So, the trailer for Captain America: The Winter Soldier is available online.
There’s a moment, at the 1:27 mark. In an elevator, Steve is surrounded by men who he understands are about to attack him. (I don’t know who they are or what’s going on in the scene, obviously, until I see the movie.) I’ve seen the end of that scene giffed on Tumblr quite a bit. There’s a fight, Steve wins, he kicks his shield up into his grip, it’s all very badass.
But that’s not the part that matters to me. The part that matters to me is at the 1:27 mark. Steve says, quietly, to the assembled men, “does anyone want to get out?”
It’s a simple question, but it reaches towards what I feel to be the entire purpose and heart of Steve Rogers.
Steve Rogers is not a naive man. He knows that the people in the elevator are going to try to hurt him. He is, rather, an idealist. In all the time we have seen him on the screen, Steve Rogers believes that you — yes, you — have it within yourself to be a better person.
It’s not that he does not understand evil. It is that he understands evil very well. As Deidre Sullivan said in her 2005 essay for “This I Believe,” In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing. Steve Rogers knows that while you get your occasional lunatic Red Skull or Loki, most evil is done by people like those in the elevator with him. Human beings who have decided to take the path of less effort, less conflict. People who are slumping into a comfortable, thoughtless middle instead of reaching for a height. Evil is done by those who do … nothing.
But Steve Rogers is an idealist. He believes, every single time that he encounters ordinary human beings muddling along, that we can be better. That we can overcome our worst selves. That we can do good rather than do nothing. Steve believes it of us. And, time and again, he asks those around him to join him in being a better, more decent, human being.
So he gives them a last chance. There, in the elevator, he already knows how this will go down. He’s already a little bit disgusted with the agents surrounding him. But he has to give them a chance. He has to. Because this time, someone might take him up on it. Someone might stand up a little straighter, meet his eyes, and say, “yes, fine, because you asked. I’ll try.”
The reason Steve is a leader is not that he’s a tactical genius. (In the movie-verse his tactics are sort of middle ground.) And it’s not because he’s got superpowers. Steve is a leader because in his heart he truly, truly believes that you will not let him down. Because he nods your way, holds your gaze, and tells you that he has confidence that you have his back. Because he inspires, because he leads. Because he has faith is those around him.
“Does anyone want to get out?”
That’s the moment for me. That’s the story I want to hear. That’s why I will see this movie.
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