How Marvel’s “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” expresses themes of racism, mental health, PTSD and supremacist ideals.

Marvel's new show, 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' focused on Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes trying to honor Steve's legacy while having to deal with their own doubts and insecurities. All the while the new Captain America, John Walker, stands for everything Steve is not.

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Debra Garcia, Features Editor/Business Manager

  With the new Marvel Disney Plus show, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” ending soon, many have questioned the real themes and lessons audiences can learn from after watching the series. Just in the first five episodes alone, four prominent issues have been brought up and foreshadowed. These include mental health, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, racism and supremacist ideals. 

 

SPOILER WARNING FOR EPISODES ONE THROUGH FIVE

 

Mental Health:

   It is no secret that one of the main characters, Bucky Barnes, has major mental health issues. He was abducted and turned to a controlled assassin to kill enemies of a nazi terrorist organization for 90 years. Even after he was out of mind control, Barnes became an avenger and faced Thanos not once, but two times. It is easy to say that Barnes has a lot to work on mentally. The first episode even begins with Barnes attending a therapy session. There they discuss his mission to make amends to everyone he hurt as the Winter Soldier and his mission to become a normal civilian. In the second episode, he is forced to attend another therapy session with Sam Wilson, the other main character of the series. After a slow start, the audience learns that the reason he is upset with Wilson for giving up the shield was that “if he was wrong about you, he was wrong about me.” He, of course, is referring to Steve Rogers. In episode five, Bucky again tackles his mental health when he meets Zemo at the Sokovia memorial. Here he holds a gun to Zemo’s head, about to kill him for everything Zemo did to him back in “Captain America: Civil War.” But instead of killing Zemo and taking the action his old persona, the Winter Soldier, would do, he drops the bullets and turns him into the Dora Milaje so he can go to prison in Wakanda. Deep inside, he is relieved that he can lose his old identity and become himself again. 

 

PTSD:

   Apparent from his slowly improving mental health, Barnes also has severe PTSD. The opening scene of episode one is of Barnes waking up from a gruesome nightmare where he murdered several people as the Winter Soldier. When he wakes up, it is seen that he sleeps on a blanket on the floor, something many soldiers with PTSD do to cope with finally being back home and not at war. He constantly gets flashbacks from that horrible time of his life. With this in mind, he definitely got PTSD flashbacks when he had to pretend to still be the Winter Soldier when he, Wilson and Zemo traveled to Mdaipoor in order to find information on the new super-soldier serum. 

 

Racism:

    It is time to move on to the show’s other main character, Sam Wilson. For some information, at the end of “Avengers Endgame,” Steve Rogers gave his shield to Wilson after he went back in time. With Steve gone, Wilson gave the shield to the US government, thinking it will be used as a role of Rogers’s legacy. Sadly, this is not what occurred. The US government actually ended up giving the shield to John Walker, an excellent soldier in their eyes and dubbed him the new Captain America. He is alongside his African American best friend, Lemar Hoskins, or Battlestar. With this in mind, after meeting Isiah Bradley, a Black super-soldier, Wilson and Barnes exit the home arguing about Bradley’s existence. Here a pair of cops come up to Wilson and Barnes, asking questions and yelling at Wilson. It is clear to see that Wilson is getting racially profiled. This only stops when the police realize that Wilson is an Avenger. Yikes. A few episodes later, while trying to find the Flag Smashers, Walker and Hokins are confronted by the Dora Milaje, a team of Black female warriors from Wakanda. Being beaten by the Dora Milaje convinced Walker to take the stolen super-soldier serum. It is not hard to infer that Walker, who is a white man, at least has internalized racism (and maybe misogyny). Apart from little bits and pieces of racism thrown into every episode, the main event that reals it all in is the backstory of the one and only Isiah Bradley. In episode five, Wilson goes back to Baltimore to get answers and learn about what happened to Bradley. There he learns that Bradley was given the super-soldier serum and was led into battle to save his military team from being hostages. After this, he was arrested by the US Government for wearing the Captain America suit on that mission. He was locked up for up to 30 years, only leaving his cell to be experimented on. He was only let out when a nurse that took pity on him faked his death and snuck him out. In order to play it safe, the government erased Bradley’s story from history, no one really knowing who he is, what he has done and what happened to him. He then explains to Wilson that the government will never let a Black man be Captain America, highlighting the obvious racism inside their government. 

 

Supremacy:

   With the obvious amounts of racial themes in the Marvel hit show, there are major themes of the opposite, supremacy. This first starts with the introduction of the Flag Smashers, a terrorist group that fights against border laws since the “blip.” Though they have seemingly good intentions, they kill innocents for their cause and all steal and take super-soldier serum so they can be stronger and fight their enemies. In episode four, Zemo states that all those who have taken the serum, apart from Steve Rogers, are corrupted and are supremacists deep inside. The audience directly sees this in Walker, who uses his title as the new Captain America as a weapon instead of a symbol of peace. He even decapitates an unarmed national with the shield out of pure rage at the death of Hokins. What does not help, after he gets stripped of his title because of these actions, is that he still calls himself Captain America and starts making his own shield. This highlights his supremacist ideals, believing he is better than those around him because he now has the serum.  

 

   With the series ending soon, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” takes prominent themes and controversial ideas from our society and directly shows how these things can affect people, just on a bigger scale. Themes like mental health, PTSD, racism and supremacist ideals need to be talked about, so placing them in a well-known series can reach more people in a faster way. These can be seen in Barnes’s journey to peace, Wilson’s quest to be Captain American and Walker’s mission to be the best super-soldier.