America’s sweetheart both onscreen and off, Hollywood actor Chris Evans seems to have come a long way from playing the buff yet gentle (and fictitious) Captain America for Marvel to actually becoming something of a real-life “avenger".
While his screen-superhero avatar saves the planet from oppressive aliens, Evans is more focused on calling out the systemic racial oppression that exists in the world.
Since the start of the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States following the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Evans has been vocal on social media with his support for the movement.
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) May 31, 2020
Evans, however, is not one of the actors accused of jumping on to the BLM bandwagon with the intent to appropriate the issue or use it for self-promotion. “Captain America" famously called President Donald Trump “racist" in July 2019 after the latter made a snide comment about the Democrat Congresswomen coming from underprivileged nations that have a high rate of crime and corruption.
So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
Evans shot back at the President. “This is racist, Biff," the actor wrote on Twitter. “The only thing worse than actually being hateful and racist is casually wielding hate and racism to activate your base in an unrelenting, painfully transparent, and crushingly on-brand effort to soothe your only true devotion: feeding your insatiable ego.”
Not just racism, Evans has also raised his voice against homophobia. In June 2019, he spoke out against heterosexual males trying to conduct a “Straight Pride Parade" in Boston, US, in opposition to queer pride. “Wow! Cool initiative, fellas!!" Evans lased out on Twitter. “Just a thought, instead of ‘Straight Pride’ parade, how about this: The ‘desperately trying to bury our own gay thoughts by being homophobic because no one taught us how to access our emotions as children’ parade? Whattaya think? Too on the nose?"
Wow! Cool initiative, fellas!! Just a thought, instead of ‘Straight Pride’ parade, how about this: The ‘desperately trying to bury our own gay thoughts by being homophobic because no one taught us how to access our emotions as children’ parade? Whatta ya think? Too on the nose?? https://t.co/gaBWtq2PaL— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) June 5, 2019
Evans also lent his support to the fan-edit made by a Black Lives Matter supporter to a clip from a scene in Avengers: Endgame on Twitter recently. The scene depicts Captain America calling on to the rest of the Avengers to assemble before the final battle. The clip has been edited with labels such as “protesters", “Twitter awareness", “donators", “petition makers", each representing a character in the scene.
Evans responded to the fan-edit with much gusto, calling the edited meme amazing.
On his birthday, many have been congratulating Evans for being a real-life hero. Despite his apparent activism and vocal tweets on racism and gender, Evans will be remembered perhaps for personifying one of the whitest super-heroes that sprung up in the United States during the Cold War era.
While the racist undertones of the character were drowned out with time, scholars have often suggested that the icon of “Captain America" may well be a summarised and personified symbol of white-supremacist nationalism and jingoism that was in vogue at the time and perhaps even today. Case in point a former sidekick of the Cap, tellingly named “Whitewash Jones", which was written out of later editions of the Marvel comic by creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby due to his highly racist depictions.
Be that as it may, Evans has emerged as a powerful and highly visible ally in the Black Live Matter movement. At the end of Avengers: Endgame, Captain passes on his mantle and shield to Sam Wilson, played by African-American actor Anthony Mackie, and essentially quitting the franchise. Perhaps Evans’ exit from the franchise might pave the way for the first-ever black “Captain America".
Additionally, movements such as “Black Lives Matter" are often mobilized using popular support. Be it promoting the cause across mass media channels or raising funds (Hollywood actors including Evans have donated $1.2 million to Black Lives Matter already), celebrities like Evans can prove to be powerful allies despite their obvious white privilege.
(This story was originally published on June 13, 2020)