This article is going to focus primarily on the movie versions of the characters mentioned. Unless stated otherwise, assume that I am talking about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Captain America has been around for a long time now, and his popularity has never been higher. On the surface, Steve Rogers may seem boring. He’s as close to faultless as a character can get, which is not always good news for entertainment purposes. Yet, somehow, this fault-less do gooder was recently voted the most popular character over on ign.com, beating out the likes of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark and Chris Pratt’s Starlord. Both of those characters seem much more compelling on the surface. They’re both played by actors who are naturally humorous. Both characters are deeply flawed. Yet, Captain America is the one that people most enjoy right now. So, what exactly is the cause for this? I have two reasons that I think contribute to this.
The Need for Good
Anti-hero’s have been super popular in the last decade, with the rise of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the super-popularity of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine among others, and for good reason. The stories they were able to tell with these characters were often layered, and reflected something that we as people could see in ourself. Their faults were what made them appealing. Now, I think our attention may have shifted just a bit. We still enjoy watching flawed heroes doing what they believe they have to do. If you don’t believe that then just look at the widespread love for Daredevil Season 2’s Punisher. But, in this world of troubled people doing good things, here comes Steve Rogers from Brooklyn, and he just does what’s right for the sake of right. Even before he became a super-soldier, Steve was standing for good. Batman has trust issues, a traumatic backstory, and questionable methods. Wolverine takes the traumatic backstory to an extreme, may have an alcohol problem, and is not afraid to kill his enemies. Captain America simply sees that there is injustice in the world, and wants to make it a better place. While the similarities are obvious, all these characters do some good and save the day often, the difference is in the simplicity. Captain America is good for the sake of good.
Through His Eyes
Most of the credit for this goes to actor Chris Evans, with the writers and directors deserving a nod as well. Captain America is our door into the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Through him, we experience what is happening in this world stronger than we do with any other character. Take, for instance, his tumultuous relationship with Bucky Barnes. They started out as best friends, then Bucky was turned into the Winter Soldier. Cap never gave up on him though, even though he did have to stand up to him. Friendship is something that I think we can all connect with, so that’s an easy one to use as an example. Through Evan’s acting, we can feel that same desire to see Bucky come to his senses and break the hold that Hydra has on his mind. We, at the very least myself, want to see those two return to the friendship that they once had. Through Cap, we see and understand the problems in this movie world. Part of that comes with being the moral center, the character which defines the ideal of all that is right in this world. But it’s one thing for Cap to be a good guy who sees wrong and let’s us know that it’s wrong. It’s another thing entirely for him to see the wrong, and take us on a journey to make it right. With other characters I feel like I’m being told a story and usually a really great story. With Cap, I feel like I’m experiencing it.
So why do you think Captain America is so popular right now? What is it that endears him to you? Let me know in the comments, and as always if you have any suggestions for the site please send them through the contact box on the right. Thanks for reading!