Okay, so there’s a post I have some problems with that I’ve seen come across my dash about 4 or 5 times the past day. And each time I’ve seen it reblogged, I’ve hoped for a critical response. And each time the reblogger has been agreeing with it. So at this point I feel like I can’t really wait for someone else to do it. I’m the one who’s gonna have to write this.
I’m not gonna link to the original post because I’m not really trying to start any wank, and I’m not interested in singling out one person when the problem isn’t just with particular user. So I’ll summarize it here.
The basic problem I have is the assertion that Steve Rogers cannot possibly be suicidal, and that his act of laying down his shield at the end of the helicarrier fight is an act of hope and that his trauma muddied up the waters, transforming happiness into a question rather than something that lives within him. Which just? No? There are so many problems with that, even aside from the wording which, probably unintentionally, trivializes the trauma he’s been through.
Discussion of depression and suicide below the cut.
So just for reference, here are a few warning signs that someone might be depressed and suicidal.
Withdrawn or feeling isolated, pushing away loved ones
Does this sound familiar at all? Steve has pretty much no friends. The person we see closest to him is Natasha, and that’s pretty much a work relationship. Aside from Natasha who does he have? Peggy, who may not remember him from day to day. And Sam. A guy he met literally once before and apparently Steve has no one else that he can trust.
Loss of interest in things one cares about
What makes you happy? I don’t know.
Feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
For as long as I can remember, I just wanted to do what was right. I guess I’m not quite sure what that is anymore. And I thought I could throw myself back in, follow orders, serve…It’s just not the same. And then he finds out the organization he’s been working for is the one responsible for what he thought was Bucky’s death (whatever you believe their relationship was, you can’t argue that Bucky was not the most important person in Steve’s life). Oh, and guess what. That same organization he’s been working for is also the one that’s imprisoned, tortured, and dehumanized Bucky for 70 years. Everything he’s done and worked for the past two years has been a lie.
tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death
Taking off his helmet and putting away his shield mid-mission for a little on va voir? Jumping out of a plane with no parachute? Yes, I know he’s a super soldier, but water…is not the soft landing many people think it is. From that high up it’s basically diving headfirst into a solid surface. Super soldier or no, even a slightly wrong entry angle could easily result in a broken neck and death. And the way the strike team just laughs it off? This is a pattern for him.
And something that a lot of people seem to miss is that suicide attempts? These are the very last stages for someone who is suicidal. It starts small with the ideation (I don’t really want to be here, I’m not gonna go out and get a gun but I wouldn’t mind if I stepped into a street and suddenly got hit by a bus, I don’t think I’d mind being dead). Then it grows into reckless behavior and tempting fate. The very last stages are actually making a plan and committing to it.
But somehow there are people out there maintaining that Steve was NOT DEPRESSED and could not possibly, for even a single MOMENT of extreme emotional and physical pain and exhaustion, have wanted to die rather than lose Bucky again. That this was somehow a blip muddying the waters of his general happiness. And what I’m seeing here is a manifestation of society’s taboo against mental illnesses and depression, etc. that NO it’s NOT POSSIBLE that Steve is suffering from this. That would be a WEAKNESS. Steve is too STRONG and RESILIENT for that. And for some reason no one is questioning that because they’ve internalized this shit so completely.
And Steve? Steve’s the kind of guy who smiles when he’s sad. As the audience, we’re supposed to see that more clearly than perhaps the characters he’s talking to on screen. We’re explicitly shown his sadness errands. And Chris Evans does a phenomenal job of showing that inner pain. Because Steve doesn’t want to bleed on anyone else. He’s the personification of the whole “you’re so quiet I forget you’re suffering.” And one day I will write a full post on the correlation of how Steve is viewed WITHIN universe and WITHOUT of it, but it is fascinating to me how people just do not see Steve. For some reason there is something just so powerful about the propaganda around Captain America that makes people incapable of seeing the man underneath the costume both in the universe and in the audience.
People refuse to see his defiance and independence from the command structure, his disabilities, his pain, and his depression because he’s Captain America. He is the strong ideal of America, the unquestioning support behind the government, a good old boy from the good old days, and they gloss over anything that would tarnish that image. And Steve? Steve is not that golden boy. Steve grew up poor and disabled in a country that was espousing eugenics (yeah, it wasn’t just the Nazis). Steve grew up angry at the world for treating him as less of a person, angry at himself for not being what he thought of as good enough, angry at his body which meant he wasn’t worthy to even give his life for his country, angry at SHIELD for waking him up when everything he knows is gone, angry at the future for still fighting the same goddamn wars it was supposed to get BETTER. Which is not to say that he’s not a good person; he is. But he’s not the patriotic ball of sunshine the government’s been selling.
And so people gloss over anything that would spoil that image of Captain America who vows to fight day and night for what’s right night and day (he’s always been more willing to fight to defend other people than to defend himself). Captain America, who keeps on keeping on (there’s a difference between existing and living), who never gives up.
And I think this is another part of why people are trying to attribute motives to his throwing the shield down, saying that maybe he thought not fighting was the only way to break through the Winter Soldier programming. And that’s easy to say from the point of view of the audience. We’re watching a superhero movie. The good guys are going to win (for a given definition of winning). Obviously we know this plan is going to work. But Steve doesn’t. Steve has no idea that he’s going to succeed. Dying isn’t just a possible ending. It was almost guaranteed. This situation is so similar to the end of TFA with the plane/helicarrier crashing into the ocean/Potomac that there’s no way it’s an accident. And his choice again is to go down with the ship.
The Winter Soldier has given Steve no reason to think he’ll live through this. He’s beaten him and shot him (not a head shot, but let’s be real that’s probably not a distinction he’s making while dealing with three bullets in his gut). Steve has absolutely no reason to believe that any of this will help bring Bucky back, but Captain America never gives up right? Except…yeah. He does. When there’s nothing left to be done, he really does. Because he’s human.
He could’ve kept looking for a way out of the plane in TFA, but he doesn’t. It’s the same on the helicarrier. Steve is past the point of his endurance, and he is willing to die, to let Bucky kill him, rather than hurt Bucky any more or leave him behind (fail him) again. He’d been beaten to hell and back. He’d been shot. He was in so much pain physically and emotionally. He was not thinking anything beyond I can’t lose him again go ahead because I’m with you ‘til the end of the line. And while he might not have been to the point of actively trying to take his own life through the movie (and maybe he never would have been in the normal course of events), at that one moment he had given up trying to save his life. He had decided that he would rather die. And one moment is all it takes. Literally the only reason Steve is alive is that a tiny sliver of Bucky, though some kind of miracle, manages to break through his programming enough to pull him from the water even though he has no idea why he does it.
Now I’m not expecting everyone to write all their fanfiction about heavy shit like this (though a story or two that doesn’t gloss over it would be nice). That’s the beauty of fanfiction. You can do whatever you want, you can write fluff, you can write crack. In fanfiction canon is really more like a guideline, and I can totally understand wanting things to be happy and easy because oh my god that movie was emotionally devastating. My problem is with the trend of ABSOLUTE DENIAL of Steve Rogers’ depression and suicidal tendencies when it’s in discussion of the actual source material. People who try to pretend that his behavior was healthy or basically anything except what it really was. Because that is trying to erase canon mental and emotional health issues that really need to be represented and talked about. I feel the same way when people erase pre-serum Steve’s myriad and sundry disabilities and Bucky severe trauma and PTSD as the winter soldier because they’re inconvenient and the discussion makes them uncomfortable.
Well yes. They are. But they’re also a part of these characters and a part of so many people who are finally seeing representation in these characters. And it makes me especially uncomfortable because Steve? He exhibits textbook signs of depression and suicidal tendencies. And the fact that people are treating this behavior as fine or healthy or laughing it off and basically doing everything possible to deny the possibility of Steve’s depression and suicidal tendencies makes me very uncomfortable because this is exactly what people do in real life. They ignore these signs. I’m not asking everyone to talk about these issues all the time. What I’m asking is that you not gloss over them and pretend pretend they’re not here.