Following just two short appearances by the character in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, writer Matt Goldberg penned a piece for access media outlet Collider late last week passing summary judgement on John Walker, claiming that the the series’ newly christened Captain America encapsulates the “banality of white supremacy“.
The notion that Walker is somehow some deeply sinister character against a race by omission or by some deeply rooted entitlement is questionable. In my reading of the Collider piece, Goldberg’s commentary is a wild stretch of the imagination, with a premise that itself is such a work of fiction that it rivals anything coming from the Disney Plus series.
Spoilers going forward for those of you who haven’t seen the series.
White Supremacy Defined
Let’s say for argument that the article states something profound about white supremacy. So we will define it. As stated by the Oxford dictionary, ‘white supremacy’ is “the belief that white people constitute a superior race and should therefore dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other racial and ethnic groups, in particular black or Jewish people.”
Despite moving goalposts on who is or is not defined as “white” in today’s cultural madness, what Oxford dictionary states here for now seems to be consistent. Given that, to state that Walker is of this mindset would mean he holds a preferential racial bias for “white” people as a whole, regularly denigrating other races and cultures through either action or speech as a manifestation of the bigotry he supposedly holds.
To determine whether Walker truly feels disgust for other races, seeks to amplify the white race/culture, and acts in a way that contradicts his words, we would have to analyze his brief appearances across the two episodes that were released at the time of Collider’s article.
Because this is about race, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier should make Walker’s stance clear through what he says and/or does. According to Goldberg, the series does this, ultimately promoting Walker as someone who believes his white heritage is a quality should be elevated above all else.
Starting Off On The Wrong Foot
If you were looking for a deep dive into social commentary on Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the Collider piece will hardly get your feet wet.
Firstly, the show itself is hardly any substantial dive into those issues. Though the first episode seemingly indicates that Sam and his sister couldn’t get a loan from the bank because of his and his sister’s race, it stops short of expressly delving into that cultural viewpoint, instead leaving viewers believing the idea that heroes didn’t have access to a wealth of government funding to be pretty ludicrous.
In the second episode, a light reference is made in regards to Sam’s character name and his race, alongside a hyperbolic scene wherein a swarm of police vehicles hassle Sam when he and Bucky start getting into a public argument.
There’s also a nod to how the government used a black man, Isaiah Bradley, for the super soldier experiments in the past, but there’s no connection drawn between his tribulations and the social issues that seemingly plague our currently landscape.
From just these two episodes, Goldberg has seemingly cracked the code on John Walker, claiming that White Supremacy is more than just outward expressions, but rooted in systematic biases and issues of control.
Yet, that very reasoning easily falls apart if one spends even a second thinking about it.
Walker as a Point of Contention
As we look further into the Collider article, the staggering amount of issues with Goldberg’s breakdown of Walker continue to show. In a complete misreading of the character and his origins, paired with an attempt to read into something that clearly isn’t there.
Goldberg begins by asserting, “Steve Rogers arguably became Captain America on accident, and he [Walker] was put to the similar path of promoting the U.S. military,” an argument so flawed that it starts the entire piece off on the wrong foot.
“[Walker] didn’t ask for the shield, but it was given to him because he ‘put in the work’,” continues Golbderg. “It never even occurs to him about why the government chose him as a symbol or what makes him ‘right’ for Captain America beyond his own personal experience.”
‘Merit’ is a thing in society, something that many places of employment utilize to choose the best candidate for a higher position within the company. It’s a Biblical standard as well, with Luke writing in his eponymous gospel, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. (Luke 16:10)”.
I’m fairly certain other religious systems and government bodies make this their practice as well. It’s called having a robust resume. And when Walker had the right set of qualifications, the government hired him.
Let’s also note that in the first episode, as much as Rhodey insisted to Sam that America “needs new heroes, ones suited for the times we’re in,” Sam gave the shield away. That was his decision, despite Steve Rogers personally giving him the shield at the end of Endgame.
I’m sure the government would’ve been fine with Sam taking up the shield of Captain America, seeing that it was given to him by the man himself, but in light of Sam’s turning down of the role, passed it on to a museum for safekeeping. After all, the government had different plans for its use once Sam gave the mantle away.
Staying in the Lane
Goldberg then notes that “Walker accepts, but then menacingly tells [Sam and Bucky] to stay out of his way,” which he argues “is a core tenet of white supremacy: my way or the highway.”
This sentence makes no sense. Why would he imply “my way or the highway” if he “accepts” that they are going to go separate ways on their mission? Also – staying out of his way is a white supremacy thing? I remember a certain woman of color in an upcoming James Bond film telling Bond something similar.
In Hollywood writing, this signifies that such a statement is not rooted in any racial supremacy. Rather, it’s a power play, which writers will have characters engage in from time to time to build tension between two parties. It eventually builds to a point of actual conflict, with the characters meeting in an altercation both physical and ideal. Usually, these confrontations end with the protagonist’s worldview emerging victorious.
However, according to Goldberg, “There’s no room for compromise and there certainly isn’t room for humbling yourself and finding ways to show respect to people who aren’t like you. Walker’s white supremacy coasts on the beliefs that he earned what he has and that what he has cannot be questioned (Russell plays this perfectly walking the line between affable and smarmy).”
Humility and white supremacy aren’t really traits that go well together, but that doesn’t mean the absence of one means the outright presence of the other, otherwise every character who has refused humility as an option was displaying “white supremacy.” The fact that Walker asks for Bucky and Sam for their assist means that there is some acknowledgement that his methods might not be enough to handle the Flag Smashers.
Goldberg further claims that, “For the government, Captain America is merely a branding issue, and so why not give the shield to another blue-eyed, blonde, white guy and then say that the symbol is whatever they want it to be.”
However, this claim fails to recognize that Hollywood, and specifically Marvel, cast the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Chris Evans as Captain America, for both his comic-accurate appearance and his star power, without both of which comic book fans wouldn’t have been drawn to watch the film.
To imply this decision had nothing to do with honoring the source material and everything to do with white supremacy is a wild stretch that no reasonable person would likely make.
Gibberish and Nonsense
Later on in the article, the writer just throws out whatever can stick. However ridiculous it sounds.
At one point, Goldberg notes that “the cleverness of this episode is you need to look past what Walker is saying and what he’s doing,” before literally claiming in the next sentence,”Through his actions,we can see Walker represents the banality of white supremacy. “
He also claims that Walker “creates a standard that allows anything less to slip through and become accepted as a normal form of behavior with anyone who questions it being chastised as a “social justice warrior” or “overly woke” or “reverse racism” if you want to get 90s with it.”
What kind of double speak is this? Again, this is madness. Not a “social justice warrior”, “overly woke”, or “reverse racism” (whatever that means) concept, but outright madness. The writer redefines a word, contradicts their first statement in the next sentence, then follows that up with a notion that any disagreement is baseless name calling, rather than any sound reasoning.
Why did they come to that conclusion through the actions of John Walker in the episode? Collider has yet to prove it, as Goldberg simply writes that Walker “symbolizes every white guy who says, ‘I can’t be racist because I have a black friend,’ or ‘No one ever handed me anything on a plate.'”
“That’s not to say that no white person ever deserves any success or anything like that, but through John Walker’s entitlement and condescension, we see how white supremacy operates without need for a hood or swastika,” Goldberg adds.
Let’s have an honest assessment of Walker’s character. He feels entitled to his position, in some way, yes, but he also has a misunderstanding of the weight of that position in being the Captain America symbol, a fact that shows more clearly in the third episode of the series. Yet, this is something more connected to how he perceives the mantle of Captain America, rather than his race.
I’ll acquiesce that Walker is condescending. However, it’s not so much a feeling of racial superiority, but more a character flaw, one seen in varying degrees amongst various characters throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Tony Stark, Thor, Carol Danvers, and Wanda Maximoff all exhibited this trait.
Is it white supremacy when they do it? At least to Collider, it wasn’t at that time. Maybe going back it might retroactively be an indicator to them. But as these characters have it, the only difference now is the optics. What was a character flaw in previous films now is a racist thing in Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
John Walker Supremacy
Having said all that, the show seemingly wants to dive into deeper social/racial issues. The story may certainly see John Walker become an actual white supremacist, in which case we could finally get clearer evidence to support what Goldberg supposes the New Cap to be.
For now, Walker is portrayed as the guy tosses who his shield aside to save his ally Battlestar, willingly disadvantaging himself in a battle with several members of the Flag Smashers. This is far from a sign of White Supremacy, but instead a sign of having some honor with friends and allies. An admirable trait for sure, and it makes him more interesting as it shows there is complexity to who he is and his values.
As the series goes on, it’s certainly possible Walker may devolve into a racist caricature of Captain America. He may also end up playing that role for both Sam, Bucky, and maybe even Battlestar to fight against.
In 2021, it’s hard to tell how the writing for woke entertainment will go, and at this point many worry that it’s not about whether that shoe will drop, but how hard it will hit the ground when it does. Right now, it’s looking to be a soft strike, rather than a boulder bash.
Though we’re only three episodes, with three more down the road, the bar for these things could go even lower. What was once a conflicted character in John Walker could turn into something much worse in terms of writing. If it doesn’t happen, it would be a pleasant surprise, but I’m not holding my breath.
What do you think of Collider’s assessment of The New Captain America, John Walker? Sound off in the comments below, or let’s talk about it on social media!