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Steve Rogers is a Monster

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Yeah, that’s a hell of a title, isn’t it? Strap in, it only gets worse from here. 

Forewarning, if you enjoyed the epilogue for Endgame, this particular essay is not for you - and no, I am not bashing the Steve/Peggy shippers, you are beautiful human beings who make the fandom brighter and I’m happy that at least someone in this fandom got the ending they wanted.

Additional warning: if you expect this to be another Civil War debate, you will also be disappointed. There has never been a measurement invented that can adequately describe how much I loathe the verbal dick measuring contest that seems to pass for human interaction between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers in this franchise. It’s not funny or entertaining - it’s exhausting, uncomfortable, and frankly it’s rather lazy writing.

This is about the very specific way that the epilogue in Endgame completely changed the way the character of Steve Rogers can be interpreted, and I don’t just mean the very illogical and contradictory way that time travel is explained, both in the movie itself and the fact that the writers and directors have two completely different views on how that worked out. 

I mean that the choice made by Steve Rogers in the very last minutes of that movie alters the way I view each and every one of his actions starting from The First Avenger and that alteration is exactly what I want to talk about, because whether you view it as deserving or not, what Steve does at the conclusion of Endgame was the most selfish thing humanly possible. Time is a thief, but somehow Steve managed to steal even more than Time.

Side note here: I understand that I am a completely biased Stucky shipper, a friend to Barnes and Noble, a Starbucks aficionado - sorry. Anyway, I’ve always believed that Steve and Bucky were destined blah blah blah, but I was never expecting a Stucky ending. Disney wasn’t going to do that, and I knew that, I wasn’t bothered that Steve and Bucky weren’t doing the smoochies by the end. But Bucky’s facial expression during those last minutes was gut-wrenching. Like...I have no idea what kind of cues the script and directors gave him, but in the future, please don’t ask Sebastian Stan to look sad unless you want soul-crushing devastation . It’s not Seb’s fault, his features are just arranged that way - but the fact that the editing staff allowed Sam to be sad though elated to be entrusted with the Shield and Bucky looked like his soul was being physically torn out of his body was an… interesting choice. 

Other side note: if you’re writing about time travel, I’m begging y’all to get your facts straight. Or just don’t write about time travel. It almost always sounds better on paper than it does on screen and it means that you’ve opened doors to more questions than you’ve probably got the answers for. I know this was about trying to set up the idea of the multiverse, I get that, but there were better and less messy ways to do that, and I know that because I’ve done it before. @Marvel: Let me write you a six-way orgy you fucking cowards~

By going back in time, Steve robbed Peggy of the future that would have been hers - not only that, he’s robbed her of even the chance of making the choice between those futures, because you honestly could not tell me with a straight face that Steve told her the complete truth of what he had done and she would be okay with him alternating the very course of the future. It doesn’t help his case that he has a history of not disclosing truths that he knows will be painful or inconvenient for other people in his life.

He robbed his loved ones - Sam, Bucky, Wanda - of the years they would have spent with him. Sure, he ‘came back’ after Peggy passed away, but they are adults in the prime of youth who knew him sixty years ago in his own time and he is an old, old man who has lived an entire life completely separated from them. He is practically a stranger with a name they know, but a history that no longer belongs to any of them - not even his oldest friend. They have him back, but judging from his age, they’ll be lucky to get even ten more years with him. Assuming of course, that any of them can stand to speak to him - I certainly couldn’t blame them if they tell him to go to hell and take his dad jokes with him. 

Steve has stolen away their friend and dropped off an elderly and dying near-stranger in his place, and this is treated by the writing (and the majority of the acting) as a wild and unexpected but not tragic event. 

Is it really that unexpected, though?

I recall seeing a Game of Thrones essay on Daenerys across my dash (I’m sorry, love, I don’t recall who you are since it’s not a fandom I’m in, but if someone knows who wrote that, please post the link!) which detailed how her ending in the series was foreshadowed many times by her penchant for bloody killings and her habit of surrounding herself with her own fawning friends.

Months after reading that, I had the thought: though Steve is never really shown thinking about Peggy after Civil War, except in a few scattered scenes in Endgame, was this foreshadowed? Whether you believe that his actions are justified or not, what Steve does is still, in the end, selfish at its very heart, and Steve Rogers is not a selfish person. 

Oh no, my dear friends and readers. Because taking this action has solidified and clarified Steve Rogers as the biggest and most selfish asshole in this whole universe.

Steve does not do the right thing, Steve does the thing that will most make him feel better . The fact that this often happens to be the right thing in the end is more the result of happy coincidence than any special sort of moral authority that the man holds. 

Rescuing Bucky Barnes and his fellow captives in a prisoner of war camp from being experimented on by an insane Nazi eugenicist? That was not a moral stand, that was endangering himself, Peggy Carter, and Howard Stark because he couldn’t handle the reality of his best friend being killed in war.

Sacrificing himself by putting the Valkyrie down in the Arctic Circle? That was not about sparing human lives, that was about Steve seeing his friend die right in front of him and not being able to deal with the grief. There were ways he could’ve prevented the plane from killing people without killing himself.

Trying to make Bucky remember who he was? And later on, saving him from the government agencies who wanted to hunt him down? Although, arguably, that last one is also just good common sense - Steve was already shown that government agencies could and were corrupted by HYDRA and he’d also seen how dangerous the Winter Soldier could be when unleashed. 

Steve did, I think, truly believe that this was the right thing to do, but it was also about keeping his connection - his very last, since Peggy had descended into dementia caused by Alzheimer’s before she ultimately died - to a past that for him, was only months or years ago, rather than decades. In some ways, this is completely understandable - Bucky might be the very last person left alive who truly knows who the real Steve Rogers is, because the rest of these people only know Captain America and we are consistently shown through multiple movies how uncomfortable this makes him.

This gets...considerably less and less understandable as we are shown Steve’s growing relationships with Natasha, Sam, Wanda - even Sharon, though she barely gets any screen time and they share the most awkward kiss I’ve ever seen - and indeed, what might be the most uncomfortable kiss in cinema history.

Side Note 3: This is made even more awkward by the director’s choice to have two of Steve’s friends watching them the whole time - seriously, who even does that? Why would you make them do that? Only sociopaths make out with their friends staring at them like that. It’s so fucking creepy - and don’t even get me fucking started on the fact that she’s also apparently his own niece. AHHHHH!

But we are shown, over and over again, that Steve is capable of building close meaningful relationships with people in the present. They don’t know his whole history, but they do know Steve Rogers rather than Captain America and they care about him deeply. 

Side Note 4: Notice that I don’t count Tony Stark among those people - despite this strangely persistent narrative that the various writers and directors tried to sell to the audience, Tony and Steve were not friends. They were never friends. They were colleagues at best, but these were two men who neither liked nor understood each other very well, but had to work together. And sometimes that’s okay, too. (Oh dear, I just gave the Stony fans a fit too, didn’t I? Sorry, guys. Enemies to Lovers is a great trope, I support you!)

But let’s set aside Steve’s gross betrayal of the people who loved him. We’ll also ignore the question of whether the motive for these good actions has tainted the actions themselves. Because even without questioning these, the conclusion of this story arc still transforms Steve into the biggest monster this franchise has. 

The very fundamental way that the writers and directors can’t agree on how the time travel mechanics in their own story work mean that Steve has just done one of two things and they range from shady and very questionable to absolutely fucking horrific. 

The first, that he’s created his own alternate universe to exist in, is morally dubious at best. Even the people who support this theory and liked the ending seem to feel that it wasn’t necessarily a ten out of ten on the moral goodness spectrum. They’ll say things like ‘he deserved to have his happy ending’. Even that phrasing seems to acknowledge that doing this was the opposite of the right thing. It just considers doing the wrong thing as being justified rather than horrifying. 

But let’s examine this first idea for a minute - even this, the more innocent of the two implications, means that rather than really processing his grief or dealing with the repeated tragedies and losses that have occured in his life, even as he was running group therapy sessions and grief counseling, Steve Rogers chose to escape his current life by creating an alternate universe that specifically allows he himself to live out his own fucking fantasies of the way his life should have turned out.  

That, in case you are not aware, is wildly fucked up. I thought I was playing pretty fast and loose with Steve’s characterization when I turned him into an extremely polite serial killer but as it turns out, I clearly just wasn’t setting the bar high enough, because that’s somehow even more fucked up than being an undercover child soldier with a small sadistic streak. 

Hm, and now I feel I should have been more creative there...

The second, and even more horrifying option, is that this older Steve Rogers has been in this world the whole time, watching as things unfolded just as we’ve seen over the past decade, taking ‘the slow way’ through time. 

Side Note 5: I do kind of understand why you would do it this way, because that’s really cool and shocking when you say that! Until you think about it for longer than three seconds and suddenly you realize…

Everything that has happened here, every tragedy and downfall these people experienced, happened because Steve Rogers lived his happily ever after with his beautiful wife and did absolutely nothing to stop it. He got to fuck Peggy Carter and watched as his wife built an empire of intelligence networks, knowing that her efforts were completely in vain because her agency was rotten to the core and he never told her.

Every horrifying act committed by HYDRA under the guise of SHIELD was permitted through Steve Rogers’ negligence. And that’s just the wider big-picture worldview, large and shocking, but not personal. 

What about the people that Steve claims to actually care about? 

This means that Steve lived his whole life in contentment with his wife and children while his best friend was physically and psychologically tortured for over seventy years and just...let that go. 

He allowed one friend to murder another in the nineties, when the Winter Soldier was sent after Howard and Maria Stark. Then their child was being advised by a greedy self-interested warmonger who paid terrorists to drag him off to be tortured and slaughtered, and Steve did nothing about that, either. 

Bruce Banner was exploited, experimented on, and made into a monster against his will in the failed pursuit of recreating what was done to Steve, resulting in billions of dollars in damage and dozens or even hundreds of lives lost, and Steve allowed that to happen, too. 

Like Bucky Barnes, Natasha Romanov was physically and psychologically tortured for others to use her as a living weapon - except that this was probably happening to her since early childhood, and a man her future self loved and trusted implicitly did nothing to save her from this upbringing. 

The Maximoff twins are shown to have not wealthy but loving parents who are murdered in front of them and they both endure days of laying in the rubble of their ruined apartment, wondering if the bomb in their living room would go off and kill them. Later, they are taken in by HYDRA, experimented on, and recruited as child soldiers to the cause when they show signs of having supernatural powers. They start a series of events that result in the destruction of a major city and the loss of what is probably thousands of lives. Pietro is murdered while trying to help the Avengers to stop this, and Wanda suffers the loss of the very last living person she loved. None of these things seem to have bothered Future Steve. 

Steve “I can’t sit on the sidelines when I see a situation go sideways” Rogers, planted himself on that fucking sideline and observed for nearly eighty years as friends, colleagues, and his own wife were lied to, brainwashed, tortured, vilified, and hunted down like animals.

And then there Steve Rogers himself - not the Endgame Steve Rogers, the Steve Rogers who brought down a Nazi plane and will lie beneath the ice for seventy years while everything he knows disappear (mostly) innocent of these horrors, the life he would’ve lived stolen from him by a stranger with his name and his face from another universe.

What I’m saying here is that if you consider this idea for any amount of time, it took Steve Rogers less than ten minutes to become the most evil and disturbing figure in the entire MCU, only (not really tho) contested by Thanos himself. 

Gross and poorly reasoned libertarian ethics aside, Thanos genuinely believes that he did what he did for the sake of the entire population. It’s made fairly explicitly clear that Steve didn’t do this for anyone but himself. 

Call me crazy, but if everyone you know needs to suffer and multiple planet-wide devestations have to happen in order for you to get your happy ending, you might be the bad guy. 

Maybe I’m just old-fashioned?