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Freedom vs. Security in Marvel's Captain America: Civil War

Erich Fromm's basic human dilemma plays out in big screen superhuman conflict.

Psychologist Erich Fromm tried to make sense of why people who had suffered in the Great Depression relinquished so many liberties by elevating the Nazis to power. He came to decide that the most basic human dilemma is the conflict of freedom vs. security. Even as toddlers, we want freedom to explore and try new things but we also want to feel safe and secure. In the wake of 9/11, people gave up some liberties in order to free safer against the serious threat of terrorism.

“...modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.” - Fromm in his classic 1941 book Escape from Freedom, known as The Fear of Freedom outside North America.

I asked people on Facebook and Twitter whether they would prefer a button that says FREEDOM or a button that says SECURITY. Overwhelmingly they expressed a preference for FREEDOM. Do they contradict Fromm or was that simply because I related it to a movie? I didn't even say which movie, but my social media audience will tend to know I write and edit books about these superheroes and their stories (e.g., Captain America vs. Iron Man: Freedom, Security, Psychology).

Travis Langley @Superherologist
Source: Travis Langley @Superherologist

Have things changed, or do people simply think they would favor security despite the greater tendency (as Fromm believed) to act in favor of security when pushed to make a choice? Maybe I just happen to have more #TeamCap than #TeamTony or #TeamIronMan fans in my social media followings. In the film Captain America: Civil War, Steve Rogers (Cap) leads superheroes who resist international efforts to regulate the Avengers. Heroes on his side fight to maintain their independence and stay free to step in when they see a need instead of answering to bureaucrats. Tony Stark (Iron Man), suffering guilt over his own action's consequences, leads other superheroes who believe they should be held accountable for their actions. Who's right? Is this really about Erich Fromm's basic human dilemma?

I'm not kidding about how overwhelmingly people chose FREEDOM over SECURITY. See for yourself.


  • @JVR24_: #Freedom #TeamCap
  • @couchguy; Freedom. "Security" is an illusion, used by people who are trying to sell you something.
  • @eddie948071: Freedom #TeamCap
  • @KeithAllGamer: "Freedom" They both can be relative, but since we are all mortal "Security" seems to be something of a myth to me.
  • @ToyEastes: That's not fair, I haven't seen it yet so I don't know exactly what they mean. They're both good things but to what degree?
  • ‏@VividInnovators: I can't wear both I'm torn lol so torn
  • @cclewia: look at those bags of buttons attempting to label people... i want one!
  • @Allexandriia; *cues* Beyoncé - Freedom
  • @MythicMage: I think I'm feeling this. Maybe they need to pass these out after the movie. Tempted to go with freedom, but-
  • @DougPalumbo: #freedom
  • @Lee_JM75: Freedom. Every time.
  • @DrkwingDuck: #freedom
  • @sephoralov3r: Freedom #PsychGeeks
  • @revsully: Freedom #TeamCap
  • @Arquivista_dG: We have a problem when the media implies security only comes at the cost of sacrificing fundamental rights such as freedom.
  • @KellieMarie319: freedom #TeamCap
  • @Nigmachangeling: FREEDOM. #TeamCap


  • J.G.: Freedom.
  • C.H.: FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF--- [photo of Mel Gibson from the movie Braveheart]
  • R.O.: Freedom .
  • A.G.: Neither. Freedom seems too jingoistic and Security seems too....not my style.
  • C.M.: Freedom! Going to the movies today (took half a personal day!) Can't wait... a little over 3 hours to go!
  • W.V.: We were discussing this in my world history class about "putting up walls". Sure, it's more safe, but you lose the freedom to come and go as you please and you're pigeonholed into one single area or way of life with no room for expansion. But you're sa...See More
  • K.A.M.: Freedom
  • K.G.: Freedom
  • A.Y. Freedom
  • K.D.: Freedom! But you have to say it in a Scottish accent
  • C.B.: Freedom!
  • E.S.: Freedom! #IwontLetYouDown
  • S.S.: Freedom!
  • J.N.M.: I can't choose!
  • S.S.: How does one get their hands on one of these amazing buttons? Asking for a friend who has a David Bowie display pic.
  • S.J.A.: Freedom... which is strange given my liberal tendencies. I really love how Civil War flips those tendencies on their head.
  • C.S.: Both are illusions
  • J.S.: . . . but the trains ran on time
  • J.B.: I have to say freedom, more so for the idea itself rather than who represents (or claims to represent) it.
  • R.C.: Team cap all the way!
  • J.S.: Freedom
  • S.P.: Freedom.
  • L.M.: FREEDOM!
  • M.S.: To Hell with the movie, this looks more like election day.
  • B.C.: Freedom
  • A.V.I.: FREEDOM!!!!!!!!! (i'm still laughing at all the #TeamIronMan fellas lol)

So what's the verdict? Is this nonrepresentative sample wrong?

Which would YOU choose?

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