12/30/2013

Captain America (Chris Evans) swinging after HYDRA;
Captain America: The First Avenger
With the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I'm reminded of something that puzzled me in the first movie. I loved First Avenger, but I wondered why Cap fought HYDRA soldiers instead of Nazis. Captain America has always been tied deeply with the Nazis. His first issue's cover featured Captain America punching out Adolf Hitler. His greatest enemy is the Red Skull, a former Nazi. As for HYDRA, in the comics, it didn't exist in World War II. So why the switch? It turns out the answer is complicated, and has a lot to do with marketing.

1. It's 2013, not 1944 - When Captain America was created and fought Nazis, he was responding to the very real threat people faced every day. There was a sense of catharsis to reading about Nazis rampaging across the world in the newspaper, and reading good old Cap beating them in the comics. While the real Nazis conquered nations and won, they always lost in the comics. When the War ended, the Nazis officially became the losers, and that took away the need to have him fighting Nazi strawmen.

2. Nazis Work in The Comics - The Nazis continued to be a useful villain in the comics because EVIL, but the comics are a different world. In the comics, drug dealers, child molesters, and rapists can be supervillains, but mainstream audiences would consider them in poor taste. Same thing with the Nazis. HYDRA is a neutral supervillain group with no preconceived notions.

3. Captain America is a Kid's Movie - As much as we grown ups love Captain America, the reality is that Captain America: The First Avengers was meant for kids. Including the Nazis would open up a can of worms that make it less kid friendly. HYDRA is a much better organization that feels more like stereotypical supervillains than a political group dedicated to genocide.

4. The Nazis Are Real - The biggest problem is that Nazis are a real world villain instead of a fictional villain. Having Nazis in movies would make it harder to market the movie in some parts of Europe. It's easy for Americans to demonize the Nazis as some sort of cartoonish villains, because the Nazis never landed on our shores. Other countries feel differently. They had firsthand experience with the Nazis, and the effects of WWII resonate in their lives even today. Particularly in Germany, it would be hard to portray Nazis in a lighthearted movie intended for children. There are even neo-Nazis who continue the reign of terror into our day. Having a fictional villain like HYDRA gets rid of the baggage.

5. Wal-Mart Doesn't Want Nazis - It's hard to sell toys with swastikas on them. Some parents' groups might balk at having their kids playing with Nazis, even if they were the bad guys. Someone would inevitably claim the toy company was secretly trying to promote the Nazi agenda...that's just the way things are these days. In a world where people claim Starbucks' logo is promoting pagan worship, having a Nazi soldier on toy shelves at Wal-Mart is a lawsuit waiting to happen. On a global scale, it's illegal to sell children's toys with a swastika logo in Germany, Russia, and some other countries. By taking out Nazis, you're able to sell more toys to more people.

6. The Nazis Are Gone (Mostly) - While the Nazis made for a very real and powerful danger in the forties, they're no longer a real threat. Their terror ended in the forties. We knew Captain America had to be carried to modern day (if only so he can appear in The Avengers), so that would have left Cap without his greatest enemy to fight. But the good thing about HYDRA is that they're still alive and well in our time, according to the comics. By changing the villain to HYDRA, that sets up Captain America fighting HYDRA in modern day for future movies. And that means mo' money.

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Do you think they did the right thing? Should Captain America fight HYDRA or Hitler?

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11 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Scary that the Nazi movement is still out there.
It's like watching the original Red Dawn. Russia isn't a threat anymore, so it loses its effectiveness.

Rusty Carl said...

I haven't really thought about it before, but you're certainly right about these. I always liked the idea that the Captain America can't be fighting Hitler in the 21st century either. The Red Skull though, he can.

Tony Laplume said...

I'd argue that plenty of people are still concerned about Russia. Just not in the way they were during the Cold War. (Thank god!)

Guest said...

its #5. nazi toys= not a huge $$$ idea.

also putting hydra in there allows them to create the villain to be any type of threat they want.

methos84 said...

There are ways around #5 on that list. Captain America could've featured Nazi antagonists and still sell toys at Walmart. When the last Indiana Jones film came out, Walmart was selling action figures from all four films including Nazi soldiers. However they were labeled as "German Soldier" and didn't include the swastika.

jrice73 said...

All those reasons above and why the Nazis were never in the film is a fucking cop out. Oh, we did see a Nazi German officer or two visit Red Skull in his hideout during the film but by basically trying to PC it up, they really made the whole idea of what World War II was about and why the US and the Allies fought Nazi Germany to begin with a moot point. And that honestly leaves a sour taste in my mouth because its shameful. The Nazis were real and what they did was evil and the Nazis and their movement is still alive today in Europe and elsewhere. In the comics, Red Skull was and still is a Nazi. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby did not have a problem with this and they created him and they were both Jews. Its Disney who had a problem with Nazis in the Captain America film because of their politically correct denial that in their version of WWII, the Nazis did not exist. That's disgusting and it shits all over the American and Allied soldiers who fought and died to stop Hitler and the Nazis in the first place. And it does pretty much the same thing to all the innocents who died by Nazi hands including the six million Jews in the Shoah. Disney was trying to sanitize history with the Captain America film to sell more tickets in countries where the word Nazi has all but been forbidden to say or wiped out of the history books (Germany, Russia, Eastern Europe). Strange, that in those countries right now, the Nazi movement is alive and well and just as racist, anti-Semitic, and evil as ever.

Kris Kail said...

The Nazi movement is about as prevalent as the Brony community. It exists, yeah, but it isn't a real threat to the world at large. The biggest news to come out of the white supremacist community since WWII was the announcement that some Neo Nazi was planning to buy every piece of property in a small town in North Dakota and make the town exclusively white and not allow non-whites in it or something like that.

Kris Kail said...

I'm pretty astonished at how blatantly wrong a lot of your points are. Firstly, Disney didn't sanitize history to sell the movie to foreign markets, in fact Disney had nothing to do with the movie. Paramount was still distributing at that time and Marvel were the ones calling the shots, even today Disney has next to no control over what Marvel does (in reality they DO, but they voluntarily choose to stay out of Marvel's hair). Second, German law allows the use of Nazi imagery in film, but it's illegal to show Nazi imagery in public. I.E. Inglourious Basterds, the movie was released in Germany uncut, but all references to Nazis were removed from the marketing materials. Third, Marvel Studios didn't try to re-write history at all, they basically established a story where HYDRA establishes itself as a rogue sect of the greater Nazi army who double-cross Hitler in an attempt for the Red Skull to take over the world. The movie still acknowledges that World War II is a battle between the Axis of Evil and the Allied Forces. It doesn't try to say that the Nazis didn't exist at all, but rather that this fight isn't with them.


The big thing is, it could be seen as offensive or disrespectful to make light of World War II by showing a costumed superhero fighting real life villains. Imagine going to Iraq and seeing your friends getting killed only to come home to seeing kids running around acting like Call of Duty is the coolest thing in the world because they get to "shoot people n stuff". It can be seen as offensive.

My big issue with Captain America was the fact that they actually worked to hide all the swastikas that were in the movie, specifically in the scene you mentioned with the Nazi officers visiting the Red Skull.

DidntPullOutInTimeCop said...

Great post! I did miss them (!) in the movie and it made me think about how great Raiders and Last Crusade handled them. But this actually makes me feel they made the right choice!

Imaad Shahrukh said...

You blithering idiot. A kid's movie. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is adult oriented.

rosie1843 said...

Oh my God, people! Captain America and the SSR only knew that HYDRA was the Nazi's science division. They didn't know that Johann Schmidt, head of HYDRA, had decided to cut his ties to Hitler and the Nazis and commence upon his own plans for world conquest. He didn't care for the way Hitler had him shuffled out of sight, because of his "red skull" appearance.

Was anyone paying attention?

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