I have to disagree, tumblr are obsessed with mental illness and issues when it comes to characterization, but we're a minority. People don't want to see mopey superheroes, see the backlash against zack synder's superman. tbh, I also don't find Tony Stark's issues interesting, aren't they the same as Bruce Banner and Black Widow's anyway? I disagree Steve Rogers was depressed. He rejected the Cap identity cos he doesn't want to live according to the whims of the public.
As much as Tumblr does glorify mental illness, I think general audiences also want to see struggling superheroes nowadays – especially millennials, as we’ve heavily gravitated towards anti-heroes in the last two decades. Batman, Deadpool, Tony Stark, Jack Sparrow, House… we’re an angsty generation.
Even the classic superheroes who used to be plain ol’ good people (Steve Rogers, Peter Parker, Clark Kent) have become more and more nuanced in their movies, as millennials tend to find them unrealistic in their original comic personalities. Whether that was the right move is debatable, I totally agree, but it means that people are looking for that balance of cause and effect: superheroes are inherently good, but millennials feel like things should affect them, that it’s hard to stick to your ideals in the real world. Which puts filmmakers in a tricky spot.
If Marvel had wanted Steve to be a classic superhero in this film, they could’ve had him interacting with the public, going against General Ross, giving speeches about the Right Thing to Do, and made Civil War strongly about Steve’s ideals and him fighting for them. Which I would have loved. Typical superhero stuff, with Steve rising above it all, the idealist!
…but they didn’t. Steve was just quiet, likely due to his depression, but Marvel didn’t explore that as much as they should have. Steve’s backstory adds to his superhero persona, especially in how those previous events have affected him, and I don’t think it should be ignored or made subtle. It would’ve been easy for Marvel to follow the threads they made in previous films about Steve’s PTSD and depression, a few lines here and there, but instead they downplayed these issues in Civil War so much that Steve wasn’t really anything, to general audiences: he wasn’t acting like a superhero, but he wasn’t openly struggling with the Cap identity, either. His arc was incredibly subtle – no problem for fandom, but my family and friends didn’t really understand Steve in this film like they did Tony. They didn’t get it.
We’re halfway there, I guess. Marvel has explored their superheroes’ tragic pasts without shying away from the bad stuff, which is awesome, but I wish we could see them dealing with the psychological repercussions of these histories more, especially with such heavy personal plotlines in their films. I guess as a millennial, it’s not realistic to me that nothing can make Steve Rogers stumble, that nothing can affect him, that nothing weighs him down or biases him. But I also agree that an entire movie about Superheroes in Therapy wouldn’t fly, either. A different balance has to be struck, but I’m not sure how.