We had chat with Professor Mark D. White author of the upcoming book "The Virtues Of Captain America." In THE VIRTUES OF CAPTAIN AMERICA (Wiley-Blackwell; Spring 2014) , philosopher and pop culture expert Mark D. White argues that "Cap" is indeed a hero for the contemporary era and someone to be emulated now more than ever. White reveals that Captain America's focus on core principles and ideals, combined with his sound judgment, compassion, and iron will, is anything but simple--and is precisely what we need to navigate 21st-century problems in our personal lives, our communities, and our country as a whole. White shows us that while Captain America is often regarded as a jingoistic flag-waver, he has been written consistently as representing a kind of patriotism that adheres to basic tenets of liberty and equality while staying above partisan politics.
1. OtakusandGeeks.com: Can you tell us a little about the moment you decided to write this book? When did you fall in love with the art of literature?
Mark D. White: The seed for this book was an op-ed piece I wrote when Captain America: The First Avenger came out, which now serves fairly well as a concise summary of the book. The more I thought about the ideas in that short essay and the personal and civic virtues that Captain America exemplifies, the more I wanted to write a book-length treatment of them. Plus, it was a chance to write an entire book in the style of my chapters for the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series, introducing some basic philosophy in the context of a classic superhero, but in this case with more of a directed focus to the book as a whole.
2. OtakusandGeeks.com: What is about Captain America that inspired you to write this book?
Mark D. White: I’ve always admired Cap’s moral code, which is repeatedly dismissed in the comics and by real-world fans alike as “black-and-white” and anachronistic. Also, I always found his focus on principle over politics inspiring and exactly what we should be focusing on if we want to get over the acrimony dominating our politics today.
3. OtakusandGeeks.com: Did you happen to catch the new Captain America movie "The Winter Solider?" If so what we're your thoughts on the film and its stand of morality, fear and what's right?
Mark D. White: I did, and I loved it – I thought the filmmakers found an excellent way to make Cap relevant for 2014 while his moral character is still very much grounded in the 1940s. It forces him to confront the new ways of government and combat, enabled by modern technology, and apply his timeless principles of justice and liberty to them.
4. OtakusandGeeks.com: How did you prepare for writing this book? What type of research did you do?
Mark D.White: This was the best part: I reread (and in some cases read for the first time) every issue of Captain America and Avengers, and also the various crossover events and guest appearances, taking notes on every mention or display of principled behavior. Then I worked up the most significant ones into the book, along with classic source material from philosophy. It was hard work, but someone has to do it!
5. OtakusandGeeks.com: In the book some of your central themes are about virtues and morality, and how all of us regardless of our differences share basic values. What do you hope readers to take away from this book?
Mark D. White: Exactly that! Seriously, I hope they see that there’s nothing old-fashioned about an ethics based on virtue, duty, and principle, because these ideas are of no use to us without using judgment based on context and circumstances, which keeps them modern and relevant. Also, I hope readers will see that they have more in common with people on “the other side of the aisle” than they might think, which I believe will make political debate more civil and productive.
6. OtakusandGeeks.com:Without giving too much away from your book how is Captain America a symbol for people in this era?
Mark D. White: It’s not giving anything away! It’s the same ideas I emphasized above: he shows how we can apply timeless ethical virtues and principles in changing times by using our moral judgment, and he also shows how we can rise above partisan divisiveness by focusing on shared core ideals such as justice, equality, and liberty.
7. OtakusandGeeks.com: One thing we love about Cap is that no matter how much the world changes his ideals, his moral code never waivers. It's kind of similar to the basic principles for not just Americans but people all over the world. Is this something you're trying to get across in the book?
Mark D. White: Definitely – Cap learned these ideals and principles as an American, but doesn’t believe they are exclusively American ideals. He consistently applies them to everybody around the world, and also holds our elected leaders to these principles when dealing with the rest of the world.
8. OtakusandGeeks.com: Since this book has a relation to a superhero what are your thoughts on how big superheroes and the values, moral code has shaped generations?
Mark D. White: I think superheroes are just one element in popular culture, along with literature, television, and movies, that subtly impart moral ideas to people. Given the increasing popularity of superheroes today, due primarily to the success of the Marvel movies, I think their influence as role models may be rising as well.
9. OtakusandGeeks.com: How important are superheroes in today's society with everything being accessible from social media? We're exposed so much to things now that we would never have years ago?
Mark D. White: I don’t know if we’re exposed to more things as much as we’re exposed to them in different ways. For instance, comic books used to sell millions of copies each, whereas selling 100,000 issues of a comic book today is spectacular. But you could argue that comic book superheroes are better known today than ever, given not only social media but also the various other media in which they’re showcased, especially movies and TV.
10. OtakusandGeeks.com: How can your readers keep in touch with you? Do you have a Facebook, Twitter ETC?
Mark D. White: I’m on Twitter as @profmdwhite and maintain a personal website at http://www.profmdwhite.com.