In an ensemble film like Captain America: Civil War, it can be difficult to tell a convincing love story — and yet, Marvel pulled it off. Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes's indomitable friendship was the beating heartbeat of Civil War, arguably Marvel's best movie to date. Now, fans have galvanized to take Stucky's relationship to the next level.
This week, the hashtag campaign to #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend launched on social media, and it's not for lack of subtext. The chemistry between the two characters is palpable.
When the action-packed first look at the third and final Captain America film debuted last summer, Tumblr exploded. Amid all of the action and excitement, this bit of dialogue made even the most fairweather of slash fans' hearts flutter: "He remembered you. Your pal, your buddy, your Bucky."
Through fanfic, fan art, and fan-created videos, Stucky shippers have reimagined the film as a same-sex love story between the two heroes, played by Chris Evans and Sebastian Stan -- just as they've been doing for years, since the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Let's not kid ourselves: Just about no one was really rooting for Steve and Sharon Carter to hook up in Civil War; they had zero chemistry.
So why do audiences cling so dearly to the relationship between Cap and his best friend? It’s not uncommon for fans to ship same-sex couplings, often referred to as "slash" pairings. Mere hours after the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Internet was buzzing over FinnPoe. Not to mention, the Science Bros. -- a.k.a. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark -- have their fair share of slash fan fiction.
The #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend campaign comes on the heels of another plea for LGBT representation in the House of Mouse. Earlier this month, 17-year-old Alexis Isabel tweeted #GiveElsaAGirlfriend in response to Disney’s abysmal lack of queer characters. It quickly became a trending topic, with fans all over the world chiming in to make Disney a little less heteronormative. (GLAAD reports that Disney did not feature a single LGBT character in any of its major 2015 films.)
Speaking to the AP, via USA Today, GLAAD entertainment media strategist Megan Townsend responded to the Captain America endeavor, saying, "It's getting increasingly difficult to ignore that LGBT people remain almost completely shut out of Hollywood's big-budget comic films that have dominated the box office over the past couple of years."
She added that the studios "really do have an opportunity" to make their franchises more inclusive. Critics of the hashtag campaign have noted Captain America was never gay in the comics, but Townsend argued that there's room in the Marvel Cinematic Universe "for established characters to have backstories built out that we weren't aware of."
Even Civil War directors Anthony and Joe Russo support reading into the homoerotic subtext of their friendship.
"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," Joe said in December. "We will never define it as filmmakers, explicitly, but however people want to interpret it."