“On Your Left”: The Legacy of Captain America

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Guhan Karthik, Staff Writer

For fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the big screen, the magical spells of WandaVision left viewers with innumerable questions and speculations for the future of this beloved superhero film studio. While fans were on the edge of their seats, Marvel dropped yet another TV show on Disney Plus — The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. This time, however, the characters weren’t presented with supernatural magical powers — the six-episode series assumes a more true-to-life story.

The series mainly follows the Falcon, a.k.a Sam Wilson, who is entrusted with the legacy of Captain America after his receival of the prestigious shield in Avengers: Endgame. Throughout the series, Falcon grapples with being a Black man in America while carrying the symbol of a nation that fails to correct institutional racism.

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As the superhero Falcon, Wilson uses mechanical wings to fly and has limited telepathic control over birds.

The injustices the show considers range from acts of police harassment to disproportionate poverty in African American neighborhoods. However, the concept of institutional racism is most masterfully demonstrated through the character of Isaiah Bradley, who serves as Falcon’s role model of a Black American hero. Bradley was a super-soldier, like Steve Rogers (Captain America), but was rewarded for his heroism during war with torture, becoming a guinea pig for government experiments, with his legacy being erased by the government.

The story reminds viewers of the prevalent issues that plague America in regards to race, such as the United State’s dark history of oppression and repression (Isaiah Bradley’s torture), and America’s desire for a “traditional” white hero (John Walker). These factors lead Wilson to have qualms about taking up the mantle of Captain America — is it worth being a champion of a nation that cannot acknowledge its own systemic racism? Is it different today? Will he even be accepted as a Black Captain America?

isaiah bradley
The Falcon and the Soldier introduced Marvel character Isaiah Bradley, the Black Captain America.

This frustrating reality is especially true today. Just as Black people today endure harsher treatment by police, courts, and the government, black characters in the series endure hardships and punishments for the same actions that “blue eyes, blond hair” characters such as U.S Agent John Walker are praised for. Bradley rescued prisoners of war from enemy lines, and is rewarded with torture; John Walker kills a man in broad daylight and walks free.

The road of Marvel has expanded to include more than fantastical spider-people and Norse gods. Their heroes are clearing real-world hurdles. Not only are such stories more realistic, but, in the words of the Falcon — now the new Captain America — they encourage us to “Do Better.”