Disruption and Disability Futures in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)
AffiliationUniversity of Chester
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AbstractMarvel superhero movies celebrate the transformation of disabled people into weapons. First Avenger depicts a disabled man rebuilt by military technology into a patriotic superhero. In Winter Soldier, the Soviet cyborg’s brutal, non-consensual modification serves to emphasise Captain America’s wholesomely perfected body. At first glance, both films seem incapable of critiquing the historical ableism that made Captain America’s modification a desirable image of disability-free future in 1941 – let alone its modern manifestations. However, re-watching First Avenger after Winter Soldier reveals a far less stable endorsement of eliminating disability: now alerted to the series’ precise anxieties about bodily autonomy, one can perceive an undercurrent of disability critique running through First Avenger too – often literally in the background. The film exposes the historical ableism that shaped Steve’s consent to modification, and begins to establish his sidekick Bucky Barnes as a persistent critical voice capable of envisioning a different disability future. This essay is therefore not only about ableism in a pair of superhero movies, but also about how these ableist films contain seeds of an unexpected critique of their own disability representation.
CitationTankard, A. (2022). Disruption and disability futures in Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 16(1), 41-57. https://doi.org/10.3828/jlcds.2022.3
PublisherLiverpool University Press
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