Sunday, July 24, 2011

Captain America and World War II

I enjoyed “Captain America;” it was a fun movie that shows how summer movies can be a nice diversion.  Unlike “X-Men: First Class,” it did not, however, hold up much when it came to historical scrutiny.  While I know it is only a Hollywood film, I found it annoying that the movie shows black, white, and Japanese American soldiers serving together in World War II.  We fought World War II with a segregated army with blacks and Japanese Americans fighting in separate units.  The all-Japanese 442nd combat division was one of the most decorated units in the conflict.  President Truman did not issue an order integrating the army until 1948, three years after the end of World War II.  In reality, the military did not fight a war as an integrated force until the Vietnam War in the 1960s. While some have commented that the inclusion of minorities highlights their contributions, I don’t think it is helpful for Hollywood to sanitize our past.
A couple of other interesting items.  The German émigré scientist, Dr. Erskine, who develops the formula that transforms Steve Rogers into Captain America, seems to represent the German intellectuals who fled the Nazis in the 1930s.  Most of them were Jewish, though the film never makes it explicit that Erskine is Jewish.  In the comic book, the character’s name is Reinstein, which is likely a reference to Albert Einstein.
Another interesting nod is the appearance of Tony Stark’s (Iron Man) father, Howard Stark, in this film.  The use of the name “Howard” seems to be a nod to Howard Hughes, whom some have theorized was the original inspiration for the Tony Stark character when the Iron Man comic premiered in the early 1960s.

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