Captain America: The First Avenger
Run Time: 124 minutes
Director: Joe Johnston
Overall, this film does a good job of challenging gender roles regarding femininity with the lead female character Peggy Carter. However, the film does not engage with many marginalized cultural identities or depict characters who challenge stereotypes regarding marginalized identities.
Based on the Marvel comic book series Captain America, the scrawny Steve Rogers undergoes a transformation and becomes Captain America.
- Moderate swearing
- “Hell,” “damn,” “ass,” “s.o.b.”
- Multiple physical combat scenes
- Regular gun use
- Minimal sexual content
- Sexual Innuendo
- Bar scene
- “Super Soldier Serum” injection
- In the film, Peggy Carter, the lead female character, challenges gender roles regarding femininity. Peggy Carter is an agent of the British Secret Intelligence and is depicted as a skilled fighter. Further, Peggy Carter challenges the damsel in distress trope and actively challenges those who she disagrees with. For example, when a solider attempts to make a pass at her, she punches him.
- Some of the minor characters are people of color and are depicted in a positive light. For example, although, at the time, the United States was at war with the Axis Powers, not all Asians and Germans are vilified.
Sexual Orientation– N/A
- Traditional gender roles are regularly reinforced throughout the film. For example, the majority of women are depicted as passive, are to be looked at, and are valued for their beauty while the majority of men are depicted as active, strong, and powerful. However, it is important to note that the film is set in the 1940s, and these strict gender roles regarding femininity and masculinity were reflective of the time.
- The major/minor characters and most of the cast appear to be white.
- There appears to be no variation of sexual orientation.
- In the film, ideal masculinity is depicted as being a soldier. Pre-Captain America Steve Rogers has asthma, heart trouble, anxiety, and several other medical conditions. These conditions prevent Rogers from entering the war, and thus, from becoming a “real man.”
- Before being injected with the Super Soldier Serum, Rogers is short, thin, and weak. Because of this, he is assigned little value as he can’t fight in the war, isn’t sexually attractive, and is bullied. Therefore, Rogers is unable to achieve ideal masculinity because of his body type and medical conditions.
- Most of the characters adhere to ideal body types.
Suggested talking points
- The film is set in the 1940s, a time of rigid gender roles. For example, women are valued for their looks and are expected to stay at home instead of fighting in the war and men are valued for their strength and are expected to fight. How is this reinforced in the movie? How does Peggy Cater in particular challenge gender roles regarding femininity? How have gender roles changed?
- In the film, Peggy Carter says, “come on, girls” to the soldiers during the training camp. In the media, references to femininity are often used as insults to suggest that a person is weak in some way. For example, this language is often used in a sport context to insult an opponent.
- In the media today, are small and weak men still stereotyped as nerdy and powerless?
- Throughout the film, Captain America seems to fight violence with violence. While this particular method might have been effective for Captain America, it is important to note that violence is not always the best response to a violent act.
- Oftentimes, films perpetuate the cultural myth of heterosexual romance by having the lead male and female characters live happily ever after together. How is Captain America different?
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