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We Need Both

Why we need heroes who change and heroes who don't

By Jessica NorrisPublished 2 years ago 5 min read
We Need Both
Photo by N I F T Y A R T ✍🏻 on Unsplash

Warning: The following contains spoilers for Avengers: Endgame and potentially any Marvel films from before it.

One of the hardest movies for me to watch is Captain America: Civil War. It's a movie where I feel obligated to pick a side. But I love heroes on both sides. I love Captain America and Iron Man.

In this film, the differences between Iron Man and Captain America are clearly seen. Captain America broadly represents heroes who remain the same after facing external conflict. Iron Man broadly represents heroes who change after facing internal and external conflict.

Captain America

Captain America

Captain America is the sort of hero who doesn't change. His struggle is against the external. He fights to stay true to his convictions no matter what. He can be counted on to do the right thing. He's the character that fills viewers with inspiration when he says things like, "We don't trade lives." In the comics, he gives the famous, "No, you move," speech.

Viewers of the films and comic book fans alike appreciate Captain America's strong sense of morality. He strives to always do the right thing, in spite of circumstance. He fights Nazis in World War II and risks everything to save his best friend. He takes down a terrorist organization inside SHIELD and leads the Avengers to stop global threats. He stays true to his convictions through the Sokovia Accords and leads an army against Thanos. He inspires others to take a stand for what is right, even when it costs everything.

This is best demonstrated in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Captain America reveals to everyone at SHIELD that the organization has been taken over by HYDRA. He implores them not to launch the Helicarriers, an action that will lead to the death of millions of people.

There's a young SHIELD agent who is helping with the launch. When Brock Rumlow (A.K.A. Crossbones and HYDRA agent) tells him to up the time of the launch, the agent knows he is making a life or death choice in his answer to the command. He is terrified. His voice falters. But he believes everything that Steve told him. He takes a moment to collect himself and says, "I'm not going to launch those ships. Captain's orders."

It's that sort of bravery that Captain America inspires in ordinary people.

This isn't to say that Steve Rogers doesn't make mistakes. But he makes amends, which continues to align with his character. For example, at the end of Civil War, he apologizes for keeping the truth from Tony and gives Tony a way to contact him.

Captain America helps us see an ideal. He's a hero we can look up to and admire. With Captain America stand other unwavering heroes like Peggy Carter, Falcon, and Vision. These characters do not experience extensive changes to their convictions and beliefs. Their stories focus more on external rather than internal conflict.

We need heroes like Captain America to remind us of what is good.

Iron Man

Iron Man

Iron Man is another story. Tony Stark doesn't start out as a hero. Rather, he becomes one over time. Initially, he is self-absorbed and doesn't care about other people. In ten years worth of films, Tony Stark grows to be someone who makes the ultimate sacrifice to save others.

Tony Stark is a much-needed character in stories. He's an example of a character who changes in a positive way. In the first Iron Man film, Tony is living what some would call the good life. He has money, fame, and pretty much everything a person could want. But all he thinks about is himself.

Tony's life is drastically changed when he is kidnapped and needs to find a way to get home. In the end, a fellow prisoner, Yinsen, sacrifices himself so Tony can escape. He leaves Tony with the dying words, "Don't waste your life."

I like to imagine those words stayed with Tony throughout the challenges he faced. His brilliance and quippy character continue to shine through, but he becomes someone who begins to think more about other people and less about himself. He's not a solemn character, and he isn't meant to be. He's meant to be the person who's clever and funny, but he learns to value other people and sacrifice for the greater good.

We start to see this in the first Avengers movie, where Tony almost dies to save the world from the Chitauri invasion. He mentors Spider Man and becomes the man Pepper wants to spend the rest of her life with.

He deals with the fear of death and comes to terms with a difficult childhood. He grieves the loss of the people closest to him and struggles with the guilt of his own failures.

Through all of his mistakes and doubt, he becomes the person who gives his own life to end Thanos' threat to the universe. He becomes a hero, a person who did the right thing when it mattered most.

The beauty is we get to see all the mountains and valleys he had to climb through to get there. Similar transformations can be seen in characters like Nebula, Doctor Strange, and Thor. These characters experience growth and change to become heroes.

We need characters like Iron man to remind us that doing what is good is a journey.


So, I watch Civil War, saddened in my heart to see two heroes pitted against each other. I watch Endgame to remind myself that the two become friends again. It all works out, even if the ending is sad.

We need both types of characters. Stories teach deeper truths. We need characters like Captain America to remind us to stand up for what is right. And we need characters like Iron Man to remind us that doing the right thing is complicated and that change is a process that takes the right kind of help. Their stories give inspiration and hope for different reasons.

Together, they give us a picture of what it takes to be a hero.


About the Creator

Jessica Norris

Passionate writer that is enthusiastic about writing engaging, compelling content. Excels in breaking down complex concepts into simple terms and connecting with readers through sharing stories and personal experience.

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Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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  • Sandra Tena Cole2 months ago

    I agree with you completely!

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