Captain America and Bucky are Just Friends

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News Media Commentary
Title: Captain America and Bucky are Just Friends
Commentator: Brett White
Date(s): December 2, 2015
Venue: online
External Links: Captain America and Bucky are Just Friends, Archived version
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Captain America and Bucky are Just Friends is a 2015 article by Brett White at "Comic Book Resources."

Response Essay

Some Topics Discussed

Some Excerpts

I don't mean to sink ships here, because it should come as no surprise that plenty of people have boarded the good ship #Stucky with plenty of romantic baggage in tow. A lot of people watched that trailer and came away with plenty of material for fanfic romance GIF sets; it is all right there. But, and this is where I put on my Captain Opinion cap, the friendship between Steve Rogers and James "Bucky" Barnes is vastly more interesting -- and possibly more important -- than a romance between them. Yeah, I said it! But to get my many biases out of the way up front, I don't get shipping. I mean, I get it (I am on Tumblr) but it's just not the way I interact with media. Romance and the possibility of boning rarely -- more like never -- factor into my decision to watch a thing. I came away from the "Civil War" trailer way more stoked about seeing Black Panther in action (and concerned for Black Widow, because if anyone would not trust a government with super-people, it's her) than anything coming close to feels for a gay subtext-that-will-never-become-text. I don't get it!

This may just be missing something fundamental to the shipping experience, but what's the point of it if that ship will never be explored canonically? Where's the pleasure in consuming media through numerous layers of purposeful self-deception? I mean, yes, we are living in a post-Korra/Asami world, where "Legend of Korra" made a queer ship canon in its finale episode, but I still see Steve and Bucky as being fundamentally different because they are adaptations of straight characters with 75 years of canon being produced by a studio that's shown zero interest in queer representation in film.

The idea that all fictional relationships have to end in candlelit dinners, Boyz II Men jams and rose petals is preposterous. The fact that "ship" is strictly reserved for romantic/sexual pairings and pretty much excludes "friendship" is also a bummer. Over and over again, fiction tells us that romantic love is all that matters and that all relationships between lead characters have to end with a grand declaration, possibly involving a ring. And when it comes to male friends, well, they bond over brewskis but cut the chatter short if anyone starts getting too weepy. If men show their emotions, it's comical because that's counter to how men are perceived. Males have been trapped in emotionless, no homo man-caves forever. I want to see men have rich and resonant friendships.

There is such a desire to see non-heterosexual pairings in fiction. And despite any shade I've thrown at shippers, I feel that need too. I am, after all, a gay man that's still never seen himself in any superhero movie ever. While my brain focuses on other fandom things (who am I to judge any fan when I just bought my second Black Widow Hot Toy?), other minds go to shipping. And, canon and precedent be damned, they ship hard. You can't stop shipping, especially when trailers are just a few "our mouths are really close right now oops" shots away from full on queerbaiting. I'm ready to see both substantial platonic friendships (like Steve and Bucky's) and romantic and/or sexual relationships between dudes in media, and until there's plenty of both out there, the line's going to continue to be blurred in the eyes of viewers.

Some Comments at the Post

[Child of the Past]:I completely agree with article.

[londeaux]: ... apparently he hasn't kept up in recent X-Men. Bobby "Iceman" Drake is now gay and Northstar is also gay. So Marvel does have gay characters. If they really want to cause controversy. They could have a straight character who becomes either an inhuman or mutant suddenly become gay, due to transformation or mutant ability, or visa versa, take a gay character and turn them straight.

[tsaimelemoni]: Brett never said there weren't gay characters in Marvel comics. There are none in the movies.

[HellHere]: I don't ship them, but if there's one thing I ship less it's people attempting to police fandom.

[capt usa]: I came here to basically give a like to this article also, I can't provide more to the article, but I do disagree with one point, he mentions that Marvel isn't going to push a gay person, who isn't already established gay, the truth is that Marvel doesn't really push many romances either in the comics or the movies, at least relative to the number of people showing up per issue/movie, that it's hard to say what they would or wouldn't do. If Quicksilver would have lived, I fully could have seen him as being presented as gay by Marvel. Most comics and movies don't really deal with the sexual status of a character that much anyway, other than the main character. (and yes the main character is almost always going to be straight, since they are trying to use them to identify with their movie audience, and 80%+ are straight)

Stark and Pepper
Cap and Peggy
Bucky and unnamed woman
Barton and Wifey
Widow and Banner
Thor and Natalie Portman
Kat Dennings and comedic Romantic Interest
The start of Vision and Wanda
Lang and Hope
Even if a ton of time isn't directly spent on the romances in each movie, they're definitely pushing romance and, by default, addressing sexuality. Almost every character introduced has had their sexuality addressed in some form and, potential robosexuality side, it's all straight. At least the TV shows are beginning to address LGBT characters.

[WardenDresden]: ahh Brett it's not up-to you or to marvel to decide who is gay or not, it's up-to the Asian girls they got Tweek and Craig now its Steve and Bucky

[MasterOfMagnetism]: This article seems pretty unnecessary, people don't seriously think Steve and Bucky are going to be a romantic couple in the MCU. The "Stucky" shipping is more about masturbatory fantasies, not serious speculation on the films.

[Rene Narciso]: I'm not into shipping. I mean, I'm interested in the romantic aspects of movies and TV shows, but I'm not interested enough to "ship". Possible exception made for those shows that are all about romantic relationships, like "How I Met Your Mother". But I don't mean to criticize other fans who are into this stuff. If people are having fun, that is great. And I kinda understand why gay shipping is a thing. People who are starved for representation don't have a lot of options.

I feel more ambivalent about studios and creators encouraging such things. Because I feel like they encourage such things on purpose (see "X-Men: First Class" and the last "Sherlock Holmes" movies) as way to appeal to a LGBT and female audience, but the way they almost always keep it as subtext/joke is also a way to not offend the conservative/homophobic portion of the public. It's a way to try and appeal to both groups at once. What we really need is more LGBT characters in media, period.

And I also fully support the depiction of heartfelt friendships in fiction and leaving behind all that stinking pile of bullshit about manly men not knowing how to express their feelings, and that the only accepted way for a man to act is the "bro" way of being stoic and dismissive of such things (that ironically often includes the manly men joking sarcastically about being gay).

[JimmyBeetle]: I'm not someone who ships this way. But. I'm not sure anybody who ships Steve and Bucky are actually investing anything in the belief that it's ever going to be canon. Actually, I am sure. Nobody does. So, essentially, your entire article this week is telling people they're having fun the wrong way. Good job, man.

On the other hand, your big argument being "BECAUSE IT ISN'T CANON" ... Shouldn't you apply that to things like your article about Marvel not writing 616 Hercules gay? Because that seemed to bother you a lot, and yet, there's no canon to support that either.

So, in conclusion, Brett White says "because it isn't canon" is a great reason to finger wag at fans for being silly and having fun, but it's not a good reason to stop him from writing an outrage piece. Keep up the good work.

[av comics]: Of course Cap and Bucky are not lovers - the very idea is ridiculous. These guys went through a war together. That makes them closer than brothers, closer than lovers will ever be. Ask any Gulf War veteran you know, in combat the most important person in the world is the guy next to you. It doesn't mean when the war is over you go shopping for china together. I think all the speculation about them being gay dishonors the bond that exists between these two men. For the record I don't see the Magneto/Xavier thing either. It seems pretty clear in the movies that Magneto & Mystique are together.

[Ms Lola]: Keep shipping where it belongs, which is fan fiction. No harm, no foul. If the powers that be at Marvel green light making a character (or characters) gay, then that's okay as well. Insisting a strong friendship is "gay in disguise" comes across annoying as it's fantasy forcing.

Frankly, I'm a little tired of having characters whom comics publishers marketed successfully to me in becoming a loyal fan of for years be suddenly be presented as something they've supposedly always been to fit some writer's barely fleshed out storyline. Don't tell me what they are, show me. In a comics format, you'd think this would be easier to do. I guess when you have other books to write, shows and whatnot, not much substance will be found. Probably a big reason why I've dropped so many titles this year, Marvel wise. Specifically X-Men related.

Steve and Bucky are not gay. I know this because they haven't been presented as gay. It's not a bad thing that they are not. What's great is a relationship between two people that is powerful and transcendent of time and circumstance. Good enough for me. Just like the relationship with Hulkling and Wiccan. I love that one as well, particularly for the romance of it.

[nochnayavedma]: Speaking as a Steve/Bucky shipper, I certainly don't expect it to be made canon in the MCU, though contrary to what a bunch of people in this thread, as well as Brett in the original post, have suggested, it wouldn't require any sort of big retcon if they did. Steve and Bucky are not "canonically straight," they are canonically interested in women. There's a difference! Civil War could end with Cap and Bucky coming out as bi and getting married at the end and you wouldn't need to change a single line of dialogue in either TFA or TWS to make it fit. I get, and even agree with, Brett's argument that romantic love is overvalued in the media and it's important to show platonic love as well. However, that argument would hold a lot more water for me in regards to Steve and Bucky specifically if intimate platonic love between men wasn't the one type of platonic love that is NOT completely underrepresented in media. Platonic love between two women or between one man and one woman are rare to virtually non-existent by comparison, whereas the list of intimate male friendships in popular culture is miles long (Steve and Bucky, Steve and Sam, Tony and Rhodey, Matt and Foggy, Kirk and Spock, Starsky and Hutch, Adama and Tigh, Butch and Sundance, Holmes and Watson... need I go on?) and what's more, people have been going "no homo" about most of them since Achilles waxed poetic about Patroclus's thighs and David called Jonathan's love "more wonderful than that of women." After 3000 years, it would honestly be more refreshing if they did occasionally turn out to be boning!

[mizstorge]: Shipping goes back at least as far as what may be the first fandom, the Iliad. Alexander the Great is arguably the most famous Patrochilles shipper. The 2004 film Troy brought a new round of discussion between shippers and non-shippers, with the mainstream resistance bringing forth what became a shipper's meme: "They're cousins. Cousins. Totally cousins."

Stucky shares elements of Patrochilles: same level of devotion between warriors, same ambiguity from canon. They're friends, right? Friends. Totally friends.

Let's not forget that what we call canon is a work of the imagination, brought forth by someone wondering: "What if?" The only thing that separates canon from sequels, pastiche, and fanfic is the virtue of having been there first. As long as people continue to wonder "What if?", there will be alternative views of canon, clashes between individual interpretation and authorial intent.

A few years ago, a canonic genderbent Thor was unthinkable. In a couple years, there may be a canonic same-sex relationship in the MCU. Marvel seems open to change, and canon keeps evolving. Those who don't like something can sit out that comics run or that particular film - and if they do, they'll be fans with alternative views of canon, their individual interpretation clashing with authorial intent. And so it goes.

[Gendou]: I'm not a Stucky shipper (I'm not an anything-shipper, really), nor do I really participate in the MCU Fandom.

Like the author, I'm more interested in seeing Black Panther than anything else. But I felt like I needed to comment.

This article really seems to be arguing against a strawman version of shipping while missing the entire point of what actual fandom shipping is about.

Most MCU Fandom members that don't seem to believe their various ships - queer or not - will come true. They don't expect them to.

The entire point of fanfiction and fanart is to be transformative, if not transgressive. So the "it's not canon" argument is not only reductive, it's ridiculous.