s current political fiasco that is every fucking day in Washington D.C. under the Trump Administration becomes compareable with the events occurring in CA:TWS. After all, is Pierce (who stated he has the desire to build a new world by “tearing the old one down”) really all that different from a wannabe authoritarian like Trump?
Rhetorical question, obviously, because the answer is no. In fact, they are even more alike than most would realize. While Trump and Pierce would never identify themselves as belonging to the same party as the Nazis, their goals eerily align with those of extremist groups (i.e. the KKK and Neo-Nazis) that American society has rightfully rejected as toxic to democracy.
Rational citizens of the U.S. would never willingly support a leader who represents and endorses those groups, so instead Trump/Pierce had to do a bit of rebranding so that the ideals of the Nazi’s can exist as a viable political viewpoint in America’s electorate (see: the alt-right).
Much like Trump, Pierce plants and promotes operatives loyal to Hydra within SHIELD to positions of power and he seeks to eliminate and discredit those in power who are still loyal to SHIELD.
We witness this early on during CA:TWS (i.e. before the big “Nazis are in control of the government” plot twist) when Pierce throws Nick Fury under the proverbial bus, and he questions Captain America over the circumstances of Fury’s death in order to determine where Cap’s loyalties lie. This is not all too different from the infamous pledge of loyalty Trump sought from former FBI director James Comey, and like Comey, Rogers refused which forces Pierce to declare Captain America (the embodiment of America’s core values) an enemy of the state and demands all SHIELD operatives to make Cap’s capture a top priority (even if they are morally conflicted over hunting the living embodiment of truth, justice, and the American way like a common criminal).
However, even with agents loyal to SHIELD against him, Captain America escapes from Pierce and discovers the truth behind Hydra’s parasitical existence within SHIELD, and Pierce responds by deploying The Winter Soldier: Hydra’s top assassin and the man who killed Nick Fury.
In a reveal that blindsides Captain America, The Winter Soldier’s true identity is that of Bucky Barnes: Captain America’s homoerotic BFF who was killed in action while fighting Hydra during World War 2… or so we thought. Barnes was experimented upon by Hydra and basically became a sleeper agent who could be activated to kill when told a specific set of code words, and in between missions, he was put into cryo-sleep thus justifying how Barnes is still alive and kicking after all these years.
To make a long story short: The Winter Soldier was brainwashed into fighting for the Nazis. His political conversion from freedom to fascism is akin to that friend, relative, or coworker who you used to hang out and dick around with before they were indoctrinated by a Fox News propaganda machine that justifies extremist ideology that is detrimental to society and justifies blatant bigotry as an acceptable form of public discourse.
So, just to recap: Pierce runs SHIELD as if he were the CEO of a major corporation whose ideology aligns with Hydra’s, The Winter Soldier has been indoctrinated into Hydra’s sadistic worldview to the point that he’s willing to trade blows with his former best friend, and the SHIELD agents in the more desk operative roles (i.e. regular schmoes) can’t tell if their coworker occupying the chair next to them is loyal to Pierce (a.k.a Hydra) or Captain America (a.k.a. freedom).
My fucking god, this shit is happening in real life.
Just to list a few parallels: Trump runs the U.S. akin to a cut-throat business and maintains extremist political views that align with the beliefs of Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, many of our friends and relatives have been brain washed (like The Winter Soldier) by Fox News to believe that Trump’s erratic and destructive behavior is normal, and then there’s us ordinary people who have to parse friend from foe among our neighbors, family, friends, and colleagues.
Right now, the political nightmare we’re subjected to on a daily basis has made it abundantly clear that we’re living in precarious times, and in the coming days, weeks, months, and years, we will have to make tough decisions that determine who we are as people on a moral level.
In CA:TWS, Captain America issues an ultimatum to the agents of SHIELD where they must choose to either fight with Cap or against him. Those who joined Cap fought to preserve the values of freedom and democracy, and those who joined Hydra fought to institute the values of fear, oppression, and fascism.
Sadly, American society is approaching a point where we citizens must decide whether we stand for the ideals of democracy or the oppression of fascism.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released on April 4th, 2014. The superhero/espionage thriller was directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (The Russo brothers), and it was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. The action flick stars Chris Evans as Captain America, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Anthony Mackie as Falcon, Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier, and Robert Redford as Alexander Pierce.