Though he’s one of its most iconic heroes, Captain America comes with an unfortunate subtext that actually hurts the MCU as a franchise. The MCU is made up of a staggering roster of heroes. However, in its early days, there was just a handful, and none of them quite led the charge like Captain America.

In Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers is given a serum that transforms him into an optimal physical specimen. At the peak of human potential, Captain America is certainly powerful, but it’s really his ability to inspire others that makes him so important. He’s the leader of the Avengers not because of his powers, but because he stands for all that’s good. Or does he?

In fact, Captain America is followed by a rather nasty piece of subtext. The origins of his powers are a big part of this, but it only becomes messier as his story progresses. It’s made even worse, though: this easy-to-miss subtext actually undermines the entire MCU.

Captain America Is The Worst Type Of Hypocrite

Rogers is selected for the super soldier program for a few key reasons. He shows that he’s willing to break the rules to be a hero and that he has outstanding moral fiber. That’s all well and good, but rewarding him for it is… problematic.

After being given the super soldier serum, Rogers is transformed into Captain America. He’s stronger, faster, and better in practically every single way. Except, this sort of reinforces that it’s okay to take steroids, doesn’t it? His heroism doesn’t mean anything at all until he’s given the serum – only then is he a real hero.

This makes Captain America a hypocrite, too. He’s staunchly against anyone else using the serum, especially Red Skull (who is admittedly evil). The notion that it enhances the bad in people too is a sweet idea, but it has interesting implications, too. It certainly seems to enhance Rogers’ own bravado, because he begins to buy into the idea that only he is worthy of the serum.

Why Captain America’s Story Issues Ruin Every MCU Hero

Scarlet Johansson as Black Widow, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Chris Evans as Captain America (with troubling subtext), Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron, and Mark Ruffalo as Hulk in The Avengers (2012)

The problematic Captain America subtext is bad, but it’s worsened by his importance within the MCU. As the “First Avenger“, Cap is the inspiration for an entire generation of heroes, many of which later fight alongside him. Iron Man grew up hearing stories of Rogers, and Hawkeye and Black Widow work for SHIELD, an organization modeled after his example. Hulk got his powers in an attempt to recreate the super soldier serum. All of the original Avengers (except Thor) owe their roles to Captain America, but he’s hardly a good role model.

Having an obvious hypocrite serve as the in-universe inspiration for a generation of heroes is an issue. Either they’re all blind o his fundamental moral failings, or they’re just as corrupt. After all, most hoard their own powers just as Rogers hoards his, and it’s safe to assume that they’re only following his lead. One parting thought: if Captain America is a hero for taking performance-enhancing drugs, what on Earth are the MCU Olympics like?