Nice Guys Might Finish Last, But Captain America Is Most Certainly Not Boring

By Cindy Davis | Think Pieces | April 10, 2014 | Comments ()


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* Warning: A few spoilers for Captain America: The Winter Soldier are contained herein.

A couple of days ago, Vulture ran a piece called Why Captain America Is Only Interesting If He’s a Prick, and it rubbed me the wrong way. At the same time, I sometimes look at myself and wonder who I am anymore, because back in the day it was always the bad boy who was interesting to me. But you know what? Captain America makes me swoon, and maybe it’s all Chris Evans’ eyes—and um, some other parts—but I don’t think so. I do believe there are enough self-involved movie superhero pricks running around to last us a lifetime; Captain America (and Falcon) is a breath of fresh air.

Look at The Avengers (as we’ve seen them on film): We’ve got Thor, who’s basically a decent guy, but his ego is big enough to overshadow the goodness; his own dad kicked him off Asgard because of it. He learns his lesson, but he’s still got a lot of swagger. There’s Hulk, who by his very nature has rage issues. It might not be his fault, but it’s the hat he wears. Loki’s a bad boy, Black Widow’s a bad girl, and Stark … Stark has the prick market cornered. (Let’s face it, RDJ hasn’t been humble for a long time, but I’m also starting to wonder if he’s been GOOPed.) Hawkeye—what little we’ve seen of him on film—it’s hard to tell much. And frankly, he is a little boring, but that may be the lack of screen time and backstory. Well, will you lookie there, we have an opening for a nice guy or two. And no, you can’t count Superman, because he’s off in a whole other universe.

I find it refreshing to see Captain America as the honorable, stand-up, don’t-fight-unless-you-have-to kind of guy. He’s thoughtful, observant and contemplative; absolutely the guy you want next to you in the foxhole. He’s respectful toward men and women — I like that he treats Black Widow as an equal, fellow soldier — and he maintains regard for others as fellow humans, even those who challenge or oppose him (Batroc, Crossbones, Bucky, Fury). You can’t call this Captain boring; he has a sense of humor and doesn’t shy away from calling out what’s wrong, or doing what needs to be done — or has Black Widow do it, if it’s not the Cap’s style. The man took down S.H.I.E.L.D., Fury be damned. The thing that makes Captain America stand out among his peers is his inherent good-guy nature, just as part of what made The Winter Soldier stand out is the dialed-back scale of explosions, effects and outrageously superhuman stunts. Let Iron Man keep on with his (presumably kale-fueled) dick-swinging, his ever-advancing suits and mad technological accomplices and skills, let Hulk stand beside Thor and the two of them can smash everyone in their path, let Black Widow sneak about on her missions and sub-missions — canoodle with her archer-man if she likes — and let Captain America be the good guy he needs to be. I can assure you he isn’t boring at all.

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Cindy Davis, (Twitter) dallied with bad boys, but married the nice guy.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • OfCourseNot

    Only gay men and Olympic swimmers shave their chest. This is fact, not just opinion.
    Captain America must thereby be gay.

    Actually, it was a horrendous movie.
    (1) Who runs around with a shield anyway - just a ludicrous prop.
    (2) Way over the top 'America is great' nonsense.
    (3) Horrible over acting.

    The fact that many people love this movie speaks volumes about themselves and their indifference to quality acting. It's a sad day indeed when drivel like this movie catches the attention of the sheep.

  • Caroline Faircloth

    I don't care what anyone says, Captain America is and has always been my favorite superhero. He's is basically the only modern superhero who is not a total asshole. I think some people just don't know the difference between having a nice, sweet, good-natured personality and having no personality at all. He's just a nice guy who kicks ass and wants to do the right thing. In terms of modern superheros, I actually thinks he stands out the most which, to me at least, makes him the most interesting (and not boring in the slightest).

  • Nancy

    This was really great. As someone who has also dallied with bad boys and married a nice guy I really appreciate Cap. Nice guys don't always get the credit they deserve. Maybe I'm truly growing up, but I watched this movie and found the character to be appealing, sexy, and confident. Someone I'd like to know and also respected. A really refreshing change of pace.

    I think what Chris Evans has done with the role is kept him relatable, humble and egoless without being bland and one dimensional. Characters in fiction don't have to fall into "damaged and broken" or "perfect and righteous." Cap. has demons, but he never let's them take over. He's always trying keeping to his sense of right, wrong, and self.

    Thanks so much for calling it out.

  • cypher20

    Hear hear! We certainly have more then enough "bad boys" and girls around. Cap works exactly because he's "old-fashioned" as Coulson put it in the Avengers. He has some depth to him, he has some doubts, but overall he has a solid base he clings to. That's something more people could use, no doubt.

  • Marc Greene

    A great tiny example of that is how he pays his minor debt to Nick Fury after seeing the helicarrier in action. A little bet that Fury probably wrote off the moment he said it; but Cap is a man of his word. Little minor notes like that can mean so much when a script does what a good script should do: get us to care about the characters and understand who they are.

  • Cowtools

    Thanks for this! That Vulture article really got on my nerves. Fortunately the commenters there took the writer to task for it too.
    This kind of thinking that all superheroes should have the same personality is what lead them to try to apply the Nolan template to Superman, to disasterous effect

  • BettyNugs

    During Winter Solider I was distracted several times by the length of his eyelashes. Are they fake? Is it Maybelline?

  • Michelle

    I also noticed this!

  • John W

    Admit it, you only did this post so you could run pics of Evans shirtless.

    Hey I don't blame you...

  • Ben

    This is what comic fans have been saying about Captain America for ages when people were writing off his movie before it came out. He's a great character because he's a fundamentally nice humble guy.

  • misslucyjane

    For me, his characterization hangs on Erskine's line: "A weak man understands the value of strength, and knows compassion." Captain America is kind. You can't say that about a lot of superheros.

    Also, someone has done the math and Chris Evans's shoulder-to-hip ratio is only a few decimal places off the Golden Mean.

    (Why yes, I do only come out of lurking to talk about superheros.)

  • TK

    If you're gonna de-lurk, that's a fine reason to do so.

  • TacoBellRey

    With great Cap Ass comes great responsibility.

  • Julia Malin

    Very disappointed - missed opportunity for the Cap ass gif!!

  • Dove of Doom

    Perhaps the dumbest possible way to make a character more interesting is to make him just like a dozen other characters that are all around him. An idealist committed to doing the right thing is not boring in the sort of world the MCU has created, especially with such a three dimensional performance as Chris Evans is giving. There's darkness there, but it's beneath the surface because his Cap doesn't wallow in his pain or insist on drawing everybody's attention to it. He's a soldier, and he soldiers on, and he's pretty awesome doing it.

  • Protoguy

    My feelings exactly. You fight on without whining about the fight.

  • Lea Thrace

    All of that great writing and still no CapAss?

  • I actually have the gif, but I didn't want it to be all about the tushy...

  • Dennis Albert Ramirez

    "i don't want to kill anybody. i don't like bullies, i don't care where they're from."

    that line from the first movie finally sold me on Cap. i am all about deconstruction and anti-heroes and all that, but yeah, Chris Evans and the writers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have totally sold me on a traditional hero.

  • Nice guys don't finish last; "nice guys" do, and that's just the universe sorting things into proper order.

    The thing about Cap is that he's genuine. When he says "and I always tell the truth." you can believe it. He is also funny, compassionate, dedicated...and lonely. That last bit reminds us that he's actually human, however enhanced. Not only that, but he is dedicated to reminding other people that they, too, are human and should value human dignity and preference forgiveness, providing they didn't intentionally chuck that out the window in favor of fascism. Because if folks are trying to kill you, it's okay to try to kill them back - or at least stop them from killing you.

    There is nothing remotely boring about Cap. He's the truest sort of hero: he's the one we could be.

  • TK

    The loneliness is a great point. There is always a sense of loss and confusion surrounding him that makes him appealing. There's a great little moment in The Ultimates where he comes home and finds that his apartment has been robbed and trashed, and someone (Black Widow, I think?) asks him why he lives that such a shitty neighborhood. And it's because it's the neighborhood he grew up in, 70 years ago, and he's just desperate for some sense of familiarity. It's such a terrific way of conveying that feeling.

  • Marc Greene

    I remember that! It was the Wasp that was with him and the vandals broke his record collection. :-(

  • Michelle

    Sigh. Thank you. I've been reading Captain America comics for the last uh... 20 years, maybe? (I'm old. Yuck.) And this has always been the thing - sure, he comes across as boring sometimes because he MOSTLY does the right thing, but that's just who he is, why he did what he did to be able to fight in the war 70+ years ago, and he hasn't let the way the world has change, change him.

    Although, a note to people that complain about him being too perfect in the movies - in some of the comic books he's decidedly not. In some of the Ultimates run he's actually kind of a bully.

  • He has plenty of moments in the movies where he is petty, quick to anger, stubborn, distrustful, and sure he's right without having all the facts. The thing that makes him seem "perfect" is that he's willing to check himself and try to make up for it when he slips. I haven't read the comics in ages, so I'm less familiar with those character arcs. But I don't think the movies make him so shiny he blinds us to his faults.

  • Michelle

    I honestly don't either, but I think in comparison to other characters, he just kind of reads that way. I've seen a lot of nonsense on Facebook about how Cap don't do wrong, etc., etc., and I think it's just that we're so accustomed to seeing these anti-heroes, as someone else mentioned, that an actual decent human being like Steve Rogers is dismissed as too bland or what have you.

  • AmbroseKalifornia

    I...I think I love you.

  • TK

    Captain America is just a really good guy who loves his country, but loves doing the right thing more, and has the power to do something about that. It's the simplest and best form of superheroism.

    But Evans (and the films' writers) has also done a good job of making him more than just the boy scout, and making him sympathetic and interesting and fun. He's becoming one of my favorites out of the cinematic universe.

  • Laura

    Mmmmmm.... Captain America......

  • Cap is my favorite of the Avengers - I remember being puzzled that many people rank his first film low. I think he's got a great story - he's someone who has been given a gift that has tapped into his potential, and he chose to become a hero. I love that he's honorable and noble and very human.

  • luthien26

    Thank you for this article! This is exactly why I love Cap so much. I will admit I never really took interest in him in the comics, but Chris Evans has made him a good guy with a heart of gold that is impossible not to root for.

    I think in this case it's because he appeals to our better nature, and that IS refreshing, especially now. Superman's always seemed so detached, but Cap feels like one of us - a normal guy who got an amazing chance because of his goodness, and made the most of it. I love that he stands up for what's right when others are afraid to do so. Evans gives Cap just enough humor and a little of a wry wit so he doesn't seem completely unrealistic, but I think deep down, all of us wants to know one person like that - even if it's only in the movies.

    Also, CapAss. :)

  • savagecats

    I find the modern rash of anti-heroes so bloody exhausting. I'm not even really talking about characters like Batman. I'm talking about characters like Brendan Gleeson's character in The Guard.

    Oooh, he's edgy because he's racist and sexist and kind of a dick. He's a throwback and he's still a good cop or whatever because his gut is never wrong and he cuts through all the modern, PC bullshit and says what everyone was thinking.

    Well, fuck you, because I was thinking that you needn't be an asshole to be good at your job. You can have principles and not treat every passing woman or minority like they are less than you because you happen to have a Caucasian dick.

    And Cap is that guy. He's a take no prisoners, acrobatic wrecking ball that beats people to a bloody pulp, but still manages to treat everyone around him (with a speaking role, anyway) with respect.

  • WestCoastPat

    Clarifying that I am upvoting due to agreement with the general sentiment, although I quite enjoyed Gleeson in The Guard.

    If we're going to take shots at the current rash of anti-heroes, I think we'd do better to focus on TV (Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White, etc.).

  • savagecats

    I'm not criticizing the performance at all. He was just a convenient example.

    You make a really good point by bringing up Don Draper. Because I feel like a lot of these movies/shows pretend that they can hide behind, "But it's historical!" Maybe so, doesn't mean it's enjoyable to watch, necessarily.

  • Ryan Ambrose

    I have not seen The Winter Soldier yet but based on The First Avenger, one of my favourite films regardless of genre, I would say Chris Evans' portrayal of Captain America is one of the most heartfelt and candid performances I've ever seen since Ron Perlman as Hellboy or Christopher Reeve as Superman.

    He embodies nobility and inspires goodness, he is earnest to the core and that comes across as sincere, his moral fortitude is unshakeable but not because he is a relic of simpler times, even when he might appear naive at first. Evans plays him brilliantly with captivating serenity and nuance, and pulls it off marvelously.

    I know Tony Stark, Loki and Thor get all the accolades and tumblr fangirls but, personally, Captain America is my favourite Marvel Cinematic Universe character and the perfect incarnation of "Superman" as a man who changes the world but isn't changed by it. And I say this as someone who has never read a single comic book story about Cap apart from the atrocious dark and gritty™ The Ultimates.

  • Guest

    And his times weren't so simple, either. Those years, WWII included, were full of terrible suffering and dark times for everybody, Allies and Axis. As is mentioned in the movie-the "Greatest Generation" did some hard things as well, and Cap doesn't shy away from that fact.

  • foolsage

    I genuinely think Evan's performance in CA:TWS is his best film role to date. I'll avoid spoilers and just urge you to see the movie, essentially for reasons you already posted. :)

  • A. Smith

    I wholeheartedly agree. I think after Avengers the Captain America movies are among my most favorite. Not because of spectacle but because his character even in a world he very well knows is crooked is still willing to do the right thing regardless of the consequences. You really can't help but admire that.

  • idiosynchronic

    I recommend most readers look at the J. M. DeMatteis & Mark Gruenwald issues (from #298, 1984, and onward). The Cap you love now was more or less created in those pages.

  • logan

    For me Cap is cool because he comes from WWII. He fought the greatest evil the world has ever known and won. He didn't start out fighting made up guys in red longjohns he fought NAZI's. Real supervillians.

    I always thought Cap figured that after Hitler everyone else no matter their power was just a wannabe. To me he was a man and all the other Marvel heroes were boys.

  • Caroline Faircloth

    THANK YOU! Part of the reason he's my favorite superhero ever. He fights freaking nazis. I agree with you 100% percent.

  • Sassy Pikachu

    I was going to say something witty/insightful in response to this article and then you go and attach those pictures. And now I have feelings... lady feelings.

    Going to go throw some life jackets on my lions.

  • BobbFrapples

    I like the wholesomeness. It's one of the biggest non-CGI effects in the movie.

  • AngelenoEwok

    I loved reading this. I was just opining to a friend yesterday (and this has been a complaint of mine for a while) that I really do yearn for more inspiring and uplifting fictional characters in my media intake. I feel like we've had antiheros coming out of our ears recently. I encounter enough pricks in real life, thanks.
    If you are curious about Hawkeye, I can't recommend the recent Hawkeye comics (by Matt Fraction) highly enough. I can assure you he won't be boring after that read.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    I will totally look for those! Since I have to go anyway to get the Deadpool gets married (!?!??!)

  • TK

    Oh Jesus, yes. Those Hawkeye comics are terrific. The two collected editions - 'My Life As A Weapon' and 'Little Hits' are an absolutely amazing and often hilarious run of comics.

  • Michelle

    PIZZA DOG. Goddamn brilliant.

  • TK

    Also, this:

  • Sassy Pikachu

    I recall Jeremy Renner mentioned in an interview that originally they had planned a back story for Hawkeye but after the change in director they were thrown out of the window. He was a bit disappointed in that regard, though he still loved the movie.

  • Bryan

    Well said. Cap is perfect the way he is.

  • I like that he's not a brooding, emo or dark character. That his desire to do good is from an innate desire to do good -- not from a mountain of repressed rage or guilt or desperate attempt to make right a mistake.

    He's gone from being the norm to being the exception.

  • profession: none, or starlet

    Ha, so true. I love a good brood, when done right - RDJ blew me away in the first Iron Man - but a brood is tricky to get right, and it's done so often now that a straightforward, open and optimistic character feels like a breath of fresh air.

  • Wednesday

    I've been trying to figure out why I really like Captain America when I don't really care for Superman. I mean, they're both super-charged Boy Scouts, but I haven't the slightest interest in Superman's story but will plonk down my $12 happily for Cap.

  • VohaulsRevenge

    I was never a Captain America film until the films; I have nothing but praise for Evans' performance. Speaking of Superman, his vibe reminds me a lot of Reeves' interpretation of the Man of Steel (well, for the first two movies anyway), albeit with a sharper wit and a little more humility.

  • Cowtools

    I think the difference between Cap 2 and Man Of Steel is clear:
    THE. WRITING. MATTERS.

    DC took the original, most recognisable superhero and made a dreary, compromised bummer of a film.
    Marvel took a b-list, half-a-joke superhero and made a terrific, watertight, intelligent adventure film.
    The difference: The script.

  • You and me both! I like Marc's reasoning below.

  • Superman is an alien being. Akin to a god in many aspects. Besides kryptonite, he's nigh indestructible.

    Cap is a human being. He can be hurt. He can be killed. He's stronger, faster, quicker than most humans and can heal up faster, but he can be knocked out and beaten.

  • Marc Greene

    That is a great point. (At least with MoS) Superman follows a "destiny", while Cap is shown to make the CHOICE to be a better man because he knows what it was like to be the little guy. At his core what we've learned through the movies is he is just a kid from Brooklyn who doesn't like bullies. His courage isn't based on his powers, duty, or destiny, because he had that same courage to do what was right BEFORE he got his powers. Superman never had that option or if he did it wasn't very well illustrated through MoS or any canon I'm aware of. Supes learned not to be a prick through Kansas Farm Values, but the struggle for the character tends to be to not give in to base human desires while Cap knows his human limitations and still does what is right. I know of several instances in the comics, and even in the Avengers movie vs Loki, where Cap was completely outmatched power wise but still never gave up; Superman VERY rarely has to deal with the threat of being completely outmatched. Cap is a Boy Scout (choice) while Supes is space jesus (innate goodness).

  • Ben

    That and the captain america movies are just better then Superman movies have been in like... decades.

  • Very well said.

    Like you said, Cap sees himself as just "a kid from Brooklyn." There is no ego about his talents and powers.

  • Batesian

    Yup. That's exactly it for me.
    (And why, overall, I'm a Marvel zombie and not a DC fanboy.)

  • BlackRabbit

    And he's honest about what he does, that he has killed and gone to war. He doesn't go looking for trouble or a fight. He does what he has to do, but he doesn't enjoy it. That's not to say that Superman does, but he hasn't had the firsthand experience of the troubles of war before he became a hero.

  • Laura

    I think that's why I liked the first movie so much - Cap was doing the right thing LONG before he had the, ummmm, muscles to back it up.

  • JJ

    We did rebuild him. We had the technology.

  • TheOriginalMRod

    Nothing about Captain America is boring. Not the front side... and especially not the backside.

  • profession: none, or starlet

    I KNOW! I came here solely to say, "Wot no Cap Ass?"

  • Ozioma

    They should rename the song to The Star Spangled Beefcake.

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