Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why I'm Definitely Not #TeamIronMan

As one might expect, Captain America: Civil War provoked many feelings and a discussion of morality and religion and heroism with my best friend after the fact. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s only one question worth asking:


#TeamCap or #TeamIronMan? 

Let me tell you. #TEAMCAP. END OF STORY. Though it might make more sense to write a post about why I was #TeamCap in the first place, it seemed more pertinent to write about why being #TeamIronMan never occurred to me.

Before we go further, let me assure you that this commentary is meant to be as spoiler-free as possible. There are a few details revealed, but I feel like you could get the picture by watching the Civil War trailer. And if you don’t want to do that, the premise is this:

The Avengers have to account for their collateral damage. Tony Stark supports the Sokovia Accords, which would make the Avengers the UN’s responsibility. Though Cap respects his fellow heroes, he doesn’t stand for the imposition on his freedom and becomes a fugitive as he searches for his best friend.

(For a more review-y review of Civil War, check out Aimee’s review at To The Barricade! ‘Tis muy good.)

I know that #TeamIronMan sounds good on paper. It’s true—people die when the Avengers show up. Their almost arbitrary decisions as to who to fight as a vigilante group are downright criminal. With UN-sanctioned objectives, it’s likely that some death would be prevented, or at least be more acceptable by social standards.

I GET IT. Sounds nice. But the plan leaned on Tony Stark, a lot, which is bad. His thoughts were dangerously flawed. See, look:


Displacement of Guilt

Tony can hold his liquor, but not his guilt. His exposition in the film expresses like, three different things he’s feeling guilty about at the time. Sort of like in the Iron Man movies. At any rate, a primary concern for Tony as a hero is that he cannot trust himself. He looks back and sees that he has done wrong.

That said, the Accords would be a HUGE benefit to Tony: without the power to make decisions, he would feel no consequential guilt. His actions would no longer be on him.

I understand that is a big statement to make, so let me give some context. In the sixties, a psychologist named Stanley Milgram asked himself, “Can we hold Nazi soldiers accountable in the death camps, or were they just following orders?” He wanted to know if just anybody could have executed millions of Jews were they acting on orders. I’d read up on the experiment more, but in summary the subjects were asked to give progressively more intense shocks to a “student” whenever they answered quiz questions incorrectly. By the end 65% of the subjects ended up administering fatal shocks—that, at the time, they believed to be quite real. And why? Because the researchers themselves would be responsible for the deaths. Though subjects were visibly uncomfortable with the idea, they would go all the way. I think Tony could, too.

Granted, this was an unethical experiment and thus not subject to follow-up experiments. We can’t use this to make blanket statements about humanity, it isn’t definitive proof. But still. Over half the subjects administered fatal shocks, reassured by their lack of responsibility.

The Accords are those assurances. It is the UN that holds responsibility. Tony, poor guilty Tony, stops being accountable for his actions. I think that would mean a lot to him even if it only eased some of his burden. An unforeseen consequence of the Accords such as this one kept me on Cap’s side of the line. Cap acknowledges that the death is bad, it hurts, but too much distance from it would make their work impersonal. Death would mean less. I don’t accept that.


Dehumanization of Supers

Cap points out that politicians have agendas. Duh, that is the point of politicians. But he has a point in that agendas, not people, make decisions—which continues along the thread of impersonal decision making. The movie grounds that idea when we juxtapose how Cap and Vision (Team Iron Man) approach Wanda.

Wanda is responsible for death. People are afraid of her for that reason. When Vision approaches Wanda, he tries to distract her from that fact. He tries to encourage and nurture her, lighten it up, for as long as possible. He imprisons her because she isn’t human enough for anyone but a non-human. I mean, he’s an android informed by his time spent as J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony’s AI. He’s practically a walking agenda.

And, as the end of that scene reveals, Vision’s comfort is indeed superficial.

Cap approaches Wanda and he acknowledges the darkness. He approaches as a human man, a fellow sinner. He has killed. He has his regrets, his shame. But as bad as things are, he doesn’t leave room to think she is any better or worse than the rest of them. If Wanda is a monster, then Cap is too. Cap can’t solve Wanda’s problems but he can acknowledge them and stand with her as they unfold to their conclusion.

Vision acted like Wanda’s actions alienated her from the rest of the world. He wanted to comfort her because she was separate. Cap sat with her because her actions joined her to the world. He’d been making hard decisions since the forties. The only way they can handle it is, of course, together.

Do I oppose Tony because he rubs me the wrong way? Yeah, yeah. And am I ignoring some of the many benefits to be reaped by such legislation? That too. But in the end, the Accords don’t really promise anything more than a new hierarchy of responsibility. Freedom from guilt.

I stand with Steve because his freedom represents a recognition of the individual. It represents the personal side of the decisions we make. It represents people—the ones who live and the ones who die. It’s dirty. I still like it better than the alternative.

Have you seen Captain America: Civil War yet?


  1. I really want to see this movie! I just watched "The Winter Soldier" last week, so I haven't quite gotten around to it yet. You raise some good points about removing guilt by having someone else give the order. Good post!

    1. Ooh, yes, I like that one too. Thanks for reading, Rachel!

  2. *pulls out hair* I still do not know whose side I'm on. Team Spider-Man probably. It's just that both sides make so much sense for me. The Avengers can't just keep running loose because look what happens if they do! Tony creates Ultron and lots of stuff blows up. SHIELD messed with the Tesseract and we get the whole 1st Avengers movie (yeah, it was Loki's fault but SHIELD messing with the thing probably didn't help (which can't be proven but yeah)) and the whole mess with Wanda at the beginning of the film. So Iron Man has a point. If you're not answering to anyone then your moral compass can slide and there'll be no one there to tell you that that's enough. And Cap does lose his head a little where Bucky is involved. People died because of that. (Although they evacuated the airport, which was amazing. Usually it's just like yeah, let's fight to the death and ignore the innocent civilians! What could go wrong?)

    But Cap's argument makes so much sense too. If you're being controlled by people with agendas, especially political agendas, that's no good either. Giving one group of people control over so much power is not a good plan. Iron Man has the capability to level cities, just on his own. And then the whole thing with shifting the blame, which you so amazingly pointed out above. (*claps for your brilliance*)

    So I'm going to sit here and cheer for both of them, because they're both doing what they believe is right not just for themselves but for the world at large. They're both trying to protect as many people as they can, but they're just going at it from two different ways and that's what I loved so much about this movie. They were still heroes at the end of the day, maybe just on different sides of the airport.

    1. I do appreciate that Spiderman actually looks like a child-like person in the movie!

      Well, the way that you frame it, what we really need is someone to keep Iron Man in check. XD And, to be honest, I feel like the world would be better off if Tony just donated his inventions to the world and did not be a superhero.

      At the same time, I do recognize that Cap is fighting with emotional and not necessarily logical motivations, too, but still, I appreciate his more.

      Indeed, different sides of the airport! And different understandings of how the world should be... Yeah...

  3. I really enjoyed the movie! I can definetly see your argument. I don't feel strongly either way, I'm more interested in seeing how the characters duke it out and explore the issue. I do have to say that I loved the ending of the movie!

    Great topic to discuss!

    1. That is true, part of the pleasure of these movies is not in the winner but in the problem itself! The ending was quite good, though. Most especially because TONY STANK!

  4. YES 100% YES. This is mostly why I am Team Cap: because I don't think the Accords are actually going to solve the biggest problems; for the most part, they're just going to shift blame to the UN. Simultaneously, I do think Cap could've worked with Iron Man and the politicians better and, like you said, there might be some benefits to having the Accords in place, but still. Team Cap all the way.


    1. Yes. It does make me feel very uncomfortable putting the UN in charge, too, because they're committed to peace and then they kind of take charge of a mini-terrorist group, which shouldn't be how it works, I think.

      But still. TEAM CAP! *hives*


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