It lasted barely seven seconds. Regina King, making her way onstage to accept an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for If Beale Street Could Talk, was struggling with her long white dress, so Chris Evans offered her his forearm for stability. It's the kind of thing you might do for a person on crutches trying to get off a bus or somebody wobbling down a steep flight of stairs in heels. A kindergarten lesson: Friends don't let friends fall flat on their faces.
And yet, the now-viral snippet has Hulk-smashed its way across Twitter, leaving squee-ing fans and piles of 😍😍😍 in the rubble. To many Oscars viewers, Evans' gesture was chivalry's peak, proof that gentlemanliness endures. Even days later, Twitter's Evans fever has yet to break.
More interestingly, and surprisingly, this clamor over common decency shows few signs of letting up. The moment has even inspired some starry-eyed internet archaeology (apparently Evans has made a habit of proffering arms to women at awards shows) and a rash of stories about why helping King makes Evans a real-life Captain America. The cause of the fuss is obvious: Evans is very handsome, and he seems nice. What's baffling is the fervor of the fuss.
One explanation is the power of fandom. People know that actors aren't the characters they play onscreen, but that doesn't stop many admirers from letting the line between character and performer blur. This seems to be happening with Evans, who is most well known for playing an actual hero, and with the Oscars' other Internet-beloved moment: Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga's performance of "Shallow" from A Star Is Born. The pair so effortlessly slid back into their movie personas that people are interviewing Cooper's current girlfriend and ex about it. (Reminder: Gaga and Cooper are actors. Convincing you they have sexual tension is part of the job.)
Still, it's extra hard to avoid grafting Steve Rogers' personality directly onto Chris Evans', especially on Twitter. (Evans is such a model Twitizen it's almost irritating.) Marvel's always-on marketing machine further conflates Evans and Rogers (and Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man, and Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool). At this point, the constant promotions have many Marvel actors basically tweeting in character. After the Oscars, the Cap-ification of Evans is essentially complete.
Yet all of the adoration felt like more than fans watching the Oscars through Marvel-tinted lenses. This is Twitter, after all, not a superhero subreddit. Which brings us to what is likely the best explanation for all of this fanning out.
The impulse that powers bare minimum Twitter is also one that's at play in a chivalrous reading of Evans' helping hand: People who crave male decency.
To be clear, appreciating Chris Evans' kindness a little too hard is not an ethical misstep: Nothing speaks to lives full of microaggressions more than extreme reactions to micro-affections. In Evans, people are seeing something that is, in 2019, far rarer than a superhero: a white male celebrity who isn't just unproblematic, but an ally. He may be kind of an image-conscious try-hard, but we'll take it.
Twitter (and 2019 Oscars Twitter especially) is a troll-ridden morass of political polarization where the good guys usually lose. That something as small as a powerful man helping a woman of color onto a stage could make people so happy isn't evidence that we live in a frivolous society. It's evidence that the internet is starved for common decency.