We Interrupt this Movie for a Message from Captain America about Health Care
Joss Whedon tells The New York Times about a scene he decided to cut from The Avengers:
One of the best scenes that I wrote was the beautiful and poignant scene between Steve and Peggy [Carter] that takes place in the present. And I was the one who was like, ‘Guys, we need to lose this.’ It was killing the rhythm of the thing. And we did have a lot of Cap, because he really was the in for me. I really do feel a sense of loss about what’s happening in our culture, loss of the idea of community, loss of health care and welfare and all sorts of things. I was spending a lot of time having him say it, and then I cut that.
Alyssa Rosenberg is bummed:
The timing and the platform would have been amazing, the purest representative of American power in the superhero pantheon standing in for Solicitor General Donald Verrilli in the biggest tentpole of the summer, a month and a half before the Supreme Court’s likely to issue its ruling that will determine the future of the Affordable Care Act. It also would have also created a political firestorm around the movie, something the cheerful blandness of Captain America was careful to avoid. Whedon may have been entirely right that the scene would have interrupted the flow of the movie. But with The Avengers tracking for an absolutely ginormous opening, he also may not have wanted to futz with the prospects of an enormously high-profile opening.
I doubt that I would have disagreed much with whatever Whedon had Captain America say, but, unlike Rosenberg, I’m not sorry to see the scene cut from the film, especially if “it was killing the rhythm” of the story. I’m not a strict adherent to the art for art’s sake school of thought, but in my opinion art can successfully have a moral or political function only so long as the instructive content is interwoven artistically into the whole and doesn’t stand out and away from it.
It sounds like Whedon couldn’t make the mentioned scene work with the rest of the narrative, but I wonder if the contemporary political climate surrounding health care reform would have tugged at the thread no matter how well Whedon seamlessly sewed it. I fear the timing and platform of Captain America’s words wouldn’t have been “amazing,” as Rosenberg says, but a distraction from the story while having little to no worthwhile political impact. Would Captain America really have convinced anyone on the fence about the need for health care reform? Would his speech have stood as a testament to a better America after it passed through the jagged motorized sheers of the culture warriors at Fox News and elsewhere? I’m dubious. Movie-caused political firestorms aren’t good if they burn or engulf the film while bringing little light to the political scene.