Saturday, October 15, 2016

Imperfect Heroes

So I watched Captain America: Civil War a couple weeks ago. I’d been looking forward to that day for months. I’m Team Cap, but I wanted to see how the rift between Steve and Tony would be handled. I wanted to see what sparked it and how it would end.

Boy, did I get slammed by the emotionally-charged explosion I witnessed.

But I honestly loved it. I loved seeing the interactions, the conflict. I liked seeing Steve’s loyalty, and I appreciated that Tony’s PTSD showed, and how it influenced his decisions. I liked that both characters stayed true to their personalities, and how that made the situation so raw with emotion.

I’m not here to argue which side is 100% in the right in that situation. After watching Civil War, I think both sides made mistakes. Steve was incredibly loyal to Bucky and disagreed over the Sokovia Accords because of a government council essentially becoming their handlers, but because of Bucky his judgment may have been clouded, and he was unwilling to meet halfway with the Accords (at first he was, but then he shut down and refused any negotiations). Tony may have had the right idea about the Sokovia Accords, in that the Avengers needed some form of accountability. But giving over the authority to a council may just cause more divides during a time of conflict with outside forces. However, a few boundaries or rules would be good for the Avengers. It couldn’t hurt to make a rule that they try to draw the threat away from populated areas, or at the very least stick around at the end of a fight and help clean up or look for survivors.

While these thoughts fascinate me, it was the thought of how much damage that was done that inspired this post. Captain America and Iron Man are the icons of the Avengers. They’re probably the chiefs of the operation. But even these huge heroes are flawed. They’re just as human as anybody else. They both made mistakes, and those mistakes cost them their friendship. They tore apart the Avengers just as it was getting started. Steve probably stirred up the fight, but Tony had his part in it too. They butted heads and it sparked a war, and at the end, I don’t think anybody truly won. Not really.

This post kind of comes in two parts, because I think they’re connected, but the connection is in two different areas. Part one focuses on the mistakes heroes can’t come back from, and part two focuses on the forgiveness offered for those mistakes.

Every hero has their shortcomings. Heroes shouldn’t be perfect. They need flaws, weaknesses. Little chinks in their superhero armor that makes them vulnerable and allows for mistakes. And, sometimes, heroes should make mistakes they can’t fix.

Steve and Tony’s conflict took them over the line, very possibly to a point of no return. At the end, I didn’t see how things could be patched between them. Maybe it can’t. Tony is a broken man, having seen things – experienced things – no man should and wants to make a move toward making things right. Steve is desperate to hold on to what he loves – freedom (from the Accords) and Bucky – as people threaten to rip it all away. They caused a lot of damage in their wake, and that much hurt and betrayal can’t be fixed easily. And sometimes that’s okay. It makes their hero role deeper, perhaps a little more thought-provoking. Maybe it teaches them a lesson. It probably did with Steve and Tony. Flaws like this make heroes even more human and real.

But what makes this complexity even better is when you throw in a dash of forgiveness. Shifting the focus to Bucky Barnes, who is essentially the focus of the conflict in Civil War, we see a character who made a ton of mistakes. He’s done things that’s hurt people and killed many others. While he didn’t have a choice, he remembers it all. There’s a line in the film where Steve tries to reassure Bucky that he (Bucky) wasn’t himself when he did those things. And Bucky responds with “I know. But I did it.”

I found those four words unexpected when I first heard them. I hadn’t quite expected that response. “But I did it.” He – as Bucky – feels the guilt strongly. Bucky was very aware of what the Winter Soldier mind was doing. He’s not sure if he’s even worth saving after all the damage he’s caused, even if he had little choice or say in the matter

But he’s offered forgiveness. Bucky’s made mistakes he can’t undo, same as Steve and Tony have done. Bucky’s character role isn’t necessarily a hero role, but it’s the same concept. His character is one that is very flawed, that crossed the line so far he’s not sure he can be helped. But the forgiveness is offered anyway. Someone thinks he is worth saving.

That kind of character arc is kind of amazing. Heroes who make mistakes and are offered forgiveness, even when they can’t fix what they’ve done, is a powerful character. When they’re offered redemption, it adds another layer to the complexity with their flaws. It’s human to make mistakes, and it’s human to forgive. Adding that kind of complexity into a character kind of makes them come alive. They can prompt readers (or viewers) to think.

I hope this all makes sense. I’ve wanted to share my thoughts on this, and it’s been kind of evolving slowly with more facets until now. XD But I think I’ve reached what I wanted to share, so there you go. :3

What are your thoughts? :D What do you like in heroes (or other characters) like this?

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