This morning saw #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend, a fan hashtag created in response to this week’s similarly popular #GiveElsaAGirlfriend, explode on Twitter. Most of the Marvel fans using the hashtag to push for queer representation in the MCU, and included gifs depicting Captain America, a.k.a, Steve Rogers, smiling at and interacting with The Winter Soldier, a.k.a. Bucky Barnes, his lifelong friend. We discussed the possibility of giving Captain America a male romantic partner in future MCU films.
Emily Gaudette: This is giving me flashbacks to Frodo and Sam in The Lord of the Rings. Here’s my deal with Captain America having a boyfriend: I assume the question is borne out of the #Stucky fandom. People really want Bucky and Steve to be attracted to each other, because their emotional chemistry is so palpable onscreen. I’d love to see more (any? At all?) queer superheroes in the MCU, but I resent the suggestion that Cap and Bucky’s bond has to involve physical attraction. What does it say about us, culturally, that every connection in the MCU beyond a casual alliance has to suggest sex, or amorous feelings?
Megan Logan: I agree that the notion that intimacy and emotional closeness belong only to romantic pairings is limiting at best, damaging at worst. A lot of our stories (inside and outside the MCU) perpetuate the idea that love stories only exist between romantic partners, and that’s just not the case.
On the flip side of that, though, I understand why people want this. There’s no queer representation in the MCU and we’re frustrated! It’s bizarre that we’ve got so many movies with so many badass characters and there isn’t a single significant queer character. A lot of #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend comes from Cap and Bucky’s chemistry, but I think the most important takeaway is that people are searching for representation, not finding it, and they’re using what they have with Cap and Bucky’s chemistry to make what they need — that’s the time-honored tale of fanfic, right?
EG: The omission is bizarre, especially since the Marvel pantheon just keeps growing and growing. How many new white dudes do we need? I’ve also seen a lot of public calling on Twitter for women of color in the MCU, which (I hope) is about to be remedied on a small scale with the female characters in Wakanda. That’s an exciting development, to me, because stuff like the Black Panther movie and Luke Cage will be filled with black writers, producers and actors, who can tell two very different stories (one in a fictional African country, the other in Harlem) while bringing some non-white narrative into the MCU.
Here’s my thing, though: I’d rather see a new character explored than see Cap’s existing emotional relationships manipulated in the name of representation. It’s gonna come off stronger if the character’s story is engaging beyond the question of him having a boyfriend.
I do love and identify with the “fan fic” mindset you mentioned, but we’re beyond table scraps and reading into lingering glances now. We dont have to reach for stuff like this — we can have an entire Netflix series about Karma or Spiderwoman being sexually fluid!
ML: We should be past reading into lingering glances but in the MCU (/the vast majority of big studio films), that’s all we have. Representation has to be better and #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend is really a demand for more. We deserve better than subtext because subtext isn’t representation.
I see your point re: a new character vs. changing Cap for the purpose of representation because it might feel insincere. The last thing we need is a passing mention of Cap’s sexuality played off as a joke and have it never come up again (which GLAAD reports show is a pretty frequent occurrence). It’d be fantastic to see a new queer character become a part of the MCU. A Netflix series about a queer hero would be a dream, and I hope it happens!
But Captain America’s popularity and position within the MCU are worth considering. Giving him a boyfriend would be powerful because of what it would say: Queer heroes can be the story. Cap’s not a supporting character, not someone who’s going to be sidelined or given a storyline thats secondary to the heroes who take center stage.
It comes back to discussions about “Bury Your Gays” and quality of representation. So often, queer characters are written as supporting characters who are relegated to jokes and periphery involvement. They aren’t at the center of the narrative and in that way, they become expendable. But you can’t neglect or kill off the character who is the story. Captain America would be a queer character of vital importance.
Whether it’s Captain America or a new, fully-realized queer hero, it’s absolutely time for LGBT heroes in the MCU, and it’s essential that they’re central, indispensable parts of the story.