Just a kid from Brooklyn

While all of the various superheroes we admire are, well, super, each of them have unique personalities and character traits that make them stand out from the rest.

For me, the superhero that stands out the most is Captain America. As I wrote in Superhero Syndrome, superheroes inspire us to take action in the world around us, and I believe that Captain America does that even more than the others. The reason for this is because (in a way) he is “one of us.” Before he was physically altered, Captain America was Steve Rodgers: just a kid from Brooklyn who wanted to serve his country.

Everything that makes this hero super is within his rock-solid character. Remember, Steve Rodgers’ physical “superness” came after his heart was in the right place. The inside of Captain America truly is what makes him the best. I’m going to highlight the two main traits in this post.

Sacrifice: Captain America: The First Avenger, starts with Steve Rodgers (Cap)—in his natural, skinny, bony, sickly self—trying desperately to enlist into the U.S. Army to serve in WWII. Even after constant rejection due to his physic, he keeps trying. Why? because he wants to serve his country. That’s it. There is nothing not to admire in a man who wants to put himself in harm’s way in order to protect the people of his nation. When Steve Rodgers does indeed become an enlisted infantrymen, he proves his sacrifice through his actions by knowingly putting himself in situations that could cause him death, and in the end, he does pay that ultimate price (ok, sort of!).

Courage: In order to sacrifice his life, Captain America displays incredible courage. His willingness to put himself in danger is not the heart of a coward, but one who is ready to defend at all costs. The best example of this is when Steve Rodgers jumps on top of a grenade (albeit a fake one) that is thrown in the middle of a group of soldiers. As all of the other soldiers scatter for shelter, Rodgers curls around the grenade in order to protect those around him. This courageous act earned Steve Rodgers the opportunity to become Captain America: those in authority saw his courageous heart and knew that physical ability would not be wasted on him.

Just another kid who wants to serve his country. Sometimes the most powerful heroes are the most realistic and the most down to earth–those who we can look up to and relate to.

So, side note…..

He’s my favorite….hence, I took this picture (left) of this Captain America paper plate that I got to eat off of while babysitting. I cannot tell you how excited I was. Seriously. It was probably the highlight of my night. Call me a nerd, but if I can’t do silly things in life and laugh at myself for doing them, well, than my life is going to be boring.

So, I guess I kept that short and sweet! 🙂 Any other Captain America enthusiasts? If so, why is he your favorite? Any Captain America haters (you know who you are)? Why?

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14 thoughts on “Just a kid from Brooklyn

  1. Well Emily, you already know my stance on this subject… so you can probably guess which direction this reply is headed. (but I’m ganna leave it anyway)

    The way I understand the Cap, is that his power doesn’t come from his geneticly modified body, his stark engineered shield, his infallible character, or his devistatingly good looks: the power of Captain America comes from the idea of Captain America. This idea of the perfect soldier (strong, selfless, courageous, ect…) mixing perfectly with the perfect person (caring, inocent, chivalrous, ect…) feels like it was designed to be a “beacon of hope in man’s darkest hour.” The problem with the character Captain America is that the beacon seems to always be lit, shining bright without falter or flicker—the Cap IS perfect.

    To make a character believable (and relateable to the audience) he/she needs to have faults: they need to have shortcomings, deep dark secrects, crippling fears, realistic limitations to their abilities: a character has to be brought down to the level of the audience in order for the audience to truly see the character, and belive that that character could actually exist. This is why Hawkeye is the best character in the avengers in my opinion, he has a certain amount of realism to his story (at least within The Avengers) and this is why Captain America is an unbelievable character to me—he is never brought down to our level.

    Okay, I’m done rambling for now, but I doubt that made much sense to anyone except for me… so I’ll finish off with a truly compeling argument for why the Cap isn’t my favorite super hero: spandex. Captain America prances around in tight, patriotic, spandex…

    *shudders*

    ~Wyatt Dolphin

    • May I jump in on this?

      Excellent thoughts… This train of thought has come up several times in recent conversations – that a hero must be deeply flawed to be, well… a good hero.

      When was the last time you heard someone say, “I just can’t relate to Aragorn… He’s too perfect.”… Or, “Aslan was definitely Lewis’s weakest character… He’s just too perfect.” I can’t relate…

      It seems that perfection is what makes them such a good hero. I know this is somewhat subjective – I prefer perfect heroes because they remind me of Christ. Hence last weeks post. On the other hand, it seems that you are looking for a hero who you can relate to.

      So I guess what I would be interested in knowing why you are drawn to the flawed heroes. Why do you prefer a “realistic” one to a perfect one?

      This may help me figure out the argument behind so many girls love of Elizabeth Bennet… “She’s not perfect, she’s so real…” Uh, yep, never got that one.

      P.S. Not saying that a hero shouldn’t struggle. Struggling is what being a hero is all about. But I want to see a hero who shows those incredible traits when faced with a struggle outside of him. The best heroes are the ones who try to do whats right. Every. Single. Time.

      • I was speaking from my experience creating characters, and the experience of other creative writers I’ve talked to. Simply put, characters will hold the attention of an audience (and generate more interest in the character’s story) when they share similar experiences with the people watching/reading them: people relate/sympathise with what is familure to them. The more a person sees of themselves in a character, the more they care about the character.

        Therefore—since all humans are sinful and by no means perfect—the more perfect a character is, the less someone will relate to him, and the less they will care about him.

        As for Aslan and Aragorn…

        Aslan is a direct parallel to God: he’s meant to be perfect just as God is perfect.

        Aragorn and Arawen’s story is a tragedy until the very end of the Return of the king. This story is what Tolkien built the character of Aragorn around. Aragorn deals with the pain of being away from Arawen in various ways throughout the trilogy, this is what gives him his realism.

        I guess that when deciding which type of character is best—as with all matters of opinion—your decision is entirely your own and for your own reasons. I prefer characters that make me care about them because I can see pieces of myself in them.

      • Guess I’m a little late to the party here! Thanks to you both for taking the time to comment!

        This is a discussion in which I am going to remain on the fence, however, I would like to offer some of my personal experience and thought on this perfect v. imperfect/ hero debate.

        To testify to Wyatt’s side:

        When I was little there were two young women who I wanted to be like in every way possible: they were my “heroes.” But what made me admire one girl above the other was her “relatability” to where and who I was. I saw her mess up countless times, but I also saw her get back up and make it right. She gained respect from me because of how she handled her mistakes and how she grew from them. The other girl I simply idolized as someone who I could never be. Perfect (seemingly) in every way, I could not figure out how in the world she ever learned or grew…because I never saw her make a mistake. It discouraged me so much because I did not feel like I could achieve her status.

        So to tie that back to superheroes, seeing a superhero fail and then overcome that failure through redemption is empowering and inspiring because we understand how it feels to fall. Then, seeing a superhero conquer that failure through action, we are encouraged to overcome our own failures and mistakes.

        Wyatt, I concede on the prancing around in patriotic spandex argument—very convincing. BUT (there is always a but) if you watch Captain America: The First Avenger he is not wearing them. 🙂

        To testify to Marli’s side:

        I completely understand what you’re saying, Mar. I guess the perfect (literally) example of what you’re talking about is Jesus. He is both a human that understands our struggles to the fullest extent and yet he rose above it all, showing us how to live.

        I do have a few side note remarks to your comment though. 🙂

        1) While Aslan is indeed the hero of Narnia…I never wanted to be like him. I looked up to him, but not the same way I looked up to my favorite character, Edmund, who failed and overcame through the process of reconciliation and redemption (in the end he broke the queen’s sword etc.). Edmund gives me a little bit of hope that I too can do the same. Thoughts from either of you?

        2) While I do read Jane Austen books and watch the movies….I have never wanted to be like Elizabeth Bennett. Just saying. =P On the other hand, I have also never wanted to like, say,Elsie Dinsmore….she was so perfect she drove me nuts! Hehehe- but that’s a conversation we’ve had. 😉

        So back to the Cap; for you, Marli—he’s an example of an ideal. For you, Wyatt—he’s too perfect. For me, I see a hero whose character can be looked up to while also recognizing that he does have his limitations physically—combining some of that awe of heroes and some realism.

        It comes down to this: I worship Jesus. He is my ultimate hero and I look to him in order to see how to best live a life bringing glory to his name. Earthly (or fictional) heroes, on the other hand, I respect, admire and gain insight from while understanding that they are flawed and thus learning from their mistakes and rebounds.

        Emily

        p.s. I sincerely hope that comment was not too jumbled. Hopefully you could both figure out what I was trying to say! I look forward to hearing from ya both. 🙂 Haha- the word count of this comment is larger than my actual post!

  2. This is wonderful! Thank you both, I think I understand it much better now.

    And yes, Jesus is the ultimate example. He faced a greater struggle than any hero, and yet he came out unscathed – satisfying Emily, Wyatt and my desire for a hero 🙂

    And Emily, I forgive you for not liking Elsie… Really I do. ;P

    • That’s interesting that you say Jesus came out unscathed… He cried out for help in the end, he literally went through hell in the end; even in his resurrected body he carried some of the craziest scars people had ever seen, including actual holes in his hands. One of his closest friends couldn’t even believe it was him, because he had seen what Jesus had gone through on that hill, and couldn’t imagine anyone being able to come back from that. But Jesus did come back from it.

      I also read some interesting bits and pieces in this thread. Nothing huge, or even important to the topic, but things that I am curious about.

      – wyatt mentioned, if I am reading correctly, that Aragorn and Arwen’s story stops being tragic? Man, that story is tragic to the very end! How is that a happy ending?

      – Do people actually not like Aslan and/or Aragorn because of their perfectness? No one is supposed to relate to Aslan – you’re supposed to love and fear him. And Aragorn… do people think that guy is perfect? I always thought of him as awesome, because he wasn’t perfect – he was rather infamous for cowardice. And then he walks through the fire of his redemption and becomes who he was meant to be. THAT’s a hero. Most of the humans and hobbits in that story have huge faults which they then overcome to be the hero they want to be, the hero they have to be, they hero they are supposed to be; and that’s why they’re heroes.

      Sorry if this was mostly just picking apart other people’s posts, I just didn’t really have anything else to contribute to the conversation… just some questions and clarifications.

      • Not nitpicking – you challenged me to think again about where I want in a hero, thank you!

        By “unscathed” I meant Jesus’ moral character was unscathed, not physically unscathed – sorry for the poor wording. As Chris wrote, I want hero who overcomes struggles without falling. (Thank you for laying that out Chris – excellent!)

        Aragorn overcame his struggle (cowardice) without a mark on his moral character.

        Because of the plethora of materials on any hero (mostly in comic books), it’s almost impossible to find a hero who hasn’t messed up big at some point in time. So I wouldn’t stick strictly to this idea, I just want a hero who over-archingly points me to Christ. I want someone who will sacrifice and suffer to the very end to do what’s right… Someone who clearly represents the light.

        So my ‘hero roster’ would look something like this: Spiderman (I don’t count film # 3), Superman, Aragorn, Aslan, Captain America, Alyosha Karamazov… and The Doctor 🙂

        At the end of the day, I never want to wonder if my hero is the good guy.

  3. I think you guys have touched on some of this, but I wanted to bring my perspective. I don’t think it’s really about perfect vs flawed, but rather overcoming struggles that helps us to identify with heroes, characters, and people. I see three major types of overcoming struggles both in the Bible and in heroes. Here they are:

    Some encounter struggles, but they overcome them without falling. Jesus is an example of this. He struggled in the temptation in the desert, in the garden the night before dying, and through the whole experience of dying itself. He never fell or sinned, but he definitely struggled through those experiences. The Bible even mentions that we can rejoice in a Savior we can understand and identify with because He has gone through the same things we do. (Joseph and Daniel could be other examples). Superman is generally a hero who acts like this, in many cases he struggles but he comes through without falling (though not in all stories).

    Some struggle and fail, but then are redeemed. Peter would be an example of this. He was full of pride and leadership, but when struggle came he completely failed. Once he realized that God still loved and forgave him, he was able to come back from that failure to become a great leader. Batman went through this to some degree in the latest movie.

    Some start out on the wrong side of the struggle, realize their error, and then begin to fight for the right side. Saul/Paul is a great example of this. He has a certain ideal that he feels is right and follows whole-heartedly, but which is harmful to others. When he gets a rude awakening, he becomes one of the most adamant leaders in the Church. Tony Stark/Ironman is a good example of this. He was happy with his life, though it was hurting others. Once he realized his error, he became a strong force for good (though he brought his old quirky personality with him).

    These cases show us that it is possible to overcome struggles without falling, but that if we do fall it is possible to get back up again. It also shows us that if we have a bad past, we can still have hope for a future where we can be good. We can identify with and go through each of these phases in our lives and these stories (whether true or fanciful) inspire us that we can succeed. (The Bible says this in Heb 12:1-3, by showing that our final strength and inspiration comes from Jesus but pointing out that stories of those who came before us give further motivation).

    • Thank you for bringing scriptural examples and analysis to the table Chris! 🙂 You really made the different kinds of Biblical heroes (and their parallels) clearer.

      Something I need to work on is to not vaguely refer to scriptural ideas and themes but instead give specific, concrete examples from the Word of God in order to support my statements and speculations. Thank you for the reminder!

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