Superhero fiction, fantasy, & sci-fi have long been dominated by libertarian fantasies. I mean, it makes a story more fun to root for an individual hero than to root for millions of anonymous masses to gradually do good through social action. But yeah, there are always Randian supermen, fascist governments, dystopian authoritarian futures, with heroes or rebellious outlaws saving the day.

The fantasy element is key though, I think - the appeal of fascism only really works within a fictional narrative because we come to understand the players so intimately. It’s one thing to trust our overarching safety to a stranger in the real world, it’s another when we know the backstories and psychologies of those we’re following - somebody as insane as Bruce Wayne, we’re with their character arcs from beginning to end and it justifies that element of fascism if only because our judgment of such entities is far more intimate than with a real human politician. It’s no different than the indulgence of a violence fantasy in a video game, or a sexual fantasy involving vampires - all of which make no practical real-world sense (at least not without getting arrested) but are fine when confined to something with parameters we can define (like the inexhaustible moral purity of Clark Kent or Steve Rogers).

The ENTIRE superhero genre is about power and how people deal with it. Tony Stark is on one side...The Avengers have acted with unlimited power and zero accountability. Worse still, they've begun making mistakes; from Tony's creation of Ultron to the Scarlet Witch's levitating Crossbones. People are afraid, and they need a system of accountability to be put in place to give them confidence in their superheroes once again.

And Steve Rogers is on the other. Now, with Tony Stark stepping back, Cap is the new leader of the Avengers. He surely feels bitter toward Tony for what he did with Ultron, but also proud the team was able to overcome an impossible-to-defeat enemy. With Stark now out of the equation, his job is whipping together a new batch of superheroes to defend the world as the Avengers. Captain America has a simple moral code: if he sees a situation that's going south, he believes that he has a responsibility to step in. To him, government oversight complicates things.

So let me see if I understand this, Tony Stark/Iron Man believes that super powered humans should be held accountable by some kind of governing body (the United Nations in this instance)...Steve Rogers/Captain America meanwhile, maintains that The Avengers should have the power to act independently. I agree one hundred with Captain America: Let them do their job. Just imagine if the Avengers had to wait for permission to save New York from alien invasion. There would be several levels of government an ordinance would have to pass through, the bill would probably be hung up in Congress because some House member would want to tack something onto the bill, and by the time the Avengers were finally granted permission to act, aliens would have already taken over the world. No thanks. The Avengers are a unique group, and are therefore uniquely suited to saving the world. 

It’s conflicting ideologies on how to handle situations when you’ve got the means to basically do anything without oversight. The exact kind of story the genre was built for. Likewise, for 'Civil War.'

That there are two sorts of freedom — Freedom of/to and Freedom from

At heart, superheroes embody this duality - they are people with powers who use their freedom to dress up in spandex and act outside of the normalized legal system in order to provide themselves and others freedom from criminals, from injustice, and from giant beings that eat planets.

It is no surprise then, that it is easy to come up with story where superheroes sacrifice freedom of/to in favor of “perfect” freedom from, transforming into fascist tyrants. However, the reverse, sacrificing freedom from in favor of freedom of/to, is what stories like 'Civil War' play with - are we willing to accept the price of total freedom to do whatever one wants, which is no accountability and no control over very powerful beings?

Personally, I think you need both type of freedom in a democratic society.

Too much of freedom from, and you have tyranny. Too much of freedom to/of, and you get anarchy. But most importantly, my point is that stories like those upcoming movies are not about freedom vs security, but about two kinds of freedom, and the compromise one must make between these to obtain balance.

A perfect example of what I am talking about id: FDR’s Four Freedoms. Two of them were “freedoms of” (speech and religion), and the other two were “freedoms from” (want and fear). The right to speak one’s mind and follow their conscience, but also the right to not starve in the street or get harassed or worse by an angry mob. The way he saw it & I believe they way that Cap does as well, you have to have both “freedom of” and “freedom from”, not just one or the other, to have true freedom. Team Cap ALL...THE...WAY.


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Tags: civil war , Captain America , marvel