In the new Marvel movie, "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," Captain America (Played by Chris Evans) is seen coolly riding his new Harley-Davidson on the streets of D.C. While watching this, I can only think of one thing: Where is Captain America's helmet?
I am an intensive care unit nurse at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the first trauma hospital in the world. We regularly see motorcyclists survive devastating crashes if for no other reason because they were wearing a helmet. For years, Marvel Entertainment, a Walt Disney Company, has had superheroes riding motorcycles without helmets — including Wolverine, Ghost Rider and the Punisher. This trend is also exemplified by DC Comics' portrayals of Batman and Cat Woman riding the streets of Gotham City sans helmet. While this flippant disregard for safety regulations bothers me on any given day, I tend to keep it to myself since these characters are branded as dark, "bad-boy" personalities. But not today. This is the Captain America we are talking about, the Boy Scout of all superheroes. This law abiding soldier who is meant to exemplify the ideal role model citizen is seen in the movie deliberately breaking D.C.'s helmet law.
This PG-13 movie is spun to be a family-friendly film, as evidenced by the countless associated toys and products released and targeted to younger children since the first film premiered. Those children are often highly impressionable — especially when it comes to the choices of superhero-like characters. What is mom to say when little Timmy doesn't want to wear a helmet because Captain America doesn't wear one? I'm not saying that children are only influenced by what they see, but Captain America isn't helping quash the supposition that helmets are geeky. If any fictional superhero could make wearing a helmet cool, it would be Captain America. Heck, normally it's the faceless henchman who wears a black tinted helmet during the motorcycle chase, as seen in James Bond's "For Your Eyes Only." Is this the type of people we want to associate with helmets?
Captain America, or should I say Steve Rogers, is far from invincible. Yes, he has extra strength and agility, but he gets hurt just like any one of us. If he were to fall off his motorcycle on I-495 without a helmet, there would be no walking away unharmed. It's not a nice thing to think about, but it's reality.
Captain America paints the picture of "cool" — riding his Harley with a leather jacket and jeans, slicked back hair, and ... no helmet. This is not the image we want our kids to recall when they hop on their bicycles.
This one little scene showing negligence of motorcycle safety is part of a bigger trend in Hollywood, where characters frequently disregard safety procedures. Movie producers and directors need to be more responsible with the representation of the "good guys." After all, these are the characters that many young kids dream of being one day, and we adults use as a form of incentive for eating vegetables, drinking milk and even going to bed on time so the little ones can grow up big and strong like, well, Captain America.
Throwing a helmet on the guy would take so little effort, but go a very long way.
Nicholas Edler is a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at the University of Maryland Medical Center. This article is written in a personal capacity and is independent of his affiliation with the medical center. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.To respond to this commentary, send an email to email@example.com. Please include your name and contact information.