I am sort of uncomfortable with this. Actually, with a lot of m/m ships in pop culture but I’ll focus on Steve/Bucky. I want to make clear that this isn’t about any objection to a bi Captain America. I totally love that idea.
ETA: I’m also not against same-sex shipping. I’m just wondering about the impulse behind some of the shipping by some people and if it might not be something we should question.
So expect this to be a little disjointed. I’ll try to be coherant but I’ve got a lot of half-baked thoughts that I’m hoping will start to clear up as I type and if anyone responds to this I would be ecstatic, even if it’s to call me out on something.
I finally watched Winter Soldier and I get why folks like to think Steve and Bucky get together. They have a very close, long lasting relationship. They’ve known each other for ever, they share a lot, they aren’t afraid to hug and be close physically.
But that’s also why the impulse to ship them, and other similar relationships between men in pop culture, bothers me. Because it’s almost a way of erasing the fact that two men (regardless of their sexuality) can have a close and deep relationship without it eventually becoming romantic and sexual. If two men hold hands, hug, cry with each other, etc. we can’t wait to tag them as lovers.
Let me point out that I think there are exceptions to my discomfort around this. There are a lot of queer people out there who lack representation and I think claiming pop culture characters by shipping them is a valid way to work around that. And I’m honestly not trying to sink anyone’s ships here. I’m just trying to express why I, a straight old woman who’s raising a couple of boys (12 and 3), feel a bit awkward when I see these ships.
It seems to be a big thing with straight girls? Am I right about that? And sometimes straight girls who will, on one hand ship two guys if there’s a hint of possible sexual tension but turn around and talk about how straight guys are insecure about their sexuality. Straight girls who have determined the only two dynamics in m/m relationships are hands-off/me-big-man or sexy-time-all-the-time.
I don’t think that only creates issues for straight guys. I imagine it also must frustrate men in the queer community. Do they feel like they’re expected to conform to one of two options when relating to other men? Does a gay man get sick of it being assumed he might be into a guy just because they’re close friends? I know this is an issue in pop culture with m/f relationships with the whole cliche that men and women can never just be platonic friends.
As I said, I have two boys. Regardless of where they are on the sexuality spectrum I want them to grow up with an understanding that their relationships with other men will likely be complex and widely diverse. I want them to look at what Steve and Bucky have in the Captain America movies and think that’s a relationship to model (except for the killing each other bit of course) without worrying that that kind of relationship can’t happen between men without eventually leading to romance and sex. I want them to be able to platonically cry with and hug other guys and be completely secure in that.
Relationships between men can be as deep and complex and rich as any relationship between two people of any other gender. Do we, in our shipping, tend to diminish that fact?
Okay, this is a ramble but I’m curious about this. Hopefully I made a bit of sense. I may have unintentionally stepped on toes or offended. Please let me know if that’s the case.
Steve and Bucky’s relationship/narrative is coded in a very romantic way throughout both TFA and WS.
While no one says they can’t be just friends, and in fact, many only see them as very close men with a deep friendship. (In fact, Steve’s relationships with Natasha and Sam can be read as fairly platonic but people ship them too.)
It’s not just about sex. Though many use fanfiction to express sexual fantasy and explore their own sexualities within a space they consider safe.
People are responding to the intimacy between the two of them for one thing and the fact they’re coded in a romantic context that rivals the established MCU couples. That is what people are picking up on.
And yeah, there is an issue of fetishizing homosexual relationships. But a lot of fandom and shippers are gay, lesbian or identify as queer in some way. It’s not just straight girls.
I spent a good ten minutes with this window open because I couldn’t decide whether or not I wanted to die on this hill, but I see this argument made so often and I have seen it made in every fandom I have ever been in since the X Files. First of all: there are a lot of things that are very dated about it, and I have problems in general with the idea of someone who admits to being non-fannish having launched an academic arena around fandom, but Henry Jenkins’ “Textual Poachers” has a chapter that discusses exactly this in length and I think speaks to a lot of this kind of ‘but fetishization!’ handwringing. Essentially: for many women, straight, queer, or otherwise-identifying, writing male characters in relationships affords an opportunity to write peer-peer romantic relationships, because (and it’s telling that this was written twenty years ago and it’s still fucking accurate) male characters are afforded a greater amount of agency and equality in media: they are there for their own sakes, and their relationships develop accordingly. That is to say, they are written and treated as people. The fantasy isn’t fetishizing boys touching: its (understandably) fetishizing a relationship of equals, between fully-developed characters. It’s the desire to identify with and write about people. To imagine stories between fully-developed characters. In western culture, particularly in genre programming, those characters are often, well. Male.
(But, you argue, why don’t you develop the female characters we’re given! You can indeed do that, and it’s truly a worthy cause. But it’s also…not quite the same thing.)
Second: there’s an undercurrent in the initial post that seems to suggest some sort of lack of media out there where Two Men Would Do Anything For Each Other, where Bros and their relationships with Other Bros are not viewed as important, or significant, or are held at a feared arms’ length. And that’s just….wrong. Watch a buddy-cop/buddy-college-students/buddies-getting-engaged/buddies-in-general/are-you-seeing-a-trend-here film, comedy or drama. The fact is, outside of fandom, this is not how the average viewer thinks. There’s a reason what fandom does is considered subversive; there’s a reason it’s considered to be the oppositional readings of primary texts.
I’m also unclear on this idea that fandom is some sort of inescapable monolith that is going to somehow sour all media via its agenda. While there are most certainly problems with fetishizing within fandom on a macro level, it is and remains a subculture. It is never going to be the first thing a child, or anyone, sees when they google “Captain America” or even “Captain America and Bucky Barnes.” I promise you, any and all heterosexual expectations regarding our culture has regarding these characters will and do remain intact.
So about shipping Steve and Bucky…
buffy the vampire slayer appreciation week
favourite villain: the gentlemen
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - New Season 2 Preview
Steve Rogers in comics, a resume
- Steve: *wakes up* BUUUUUUUUUUCKYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!
- Steve: *goes to random places* This is so good but not as good as It could be If Bucky were here
- Steve: *sees friendship* oH, NO MY FRIEND BUCKY, I WILL NEVER FORGET YOU!!!
- Steve: *remembers the war* bUUUCKYYYYYY
- Steve: *got a girlfriend* Have I told you about my friend Bucky?
- Steve: *is alone* *remembers Bucky* *cries because of Bucky*
- Steve: *angst because of Bucky*
- Steve: *cries for Bucky*
- Steve: bUCKY
We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not stupid. For instance, given the choice, we will always choose to save our own necks.