Falcon and Winter Soldier is Marvel’s method to go beyond its superhero storyline into a social commentary on Racism but is it able to achieve what it wants?
Falcon and Winter Soldier makes the ever-palpable issue of racism visible to us. However, the first episode too carried it in a subtle manner. But can we expect that the show will further prove to be a strong message against racism? Let’s find out.
Watch: Falcon and Winter soldier: Racial Commentary by MCU
Sam and Rhodey – Man to Man
When Sam and Rhodey meet at the Smithsonian on the occasion of honouring Steve Rogers’ legacy, Rhodey asks the question that we all have in our minds: Why didn’t Sam take up the mantle? But more than what he asks him, it is how he does it that carries the topic of our discussion. Before asking the question, Rhodey pulls Sam away from the crowd, a “diverse” one at that, so that they can speak one-to-one: not as two superheroes but two Black men being frank and open-hearted.
Sam, His Sister Sarah, and the Bank Loan
Falcon and Winter Soldier also points out details of Sam’s personal life. This is evident when we see his sister Sarah who is struggling to make her ends meet with her two sons back in their Louisiana home. Although she is overjoyed at her brother’s return, the sudden societal shifts caused by the Blip have only added to the challenges that Black people and other minorities in America experience. Furthermore, the sudden return of the billions has brought in waves of economic issues that will take a lot of time to settle.
Isaiah Bradley- The Black Captain America
The introduction of Isaiah Bradley is perhaps the biggest commentary on racism on MCU’s part, albeit incomplete. Isaiah Bradley was the first [Black] captain America. Among the 300 experimented upon by the US government to regain the super-serum, which Captain Steve Rogers took into the ice with him, only he survived. All the others either died or were killed along with their family and friends to cover it all up. However, on return from his missions as Captain America, he was framed and sent to prison for 30 years.
Sam’s Inner Struggles
After the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War, it’s tough to believe that Sam put so much blind faith in the military’s decision to hand over the shield to John Walker. Did MCU deliberately overlook all those times Sam literally fought by Steve’s side? After all, Steve had turned his back on the government for the sake of what was right. Well, seems that way.
The amount of self-doubt that Falcon and Winter Soldier puts in Sam goes over the top and is greater than the other depictions of the character in the MCU. For a show that aims to headline Black superheroes, the fact that Sam’s [almost] naive response to racism in the Super Soldier Serum program is something that should not be so at all.
A Red, White & Black Past
We first saw the Black Captain America in the 2003 mini-series Truth: Red, White & Black. The series was inspired by the real-life Tuskegee experiments (of 1932, early days of the Depression). In it, the federal government lied to Black males infected with syphilis about their infected nature. They do this in order to observe the effects of the infection on the human body.
Truth: Red, White & Black showed that Captain America was completely different from the country he represents. And that his blueprint a history of systematic barbarism and oppression.
The miniseries received a lot of public vitriol from fanboys to right-wing journalists and other racist folks who did not at all like the idea of a Black guy in Cap’s uniform. This was to the extent that the collected trade paperback went out of print. However, many fans wanted MCU to incorporate Isaiah’s story. But where the comic dug deep into the horrors of Isaiah’s past and that of the government, Falcon and Winter Soldier merely drops the character unceremoniously, that too, just to show how much Sam is unaware of about the world.
A Superhero’s ID
What further adds to the uninspired nature of MCU’s commentary on racism is the way the police confront Sam and Bucky in the second episode of Falcon and Winter Soldier. They ask Bucky if Sam is bothering him and ask Sam to show his ID. That the police arrested Bucky and not Sam might seem clever but is immature.
What remains is to see whether MCU does bring out the racial injustice the way it should or is it just trying to touch on a matter without getting involved in it.