Is This the One Flaw in the Otherwise Great Captain America: Civil War – Vanity Fair

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This post contains spoilers for Captain America: Civil War. If you haven’t seen the film yet or don’t want to be spoiled on anything, now is that time to go. Spoilers ahoy after one more firm warning from Cap.

If you’re not deep into internet culture, you may be unaware of the intensely devoted section of the Captain America fan base who consider Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan),not Peggy Carter (Haley Atwell),to be the true object of Steve Rogers’ (Chris Evans) affection. Oh but they’re out there. Just search Bucky/Steve and you’ll see what I mean. But make sure you have the safe search mode switched on first.

When Captain America: Civil War directors Joe and Anthony Russo went on a publicity tour for the latest installment in Marvel’s Avengers franchise, they were very careful not to throw cold water on the popular fan theory that Steve “Captian America” Rogers and Bucky “The Winter Soldier” Barnes were more than friends. “People can interpret the relationship however they want to interpret it,” Joe Russo said while visiting China. “People have interpreted that relationship all kinds of ways, and it’s great to see people argue about it what that relationship means to them. We will never define it as filmmakers, explicitly, but however people want to interpret it they can interpret it.”

Even Evans and Stan seemed happy to throw fuel on the Bucky/Steve theories during the publicity tour.

But despite what Joe Russo said, doesn’tCaptain America: Civil War go out of its way to “define” Bucky and Steve’s relationship when Cap smooches Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) while Bucky looks on approvingly? Where’s the room for interpretation in that moment? And, leaving aside the vague creepiness of Steve making a move on Peggy’s (very willing) niece, the moment itself wasn’t necessary to the flow of the movie at all.

As was the case in Captain America: Winter Soldier, VanCamp is a hugely appealing (if slightly underused) member of the cast. The film even gave her one of Captain’s most iconic comic book speeches when Sharon and Steve are mulling over how to move forward in the shadow of Peggy’s death. It’s a great moment for her and for the story. And while I think Agent Peggy Carter would have encouraged Agent Sharon Carter to join in the big fight on the tarmac, in general Sharon’s insider access to the government served the story very well.

But did they have to throw in that kiss? Romance has never been hugely successful in the world of The Avengers. With the exception of the bittersweet distance between Cap and Peggy and the very useful friction between Tony and Pepper in Iron Man 3 and Civil War, the Avengers love stories have fallen rather flat. Jane and Thor were so spark-less that Natalie Portman’sabsence in Thor 3 is neither surprising nor all that damaging to the franchise. The brewing love story between Vision and Scarlet Witch (yeah, it’s in the comics) is frankly rather creepy given the relative ages of Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olson. And Black Widow’s half-hearted love affair with the Hulk was one of the many things that didn’t work in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

In fact, Scarlett Johansson’s hugely popular character is the most fun when she nowhere near romance but, rather, palling around with Hawkeye and Steve. Perhaps it’s Joss Whedon’sinfluence on Phase 2 of Marvel’s superhero universe, but these characters seem destined to not be happy in a relationship unless, like Hawkeye, they take their love stories completely off the grid.

But Marvel seems to think it has to have its heroes in heterosexual love affairs in order to maximize audience appeal. But with the franchise slowly making room for women to be more than girlfriends and sidekicks (seriously, Sharon should have been on that tarmac),a love story just for the sake of some kisses and yearning seems out of place in these spirited adventures. Sure, the Sharon and Steve connection served a narrative purpose. It showed that Cap was finally willing to close the door on Peggy. Something he could never do while his Agent Carter was alive. But, honestly, there was more juice in Bucky ogling Steve’s bulging bicep as Cap struggled to ground a helicopter using only gumption and sinew.

So while Marvel was likely never going to make the homoerotic subtext of Cap and Bucky into text, would it really have hurt to keep their relationship more ambiguous? As if to put the nail in the coffin of speculation, Bucky and Cap paused for a moment in the middle of snowy Siberia to reminisce about their days chasing skirts in pre-War Brooklyn. It’s a sweet, human bonding moment but one that also bristles with heterosexual virility. If Disney isn’t inclined to give audiences a gay superhero, couldn’t they have at least left us the dream of Bucky and Cap?


Is This the One Flaw in the Otherwise Great Captain America: Civil War – Vanity Fair