In The Marvel Universe, A Black Man Can Still Change The World With A Good Speech
In the season finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier on Disney+, the terrorist Flag-Smashers attack New York City to prevent a vote on a measure that would forcibly relocate people from their homes (that's admittedly an oversimplification of events but you get the gist). Spoilers, obviously, but there's a big fight and our heroes prevail. However, the new Captain America, who is Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) and Black, gives a compelling speech that convinces the international council to hold back on its 21st Century trail of tears plan and instead help the refugees.
CAP: You have to stop calling them terrorists. Your peacekeeping troops carrying weapons are forcing millions of people into settlements around the world, right? What do you think those people are going to call you? These labels, “terrorists," “refugees," "thugs," they're often used to get around the question, why?
Unfortunately, the Flag-Smashers are terrorists. They've killed people and their leader, Karli Morgenthau (Erin Kellyman), describes blowing up a building with people inside as “sending a message," which is what terrorists say when they do terrorist shit. It's unfortunate that vaguely leftwing extremists were depicted as unambiguously violent terrorists, because that helps promote the rightwing narrative that Black Lives Matter protesters are burning cities and intimidating juries to get what they want.
Sam argues that the council should listen to what the Flag-Smashers have to say because Karli was willing to die for it, but that's not how the world works. The timing of the sentiment is also problematic because when a MAGA mob attacked the Capitol, Tucker Carlson suggested the government politely consider the demands of violent white seditionists. The series also never showed us anyone peacefully protesting the forced relocation.
CAP: We finally have a common struggle now. Think about that. For once, all the people who've been begging, and I mean literally begging, for you to feel how hard any given day is … Now you know. How did it feel to be helpless? Now, if you could remember what it was like to be helpless and face a force so powerful it could erase half the planet, you would know that you're about to have the exact same impact. This isn't about easy decisions, Senator
The international council agrees with new Black Captain America and decides to help the refugees instead of sending them packing. Yes, it was damn good speech, but that's unfortunately not how the world works. Twenty-something me appreciates how Sam sounds like an Aaron Sorkin character and not an action hero who talks with his fists. Yet, there's only so much disbelief I can suspend. There's already a Hulk, not to mention badass witches, in this reality. Now, we have to imagine there are entirely different white people.
Most of the white people in our less-than-Marvelous reality resent whenever Black people give stirring speeches. Conservatives frequently complained that President Barack Obama “lectured" them whenever he expressed an opinion. Maybe he should've worn a flashier costume.
Wall Street Journal
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier studiously avoids political labels. When politicians appear, they are rarely identified as Republicans and Democrats. Sam claims “we have a common struggle," but the past year has demonstrated that Americans can't even unite against a pandemic. If Republicans exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they would never share common cause with liberals, no matter how moving a Black superhero's speech on the subject was.
Republicans leveraged the Black Lives Matter protests against Democrats and those were overwhelmingly peaceful. The Flag-Smashers did a lot more than burn a CVS. After former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, a not-so-shocking number of conservatives rushed to his defense. Obviously, when a jury convicts a cop who murdered a Black man on camera, the trial must've been rigged somehow. They didn't even send him off with a parting gift.
In a previous The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode, the MAGA Captain America replacement, John Walker, kills a Flag-Smasher in cold blood, which horrified bystanders record on their cell phones. Walker is immediately stripped of his duties and receives a less than honorable discharge. Conservatives in our world would've pitched a fit. These terrorists had killed Walker's partner and could've killed him ... somehow. Look, do we not believe blue lives matter, especially when they're superheroes? The MCU's version of Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz would've fiercely defended Walker against the “woke mob" who obviously hates soldiers and loves terrorists.
But maybe this is why we like the MCU. There are no Republicans, only honorable villains like Thanos. It's a far more appealing reality.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."