30

In Avengers: Age of Ultron,

Scarlet Witch plays with the minds of all the Avengers except Hawkeye by activating the darkest memories or the worst fears of each one of them.

But I didn't understand the Captain America's "worst fear".

Peggy comes and asks him for a dance telling him that the war is over.

How is this his worst fear? What am I missing here?

  • There's a lot more to Cap's vision than that. In particular all the answers so far seem to be ignoring the blood.... – Matthew Read May 8 '15 at 17:44
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    @MatthewRead What excatly do you mean by "the blood"? a more elaborate or a better answer is always welcome :) – Gautham May 11 '15 at 5:49
  • Besides all the other stuff mentioned, there was random disturbing stuff happening! Someone got shot, and then he was just sitting there laughing and bleeding like it was his idea of a good time... – Mary ML Jun 17 '15 at 22:19
  • Captain... China? – Wad Cheber Sep 10 '15 at 5:00
  • "Fear itself"... – Möoz Sep 5 '16 at 23:27
51

Assuming that each vision did, indeed, represent that character's worst fear, we can speculate that Captain America's fear is

to be useless... to be just Steve Rogers again.

Here is an explanation of why I think that:

Before Project Rebirth, Steve Rogers wasn't allowed to join the military because of his weak stature. There was a war going on and his only desire was to be useful, to join the fight. After becoming Captain America, he had his wish fulfilled - he became a great asset in the battle against evil. However badly Steve Rogers might want peace, it would also mean returning him to uselessness. After all, what good is the ultimate soldier in a time of peace?

This sentiment was echoed by Ultron himself:

Just prior to the conflict at Klaw's mine, Ultron goaded Captain America about whether or not he really wanted peace, asking "What good is a soldier without a war?".

Lastly, this is echoed in Captain America's vision:

Steve finds himself in a dance hall with Peggy, but all he can focus on is the activity around him, reacting to each sound in a manner very similar to PTSD symptoms. This reinforces - perhaps his OWN idea - that he has no place in a peaceful environment, or wouldn't be comfortable again with that life.

At the end of the film, however, he seems to have come to grips with this fear, telling Tony that

the guy who wanted peace & quiet died when he went into the ice. Someone else - Captain America, the soldier - is who thawed out, and his home now is with the Avengers.

  • 3
    I think this is quite logical and plausible. Plots such as this have been in sci-fi stories for decades, and it this is a known issue with soldiers after the end of wars. It still goes on today to a degree, and it certainly happened after WWII. – Pharap Apr 25 '15 at 7:27
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    This was my interpretation, also. – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 26 '15 at 5:22
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    This is also an answer to scifi.stackexchange.com/q/75950/160 - Captain America's dark side is that he likes war. – Gaius May 4 '15 at 18:47
14

Scarlet Witch doesn't necessarily show everybody their worst fears. She can make them see whatever she wants, & she can also read their minds! So theoretically, she could read a person's deep most wishes, & show them that. Anything to distract them. To mess up their minds for some time. Let's look at some examples.

- Note that Scarlet Witch's target wasn't to scare everybody. She showed Natasha a glimpse of her past. It might've been scary, but certainly not her worst fear (Come on! She's the Black Widow!!)
- She showed Tony his worst fear, which led him to build Ultron.
- She showed Rogers a future(or past?!) that could've been.
- Most of all, she wanted to anger the Hulk. That was her primary target. The others, they just were to be incapacitated.

12

He said in the first movie that he had never danced. That usually translates as he doesn't know how to dance, so this would be highlighting his social incompetence. To a man of his day, dancing was a basic social skill.

  • Not the most conventional explanation, but somewhat plausible. – Pharap Apr 25 '15 at 7:22
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    A bit weak given the implied importance of the dreams. – Lightness Races in Orbit Apr 26 '15 at 5:22
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    The companion of fear is regret. Who wouldn't regret not holding Peggy, dancing the night away and being the focus of her attentions. – Ihor Sypko Apr 27 '15 at 19:31
10

This is all speculation on my end, of course, but I think this might be the most feasible answer.

As we all know, Captain America was frozen for 70 years. Before this, he was fighting in World War 2. A common thing amongst veterans is PTSD. This could be a hint that Steven suffers from (slight?) PTSD.
Another thing to take into account is what I mentioned before. He was frozen for 70 years, he isn't living in his time, all the people he knew are dead (except for you know who), and that isn't so easy for someone to accept, I'm sure Captain America carries this heavy weight with him.
In the end, he didn't get to keep the promise of a dance with his love.

  • Got me at the last line. Thank you – Gautham Apr 24 '15 at 13:04
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    :O Captain America knew Voldemort?????? :P – Stark07 Apr 24 '15 at 13:05
  • That's a very roundabout way to toy with his supposed PTSD. Surely showing him visions of his friends dying in battle without him there would be far more effective? – Pharap Apr 25 '15 at 7:25
  • @Pharap I agree it didn`t seem like a PTSD reference to me; more a sadness that he’d never get to enjoy the end of the war with his friends and loved ones. – Paul D. Waite Apr 26 '15 at 1:04
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    @PaulD.Waite Aye, a lost future is definitely something to grieve over. If this answer were just about grieving over his lost love and the future they could have shared I would have +1'd without a second thought, but the PTSD comment muddies the waters. – Pharap Apr 27 '15 at 5:27
8

I support Omegacron's answer, although I took it a little further:

Steve has a fear of letting himself be happy, along with a fear of loss.

His whole life, he's built his identity around taking punishment so others don't have to. Remember how quickly he jumped on that grenade during training? That's heroic, but it's also a little messed up. It shows a lack of value for his own life, especially since everyone else was already heading for cover. If that grenade had been real, Steve's sacrifice wouldn't have even saved anyone.

And he's constantly doing that: when speaking to Tony in The Avengers, Steve's definition of heroism is to "lie down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you." I think for most people, being a hero means saving people. But for Steve, it clearly means dying to save people. He actively dislikes Tony Stark's ideology of saving people without sacrificing anything.

Then he lost everyone he knew and loved when he went into the ice, and then when he woke up his adopted home turned out to be full of traitors. Steve spent so much time focusing on his duty, he effectively missed his opportunity for the life he wanted to lead when his job was done.

Steve has never known how to relax and simply be content, even before he became Cap. He was too restless, too filled with guilt that other people were serving and he wasn't. ("There are men laying down their lives," he tells Bucky. "I got no right to do any less than them." That's not just self-sacrifice, it's guilt over accepting the sacrifice of others.) He is wracked by survivor's guilt (as we see when he speaks to old-Peggy), martyrdom issues (see above), fears of loss (from his time in the ice), not to mention the standard awkwardness of the geeky, scrawny kid who doesn't know how to act in social situations.

Given all that:

the idea of just spending a quiet night with the woman he loves, with no responsibility or duty, is likely terrifying to him. He doesn't know how to relax, he has no experience being confident in social settings, and he has a deeply-ingrained belief that he doesn't deserve to be happy (because I survived, because I'm not handsome/charming, because other people are suffering, because I don't know how to dance, because heroes don't take time off, etc). But, of course, everyone wants to be happy...

...so when he's confronted with a vision of his worst fear, he sees...

a quiet night of relaxation, with no war to worry about and nothing to do but enjoy himself, interrupted suddenly by the loss of everyone in the room. He fears happiness, and he fears the loss of the opportunity to be happy.

  • There's also his comment at the end of the movie. Something along the lines of, "The guy who wanted to settle down and start a family went into the ice 70 years ago. I'm not sure who came out." – KSmarts May 11 '15 at 15:44
2

SOME POSSIBLE SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED AOU OR THE CW TRAILER.

I'd go with bits and pieces of both Norrelken and Omegacron's answers.

I don't think it's that Steve likes war. I think it's that being a soldier is all he has left.

The thought of going home is a nightmare because he literally has no home now.
He lost his first chance at going home when he went into the ice. He started to take a few tentative steps to re-establishing a home in TWS after Peggy tells him essentially to 'start over' and Sam asks him what makes him happy. His response? He's thinking of what he could do if he wasn't in S.H.I.E.L.D. and even makes an attempt to ask out that cute nurse.

Except five minutes after he does, Nick Fury's bleeding out on his floor, he finds out the cute nurse was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in disguise, and a mere 24 hours later, everything in his life is upended again. Steve insisting that S.H.I.E.L.D. be dismantled in TWS is in some ways just as life-shattering as going down with that plane -- it was the one foundation he had up until that time.

So at the end of TWS, Steve's lost his chances at a home not once, but twice, his best friend has been brainwashed, and Peggy's losing her memory. He's becoming more and more rootless.

In Ultron, we find he's been trying to find Bucky without success, has apparently tried to get a place where he used to live, but it's wildly different and out of his price reach (btw, an apartment in Red Hook can go for two million now, at least -- and this was a place that used to be tenements in Steve's day!) and even the fight to end HYDRA which had given him some sense of purpose seems to be ending.

And then of course, we see the Witch's nightmare. To me, his nightmare means:

Steve wants to go home. Steve wants to be more than a soldier. We see that both with his nightmare and with his reaction to seeing Hawkeye's home -- and that moment itself is masterful both in his small sigh, where he's positioned in the doorway (on the outside looking in) and then how he turns, walking away, so what we see is the shield, not the man, walking away from those dreams.

And notice, Steve's the only one who really breaks out of his dream, too.

It's also why he reacts so violently when Tony braces him about going home. He's tried. He literally can't. He can't go back in time, his attempts at creating a new place have fallen through, and there is literally nothing for him but being a soldier.

And FYI:

By the way, that's not blood in that scene, it's wine. That scene is particularly well done to portray how someone with PTSD would perceive that situation. The noise is too shrill, too loud, the flashbulb pop startles him and makes him flinch, as does the popping champagne cork, the first thing that comes to mind when an obviously sauced guy spills red wine on his shirt is blood, and what he notices is not the dancers, but two guys about to duke it out.

We've seen from his opening scene in the Avengers that he's got the classic PTSD flashbacks (and probably nightmares; he certainly does in the comics.)

So, IMO:

Steve's nightmare, as shown to him by the Witch, is wanting to go home, wanting to be more than a soldier, but never being able to do so. He's buried himself in being a soldier because it's all he has left, but he literally doesn't know what he'll do without that purpose. That's supported by the deleted scene in AoU in which he's talking to Hill, and claims that if Ultron brought piece, he'd hang up his shield. Hill gives him a 'yeah, right' look and says, 'Would you?' And for a split second, there's a look of fear on Steve's face as that hits home. He doesn't want people to suffer. He doesn't want war -- but he literally has no other identity, no other place where he belongs anymore, and nothing left but that shield.

I don't think we see a truly content Steve Rogers at the end of AoU; even Tony (who is about as perceptive as a brick) notices he's not really okay. But he's accepted that Steve Rogers' dreams are not achievable and being Cap, being a soldier, is going to be the closest he can ever have.

Which, of course, is why Ross's ultimatum in Civil War is going to hit him where it hurts. Do what he believes to be right or give up his one semblance of home and the one thing which gives him a sense of purpose?

He's Cap. We know what he chooses. But it'll still hit him hard.

2

It seemed to me that Steve is unique in that when Wanda got inside his head, what she showed him wasn't so much what he fears as it was what he regrets. Presumably Wanda's telepathic powers allow her to make her victims see whatever she wants them to, not just what they fear. Her intended goal with giving the Avengers visions was to make them self-destruct, and looking inside of Steve's mind allowed her to see that regret would be more damaging to his psyche than fear, as he regrets far more things than he fears.

  • This is the right answer. +1 – RedCaio Sep 6 '16 at 6:30
1

It seems as though it's simply his fear of 'going home'. There is no longer a place for him to 'go home' to. It was the last words heard in his dream state and he reacts negatively to 'going home' when they are chopping wood.

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    This seems more speculative than verifiable. Can you cite anything to strengthen your claim? – Meat Trademark Sep 10 '15 at 4:39
  • Joke: Having to put back the toilet cap back to the toilet. – Overmind Sep 10 '15 at 11:22
-1

Just after Peggy asked Captain America for dance, the empty room was shown. The whole point was he couldn't have that awesome life.

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    This is the only correct answer. +1 – RedCaio Dec 27 '15 at 10:24

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