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How “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” Challenged Racial Stereotypes in the MCU

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was released in March of 2021, and not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about how life-changing this show was to me. I have been a Marvel fan for over ten years, and ever since my first watch, my favorite Avenger has always been Steve Rogers, aka Captain America. As I watched “Endgame”, I was extremely sad to see Steve go, but also very excited to see how Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, would take up the mantle of Captain America. 

I was pleasantly surprised when the show focused greatly on racial stereotypes within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and how those stereotypes have affected characters, both old and new. For me, it was very important to see these problems be addressed, even if it is within a fictional world because it was bringing awareness to the hurdles that POC must overcome every day. The show doesn’t shy away from showing the ugly side of humanity as it displays Sam living as a Black person in the United States. The bank that he and his sister, Sarah, go to to try to get a loan for their family business, tells them that Sam has no credit and that they are ineligible, but this is only because Sam didn’t exist for five years since he was blipped. This is also when audiences find out that during his time as an Avenger, Sam didn’t get paid for it at all for saving the world, even though Tony Stark had the full capacity to pay the Avengers. The bank employee tells them that since the reverse of the blip, many people have been looking for loans, and Sarah makes an accurate side remark, “Funny how things always tighten up around us”.

At the end of Episode 1, Sam discovers that the mantle of Captain America, which he decided not to take up, got passed on to a new character, John Walker. This introduction pushes the stereotype that Captain America must be blond and blue-eyed, “a real American”, not an African American. 

This is even further displayed in the show when Bucky introduces Sam to Isaiah Bradley, a military veteran who was experimented on while serving during the Korean War. Bucky explains to Isaiah that they’re there because they had “others like you and me”. Isaiah gets upset and throws a container at the wall, which breaks the wall on impact. This displays Isaiah’s super strength, confirming that he was experimented on like Steve and Bucky—created to be a super soldier. He tells Bucky and Sam that heroes like him aren’t treated the same as other heroes, and Sam gets upset now knowing that there was a Black super soldier that the world never knew about. 

Watching this story made me really see these characters, whom I had known for years, go through something as human as feeling not good enough solely based on the color of their skin, resonated so strongly with me and my own experiences. One of the parts of the show that really stuck with me was when after meeting Isaiah, Bucky and Sam got into a bit of a disagreement in front of the house and a police car pulled up and began questioning Sam, asking Bucky “Is this man bothering you”? It isn’t until Bucky points out that Sam is a literal superhero, that the cops back off. But if Bucky, a white man, hadn’t intervened, who knows what the cops would’ve done to Sam?

The show ends with Sam taking back the mantle of Captain America, proving that the idea of Captain America can be fulfilled by a Black man. While audiences have yet to see more of Sam Wilson’s Captain America, I can already tell that he is going to continue the legacy of Steve’s Captain America as just, trustworthy, and honest. There has been tons of love towards Sam Wilson, but where there is love, there is also hate. 

Unfortunately, the obvious racism critique in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” didn’t hit others as hard as it hit me and many fans have begun claiming that Captain America needs to be a white man. To me, this only tells me that these people completely missed the point of the show, which was demonstrating Captain America as an idea, one that has nothing to do with race, but everything to do with being “not a good soldier but a good man”, as Dr. Erskine told Steve when he chose him for the super soldier program, “not a good soldier but a good man”. 

I will always be sad not to have Steve, but I am so thankful for this show and for Marvel for keeping the legacy of Captain America alive through Sam. This show was extremely bold for Marvel, talking about such a controversial topic as race, but I think it was the right choice in the end. Sam’s story is only just beginning, and while I’m sure he will face more racism in the future, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” shows his strength, his honor, and his dignity and I cannot wait to see what he does next.

Adamari Ruelas

CU Boulder '26

Adamari Ruelas is a contributing writer for the Her Campus chapter at CU Boulder. Her job within Her Campus is to write at least two articles a month, one contributing to a theme week. Outside of Her Campus, Adamari is a first-generation college student who is currently a sophomore at the University of Colorado Boulder, majoring in English Creative Writing. During her spring semester of freshman year, Adamari studied abroad in London, wanting to learn about different cultures while also being able to study in a Literature-rich city. Adamari also interned at the Aurora Public Schools Communications Department during her senior year of High School, where she learned how to write articles, interview subjects, and create social media posts for the department under the guidance of multiple professionals. In her free time, Adamari enjoys reading and writing, at least when she isn’t hanging out with her friends or playing Overwatch with her little siblings. She is a very proud Mexican-American who loves sharing her culture as long as Mexican history with anyone who lends an ear. Adamari is also a massive nerd, especially with Harry Potter (she’s a Ravenclaw btw) and Marvel. In the future, Adamari hopes to become a published author, sharing her works with the world and hoping they help people the way books have helped her.