Steve name me one time between Basic and going into the ice that you actually followed orders. ONE. TIME.
I have feelings about this. I’m supposed to be doing work, but its hard, so I’m gonna explain them instead. Right from the start of CA:TFA we see that Steve really specifically wants to be a soldier. He knows there’s all sorts of various ways to support the war effort, but not, specifically he wants to fight on the front lines.
But Steve is never a particularly good soldier, in fact, he very specifically isn’t a good soldier. Steve is a good man not a perfect soldier. Steve NEVER has any success when he tries his hand at being a regular soldier, or even a supersoldier. In CA:TFA he ends up working with the Howling Commandos, almost entirely outside of the regular military structure and that’s when he manages all the serious heroics and really lives up to his potential. In Avengers at the beginning he tries to be a good soldier for a while and tries to follow Fury’s orders, but for the first half of the movie Steve is lost and miserable and visibly hiding behind his USO Tour “Captain America” persona. But it’s only when he goes off on his own, breaks into store rooms and steals Fury’s prototype tesseract weapons, that he really gets anything done (before that he gets batted about by Loki and sort of wanders about at loose ends), and he doesn’t really get back into a leadership role and really become actual Captain America again, until he steals a quinn jet with Natasha and Clint.
And despite that, in CA:WS he’s back at Shield, trying to be ‘the greatest soldier in history’ and ‘follow orders’, and… not doing that at all…
So where does Steve’s abortive fascination with being a good soldier come from?
Partly I think its an expression of his very obvious depression. I’ve seen about umpteen criticisms of Steve’s ‘we have our orders’ line to Tony in Avengers but I think that the fact it’s out of character is the point. Steve is miserable, and lost, he doesn’t know what makes him happy, he doesn’t know what he wants to do with himself so he follows Nick Fury’s orders, because he has given up.
But also I think that even though Steve doesn’t really want to be the sort of person who follows orders, he to a certain extent wants to want it, sort of as the equivalent of a very bright girl who plays dumb in class because she’s been told no one likes smart girls. The good soldier is very much the model of ideal masculine success that Steve would have grown up with but wouldn’t have ever been able to achieve.
Which is ironic given that the ideal male icon most of the cast of the Avengers probably grew up with… is Captain America.
Brilliantly sums up my thoughts on this issue. (Bold emphasis mine.) Note also that Steve not knowing what he wants to do with himself is echoed in CA:TWS, when he can’t answer Sam’s “What makes you happy?”