Captain America and the Moral Argument

by Joel Furches

The Marvel Movie franchise is arguably the most epic enterprise in movie history. The series has a number of stand-out characters, however, two stand out more than the others. In fact, their differences stand in such firm relief so as to culminate in a film where they were driven toe-to-toe whilst still harboring a slight underlying sense of respect for one to another.

These characters are, of course, Iron Man and Captain America.

When an actor takes the stage, the first question the thespian asks is “what’s my motivation”? The actor seeks to find the one underlying quest that drives all of his or her emotions and actions. In the Marvel universe, most of the characters are driven by the usual things: Thor is driven by his loyalty to kingdom, family and friends – as is Black Panther. Spider-man is driven by a sense of responsibility undergirded by guilt – as is Hulk. Hawkeye and Widow are driven by duty.

However, in every good piece of fiction, one finds three specific characters – archetypes first outlined by Freud. These three include one character driven largely by self-interests and desire and one driven largely by dedication to principle and self-control. These two are usually at one-another’s throats as they represent entirely opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. The third character serves to balance the other two, to keep them from fighting and destroying one another. In any given piece of fiction, one typically finds these three.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Id – the self interest – is represented by the narcissistic Tony Stark (Iron Man), whose actions are largely motivated by his own ego and interest in self-glorification. The Super-ego – the character devoted to larger principles – is filled by the super soldier: Steve Rogers (Captain America)…


Captain America and the Moral Argument