So now we know why Captain America travelled back in time at the end of Avengers: Endgame. It wasn’t so that he could go and experience small-scale contentment with the love of his life. No, it was because it was much, much harder to accidentally Instagram a picture of your penis in the 1940s.
Unfortunately, Captain America actor Chris Evans had to continue living in the present, where this is apparently all too easy a mistake to make. The abbreviated version of the story is this: Evans was on Instagram, sharing a screen recording of a game of Heads Up that he had played with members of his family. The video ended and automatically cut to a shot of his phone’s camera roll. The roll contained one photo of a penis and another of Evans’ face superimposed with the text: “Guard that pussy.” The post was instantly deleted, but not quickly enough to prevent screenshots from circulating.
The aftermath of the video has been, for the most part, good-natured. Mark Ruffalo indulged in some gentle teasing as soon as Evans began trending on social media. Stephen Colbert squeezed in a few cracks on his TV show last night. Even the actor himself has eventually managed to make light of the incident, tweeting: “Now that I have your attention .... VOTE Nov 3rd!!!” last night.
The lack of any sinister undercurrent is likely to be down to the fact that – unlike the iCloud leaks of a few years ago, which saw naked pictures of dozens of female celebrities released online – this wasn’t down to a malicious act of hacking. Nor was the shot accompanied by any lurid, career-sinking claims of sexual impropriety. This was plain and simple carelessness. Anyone could have done it, provided that they don’t possess a full understanding of iPhone screen recording and also have a picture of their genitals near the top of their camera roll.
It also helps that Evans is now firmly an ex-Avenger. Had he been a heavily contracted Disney star at the time of the leak, Evans might have faced slightly sterner repercussions from his paymasters, in the same way that James Gunn was temporarily removed from his post after unsavoury old tweets of his surfaced. That said, given that Jeremy Renner still appears to have a job despite accusations – which Renner denies – by his ex-wife of threatening to kill her and putting a gun in his own mouth, we may be talking about the very lightest of wrist-slaps.
In fact, now that he has left the Marvel Cinematic Universe behind him, the biggest takeaway from this might be positive. Not only have the majority of people reacted in a calm and measured way to the slip-up, but it offers Chris Evans the perfect opportunity to distance himself from Captain America. In the past, the MCU actors have displayed a happy willingness to blur the line between performer and role. This is why Robert Downey Jr spoke about the potential of nanotechnology at a conference on machine learning, automation, robotics and space last year; and why, when a boy was mauled by a dog earlier this year, Evans essentially addressed him in character as Captain America. It was a good way to cement his performance in the mind of the world, but it is much less useful now.
However, would Captain America have done any of this stuff? Can you possibly imagine him accidentally showing his willy to the world at any point, let alone during a fun game he was playing on Instagram? You cannot because, as far as anyone has ever been able to tell, Captain America possesses approximately no sexual desire whatsoever. Captain America would never send the world a dick pic because you wouldn’t be surprised if you learned that Captain America had nothing but a smooth plastic nub down there. The mishap might have killed the image of Chris Evans as Captain America, but it has also freed Chris Evans up to do whatever the hell he likes.