So, Empire Online posted this thing about how Captain America: Civil War is a love story but Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes are not boyfriends
(Which I found out via this Tumblr post
originally by YouNeedToStrut
). For those of you who aren't into links, the Empire post by Phil De Semlyen talks about how director Joe Russo refers to Civil War
as a brotherly love story, saying:"These are two guys who grew up together, and so they have that same emotional connection to each other as brothers would, and even more so because Bucky was all Steve had growing up."
Now, I made my own post about that whole 'Brotherly' thing back in February
, generally going on the assumption that the Russos were madly trying to avoid a mass homosexual freakout. And then Sebastian Stan said this:"I think it’s easy and generalising [sic] it to say that they’re lovers, when you’re forgetting that one has a lot of guilt because he swore to be the protector of the other, the father figure or older brother so to speak, and then left him behind." Adds the actor: "I have no qualms with it but I think people like to see it much more as a love story than it actually is. It's brotherhood to me."
Here's the thing. He's not wrong, and the Tumblr post I mentioned above
has some thoughtful discussions on that fact. I know for myself that even way back in my Star Trek: Enterprise
fandom days, I would occasionally wonder if we slashers were devaluing male friendship by interpreting the male characters' chemistry as romantic so much of the time. And I'm certainly aware that friends can love each other platonically.
And yet, I'm just so freaking disappointed.
It doesn't matter to me that the Russos' Word of God is that Bucket and Steeb are only friends. I'm used to creators overlooking or blindly ignoring aspects of their own work, especially when it veers towards territory they're uncomfortable with. Given what I've seen of Disney properties, it seems reasonable that even if the Russos were all over the Stucky like Red on Johann Schmidt, the mouse paying them would never, ever go for it.
But this is Sebastian Stan, who has played gay characters before and is actually playing Steve's long-lost whatever now. And if the actual actor who made Bucky Barnes live for us says Bucky and Steve are bros, not lovers, then...Then it's true. Then my wanting to see their relationship as anything other
than that feels wrong. Illegitimate. Not a reinterpretation of canon, but a desperate scrabbling for something that never existed.
It's weird. I shipped Danny Williams and Steve McGarrett even when Hawaii 5-0
kept throwing women at Steve like spaghetti at a wall. In Stargate: Atlantis
, I happily wrote around the cannon Rodney McKay/Jennifer Keller relationship to keep him with John Sheppard. I love Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton shacking up even though they were both with other people in Age of Ultron
(then again, I ignore a lot of things about Age of Ultron
). But Sebastian Stan calls No Homo and suddenly I feel like a kid sneaking porn.
I wanted his approval, damn it. Not for me or my fic, because that's pathetic and creepy. But for the possibility
that went into the fic. I wanted him to say, 'sure, that's cool,' and instead I got condemnation.
Maybe it is overly facile to see romance where there's only deep affection. Maybe we (female) writers are just picking out nonexistent subtext for all the same varied reasons we enjoy slash in general. Maybe we're just seeing what's not intended to be there, because we've been trained to (I urge you to read this brilliant essay on that subject)
. Maybe an actor's opinion about the character he plays shouldn't carry more weight than my own, but it feels heavier all the same.
This issue is that, as a writer who also writes fanfic, I'm always fighting the sense that my hobby is illicit; that I'm furtively dabbling where I don't belong. Allowing myself to do what I do is hard enough, without the knowledge that one of the actors who inspired it wouldn't accept my perception of his work. The fancy of tacit approval, no matter how spurious, is far more liberating than the certainty of its opposite. And honestly, I was expecting the guy who made his career playing troubled, gay sons to not
reject the thought of a gay romance out of hand. Maybe seeing a romance in every love story is generalizing and easy, but that didn't mean he had to make it difficult.