14 December 2010

The Challenges Of Captain America, Take Six

Ah, toujours l'amour.

In the comics, Captain America's wartime love is a woman named Margaret "Peggy" Carter.    Peggy is a member of the French Resistance.  Only she's, sigh, American.

Okay, sounds a little stupid, but this isn't too surprising, given when the character originated.  She was introduced in Tales Of Suspense #84.  That's the sixties.  Remember, this was an era when a movie like Breakfast At Tiffany's could cast Mickey Rooney in buckteeth as Audrey Hepburn's comedic Japanese neighbour.  In other words, it was an era of xenophobic American butt-clenching  ... moreso than today, even.

(Things are not that much better today.  Remember during Cap's casting process when many a message board were overrun by pleas from "fans" that the Captain America role not go to a "ferr-i-ner".  As if the craft capable of giving us Daniel Day Lewis as a quadrapalegic, Charleze Theron as Aileen Wuornos, or Tom Cruise as somebody likable, isn't up to letting a guy with an accent be a superhero in tights.)

Okay, back to Peggy.  I think Peggy needs revamping. 

The leaked pictures for the forthcoming movie seem to agree with me, although rather than switch her nationality, the pics of actor Hayley Atwell (a Brit!) on a New York set seem to indicate that they've abadon the French Resistance angle and simply moved the love affair stateside.  This way she gets to stay all American and true blue.  (She might play British, I don't know much about the uniform she's wearing.  That at least would be something.)

Still, why do away with the "love in the midst of war" thing?  It's a pretty potent trope.  It's been around a long time.  And what about the added colour from a clash of cultures?  And isn't there an international market to think about?  So why not head it off a little if you're the filmmakers, not to mention provide yourself an opportunity for commentary, character dynamics, and goodwill?

Frankly, it makes perfect sense to me that Cap should fall in love with an actual member of the French Resistance... So that's the way I wrote it.  She should be gutsy and impressive and not at all a doe-eyed pushover.



My inspiration as I created this version of the character was Maria from Ernest Hemingway's novel, For Whom The Bell Tolls (hence the close-cropped hair).  Obviously, this woman is older and less an innocent than Hemingway's girlish, "barely-there-except-to-worship-the-hero" heroine, but that's her genesis.

 Back when I was trying to find the time to do an animated 
Captain America trailer, my model sheet was drawn up using actor 
Cecile DeFrance (Haute Tension) as a reference.




This is a worldly woman and a true foil for a smart hero.  Her presence can and would dilute the silliness of such a being as a "Captain America."  Her acceptance of him--especially if she's not an artificially transplanted American pushover, but a battle-hardened survivor with her own suspicions and doubts--would carry so much more weight and make the romance that much more real.


Using a French Peggy, even a "meet cute" like this serves to undercut our expectations.  Not just our expectations of Cap's character (Hey, we think, He speaks French or learned to speak French really quickly!) but our expectations about how the relationship will play out.  It makes things that much more interesting.

But I understand that blockbuster filmmakers are wary of "interesting".  So, sure, yeah, stock, vanilla love interest, that could be good, too.  We all know the character's headed for either a bad end or a fair number of hip replacement surgeries before Cap gets to see her again.

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