you know. sometimes i think. in the face of tony’s obvious trauma and ptsd. in the face of the more obvious pain that bucky has suffered. we forget that steve’s motivation in the film isn’t just his tendency to hold stubbornly fast to his ideals, to do what he feels is right and damn the rest.
steve’s hurting too.
like. guys. we are so ready to give weight to tony’s emotional boiling over point at the end of the film, to say “this is why he tried to kill bucky, and it’s not right but it’s understandable.” we are so ready to acknowledge the fact that bucky was a victim and motivated to run by his fear of further persecution and hurt from nefarious forces. what about steve, though? when do we acknowledge that steve’s not just acting with righteous arrogance, but a deep anger, isolation, fear, loneliness, sadness, and hope?
steve died. like, his last memory before waking up seventy years in the future is a few days after watching his best friend fall from a train and he was unable to stop it he willingly flies a plane into the fucking Arctic, ostensibly to his death.
guys. guys. tony was fucked up for years because of untreated ptsd after falling from space and thinking he was dead. why is it so hard to remember that steve probably is fucked up, too?
this dude, he wakes up seventy years in the future and he has to make his way without really anyone or anything familiar, and the only person who is familiar is suffering from memory loss, and he’s now operating under the thumb of shadowy organization that he’s not 100 percent does good things and that continuously lies to him. there’s no war to fight, but that’s all this body is good for. it’s all he knows.
he doesn’t know what makes him happy. guys.
and so he goes through another trauma when he discovers this villain who is trying to kill him is in fact the dead best friend who—surprise!—was actually captured after falling and losing an arm and his brains were scrambled to turn him into a murder assassin. we know for a fact steve feels tremendous guilt over this. but imagine beyond guilt, the sorrow, the nightmarish possibilities, that are turning over in steve’s head. the idea of what his friend suffered. remember when rhodey fell from the sky and tony blasted sam in the chest? imagine the anger in steve’s heart at the idea of what bucky’s suffered and the unwillingness to let that go unchecked and unsaved.
oh, plus. that shadowy organization he’s been fighting for? the people he’s been taking orders from? the top dog in the neat little hierarchy that’s arranged his world? yeah. hydra. everything steve has known turns upside down. he can’t trust anything. imagine the paranoia. the suspicion. imagine the fear that must take seed at that betrayal.
and then! of course, then he begins fighting these battles with the avengers where the collateral damage is on such a bigger scale than it was at war. where there are aliens. aliens, you guys. and he’s tasked with leading this motley crew of superheroes in a world he’s still getting used to and people die, lots of people die, and we know that even if it doesnt visibly affect him like it affects tony (who always seems shocked when he’s confronted with loss, because it’s presented to him on a personal, individual level) it does affect him. that steve feels the guilt of lives lost. imagine that burden. imagine the weight of the shield, the mask, the responsibility. imagine the loneliness. the fear.
so then. then. in the space of a few days. steve deals with more guilt from the deaths in lagos. he shoulders that burden. then he deals with the moral quandary of signing the accords. he wrestles with that decision. peggy dies. he grieves, oh goodness does he grieve. vienna fuckin blows up and that elusive best friend is now the suspect. so steve is grieving, he is confused and conflicted, and now he feels doubly guilty—that’s the person he has been looking for, should he have already caught him? did he do it? he couldn’t have. does he bring him in? does he shoulder this responsibility too? what will they make him do when he catches up to bucky? what should he do? steve might act like he always knows what’s right, but a decision like this isn’t easy. it messes with a person. and when you’re dealing with all that mess in your head, sometimes you don’t think. sometimes…you act.
like when bucky is triggered, when steve stops a helicopter with his bare fucking hands, you can feel the desperation. that’s not ordinary heroics. that’s not steve just trying to stop bucky from escaping and possibly hurting others. it’s steve fighting for bucky. for this piece of his past. for the possibility of an end to loneliness. for the possibility of redemption for letting him fall.
and when they go on the run, when they know they have to stop the supersoldiers, when they clash with tony’s team, can you imagine steve’s sheer frustration that no one gets what is at stake? that no one is willing to listen? and yes, he didn’t even try—but why is that, you think? is it possibly because steve is used to institutions and those in power ignoring what he thinks is right and causing disaster anyway?
when steve says, “pal, so are we.” when steve acknowledges to natasha that he’s 90 not dead, when he openly references the fact that he and bucky are 100, can you imagine knowing that? adjusting to that? being 20-something in body and memory but 100 in actuality? living in a body that people perceive as a weapon so strongly that you’ve become a weapon when you are still longing to rediscover the man you were? steve’s not just cap. steve’s steve, and he doesn’t know what makes him happy you guys. he’s a guy, he’s a human, and he’s dealing with A Lot.
i get that he makes some bad calls in the movie. so does tony. my beef is that while tony’s decisions are often supported by his very obvious trauma and emotional burden, we rarely seem to give enough weight to the very real and very similar turmoil that is going on inside of steve.
when tony is fighting him in siberia. when steve says, “he’s my friend,” so simply, so sadly, without any righteousness, just clean tired truth, that’s steve as steve. when he hid the truth from tony, that’s steve as steve. when he drops the shield, that’s steve reclaiming himself as steve. we expect cap all the time, because often, steve is cap. it’s easy to see him as the moral police that way, if reductionist.
but we forget to see steve as steve. that he is a kid, in some ways. and a grieving, lost, lonely kid with a lot of anger, sadness, confusion, and power boiling under the placid-seeming surface.
And can I just bring up a tiny little point that my nasty, suspicious mind threw in about Peggy’s death and the timing thereof? She was old. She was expected to die at pretty much any time. Who would perform an autopsy for such a frail patient dying in her sleep? Who would bother to run a drug tox screen to figure out if she was helped along in order to put pressure on Steve at a critical time? Ross would absolutely stoop that low. He proved it in the Hulk movie.
^^^^ All of this.
I kind of stand by Steve’s decisions or I don’t blame Steve for making the choices he made in Civil War. He realized from the events of The Winter Soldier that oversight by another group of people in an organization wasn’t the way to make difficult calls in emergent situations. From his time with running stealth missions with SHIELD he felt unease because he felt that he was carrying out other people’s agenda and being deliberately misled and naturally he felt used. He even confronted Nick Fury about SHIELD’s secrecy. His sentiment that he was still the best person to ensure he and his team were not misused to carry out other people’s agendas was solidified when he discovered that Hydra had infiltrated SHIELD. Plus, how much more helpful would a giant committee be for his super hero team? How could he ensure they were carrying out the best call when he was bound by another’s ruling? How would they be any better than he in terms of military acumen and insight into the an emergent situation? Could they even make the right calls in a timely fashion?
plus, I don’t think that Steve acted irrationally by going to find Bucky before everyone else. Yes, of course he was going to try to find his friend and of course, he felt vulnerable since he just lost his best girl. But, at the same time, I think he was also driven by his sense of right and his intuition that something was amiss and this sentiment transformed into a need to protect Bucky when it became clear that the orders were not to apprehend Bucky but rather to kill.
Plus, Steve Rogers has always been a rule breaker and I don’t think that has really ever changed. He was always driven by his sense of right and decency. In the First Avenger, he faked his draft forms many times and convinces Peggy Carter and Howard Stark to help him steal a plane and fly into enemy territory so that he could rescue his friends. When it turned out that SHEILD had been infiltrated and was corrupted, he dismantled it—Literally. Now that he has been faced with a situation where the world is telling him to change and to move on, and he doesn’t agree with it on a fundamental basis, he digs his heels in and stands fast. I am soo pumped to see him on the wrong side of the law because he knows what he did was the right thing to do. He saved a man who was wrongfully accused for the bombing in Vienna, (I think we can all agree that Bucky is innocent in that respect) and that in the end, he found the truth and was trying to prevent another unspeakable power from being unleashed onto the world with the other sleeper winter soldiers.
I am going to speculate that Steve probably was going to tell Tony about his parents eventually. Part of the reason why he made a lie of omission to Tony was that the timing was never right, and he knew that Tony would react emotionally and probably try to take it out on Bucky. But I think after all this cooled down, he would have tried to tell Tony.
I have chills and I’m crying wtf