Bad Blood in Captain America: Civil War

"Captain America and Iron Man" | Art by p1xer. Used with permission.

Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted.
Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it’s all rusted.

In early 2016, somebody remixed the Captain America: Civil War trailer with Taylor Swift’s song “Bad Blood.” The result was amazingly effective and highlighted the film’s central theme—it’s easier than you think for good friends to turn into bitter enemies.

The Avengers have fought side-by-side through two films; stopping the Chitauri invasion and defeating Ultron. Not that they always got along; Tony Stark and Steve Rogers clearly favoured different ways of doing things. When all was said and done, though, they set aside those differences and stood together against a common enemy.

That camaraderie ended in Civil War.

After a mission goes sideways in Lagos and several humanitarian workers from Wakanda die as collateral damage, Secretary of State Thaddeus Ross tells the team that they can no longer act independently. The forthcoming Sokovia Accords will place the team under direct UN control. Tony and Steve suddenly find themselves in conflict.

The hard choice is to value the relationship over “winning” the argument.

“We need to be put in check! And whatever form that takes, I’m game. If we can’t accept limitations, we’re boundaryless, we’re no better than the bad guys,” Tony argues.

Steve counters, “If we sign this, we surrender our right to choose. What if this panel sends us somewhere we don’t think we should go? What if there’s somewhere we need to go and they don’t let us? We may not be perfect, but the safest hands are still our own.”

Just like that, two friends—or at least colleagues—pull away from each other and start staking out territory as enemies.

I’d like to think that I’m smarter than Tony and Steve, that I wouldn’t make the decision to turn on a friend. After all, there’s a right answer to every situation and we just have to be bright enough to figure it out. Then everybody will be on the same page. Right?

Wrong.

Just ask a few of your friends if they’re #TeamIronMan or #TeamCap. You’ll find out soon enough that not everyone sees things your way. If you’re not careful, a friendly debate over a movie can escalate into a serious breach of a friendship.

In Civil War, both sides had good arguments. Tony was right to worry about what might happen if the Avengers continued to act without oversight. Steve was right to worry that oversight could bring dangerous limits. The bad blood began the moment they decided to stop listening to each other.

Now did you think it all through? All these things will catch up to you.

If they’d had more time, perhaps they could have worked it out. Except that Steve’s childhood friend Bucky Barnes gets blamed for a bombing that kills the king of Wakanda. The authorities are after Bucky, and Steve (convinced that Bucky will be killed) wants to get to him first. Tony believes that Steve has gone rogue and needs to be stopped.

With the battle lines drawn, each hero recruits allies for the fight. Which, I have to admit, is something I’ve done. You don’t have to be a superhero to want friends around you in a conflict. Have you ever had someone say or do something that upset you? Isn’t your first impulse to find a friend so you can tell them how badly you’ve been treated? Sometimes you might even leave a few things out, anything that might suggest you’re wrong, because you want that friend on your side so badly. The more people who affirm your beliefs, the more right you feel.

Except that whole “two sides to every argument” phrase is accurate. My friends often only take my side because they only hear my perspective.

Now we’ve got problems
And I don’t think we can solve them

Conflict can’t be avoided in life. There is a path, though, that can keep conflict from escalating to a scorched-earth fight-to-the-death. It’s simple really; remember what you’re really fighting about.

Every conflict has two components. First, you’re arguing about whatever you’re arguing about—the Sokovia Accords, your favourite politician, what to watch on Netflix, etc. Second, you’re negotiating the future of your relationship.

The bad blood began the moment they decided to stop listening to each other.

You can potentially win the argument (or at least get your way), by taking a position and sticking to it. Sometimes you may feel that’s the most principled approach. It is often the easiest. You don’t have to consider a different point of view or work on a compromise. You stand your ground until the other side gives up.

The hard choice is to value the relationship over “winning” the argument. Doing that means setting aside my point-of-view and really listening. It means being vulnerability and taking the chance that I might have been wrong. In a way, it’s giving up a little bit of my tight-fisted grip on the world.

If the relationship ever had value—and Cap and Tony’s definitely did—it was worth fighting for.

They lost sight of that for a time and it cost them both dearly. Yet, at the end of the film, it seems that Cap has remembered what really matters. In his letter to Tony, he acknowledges the other man’s perspective, “I know you’re doing what you believe in, and that’s all any of us can do. That’s all any of us should…” Then he reaffirms his commitment to their relationship. “So no matter what, I promise you, if you need us—if you need me—I’ll be there.”

That’s a good thing to remember next time you find yourself in a fight with someone you value. At the end of it, you’d like to be able to say (and hear them say), “I’ll be there.”

Kevin Cummings

Kevin Cummings

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
Kevin has been the husband of one wife for more than thirty years and the dad of two sons for not quite that long. A geek from birth, he grew up with the original Star Trek and Star Wars and enjoys finding expressions of God’s love in the worlds of fandom.
Kevin Cummings

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