Today’s guest geek poster is, once again, M. Ravenwood. She is an actual, real-life archaeologist. Also awesome.
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in movie memorabilia lately. With The Avengers juggernaut which dropped this week, the amount of Marvel movie-verse stuff has skyrocketed, including items related to previous films. Merchandise ranges from pretty damn cool to utterly ridiculous to things that make me question my faith in humanity. The feeling of despair is usually related to accessories featuring the villainous HYDRA organization from Captain America.
In the 2011 film version of Captain America, HYDRA is a Nazi subgroup spearheaded by occult enthusiast Johann Schmidt, also known as the Red Skull. Their symbol is a skull with six tentacles, and it has been appearing on patches, wallets, t-shirts, hats, keychains, iPhone cases, belt buckles, baby onesies, and even tattoos. I first discovered this trend when browsing Etsy about a month ago for crafty Avengers stuff and came across the patch. Appalled, I decided to have some conversations about it and received varying responses. I concluded that the Nazi factor sometimes does not even cross people’s minds.
I find it hard to believe that anyone could identify with the Red Skull. Schmidt is never portrayed in the film as a sympathetic villain. He is not a victim of circumstance, he knows exactly what he is doing and enjoys it. Schmidt is also written as a close confidant of Adolf Hitler, and the parallels between the two are undeniable. The audience is supposed to hate him and cheer when he is brutally killed because there is no question that the Red Skull is racist mass murderer. Identifying with the villain is not a reasonable explanation for the unsettling amount of HYDRA accessories.
The question I ask is this: Have we become so removed from our past that we are desensitized to such things? World War II falls within the realm of living memory. I believe such films as Captain America and Inglourious Basterds are gratifying as our society continually tries to make sense of such a horrific point in our recent past.
While I do not believe that the majority of the people interested in wearing HYDRA accessories are thinking about their choices beyond nerd fashion, they are sending a subversive message to the world that identifying with a fictional Nazi group even on a superficial level is acceptable. Fashion is about identity whether we are conscious of it or not. The living memory of WWII is partly negotiated across generations through pop culture, especially film, but in manifestations such as HYDRA fashion accessories, the connection is lost by a lack of ethical discourse.