Hello and welcome to In Too Deep Into Marvel, where I go through the Marvel movies over the next few months.

As I was watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier in theatres for the second time I noticed something very unusual. Namely in the big climax, we had five characters. But that wasn’t the unusual part of it, no. No the unusual part was who these characters were and, more importantly, what they represented. Confused? Well let me elaborate.

The five key players of Captain America: The Winter Soldier are:

Captain America: White guy.

Black Widow: White woman.

Maria Hill: White woman.

Nick Fury: Black guy.

Sam Wilson aka Falcon: Black guy.

Why do I bring this up? Well because two fifths of the cast are non-white, and two fifths of the cast are female. “So what?” I hear you ask. “That’s how it is in the comics.” Which is very true. Just answer me this one, simple question:

When was the last time you saw a cast list like this that was this diverse?

But that’s not the impressive part of Captain America 2. No what’s really impressive is not that the cast is diverse… but that no one ever feels the need to mention it in film. They never turn to the camera and go ‘look at all the diversity we have here’. They didn’t do it because they wanted to send a strong political message. They did it because that’s what the story was about. It was about these people fighting against crime, not trying to become a 90s kids show. The fact that women and non-white men play major parts of this story are ultimately unimportant. It doesn’t matter what they look like, what matters is how badass they all are. In a world where DC is terrified of making a Wonder Woman movie, we have Marvel nonchalantly making one of the racially and sexually diverse movies to come out in recent history. But that’s just one aspect about it. What else does Captain America 2 do right?

Well another thing that struck me as I watched the film was this: Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff are co-workers bordering on friends. While they have their differences they trust each other and work well with each other. But, and I can’t stress this enough, they don’t ‘hook up’ at the end of the movie. There’s no romantic tension between them. The only time they kiss is to throw off someone looking for them. They are just good friends, first and foremost. In fact the only time romance comes into the movie is a scene where Steve Rogers talks to Penny Carter, his girlfriend from the first movie. It’s quite a sad little scene really, with Steve acknowledging that he lost his chance at a normal life. There’s no kissing, there’s no sexual tension, just two people acknowledging the cruel irony of the world around them. This film is, essentially, a film without any romance in it. “So what,” I hear you ask. “Not all stories have to have romances in them.” Which is very true. Just answer me this one, simple question:

When was the last time you saw a film with no romantic plot or sub-plot?

And that’s why Captain America 2 is probably the most important film for the asexual crowd to have come out in… well, forever, really. Sex is not the objective of any of the characters. It is not their purpose of being, not the driving force behind their actions to other characters. None of the characters want to have sex with each other, they’re just friends. Now I’ve heard arguments that Steve Rogers is bisexual and, well, I can’t say I disagree with that (in fact I support it a lot), but in terms of the film it’s very much an asexual product. In a world where sex is seen primarily as the be all and end all of life, having just one film where sex doesn’t need to be mentioned is refreshing to say the least. But does that mean the film is totally devoid of romance? Well, no. No the film does something really quite clever that many people (including myself) missed.

Now fair warning, I am nicking this from a friend. But lets look at this film. We have the lead character meet the new character in a quirky first meeting. It’s cute and they exchange numbers. The lead character goes out of his way to spend time with this new character, while the new character immediately trusts the lead character in his time of need. They work together well and have a bond with each other. Basically it’s almost like the set-up to every romantic story ever. Two people meet cute and fall in love. The new character is deliberately shot to be as sexualized as possible. We see how good-looking they are and how fine their body is. “So what,” I hear you ask. “It’s just borrowing from what they see in regular cinema.” Which is very true. Just answer me this one, simple question:

Why did you presume the new character was female when instead I was talking about the male Sam Wilson?

Think about it: Sam Wilson is essentially the ‘woman’ in this story. He is sexualized and idolized by Steve Rogers, the camera goes out of its way to show off how good his body is, he essentially fulfils the role of the ‘objectified woman’. Which is great. Well, on the one hand it’s terrible, since objectification is by itself bad. But at the same time, showing a good-looking man in a sexualized way doesn’t diminish the character. It doesn’t strip away his identity. He looks good but, more importantly, he’s well written. Which brings us round to Black Widow.

I am convinced that the only reason Marvel hasn’t made a Black Widow movie yet is that they’ve planned so far ahead they don’t have the room for it. That and Scarlett Johansson is having a baby, so she’ll probably be busy for the next few years. But Black Widow in this movie is amazing. She holds her own against the guys, she is vital to the plot, and she’s not just a simple sex object. She has a character beyond her mammary glands. Which is a refreshing twist to see, considering how often women are portrayed in fiction. She is a fantastic character who really does help the film shine in my opinion. We need more characters like her.

So there you have it. My look at Captain America: The Winter Soldier and how it’s a big step in the right direction. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.

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