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Whose Captain America Is It? … and a Final Note on Hanoi Jane

In my Captain America (aka “Easy Rider”), weren’t the bad guys the forces of plutocracy and repression that under the guise of the Nixon’s Southern strategy conspired to culture-nap America and hand it back to the racist rednecks?

 

I saw my first 3D movie the other day. ’Nuff said.

My feelings about “modern” 3D? Despite the imprecations of my old boss, Jeffrey Katzenberg (3D’s Town Crier), to embrace the “new” technology it is nothing more than the old “Smell-O-Vision” of the '50s repackaged for a new generation.

What scares me more was that no one — Katzenberg, critics or the public, in large part –has figured out that the desperate resorting to weird technological answers to creative problems represents the paucity of creative vision now dominating our studios. Worse, it presages the kind of crash for the industry that happened in the ‘60s, when the public finally did “smell out” the fact that “Smell-O-Vision” (or whatever it’s copyrighted name was) represented nothing more than a desperate attempt to fool the public that all that’s old is new again!

Don’t believe me? Remember the slogan, “Movies are better than ever”? That was right before Clint Eastwood was cast as a singer in 1969's “Paint Your Wagon."

Witness the most recent fare, for example: A remake (or “rebooting”) of Arnold “The Impregnator” Schwarzeneggar’s “Conan,” a mediocre remake (sorry Rick Jaffa) of the ‘60’s “Planet of the Apes” and an updated version of the Dustin Hoffman’s 1970 classic “Straw Dogs,” with Kate Bosworth replacing Susan George. Talk about weak tea!?!

On the other hand, as long as we’re on the subject of old movies, let me ask: While I quite enjoyed “Captain America: The First Avenger” (the 3D movie I finally saw) — at least for the five minutes it took the effect to wear off — was I the only one so confused by the story that I had to go back and see it again without the glasses?

I quickly figured out the problem — this was another of those faux-George Lucas/Steven Spielberg homages to the serials of their youth.

The problem is it wasn’t my youth. They’re a whole generation older. Having done some research, though, I learned the original Captain America represented a newly resurgent America post WWII, with the guy wearing red-white-and-blue tights beating up the bad-guys. But I wasn’t born then.

No, the Captain America of my youth drove a Harley chopper and with his buddy Billy, set off to see a modern-day America, circa 1969.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong — which is entirely possible — but in my Captain America (aka “Easy Rider”), weren’t the bad guys the forces of plutocracy and repression that under the guise of the Nixon’s Southern strategy conspired to culture-nap America and hand it back to the racist rednecks?

In short — and, again, correct me if I’m wrong — wasn’t the offspring of the WWII Captain America lionized in “The First Avenger” who actually murdered our Captain America, played with aplomb by Peter Fonda? And why didn’t this new “Captain America” deal with how he went from beating up Nazis to becoming one?

Anyway, I think that’s what happens with 3D as well — you get dazzled by the effect without noticing, unless you take the glasses off, that there’s nothing really underneath … oh, yeah, there’s a lot of cool Hitlerian technology, but nothing that Spielberg didn’t do better 30 years ago in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

But, hey, that’s my remembrance of things past — maybe some of Nixon’s Republican progeny like Rep. Michelle Bachman (Paul Revere’s ride took place in New Hampshire) or Gov. Rick Perry (the South won the Civil War so it’s okay for Texas to secede) has a better memory?

Until they can show me that their vision of history (or eveoluton, for that matter) makes more sense though, I’ll take the red-white-and-blue glasses off and watch “Easy Rider” one more time just to remind myself of who my Captain America is.

Note bene: Interestingly, I saw “Captain America: The First Avenger” the same weekend that Jane Fonda wrote her Hollyblog about how she was still being excoriated by socalled “Vietnam-era vets” most of whom, like George Bush and Dick Cheney never got within a continent of actual fighting ((oh, that’s right, Cheney never was a vet—he chickened out with student deferments).

So I decided to go back and review a book that had won critical acclaim and academic plaudits two decades ago, “Democracy is in the Streets,” by my old Newsweek compatriot Jim Miller. It was a history of the SDS (or Students for a Democratic society, for those too young to remember) from their version of Jefferson’s Declaration, the Port Huron Statement, to the Chicago riots of the 1968 Democratic Convention. The focus was largely on former California State Sen. Tom Hayden, one of the principle authors of the statement — and his then-wife, Jane Fonda, the sister of “Easy Rider”-star Peter Fonda.

Now, it turns out for all the ignoramuses who like Bachman and Perry who like to mistell history — or, for that matter, the latest “Captain America” — despite the speechifiying and protests during his trips to Vietnam in the ‘60s and ‘70s Hayden (and, by extension, his wife “Hanoi Jane”) were not only not being disloyal to America but were actively working with the CIA and Ambassorder Averill Harriman negotiating the release of American POWs! (“Democracy is in the Streets,” Simon & Schuster, 1987.)

So let’s remember today, with an election year looming that, like his sister, Peter Fonda’s Captain America was far from disloyal in questioning America’s patriotism. In fact, in questioning it, he was simply doing what the Founding Fathers’ felt was our duty — to question everything in order to construct “a more perfect union.”

Or at least get rid of 3D.

Peter McAlevey is a motion-picture producer and former correspondent for Newsweek. His latest movie is "Kill Her, Not Me