very Friday, I wake up to a text. No matter if it’s before dawn, the text is always there waiting for me. “Have you watched it yet?” The text is from a buddy from work who is obsessed with comic books and comic book movies. He is referring to the latest episode release of the shows he is following. Earlier this year it was “WandaVision” which was, well, how can I explain this to someone who has no idea of the previous 12 years of movies which led up to this. Um, let’s see, an android who marries a witch and they pretend they’re stuck in old TV sitcoms. Okay, that’ll do for now. And then most recently a show called “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” which is, essentially, a buddy cop movie about a superhero called The Falcon and a soldier who was encased in ice for 65 years who then lost his arm and got a robotic one and now they go fight crime. Got it?
These are comic books come to life. The only thing missing, really is the POW!! ZAP!! BOOM!!
But this Friday I didn’t receive a text. And I was ready for it, too. Today was the season finale of “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.” I know that all week, my friend had combed internet fan sites and spoiler pages looking for easter eggs and their meaning.
Then I watched the episode. Without spoiling too much in case you’re not quite as die hearted as we are, The Falcon gains the title of Captain America. It was a 10-episode evolution after the previous Captain America, Steve Rogers, died in a previous movie. The thing that makes this pivotal is that The Falcon, Sam Wilson, is black. The episode dove deeply and passionately into what having a black man would mean to be “Captain America.” And in the final scene speaks to a Senator, “I’m a Black man carrying the stars and stripes. What don’t I understand? Every time I pick this thing up, I know there are millions of people who are gonna hate me for it.”
The series had been rated highly – 93% rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes, but the finale is currently rating at 53%. There are a lot of other story points that go into it, but most of the reviews I’ve seen mention “wokeness” and “political correctness” that would give the title once held by a white man to a black man. “Keep politics out of these things. Does it always have to be in your face?”
Well, actually, in case you’ve missed it, most of the best science fiction has been an allegory to present day issues. On their face, these are stories about wizards and laser beams and indestructible shields. But when told well, they are a mirror that we can look into and see ourselves.
All the way back in 1964, the first interracial kiss on television was on an episode of “Star Trek.” I still say the single best piece of science fiction I’ve ever seen is Season 6, Episode 13 of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” called “Far Beyond The Stars” in which the series hero, Captain Sisko, is transported back to racially segregated 1953 as a comic book writer. Wokeness isn’t something new. Just ask Isaac Asimov.
Sometimes stories are just popcorn for the mind. An hour off to unwind. But the best stories are the ones that make you think and grow. Like it or not, race and “wokeness” are the topics in our faces every day. Some of our stories should reflect that and show us options to work through them.
I still haven’t received a text from my friend. I don’t know if he disagreed with the episode or he just overslept. But it made me curious enough to go searching for how others felt about it, and it showed me just how ugly this country can get. (As if I needed more of a reminder.)
Thankfully, a new show about wizards or hulks or spaceships doesn’t start for a few weeks. But I hope that when it does, I’ll get those texts again on Friday morning reminding me to watch.
(Let Chris Kamler be your superhero on Twitter, where you can find him as @TheFakeNed)