There’s a new scene in the latest Avengers: Infinity War TV spot that has James “Bucky” Barnes and Steve “Captain America” Rogers that’s giving ’shippers hope.
As Captain America steps off a ship to greet Black Panther and the Wakandan people, followed by Black Widow, he sees his ol’ pal, Bucky. The two share an adorable little moment that was perfectly captured by people all around the world in this one screenshot; a screenshot so popular, it received its own official Twitter Moment.
find you a dude who looks at you the way bucky looks at a bearded cap pic.twitter.com/7mFIre0Ser— Julia Alexander (@loudmouthjulia) April 7, 2018
“Stucky,” a portmanteau of Steve and Bucky, is one of the most popular ‘ships in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; Steve Rogers just so happens to be the guy that everyone wants to pair up. That’s why Stony exists (Steve Rogers and Tony Stark) and, of course, Steggy (Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter). Of all the ships — excluding the canonical Steggy — Stucky has always been the most plausible among fan circles.
The backstory alone is enough to see why imaginations would run wild among some fans; Steve and Bucky being best friends from the time they were kids, to Captain America chasing down Bucky as Winter Soldier in an attempt to protect him, to Cap transferring Bucky to Wakanda in secret. The fandom has been building for years, but the wishful thinking of DeviantArt illustrators, Tumblr cartoonists and Archive of Our Own writers really seemed to come into their own following Captain America: Winter Soldier in 2014.
The chemistry between Bucky and Steve was palpable, ‘shippers cried from their digital perches. Only a fool would be blind to the budding relationship, they wrote on Twitter. It wasn’t until 2016, however, and the release of Captain America: Civil War that people outside of the fandom community began paying attention to Stucky ‘shippers.
A campaign on Twitter, #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend, found fans pleading with Marvel Studios executives to finally give into what was transpiring between two of their main characters. The Russo Brothers and Sebastian Stan called Civil War a love story between Bucky and Steve — although they all pointed out they were talking about fraternal love, no one had any issue with Stucky believers picturing it was a different kind of love. Chris Evans joked about the situation, telling Flickering Myth he didn’t play the character that way, adding he may have been too busy staring at actor Sebastian Stan (Bucky) to really nail the scene where he was pouring his heart out to Peggy.
Stucky is more than just fans getting Disney to give Steve a boyfriend. For many fans it’s an attempt to push Marvel to give the Marvel Cinematic Universe its first gay relationship. Much like Poe and Finn in the new Star Wars trilogy, fans are asking for Disney to just play into the relationship that people are already seeing.
There’s a term for this. It’s called queerbaiting, and it’s the decision from a studio like Disney to hint at two characters’ attraction or love for each other without ever coming out and saying that these characters are in a relationship. The possible romance that people see is usually ignored, but can also be made fun of by characters in the series, movie or game. The more that Disney and Marvel Studios play into the idea that Bucky and Steve are more than friends, playing a game of wink-wink-nudge-nudge with fans, the more frustrating it gets for the community.
It’s a subject that gets parts of the fandom riled up. As many people point out on Tumblr and Twitter, it would be one thing if the Russo brothers said that Steve and Bucky were just friends and left it there, but the teasing that seems to occur from time-to-time can be irksome to many.
“The answer they gave in China as to whether Steve and Bucky were lovers was fine and that definitely wasn’t queerbaiting,” one Tumblr user said. “[What] is queerbaiting though is when they started doing the equivalent of buying drinks at the bar, sitting down next to us, nudging us with their elbows and saying: ‘Yeah, I know what you mean!’ *wink* *wink* They think they are being chummy and engaging with us by teasing that ‘Steve and Bucky are so close they are basically the romantic lead’ and so forth.
“They’re acting like they’re on our side, when very clearly they aren’t.”
It’s not like Marvel hasn’t retconned and changed their characters in the comics to show writers and artists have heard fan feedback. As Graeme McMillan at The Hollywood Reporter said when the hashtag was first going around:
This willingness to change the rules — or, at least, introduce new elements that challenge the conventional wisdom — only fuels the fires of those demanding more change, and new ideas, in favorite properties. Intentionally or otherwise, it sends a signal that the fan discussion is being heard, if not always acknowledged.
Fans want Stucky to come true, in part, because it’ll represent that Marvel is listening to what people want to see more of in the films — and that’s better representation of queer folk. As McMillan said in his story, “Sure, maybe Captain America isn’t gay, but why aren’t there any gay superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?”
Avengers: Infinity War will be released on April 27.