Captain America’s Boyfriend
Twitter has been trending with #givecaptainamericaaboyfriend, and it’s awesome. With Civil War out, Captain America has been in five Marvel movies, and spent three of them fighting everything from aliens, to robots, to his own government. A man outside his own time, he inspires easy loyalty and forms bonds of brotherhood with civilians and superheroes alike, and manages to be a nice person at the same time. There have been hints of love interests, like Agent Peggy Carter in the past or her niece Sharon in the present, and even a few kisses with his teammate Black Widow, but Twitter has decided that Steve Rogers, Captain America himself, needs a boyfriend.
The notion of Captain America having a boyfriend is full of incredible storytelling opportunities. In the 40’s, where he grew up, he might never have felt safe coming out or confessing his feelings, but now he’s in 2016. Imagine him waking after being frozen for decades to find a world that’s moved forward, with rainbow flags and marriage equality. Or the scene where he comes out to a close friend, like Black Widow or the Falcon, brave enough to face nazis and aliens, but only now with the courage to face himself, and have them support him. They tell him everything is better now. Imagine Captain America coming out, only to find that everything isn’t better. There’s still stigma, still hatred, even when you’re a white, cis, able-bodied superhero paragon.
Of course, if Captain America has a boyfriend, who is it? A lot of people on the hashtag are pulling for Tony Stark. They come to blows in Civil War, but respect each other still, and Tony’s wit complements Cap’s easy smile. But while the Stony ship is popular, Stucky seems to be winning the day. Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes have crossed time together. They’ve lost each other and found each other again and again, with Bucky overcoming his brainwashing to stand with his friend, and Steve being willing to stand against all comers to protect Bucky, determined not to lose him one more time. There are other choices, of course. Falcon. Ant Man. Starlord. Regency era Tom Hardy. And no one said Captain America had to settle for just one boyfriend.
Naturally, because Twitter, straight people have been super cool with this idea, and relish the notion of adding some nuance to a character who might otherwise be a stack of white bread given life by a magic hat. Just kidding, straight people are losing their minds. “Cap is straight in the comic,” they say. Or that changing a character like that is stupid, something something for the sake of diversity, you know the drill. Happily they been mostly drowned out by a beautiful array of gifs and images from both screen and page. My personal favourite complaint is that Cap presented as straight in the movies because of his interest in women. It says a lot that romantic interest in women seems to be coded as straightness, when Captain America could be queer, bi, or pansexual. Also that straight Twitter doesn’t understand what it’s like to be closeted, which isn’t a big shock.
This is about more than all-star man-kisses of stage and screen, too. There would be some pretty cool diversity consequences to the Marvel Cinematic Universe giving Cap a boyfriend. The obvious one is representation. Currently there don’t seem to be any LGBTQ+ heroes in the MCU except for Deadpool, and it hasn’t become a thing yet in Deadpool. Giving the community the opportunity to see themselves in an A-list Avenger would be a big deal, though he’s still an able-bodied white cis-dude, so even if he’s presented as bi, he’s the most whitebread and safe example of that representation. The thing that seems more important for Captain America and fans in general would be the act of coming out. How does the MCU react? How do we react to the MCU’s reaction, given that the public there is a reflection of us? Welcome to thinkpieces about the stories that coming out tells, and what coming out is like in real life. Welcome to a story that’s not just LGBTQ+ youths seeing a superhero come out and say “It’s going to be okay,” but to tens of thousands of straight people seeing a superhero come out and say “Deal with it.”
Finally, Cap having a boyfriend is great because it’s love. Real love, not movie love. Whether you’re in for Stony or Stucky, these are characters with lots of history, who depend on each other. They’re partners who put things on the line for each other. Movie love is almost never like that, it’s all flash in the pan romance. This is love that’s stable. Love that’s strong. Love that will last to the end of the line.