April 23, 2021 marked the sixth and final episode of the newest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) piece, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” The episode resolved all of the conflict the season had been building up to and revealed a new title for a character who has been a part of the MCU character list for nearly seven years.
Sam Wilson, also known as the Falcon and played by Anthony Mackie, is now the new Captain America. This is monumental for the MCU for a plethora of reasons.
When the Black Panther or T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, had gotten his own movie in the MCU, he became an icon for Black children in America and across the globe. A Black superhero character who was in mainstream media was a huge deal and a very important role that Boseman lived up to before his death last year.
Now with Sam becoming the new Captain America (“Cap” for short), this allows a Black man to continue the job and role of a historically white, blonde hair blue eyed staple in American culture on the big screen and in households across the globe.
According to Forbes, a mere 20% of MCU superheroes are played by Black actors and 61% are played by white actors. By Mackie playing the role of Captain America, it further represents a need for change in the MCU.
Sam’s character throughout the MCU had always been a right-hand man for Steve Rogers (the original Captain America) when his best friend Bucky Barnes wasn’t around. When Steve had aged after “Avengers: Endgame,” he had given Sam his shield. The shield symbolizes the strength and legacy Captain America has as a hero. During “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” Sam gave it away to the Smithsonian and the government because he felt he wasn’t worthy of the shield and didn’t believe he could hold the title of Captain America. The government ended up assigning the shield to John Walker, a white U.S. soldier who they thought was fit for the job (but ultimately failed because the power went to his head and he was not prepared for the job).
The show goes in depth with Sam’s personal struggle of accepting the shield as a Black man in America. He speaks with Isaiah Bradley, a character newly introduced into the MCU but a character who has been in the Marvel Comics for nearly 20 years. He was a Black man who had unwillingly been tested on during the Korean War with the same serum that Steve was given that made him Captain America. His task was to take down the Winter Soldier (Bucky’s alter ego) but failed. The government feared having a Black man as a super soldier so they instead locked him up for three decades and tested on him, essentially erasing his name from history. Isaiah eventually was freed but told Sam that the America they live in will never accept a Black man as a national hero.
Sam did the opposite, and proved himself more than capable. He trained with the shield and used Isaiah’s words to fuel his desire to continue down Steve’s path with honor and bring his own change to the name of Captain America.
Sam gave a speech at the end of the final episode about discrimination and really set the tone for the upcoming Captain America movies. It’s rumored that the fourth movie is in the making, with Sam being the face of it.
Assuming Mackie’s Cap will follow in the footsteps of Boseman’s Black Panther in terms of impact on the Black community, the representation of his character in the media will be big for Disney and Marvel. He’ll be changing Cap for the better. Mackie is known to speak up for himself and he portrays Sam in a way that will give Cap a new and better position in the world. His character can bring on so much change in the ways people view Black American’s representation in history within our country (which was a big part of the whole season). There’s also the fact that his character doesn’t need a serum to be who he is and is built off his pure strength and willingness to do good things for the world.
Some Marvel fans have been known to criticize the increasing diversity in characters and actors. Notably, Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel faced a lot of backlash when she became the first female superhero in the MCU to have her own movie, just because she was a woman and defended herself from hate. It’s no lie Mackie will face a form of backlash for being a Black man playing Captain America considering he’s already faced forms of criticism from fans as Sam throughout his seven-year run in the MCU. An example of that being when a fan at Comic Con insulted Mackie in front of a large audience in order to praise his castmate Tom Holland. Mackie responded by defending himself and making jokes back to the girl.
Fans in general are ready to see where Sam takes Cap as phase four of the MCU begins. The loss of Cap at the end of “Endgame” was monumental and Sam is now prepared to take on the huge role with a new perspective on the world. Fans should really be excited to see him in action as he represents many different things within the MCU now.
Mackie as the new Captain America will have big shoes to fill, as Chris Evans (who plays Steve) leaves it up to his successor to reclaim the role to his full potential. Along with keeping the name a household name, he now has the ability to shape the character to give way to newer and bigger things as a Black man in America. He’ll battle against stereotypes and create an image that so many people, especially young children, will be able to look up to just like Black Panther had.
The creators and writers of Captain America and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” made a great decision. It will be an exciting journey to follow as Mackie takes on the big role and as Sam moves social justice change along through the MCU.
Erin McGay is a staff reporter for The Review. Her opinions are her own and do not represent the majority opinion of The Review’s editorial staff. She may be reached at email@example.com.