It has come to my attention that the queuing feature over at tumblr has been out of commission. Which I would say is the reason that you’ve not seen anything there lately, except for the fact that I haven’t added to it in a while, and I’m fairly sure it ran out of things. So my current excuse is that I am waiting until queuing is fixed to add things to it.
Cariad and I finally saw The Avengers this past Friday. If you haven’t seen it, go out and do so, immediately. Go to the early or late show and get it cheaper, whatever, just go see it. If you are not a fan of any of the comics (though if you aren’t, I’m a little confused as to how you ended up here, but I don’t ask these questions, because I don’t always want to know the answer,) you will still love the movie – the writing is tight, and it’s well-paced and phenomenally acted. If you are a fan of any of the comics, then you’ve probably seen it already. If not, what could you possibly be waiting for? It is made of quite a lot of win.
Now, thanks to the rabid fanbase over at tumblr, I’d actually seen quite a lot of the movie in various gifsets. Then again, I am spoiler-proof — rather, knowing outcomes and such has no bearing on how much I want to see a show or movie, because I am there as much for the production as for the story. Which is a damn good thing, these days, since very few new stories are making it into the public feed. Which is a rant for another day.
No, today’s post is actually about this image, which I’d seen a lot of on tumblr:
Usually presented as a sort of tongue-in-cheek, isn’t-he-quaint-and-adorably-dumb sort of way. Ha-ha, even when faced with proof of other gods, he refuses to believe in anything else. Just further proof that patriotism is blind and dumb.
Now, I’ll admit to being a Captain America kind of girl. As much as I like Superman, and that’s quite a lot, Captain America is as close to number one as I can reasonably be expected to place a single hero. I may be biased, is what I’m saying. But still…
To put the caption in spoiler-free context, what Cap actually says is: “There’s only one God, ma’am, and He doesn’t dress like that.” He is referring, of course, to Thor and Loki. Now, keep in mind that they bear little actual resemblance to the Thor and Loki of Nordic myth. I know this because a) Thor is a genuinely nice guy in these movies, and b) Loki shows no signs of giving birth. Ever.
If I wanted to take the cheap way out, I could even go so far as to point out that they are, technically, Asgardians rather than gods. That is, beings from a higher plane of existence than ours. Even Tony Stark takes the lesser path and calls them demi-gods. But that is, as I said, the cheap way out. They are both able to command a great deal of power which humans are not naturally able to access, and are, to all intents and purposes, indestructible.* So we’re going to call them gods.
So why do I get annoyed at the implication that Captain America is a hopelessly dated yokel when he says there’s only one god? Because of the difference between immanent and transcendent, and because of the very important point of belief.
The god that Steve believes in cannot be absent, He is omnipresent. He cannot be selfish, He is omnibenevolent. He cannot be wrong or ignorant, He is omniscient. The god that Steve Rogers believes in, is transcendent. You can’t touch Him, see Him, hold a conversation with Him… unless you have faith. Faith, i.e., belief, is necessary. Steve Rogers’ God exists with or without it, and may even choose to intercede in some way without requiring the belief of the intercessee, but the only way to deliberately bring that God into one’s life is via faith: “Belief without evidence in what is told by one who speaks without knowledge, of things without parallel,” to quote the Devil’s Dictionary. This is the God that Steve knows.
Thor and Loki are immanent. They are there, indisputably. They can be touched, argued with, disagreed with. They can be absent, selfish, and ignorant of the true nature of facts. Most importantly, Neil Gaimain’s American Gods aside in a different universe, believing in them seems almost trivial. It’s like believing in the postman, as Terry Pratchett would say. I mean, really, can you really imagine Nick Fury standing on the deck of the helicarrier with his eye shut tight and his face screwed up, believing in Thor enough so that his powers don’t desert him in the middle of a fight? Exactly.
Is it any wonder, then, that Cap thinks rather little of Thor and Loki as gods? They argue a lot. They wear silly clothes to conform to some arcane standard of fashion set by other people. Loki is motivated by ambition – can you imagine the Judaeo-Christian God harboring ambition? He has Everything, quite literally. That leaves nothing for ambition to covet. Thor is there to take Loki back to Asgard to answer for his crimes. God, being God, cannot commit crimes, and certainly can’t be taken anywhere – since He’s omnipresent – to atone to himself for commission of said non-crimes.
So when he says “There’s only one God, ma’am, and He doesn’t dress like that,” Steve is not, actually, being simplistic or stubborn. More importantly, he is not ignoring reality in favor of his own imaginary friend. For him, God behaves a certain way, exists a certain way. Thor and Loki are real, but to his mind, they simply aren’t gods. Which, when you consider a universe that contains Captain America, the Hulk and people like Storm or Wolverine – which Steve Rogers’s world does (or theoretically will – there’s been blessedly little crossover in the movies, but some of it did happen) – Thor and Loki aren’t that special, really. God still is.
Steve Rogers became Captain America because of who he is: that kid from Brooklyn who doesn’t like bullies, and doesn’t think he’s all that special. Captain America is special, and Steve knows this, while at the same time believing in his heart of hearts that Steve Rogers isn’t all that special, or different – or at least that everyone else would do the same right thing, when it came down to it. Remaining true to his core personality, his core beliefs, is essential to him remaining Steve Rogers. Because without Steve Rogers, Captain America is just propaganda, and propaganda is the worst kind of bully there is.
* (This may be a spoiler, which is why I’m putting it down here.) Making them both excellent chew-toys for the Hulk. And can I just say that the look of happiness on Thor’s face when he realizes that the Hulk is actually a challenge, one that he doesn’t have to hold back on, and can really all-out brawl with the way the warriors of Valhalla are meant to – that look of gleeful anticipation was *perfect.*