What’s intimidating about this subjective term is how it opens up deep and insecure wounds. While there’s lots of talk around what’s expected of girls from the day they’re born (equally as outdated), for us guys it’s different. Instead, we’re often told to keep our feelings quiet, which contributes to the alarming statistic that 76% of people who commit suicide are men. In a lot of cases that number is the result of men not being in a position to talk without prejudice, or care about themselves; because why would we when we’ve been taught not to?
Marvel fatigue or not, here’s the part of this post where I want to briefly look at why Steve Rogers (Captain America) is important. Introduced pre-serum, his appearance depicts him as nothing more than a scrawny kid who’s terrible at communicating with the opposite sex. Sound familiar lads?
Already, those two descriptions present us with two clashing requirements for being a man. While Steve is later given a serum to transform him into the very definition of societal perfection I'm critiquing, the aftermath is executed with truth. On paper this change may look counterproductive, adding to the negative connotation that we all need a six-pack, but the writing instead allows for crucial character development. The “ideal” Steve Rogers has gone from invisible nerd to centre stage, and that’s an image often marketed and exploited as the key for pleasure amongst the opposite and same sex.
Realistically, it’d be easy for Marvel to weaponise his pre-serum alterations and reboot his character arc as your average, hook-up-loving action hero. Yet they prefer to suggest that physicality isn't the be all and end all. This message is demonstrated during moments when Captain America is propositioned by women (something that in film would progress to the token sex scene) and rather than leaping at the chance, the writers remain true to the character which sees his face illuminate as a map of bewilderment and confusion.
Working in the creative industry as I do, comes with its own set of additional stigmas. Some people presume I love coffee and others assume I’m the pretentious arty type. Quite the opposite. My background is in IT, which is an element I’m slowly returning back to as I set my sights on creating narratives for both films and video games, but this stigma is, again, something I consider to be important. We need to highlight to boys that they should aspire to be whatever they want; wanting to be a dancer doesn't make you less of a man than Dave the Mechanic, and it’s just as well that Captain America saves the day once more. Before becoming a bulked up member of the Avengers’, Steve Rogers would have gone on to study art.
To bring this post to a close, I just want to highlight that several days ago Captain America trended on twitter with the hashtag #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend. I wrote my own thoughts on my blog entitled, Should we give Captain America a boyfriend? and I feel that his intimate relationship with longtime friend Bucky isn’t one that needed to be twisted into romantic. Instead, it works perfectly as a depiction of the all-important Bromance. I’m aware that it’s a term sniggered at by many, but speaking from experience they are a special kind of friendship that obliterates any concern over judgements. It shouldn’t be a case of Bucky and Captain America as a couple, but an increasingly important message that it’s perfectly fine to be close to your male mates and seek support from them as you would a partner.
Current exhibition The Simplicity of Truth explores themes around masculinity and is on display at FACT until 12 June.